Fairy Chimneys, Rock formations, and Monk’s Valley are just some of the highlights of this unique place.
How was it formed?
About 70 million years ago the mountains Erdzhiyas, Hassan, and Gulludag were active volcanoes. The landscape of Cappadocia is nothing but remnants of their activity. Nature created a remarkable pattern of valleys, caves, canyons, and hills. This amazing landscape is a palette of pink cones, frozen lava, violet slabs which look like dragon teeth, smooth white tuff cliffs, huge ochre rock, hills of frozen grey ash, and black basalt pillars.
Fun fact: some scenes of "Star Wars" was filmed here!
That should tell you how bizarre and unique Cappadocia is.
But Cappadocia is not only beautiful landscapes! This is a land of rich history.
If you are a history lover, Cappadocia is a journey into the past, starting with the troglodytes - the cavemen. These ancient people turned countless caves of soft volcanic rock into comfortable houses and the first evidence of their existence belongs to the ancient Hittites (about 1200 BC).
The Hittite Empire was destroyed by the Phrygians and sadly, all that’s left are the ruins of the Cyclopean walls and an invaluable collection of cuneiform. The Persians, who came after the Hittites, lived there until the invasion of Alexander the Great in 336 BC. They also did not leave us many historical monuments.
Persians are better known for their destruction, not construction. :)
But the name Cappadocia goes back to the Persian "katpatuk", which means "The Land of Beautiful Horses".
Note: Nowadays there are still lots of horse farms and horse-riding schools in Cappadocia. You can have a pleasant horseback riding tour through the valleys and gorges.
Enter Alexander the Great:
For eleven years from the date of the invasion and before his death, Alexander the Great managed to free Anatolia from the Persians. It contributed to the rapid spread of Greek culture. The Greek language and literature gradually forced the Anatolian languages out, and people start to use Greek as their primary means of communication.
The Roman Invasion:
In the 1st century AD, Tiberius made the whole area a Roman province, and the central city of Matsaka became known as Caesarea. Today it is Kayseri, a city that has an airport, making traveling to Cappadocia easy – and cheap (especially when Pegasus Airlines offer deals).
Fast forward to the advent of Christianity.
Originating in Roman Palestine, Christianity quickly settled in these places. St. Peter and St.Paul lived and preached to the people of Anatolia. Did you know that in the 3rd century, Cappadocia became one of the main centers of Christianity? In the 4th century, monasticism and asceticism had a profound effect on the ancient world.
Builders and Planners:
Christians expanded and deepened the caves, creating cities of 10 000 to 30 000 people. In the high-rise labyrinths, there were living quarters, storage facilities, stables, workshops, and, of course, temples. Visit the Underground City and see these underground schools, communication wells, and wine-making areas for yourself! Look up and see the grates over which soldiers passed!
Can you afford to miss this jewel in the Turkish Empire?
Cappadocia after 2020:
Modern Cappadocia is a major tourist center with more than a million foreign visitors yearly (mainly from Western Europe, India, China, Japan, and America).
THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
Exploring Cappadocia most often begins with visiting the amazing cave cities.
1. Visit cave cities.
Some cities were located in the towers of Tuff. Very similar to modern residential complexes with skyscrapers. :)
The most interesting cave cities are:
Goreme Open Air Museum (38.640025,34.8431934)
2. Visit underground cities: The Inverted Skyscrapers
8-25 floors of underground living, working, and learning spaces! Advanced beyond their time, they had chimneys with perfect CO2 extraction and excellent ventilation, canalization, and a wide tunnel system. Each sector of the tunnel could be blocked with round stone doors.
It is believed that the underground cities were used by Christians as a refuge from the persecution of the Roman emperors, from the nomadic Arabs who often raided these lands in the 8th century, and then from the Seljuk Turks.
3. Visit Holy Places.
In 360, the Cappadocians Basil of Caesarea and Gregory the Theologian wrote a set of rules for emerging monasteries. These rules are still valid in the Greek Orthodox Church, and they also formed the basis of the rules of St. Benedict in the West.
There are at least three thousand rock churches in the area between Kayseri, Nigde, Gulsehir, and Ihlara Valley. Some of them have ancient frescoes with images of saints and scenes from the Gospel.
