The heart of Turkey is Cappadocia, a historical region located in the central part of the country. It is a lovely destination for its natural beauty and for the opportunity to see the history of the early Christian church. When tourists travel to Cappadocia, they cannot stop thinking that they are on another planet, because of the unique landscapes. There are volcanoes with snow-capped peaks, low mountains, rock massifs and fascinating valleys.
Must-do in Cappadocia: rent a scooter and explore the local valleys. The bizarre landscapes fascinate and need no further comment.
Modern Cappadocia is a major tourist center of Turkey. Each year, more than a million foreign travelers come to visit it, mostly from Western Europe, India, China, Japan, and America. Hotels of various levels were built for the best holidays, ranging from the elite and even unique to the most basic. For first-time travelers to Cappadocia, the introduction most often begins with a trip to the regional capital of Kayseri. This is a large industrial city and an administrative center, with a population of over a million people. There are archaeological and ethnographic museums with interesting collections. Also, in Kayseri, travelers may explore fragments of an ancient fortress.
Göreme is a village located 10 km from Nevşehir. The main attraction here is the open-air museum, which includes about 30 cave churches (due to restoration work, only seven of them are accessible). It’s better to come early in the morning to the region of Göreme, as the valley fills up with multilingual travelers by noon, making it impossible to enjoy the city's beauty quietly. Most temples are inconspicuous from the outside, except where a crumbling wall reveals an area covered with marvelous frescoes. While inside, look carefully beneath your feet: rock temples were frequently tombs as well. The ancient tombs have long been abandoned, but they leave oblong grave hollows in the floor, sometimes placed so close to each other that a human foot can hardly fit between them.
Must-do in Cappadocia: walk through the streets of Göreme, look in the souvenir shops, and maybe even dare to make a large purchase - a handmade carpet of unreal beauty.
There is a small village of Chavushin at the foot of Ak-Tepe in the valley of Goreme. It is famous for its attractions, namely the church of St. Nikifor Foki, or Pigeon Church. The rock church in this region has preserved on its walls ancient frescoes that tell about the visit of the Byzantine emperor Nikephoros. The church itself dates back to the 10th century. The frescoes on the walls of the many halls and galleries, like a time machine, take us back in time. It's difficult to believe that people were living in the rocky labyrinths of Chavushin in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the erosion of the rocks forced residents to leave their homes. Such a picture can be seen throughout Cappadocia. One of the oldest holy places in Cappadocia is the Church of John the Baptist in Chavushin (5th century). This temple used to be the center of pilgrimage in Cappadocia and was visited by many great men. All these monuments are surrounded by incredibly beautiful and bizarre rocks, which are shaped like mushrooms. These rocks were formed by the eruption of the volcano Erciyas and the subsequent water and air erosion.
The Underground Cities of Cappadocia
Nevşehir is located in the central part of the Anatolian Plateau in Cappadocia region. According to one of the versions, once upon a time, there was the ancient city of Nyssa. Of interest in Nevshehir is a complex of buildings erected by order of the Grand Vizier of Nevshehir, Damat Ibrahim Pasha, in the 18th century and bearing the same name. There is a mosque, a madrasah, a canteen, a school building, public baths, a caravanserai, and a library on the territory of the complex. The mosque, construction of which was completed in 1726, rises in the complex center, has three gates and an elegant minaret, 44 meters in height. The interior of the mosque is decorated with floral motifs. The baths located in the complex, which underwent restoration in 1943, are still used for their intended purpose. The city is famous for its well-preserved appearance and an interesting historical museum. Here you can also see the remains of the fortress. The main part of houses in the city does not exceed three or four stories. There are many preserved buildings from the 18th–19th centuries with characteristic flat roofs.
