Cappadocia is a spectacularly unique region, set in the heart of Anatolia in Central Turkey and often referred to as the Lunar Landscape due to its crater like appearance, its barren valleys of bizarre rock formation, and the hue of the stone which varies between white, blues and pinks as the sun changes position. Cappadocia is most famously known for its cave hotels, rock hewn churches, underground cities and ‘fairy chimneys’, set among multiple dormant volcanoes, beautiful valleys and high mountains. Its geographical irregularity draws both scientists and photographs to the region and is one of Turkey’s top tourist attractions.
Cappadocia is also of interest to historians as the region boasts an impressive heritage, with archaeological records that date back to 5500 BC and evidence of Ancient Greek, Roman, Hittite, Sejuk, Early Christian and Ottoman civilisations. Many of the sites in this enchanting region can be reached with Cappadocia tours which depart regularly from Goreme and Uchisar.
Turkey’s central plateau sits at around 1000 meters above sea level in Central Anatolia and it is here, close to the village of Goreme that you can find these unusual spindle-like rock towers, dubbed the ‘Fairy Chimneys’, a combination of hardened ash, left behind by centuries of volcanic eruptions, and erosion caused by wind and rain has left behind these pillar like formations
Located between Goreme and Uchisar villages is Pigeon Valley where you can look down to upon the man-made pigeon houses carved into the volcanic rock, originally built to collect pigeon dung to the use as fertilizer, dovecotes can be found throughout the region but are particularly numerous in this area. A trail connects Goreme and Uchisar and it’s a pleasant, picturesque hike between the two villages.
Goreme Open Air Museum
This extraordinary museum has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984, located just 2 kilometers from Goreme it’s indisputably one of Cappadocia’s highlights. Within the perimeter of the museum you will find marvelous rock-cut Christian churches with original frescoes, the best preserved can be found in Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church). Other notable churches include: Elmali (Apple church) highly colourful, with an unusual dome design and exhibits from the iconoclastic period and Yilanli (Snake Church) with frescoes dating back to the 11th century this church is appropriately named due to its linear plan consisting of two chambers. When you’ve finished visiting the churches you can dive into exploring the hundreds of bronze age Troglodyte caves and take a stroll to Goreme village.
There are 36 Troglodyte cave cities across the Cappadocia region, no longer occupied some have been open to the public since 1964. Historians believe that excavation of these cities began in the Hittite times, and that, with their deep tunnels and heavy stone doors which open only from inside, it is likely that these cities were used to shelter from armies that rode across the Anatolia. The most interesting of the underground cities are Kaymakli, the widest, and Derinkuyu, which is the deepest, an 8 kilometer tunnel links the two and it is possible to walk from one site to the other. Below the ground is a maze of narrow tunnels and staircases winding through volcanic rock, the cities were equipped with kitchens, wells, living spaces, schools, churches and even stables and wineries!
Uchisar is a scenic village, at the highest point of the Cappadocia region and a rocky peak. It would be a good location for exploring the region with many excavated cave hotels available, regular buses to Goreme and nearby hiking trails. At the top of the village is Uchisar castle, from here you can enjoy panoramic views over the landscape.
Many Early Christian cave homes and churches can be found along the Melendiz river which runs through Ihlara valley. An easy hiking trail traverses the valley from Ihlara village to Belisirma a quaint village with restaurants offering a mix of Turkish and Western food. The trail affords some stunning views across the valley. From Belisirma you can continue through the Ihlara valley to Sileme.
An astonishing rock-cut monastery at the end of the Ihlara Valley, it is the largest religious building in Cappadocia. An impressive cathedral sized church, with original frescoes inside, was converted to a caravanserai (travelers refuge) in the 11th century, evidence of camel stables can be seen, as well as examples of Troglodyte life.
Not just Cappadocia but Turkey as a country has an affluent history, filled with archeological sites and impressive monuments. If that is what traps your attention you may also consider visiting some of Turkey’s other acclaimed sites such as: Pamukkale; Turkey’s ‘Cotton Castle’ with mineral-rich thermal waters, it sits on a steep valley above UNESCO world heritage site, Hierapolis, an ancient Greek spa city. Ephesos; the second largest ancient city in the world and one of the capitals of Roman Asia. Patara; located on the east end of the 18 kilometer wide Patara beach, these ruins were part of the capital city of the Lycian people and a restoration project is ongoing to restore the city.
If you prefer more to experience more recent history you may want to continue from Cappadocia to Gallipoli, located in the southern part of East Thrace where the Battle of Gallipoli (Dardanelles Campaign) took place. Grand monuments dominate the peninsula marking crucial points of the failed attempt to control passage from Europe to Russia via the Black Sea during WWI, it is a prominent point on modern world history.