An ancient city that is known for its unusual rock formations, unique ‘fairy chimneys and a rare panache for flying hot air balloons up the air frequently, yes, we are talking about Cappadocia, a city that lies 300 km from Istanbul, in central Anatolia, in Turkey.
Cappadocia is significant on the map of Turkey for geographical, historical as well as cultural reasons, and is a much sought-after tourist spot that attracts attention from all around the globe. There are wonders, both man-made and natural, that abounds in this ancient city. Owing to its uncommon geographical nature, the city renders the feeling of being on another planet altogether to its visitors, which can unarguably make for an exciting experience.
The story behind this city is as intriguing as the city itself; the rock formations are the result of volcanic eruptions that occurred consistently hundreds of years ago in the place. The lava that burst upon the surface of the earth solidified over time and formed huge mountains. What’s more interesting is that these mountains have been drilled to build homes, restaurants and malls. There’s evidence of vibrant and varied cultures having existed here centuries ago.
The city where bizarre is the norm
Nevşehir, Kayseri, Aksaray and Niğde are the four primary cities in Cappadocia where tourism is more in focus. Kayseri is a prominent town from where rail and flight services to Ankara and Istanbul make it easier for tourists to get to all these places.
Some of Cappadocia’s major towns are Ürgüp, Göreme, Ihlara Valley, Selime, Guzelyurt, Uçhisar, Avanos and Zelve. Among the underground cities, Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Gaziemir and Ozkonak are among the most visited every year. The historically significant structures can be found in plenty in Ürgüp, Göreme, Guzelyurt and Uçhisar. Cappadocia’s indigenous cave houses for tourists to stay in can be found here.
In Cappadocia, hot air ballooning is a popular adventure sport. Several tour operators include this activity in their tour package. They’ll do everything from picking up the tourists in the morning, taking them for breakfast, planning the ride, arranging for a champaign and a drop back to the hotel where you are staying. This package will come up to around 200 dollars. The town of Göreme is more famous for hot air ballooning. For the ones who are game for more activity, Monastery Valley, also known as Guzelyurt, Ihlara Valley, Ürgüp and Göreme offer trekking facilities.
Many places claim to offer great views during sunrise and sunset. But Cappadocia truly proposes one of the dreamiest experiences of both. The Sun rises at 4.30 am here. The majestic Sun transitions from misty orange to vivacious gold washing the sky with a rare mix of gorgeous hues. And during this time, one can only watch with bated breath the hundreds of hot air balloons flying in the kaleidoscopic sky, making everything around you seem mesmerizing.
In Cappadocia, one can find remnants of rocks that formed in lakes and rivers, and the city is replete with ignimbrite sediments from volcanic mountain eruptions that are believed to have occurred anytime between 3-9 million years ago. The rock mountains in Göreme, over time, became peculiar cone-shaped structures like minarets or long pillars owing to years of subjecting themselves to constant landslides. This feature makes it an interesting geological site to visit. They are inscribed as ‘fairy chimneys’ on famous travelogues as they resemble a chimney!
Live inside a cave
Ever lived in a cave house? Cappadocia beckons you to come to visit the houses that the locals have built in the heart of the city, where the soft sediments of the volcanic ash forming caves and mountains can be drilled through and made into livable spaces. Some of these are still populated. Not only houses, but the people here have deftly built churches, monasteries and even hostels inside these cave structures. A lot of them have been turned into hotels; it’s mostly a budgeted space for travellers who wish to stay and experience this extraordinary way of life. The rooms here retain a natural coolness within them, so the travellers never complain about the lack of air conditioning in them.
The city of Göreme traces its history back to the Roman period, when people started streaming in for the first time to settle down here. Among the historically important sites in the city are the wonderfully built churches – the Bezirhane, Durmus Kadir, Ortahane, and Yusuf Koc – in addition to the richly decorated Tokali Kilise, the Apple Church, and several homes and churches carved into the rock formations in the town making them part of an indelible historic memory.
Göreme slowly turned into a monastic centre during AD 300-1200. The Göreme Open Air Museum is a place visited frequently by Cappadocia’s many monastic groups and it’s very popular among them. It’s the most famous site in central Turkey. In this huge complex, there are over 30 churches and ancient chapels with intricate carvings on them that were built sometime during the 9th and 11th centuries. It’s fascinating to feel time rolling back to another era while gazing at these edifices.
Apart from that, there are several other places, like the Uchisar Castle with its splendid view, Sunset Point in Red Valley, Three Sisters Rock Panorama Point, Rose Valley, Ihlara Valley and Pigeon Valley, that are on the list for tourists visiting Cappadocia. To add to the many magical experiences scattered across Cappadocia, there’s also a host of activities for tourists to take up, like hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, historical tours and many cultural tours.