A walk through the places filled with the positive energy of holy places will energize you and offer a sense of balance, irrespective of religion.
4. Walk through the crazy landscapes.
There are several options to explore the valleys: walking, quadricycle safaris, horse riding tours, jeep safaris, and hot air balloons.
The most popular destinations are Ihlara Valley, Ortahisar Kanyon, Open Air Museums in Zelve, and Urgup, Pink Valley.
Or you can just stop your car or walk out of the hotel. History is all around you, in the caves, in the stores, and every cave hotel.
5. Watch the Sunset.
There are a few sunset viewing points in Cappadocia. But the most famous is the Plato above the Pink Valley where you can enjoy hot tea, fresh juices, wine, or beer in the café.
Sign up for the best sunset of your life.
6. Hot air balloon riding.
Greet the sunrise from the sky!
Balloon tours start at dawn, a race against time, determined to beat the first rays of the sun. Soar above Cappadocia and gain a unique perspective.
At between €80-250, it may be a little pricey. But the view from the ground, of hundreds of balloons sailing away, is a sight to behold. Grab your camera: This is one for Instagram!
A Budget for Every Pocket:
If you are wondering about the price difference, well you get what you pay.
A private ride with a glass of chilled champagne costs more.
7. Living in the cave.
Cappadocia is a tourist paradise. There are hotels of all categories: from luxury to unique places to simple and cheap!
If you can afford it, indulge in the cave hotel experience where rooms have been created in actual caves! Move over Fred Flintstone, this is how a real caveman lives! Air-conditioned rooms, TVs, and even your pool, fountain, and hamam! Warm in the winter and chilled in the summer, this is a destination for any season!
8. Visit Avanos - the center of local ceramics.
The small town of Avanos is located on the banks of the Kizilirmak River (Tur. Red River). The soil around Avanos contains a lot of iron, accounting for its red-brown hues.
The soil is clay, providing material for the manufacture of amazing ceramic items such as plates and earthenware.
A unique experience is enrolling for a class with the ceramic master in one of the workshops.
9. Wine Tasting.
Nothing beats a wine-tasting tour and in Cappadocia, you have four to choose from, each with their wine-tasting rooms.
There are 14 wine producers in Cappadocia, including the state-owned enterprise - Tekel.
However, the most famous wines are from the main local producers Turasan and Kocabag.
Why is Cappadocian wine so good?
The volcanic soil gives the Cappadocian wines a rich shade, which seems to enhance the astringent character of these tannic wines.
Variety is the spice of life.
White wines are made from the Mysli, Narince, and Emir grapes while red wines are made with Keten-Gomlek, Hasandede, and Gocek grapes.
10. Explore the Old Cave House.
In Cavusin, you will find a museum that is a home. Everything is arranged the same way as it was centuries ago, and the inhabitants love to tell you stories of how they grew up in the house – and they will regale you with stories about their ancestors.
It is considered polite to buy a small souvenir to support this home industry.
The main food in central Anatolia is bulgur - crushed wheat. So everywhere there are lots of çiğ kofte shops: vegetarian "meatballs" made of bulgur and spices.
The most famous dish of this region is teste kebap. It is meat cooked low-and-slow in an oven or in the ground in ceramic pots which are sealed with a dough “lid”. The lid is then slashed off with a sword! Great show!
Namaste - Indian restaurant in Goreme (38.6432325,34.8267219)
Big portions of real Indian curry. Made by Indian cooks. They work with Indian and Pakistani touristic companies so they cook great dishes.
Mackbear Coffee in Urgup (38.6306694,34.9092816)
Really, really good coffee!
10 things to purchase from Cappadocia:
Local wines! Wine is the most popular souvenir from Cappadocia
A nice wool poncho
Stunning local ceramics and pottery from Avanos
Carpets and rugs
Souvenirs with images of Cappadocia – magnets, figures of cave houses and hot air balloons, etc
Dolls from Soganli - the lovely Turkish ladies in traditional clothes
Onyx stone crafts
Cappadocian sweets - dry apricots and molasses.
Beautiful handmade gemstone jewelry
Rustic bags and backpacks