Not far from Nevshehir are the famous underground cities of Cappadocia - Kaymakli, and Derinkuyu. Many mazes were discovered there that served as a refuge for early Christians fleeing religious persecution and the invasions of Arabs. A few are now open to the public. The entrance to Kaymakli, the largest underground city in the region of Cappadocia, is in the central square, and four of its eight floors are open to travelers. There are signs all along the route to help you navigate the maze of tunnels and halls. The Hittites built the first level, and several more levels were added during Roman and Byzantine rule, resulting in the formation of an underground city with everything needed for life: cells, meeting rooms, churches, kitchens, warehouses, and even a cemetery. Kaymakli is linked to Derinkuyu by a 9-kilometer-long underground tunnel.
Must-do in Cappadocia: visit the underground city, consisting of an extensive network of passages and rooms, to see how the early Christians lived and hid here from the Arabs centuries ago.
Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city near Nevşehir, built in the 8th–7th century BC, which was used by early Christians to hide from the oppressing Arabs. It is the largest underground city in the region of Turkey: at the moment it has 11 floors going under the ground to a depth of 85 meters. All in all, according to archaeologists, there are about 20. The city has an area of about 4x4 km and can simultaneously accommodate up to 50 thousand people, with livestock, provisions for several months, a chapel, wineries, pottery, and other necessary workshops. The town has ventilation shafts 55 meters deep and a water supply system that supplies water to all levels of residents. Derinkuyu is connected by tunnels to other underground cities in Cappadocia, including Kaymakli. The underground city was opened to travelers in 1969, but unfortunately, so far you can see only a small part of the premises that were excavated by archaeologists.
Unique temples of the 9th-10th centuries are located in the valley of Ihlara, which is located about a hundred kilometers from the region of Nevshehir. It is a deep and long canyon of volcanic origin (almost 14 km). At the bottom, there is the river Melendiz and a wide path along with it, following which you can walk through the valley. In the steep walls of the canyon, hermit Christians built many temples, connecting them through an extensive network of passages. Today, there have been more than a hundred cave temples and monasteries, many of which, unfortunately, have already partially collapsed.
Travelers intending to visit these places must be properly dressed and have a fair amount of physical training. To go down to the bottom of the canyon in the place where there is the largest number of temples, you have to overcome almost four hundred stairs. In addition, most of the cave temples are located tens of meters above the river bank, and one can enter them by climbing steep and narrow stairs without a railing, at best, and at worst, by squeezing into gaps between huge stones and climbing on barely visible paths at dizzying heights.
The Valleys of Cappadocia
The most famous valley in the region of Cappadocia is Pasabag. It is also called the Valley of the Monks. The Pasabag Valley is known for its unusual rocks with mushroom caps. The process of formation of the unique Cappadocian relief takes place before our eyes. Here, in the rocks, you can see the ancient dwellings. And of course, peribajalars, "fairy fireplaces," medieval cave churches with frescoes, and various forms of rocks. In Pasabag, there are a lot of unknown trails, despite the popularity of the valley among travelers. And if you dream of getting the atmosphere of Cappadocia in silence, this is the best place for it.
The Red and Pink Valleys
The Red Valley is about 1.5 kilometers long and ends with the Sunset Point terrace. Where, as you guessed from the name, it's the best place to meet the sunset. The Red Valley is connected with Pink Valley, named for the delicate pearl hue of the rocks. It's great to walk around during the day, looking at the caves, the narrow paths between the giant islands, and, of course, the ancient churches. In the Red Valley there is the beautiful Vine Church, built 1,000 years ago. In the Pink Valley, there is the Church of the Three Crosses, the Quince Church, and the Church of the Columns. It is possible to consider well-preserved elements of medieval frescoes.
Hot air ballooning
Cappadocia is the great capital of hot air ballooning. This region has a unique landscape that is hard to compare with anything else. If you are lucky with the weather, new sensations of soaring over the basalt cities amid the peach light will conquer you and will not be forgotten for a long time. Every day here is like a day at an air balloon festival. Up to 250 balloons rise in the air at about 400 meters high. This colorful sight is breathtaking and gives the feeling of a fairy tale. The best times for air ballooning in Cappadocia are April-May and early fall. The low season is winter and summer, but even at this time it is incredibly beautiful. It's ideal to fly at the end of April — in addition to the best weather, all of Cappadocia is in bloom, and it looks very cool from high up. There is usually little cloud cover over Cappadocia and many sunny days a year.
