Cappadocia, Turkey is easily one of the world’s most unique travel destinations. Nature has clearly unleashed her artistic side on its terrain comprising sharp mountain peaks, extinct volcanoes and smooth plateaus. Rugged weather patterns and severe volcanic activity over millions of years helped carve and create the unearthly spires, lunar landscapes and “fairy chimneys” that make Cappadocia so famous today. Humans settling in this fertile area found solace within the odd volcanic landscapes, carving out homes and underground cities that can still be visited and explored today. This UNESCO World Heritage site is so unique that it is an absolute must to explore it at all levels, subterranean, surface as well as aerial.
Touring Cappadocia’s Underground
Cappadocia’s underground cities date back to the Bronze Age and have been inhabited all throughout history. Utilized during the Byzantine Era as a hideout for persecuted Christians, some of these sprawling underground areas reach as deep as sixty meters and were capable of housing up to twenty thousand people. Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Özkonak are Cappadocia’s main underground cities, with elaborate tunnels, pipe communication systems, ventilation shafts, stables, churches, storage facilities and so much more… all built well below the earth’s surface.
Surface Level Cappadocia
Cappadocia is equally as stunning above ground as it is below ground. Homes and villages, churches, towers and entire monasteries were built atop and into the iconic volcanic hills, which can be seen and explored today just as they’ve stood for hundr eds of years. Some of the most famous towns to visit in Cappadocia are Göreme (and the amazing Göreme Open Air Museum), Ortahisar (with its panoramic Ortahisar Castle) Çavusin, Uçhisar and Avanos.
Avanos sits along Cappadocia’s Red River and is most famous for its traditional production of pottery. Find everything from earthen plates and cups to ornate vases and colorful, elaborately decorated ceramic treasures (most potters in Avanos will even let you give a go at throwing a piece of clay yourself!).
Another of Cappadocia’s famous towns is Ürgüp. Known as one of the more developed, tourist-friendly areas, Ürgüp is also known for its sale of locally produced wines. If you develop a fondness for these fruity, local vinos, a visit to the Turasan winery is a great spot to tour and taste the source!
Alongside Cappadocia’s carved cities and manmade structures, many of the landscapes themselves are worth a few days’ exploration. Many a Cappadocia tour guide will recommend a tour around Red and Rose Valley, Ihlara Valley, Soǧanlı and Paşabaǧ where mushroom and pyramid shaped rocks, needle sharp spires and colorful, out of this world cliffs in all shapes and sizes are the “ordinary” landscapes. To make your visit really memorable, end your days within Cappadocia’s volcanic walls at one of its many “cave hotels”!
Cappadocia From the Sky
Though this may sound like a bit of a tourist trap, a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia is well worth the time and money… ask anyone who has done it! The balloon cruises start early when the skies are almost always clear and the ride is calm and seldom turbulent; and when visitors catch their first glimpse of Cappadocia’s odd moonscapes and “fairy chimneys,” from the top, they are simply left in awe.
Being Turkey’s most popular tourist destination, Cappadocia’s breathtaking attractions are further complemented by restaurants, shopping and entertainment options ranging from belly dances and hammams to cooking classes, and a multitude of adventures tours such as hiking, cycling, and horseback riding and mountaineering. All this, and so much more in an ancient land that promises never to lose it’s “Wow” factor whether you’re visiting for the first time or tenth!
Image Details and Licenses: https://flic.kr/p/djcEYj (Becky Lai, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/9SuX4C (Jan Stefka, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/57vAwn (Arian Zwegers, CC BY 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/9Ss1nZ (Jan Stefka, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/3XLK2W (Михал Орела, CC BY 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/ooDyz2 (MY LIU, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), https://flic.kr/p/fvtosa (jechstra, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)