The Manazan Caves and Town of Taşkale

Manazan Mağaraları ve Taşkale Kasabası

/ By Josh

Cost: Free

Great for: Byzantine History, Cave Cities, Cave Churches, Troglodites and Claustrophiles

Built about five kms apart, in the cliffs above the Yeşildere stream, the Manazan Cave City and the Town of Taşkale are two related and yet very different sites. Both are essentially famous for their unique rock-cut chambers, set into the cliffs of soft, porous stone, however, while Manazan is a city of grand halls, chimneys, winding passages, and churches, Taşkale is known for its hundreds of tiny chambers cut into the cliff above the village.

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The Manazan Caves (occasionally, though likely incorrectly, Mamazan) stretch along the base of the cliff on the north bank of the Yeşildere valley. On the main floor with separate entrances you can find numerous caves, some small and simple, and others evidently churches with the faint remains of red tracery painted along the carved molding in a style similar to the churches and monasteries of Cappadocia.

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

The Manazan caves were actually built in five levels, most of which can be reached through the tight tunnel at the center of the settlement. The tunnel leads to vertical shafts taking you upwards to dark chambers, grand halls, and more tunnels. One of the most interesting spaces is a large, grand-hall style space with a high ceiling running perpendicular to the cliff face. On either side are two levels of small cell-like rooms cut into the stone, about 20 or so in total.

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

One of these small chambers opens into another passageway and on into another set of halls known as the “Burial Square” and the “Castle of Sand”.

Very little is known for sure about the Manazan cave settlement. When a cave is expanded, traces of the old are chipped away and lost making it difficult to know how long these caves have been used for. It is thought that early Christians settled in this remote and sheltered place to escape the persecution of the Romans. Christianity spread quickly and early in the area with the cities of Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium (modern Konya), being nearby cities visited by St Paul and his companions.

When Christianity was legalized and eventually adopted as the state religion the need for secrecy and protection stopped, making the caves at Manazan less important. However, with the beginning of Arab raiders in the area and later with the arrival of the Muslim Turks, Christians once again took refuge in cave settlements like Manazan.

Manazan Caves Taşkale Guide
The interior of the ruined church at the Manazan settlement.
Manazan Caves Taşkale Guide
A recently vandalized Greek inscription. The city is falling victim to both natural and human destruction.

Research at Manazan has yielded finds from the Byzantine period shedding a little light on the people that lived here. The most interesting find comes in the form of a body, naturally mummified by the moisture absorbing properties of the chalky stone. The body is said to be of a young woman and can be seen at the Karaman City Museum, thought to have lived between the 10th and 13th centuries.

The softness of the stone that attracted the ancient builders to this site is also proving to be its demise. The Manazan Caves are being destroyed by erosion and the collapse of the cliffs themselves. Even the recently built pathway from the road to the foot of the cliff is littered with boulders that have crashed down from above. Inside you can see great cracks splitting rooms. Many rooms that were once closed to the outside except by a small window are now completely open, the outer wall having fallen away.

Manazan Caves Taşkale Guide
This chamber has had its floor collapse out from under it, leaving only a dark rectangle carved into the overhanging rock.

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

Five kilometers eastward from The Manazan Cave city is the town of Taşkale. Taşkale, meaning “Stone Castle” is famous for the hundreds of small granaries carved into the high cliff that looms over the town dramatically. There are about 250 granaries in total, each fronted by a little wooden door with a short beam jutting out above used to haul sacks of grain into the cool dry chambers behind. Locals say that grain and chickpeas can keep for 30 – 50 years in these cells thanks to the consistent temperature and low humidity.

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves

Karaman Taşkale Manazan Caves
A small mosque built by expanding a couple of the granaries.

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There is a theory that the town of Taşkale is also the ancestral home of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder and shaper of the Turkish Republic. The Town of Taşkale was previously known as Kızıllar, named for a Turkic Tribe that settled here hundreds of years ago. According to the theory, the Kızıllar were sent to the Balkans by the Ottomans in 1466 and Ataturk, who was born in Thessaloniki, is descended from the Kızıllar on his mother’s side. While portraits and statues of Ataturk are everywhere in Turkey, the painted plaque in the midst of the granary doors commemorates the town’s most beloved son.

Taşkale is often confused with the Manazan Cave city, with people saying that Manazan caves were later converted into the much smaller grain storage cells of Taşkale. Most of these articles were likely written by people who have never visited either site as they’re actually a few kilometers apart and have completely separate histories.

Taşkale Granaries

How To Get There

Car

To get to the Manazan Caves and Taşkale from the city of Karaman, head north-east on the Karaman-Konya highway (D330, despite its name the section of road you will take is NOT between Karaman and Konya). About 10 kms outside of the city turn right onto the Karaman Yeşildere road. This road will wind along the Yeşildere valley past the village of Yeşildere, and on to Manazan. The Manazan Cave City will be impossible to miss above the road on the left side with clear signs. Taşkale is 5kms further down the same road.

For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.

Where To Stay

While there have apparently been talks about opening accommodation in some of Taşkale’s granaries, we can’t confirm whether or not this has actually happened. Otherwise, your only other option is to stay in the City of Karaman where there are a number of hotel options ranging from 2 to 4 star options.

Other Tips

Planning on visiting Manazan or Taşkale? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the provinces of Karaman and Konya!

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Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.

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