Known as Venessa in the Roman period, Avanos is a small town on the Kizilirmak River (Red River). It’s about 8 km from Goreme. It’s a lively town and you will find all the usual amenities including valleys, churches, hotels. But the town is popular for its pottery and has an ancient tradition of pottery-making that’s being continued today as well. The clay used for making pottery comes from the Red River which’s one of the longest rivers in the country. The clay that lines its bank is red, and that’s how it got its name. Also known as Vanote, Nenassa and Zu-Winasa in different eras.
It’s an ancient town and its history reaches back to an early age. Ancient civilizations like Rome, Hittites, Seljuk, and Ottoman have lived here. Many layers of settlements have been discovered here and they all contributed to its cultural, architecture, and artistic features.
Avanos is not only a hub of pottery-making, it’s an alternative place for making a stay. It has good hotels and restaurants as well as shops.
The Red River divides the town into two parts; southern and northern. On the bank of the river, you will see hotels, offices, guesthouses, and ceramic workshops. The bank of the river itself is a great place for an evening stroll, or getting photos with ducks. Furthermore, cruising on the river in a gondola is a great opportunity for visitors to explore the town. You can go to the Swinging Suspension Bridge (drawbridge), to enjoy the perfect view and see both sides of the town.
The town is located on the Aksaray-Kayseri highway, about 8.1 km from Goreme, 17 km from Nevsehir, and 13 km from Urgup. To reach Avanos, you should first get to Nevsehir by either bus or plane. From there, you can take a public bus and reach Avanos easily.
If you want to travel by plane, you can either land at Nevsehir Cappadocia Airport or the Kayseri Erkilet Airport. Both these airports receive direct flights from Istanbul. But, Kayseri is about 73 km from Avanos, where Nevsehir airport is only 32 km away from the town, so it’s recommended.
If you want to use public transport, you can take a coach from the coach station situated in the south of the town. Every half an hour the coaches depart for Nevsehir and every hour they depart for Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar, and Cavusin.
Centuries-old Historic Houses
Every period left its mark on this town, but the Ottoman era left, probably the most solid mark; the historic houses. The historic houses, most of which have been turned into hotels and shops, attract a great number of visitors. Broadly speaking, the houses in the town fall into two categories. In the first category, we have houses built of stone blocks, situated above the ground, and the buildings that are partly above the ground and partially underground lies in the second category. It was during the times of early Christians that some of the underground corridors were created and they were a means of refuge in times of maltreatment. Stone houses were formed on top of the corridors over time. And it was during the Ottoman period that the facades were embellished with bas-reliefs.
Pottery is Avanos foremost claim to fame and it’s because of pottery that the town is also considered the handicraft center of the region. The local potters who not only create new items regularly but also demonstrate traditional techniques attract tourists. The town is famous not only within Turkey but in foreign countries as well for its red clay products. Pottery has been produced in this area for thousands of years including kitchenware, and today’s artists aim to keep this ancient tradition alive through their unique ideas.
The local potters in the town have kept the tradition of making household goods from the unique red clay to date. The town exports its pottery items and pitchers to the other cities as well as Europe, generating good revenue for the region. Not only that, but it also exports garden pottery to Europe, although the producers are small in number.
Avanos overlooks the Kizilirmak (Red River). It supplies clay for pottery. It is by this river that the red clay is found from which pottery and bricks are produced, which is the main livelihood of the city and its reason for fame. From the mountains nearby, the soft and oily clay is gathered and passed through sieves to turn it into the mud. Then, the local potter makes the pottery by shaping the mud through a foot-powered wheel. Their experience and skills are the keys here. After they are done with the shape, they left it to dry under the sun, and then it’s kept in shade before firing it in kilns.
In Avanos pottery is a family affair, and you can take a pottery workshop tour to see and learn the art. There are many workshops run by different families, and in fact, some workshops are in caves as well, so that would be even interesting if you can find one. The workshop tour will most likely include a free demonstration that showcases traditional techniques.