Eastern Mediterranean Coast Trip with Kids: Heaven and Hell and the Drive to Alanya

Day 3 of our Eastern Med Sea Coastal trip is where plans started to change dramatically as new restrictions for Covid happened (remember, this is back in April). Our original plan for the day was beach, Heaven and Hell (Cennet and Cehennem in Turkish; very cool sinkholes/caves with ancient Greek connections), Mamure Castle, and arrival in Alanya where we’d spend 2 nights and do a ton of sightseeing the next day around Alanya.

See Day 1 here and Day 2 here.

Instead the morning of day 3 we spent waiting around for the boat that we ended up canceling (see last post). We left the town and headed to Heaven and Hell just before midday. Heaven and Hell was probably the highlight of the day and was very cool.

Walking away from Hell

Heaven and Hell are two large sinkholes. According to a sign at the site, in Greek Mythology, Typhon, a dragon with many heads, fought Zeus repeatedly. At one point he defeated Zeus and stuck him in the cave now called Hell. Zeus escaped with help and buried Typhon under what is now called Mount Etna in Italy. The volcanic action is contributed to Typhon. However, from everything I read online, it was Zeus who captured Typhon in that hole, not the other way around.

The Hell sinkhole is 50 m in diameter and 128 m deep. The sinkhole floor is inaccessible due to the upper walls curving inward, but you can go out on a glass floor and stand over the sinkhole and look down! It is accessed with a nice walking path and then a few steps at the end.

It turns out, there really is a stairway to Heaven, but it goes down instead of up! Unlike Hell, you can walk down the stairs to the very bottom of the sinkhole and then walk down some very slippery steps into the cave at the bottom. The Heaven sinkhole is about 200 m across and 135 m at its deepest. There are 452 stairs down. Most of the stairs go through an area with lots of trees and greenery. At the very end, there are the ruins of a 5th century Chapel of the Virgin Mary. From there, you have the choice to go down into the cave. These steps are very slippery and wet and it can get dark. These stairs really freaked out DD7. The deepest part of the cave presumably connects with the River Styx. In Greek Mythology, all souls went underground-the good and the bad.

Luckily, in 2020, they built an elevator that takes you out of the sinkhole so you don’t have to go back up all those stairs! Once you exit the cave, you call the elevator and it will come down with an attendant to get you. We ate a snacky lunch in our car in the parking lot as there was not much available in the area and Ramadan had just started and we weren’t sure about the etiquette on eating outside (turns out Turks are not as strict about fasting as Egyptians were and we saw many people eating and drinking during the day over Ramadan. Our first Ramadan in Turkey was spent under hard lockdown, so this was the first we experienced out and about).

From Heaven and Hell, we drove along the coast to Alanya. We wanted to stop at Mamure Castle on the coast, but it was not only closed for renovations, but the whole parking lot was shut down so we couldn’t even see the outside of it. We didn’t get to Alanya until about 6 pm and checked in to our AirBnb. Then we realized that lockdown started at 7 pm and we had no groceries or dinner! That night was the first night of a new lockdown and was not on the books when we initially planned our trip. I always travel with a certain amount of food when we do AirBnbs, but did not have dinner items as we were road tripping over several days.

We rushed out and split up. I stood in line with the kids to try and get dinner (pide) along with everyone else preparing to break their fast while DH went to see if he could find some groceries for the next day. Grocery stores were already closed, though, so that their workers could get home by 7 pm curfew. Luckily, restaurants were exempt from the curfew and so were not shutting down (they could do delivery after 7 pm). I took the kids back home and DH waited for our food. We managed to get our meals, but it was much more rushed than we would have planned!

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