Ortahisar to Pancarlık Church via the Balkan Valley (2 hours)
Ortahisar’s Hezen Cave Hotel is the starting point for this fine walk along a little-visited valley lined by stands of poplars and walnuts, and pumpkin fields, with a wonderful church to finish. Be aware, however, that you may have to hack through sections of undergrowth and endure occasional sightings of discarded rubbish.
Descend by the road just up from the hotel, passing some dilapidated buildings of carved ashlar and turn left when you hit the valley floor. This is a great place to see intact pigeon roosts in the high canyon sides. Take care as you pass through the flood tunnel, where there have clearly been rock falls in recent years, and grin and bear it as you pass the section where trees have been crassly flattened. The way ahead is evident so long as you keep to the valley floor, though after about 90 minutes keep a close eye out for a rusted yellow sign indicating a path off to the right.
Follow this rising path through the sandy bluffs until you spy the Turkish flag flying red and white from a prominence amidst evidence of other rock-hewn monastery dwellings. Climb towards the flag which marks Pancarlık Church. Mehmet, the guardian, is likely to be around, though he may be thrown by your arrival from an unexpected direction. The charming interior of the church, with flat ceiling and a rounded apse containing a stone-carved altar, is notable for its rusty red and bean-green frescoes.
Mehmet keeps a rickety ticket office where he invites visitors to join him for a glass of tea. From here a dirt road leads after two miles to the asphalt where dolmuşes bound for Ürgüp stop on request.