Watch the sunset (or sunrise)
Do you love watching the sun go down over the horizon line? In Cappadocia, there are hundreds more great places to do so. They are usually marked with a sunset point arrow, but there are also stops with the best views. Take your pick from wilderness areas, landscaped observation decks, cafe terraces, and souvenir bazaars. The main thing is the view, and it will be fantastic everywhere in Cappadocia!
Tour by quad bike
The trip by quad bike is not only long and meaningful, but also really fun. On the tour, travelers will visit the ancient rock village of Chavushin and the Valley of Love, take pictures on a swing in the shape of a heart and have much fun. And then you'll make several more stops in scenic spots until you come to the Pink Valley. At the bottom of the hill, there's an unintentional ATV rally — everyone comes to climb higher, grab a glass of mulled wine, spend the sun over the horizon, and watch the cliff opposite turn a rich pink. By the way, the same pink rock is perfectly visible from Sunset Point, where you can enjoy the Old Town of Göreme. The entrance to the observation point costs 3 liras per person. Another five are at a cafe on the mountain. You may also take dozens of pictures: from this spot you can see almost 360 degrees: the sunset, the Old Town, and the Pink Valley. If you wat a more safe tour, choose the Jeep safari.
Best time to visit Cappadocia
The tourist season in Cappadocia begins in March and ends in October, but this does not mean that it is too late to go. It is the best time to stroll through the streets outside of the tourist flow, easily sit in the restaurant you like, and take a picture against the background of an ancient cave. The only downside to the season is that it is located somewhere on the Celsius scale. So don't forget the warm clothes: during the day, when the sun is shining, the air warms up, but as soon as it hides behind the mountains, travelers want to pull on a hat, a thin down jacket, and an extra pair of socks.
The most comfortable times to travel in Cappadocia are spring and fall.
Where to live in Cappadocia?
The most comfortable place to live is Göreme. The ancient caves, unusual mountains, and viewpoints with the most beautiful sunsets are located right in the city. Accommodation options abound, from hostels for backpackers to luxury hotels. Many hotels are organizing terraces for observers directly on the roof. An important point: photos taken by someone from your hotel at the beginning of the season do not guarantee the exact same view; it is possible that in recent months, another newly-built hotel blocked the view. So be sure to check the panorama on a recent satellite map. The view of the region and the orbs can also be found from the caves. Christian hermits used to live deep in the rock, but now there is little reminder of asceticism here: the rooms of numerous cave hotels have showers, heating, a comfortable bed, and a breakfast.
Must-do in Cappadocia: stay the night in one of the small hotels, whose rooms are built directly in the caves, but perfectly equipped for tourists' needs.
What to taste in Cappadocia?
Almost every café will offer a pottery kebab to travelers. This meat dish is cooked in an oblong clay pot. To retrieve its contents, you need to gently crack the smoking pot in the very center with a large knife or a hammer. The meat is cooked with vegetables and turns out very soft and flavorful, as if stewed. As a rule, pottery kebab is not the most budget-friendly item on the menu (a lamb portion will easily cost you 100 liras), but it's worth it: the pot is served with rice and salad, so it's not just a tourist attraction, but also a proper dinner. You can save money if you order durum - the local kebab. Such a meal with a cup of hot tea on the terrace overlooking the mountains and the Old Town will cost you twenty liras. Be sure to try the warm hummus (it is noticeably different from what we are used to, not only in temperature but also in taste and texture), grape leaves stuffed with bulgur seasoned with onion, garlic and tomato sauce) and falafel (in Coffeedocia coffee house chickpeas are made with cheese, which is unusual for falafel, but very tasty nonetheless). You can wash it all down with local wine: a drink from local wineries can be found in almost any restaurant.