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No flashlight is needed when you have a bright full moon guiding the way. Even on a semi-cloudy evening in late July, my headlamp was mostly off as I maneuvered the undulating terrain that winds through the Red and Rose valleys in the Turkish region of Cappadocia. I was in the midst of Moonlight Cappadocia, a monthly guided three-hour hike hosted by the UZUNETAP event company and the Argos in Cappadocia hotel that departs from the city of Goreme.
Right from the 9:30 p.m. start, it was more tempting to look up at the glowing moon than directly ahead. We stopped occasionally for brief history lessons from our bilingual guides — “Dinosaurs, Alexander the Great and Romans all walked here,” one of them told us — as we stared at massive rose-colored cliffs that appeared bluish in the moonlight. At first, the valley looked reminiscent of the Grand Canyon, but the rock formations (known as “fairy chimneys”) with honeycomb caves confirmed that I was far from home.
As the dusty trail narrowed, we moved forward in single-file until we reached a refreshment stand with tea and water an hour into our journey. Then, as I dodged horse manure on the dirt path, I suddenly heard celestial music.
The Pied Piper is summoning us with his magic flute, I thought.
Our grinning guides then directed us across a trench bridge and into a dimly lit cave. Upon entering, we were confronted with the soaring pillars of Kolonlu Kilise, a breathtaking ancient church. Warm tea lights were scattered throughout, incense was burning and two young flutists played their instruments at the altar, further creating a hazy, dreamy scene. Our guides passed around red wine from Argos in Cappadocia’s private collection while we sat on chiseled rocks and relaxed.
Throughout the last 40-minute hike to our awaiting shuttle, I still looked everywhere but straight ahead, savoring the last of the moonlit panoramic views of the wondrous valley. As dark as it was under the midnight sky, the world never looked brighter.