Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, located near the city of Nevsehir and Kayseri. It is the region famous for its unique nature stone shapes and cities and buildings that were carved into them by many inhabitants who were settled in this area.
Cappadocia region was formed 60 million years ago by erosion of soft layers of lava and ash from Mount Erciyes (Argeus), Mount Hasan and Mount Güllü composing with wind and rain over millions of years.
Human settlement at the Cappadocia region dates back to the Paleolithic era. The lands where the Hittites once lived have been one of the most important centers of Christianity in the later periods. Houses and churches carved into the caves and rocks turned the region into a huge heaven for Christians escaping from the dominance of the Roman Empire.
Cappadocia is a region spreading an area covering the provinces particularly to Nevsehir, Kirsehir, Nigde, Aksaray and Kayseri.
History of Cappadocia
In the 12th century BC, a dark period began in the region with the collapse of the Hittite Empire. During this period, the late Hittite Kings with effects of Assyria and Phrygia ruled the region. These Kingdoms lasted until the Persian invasion in the 6th century BC. The word used today, Cappadocia, means “Land of Beautiful Horses” in Persian. In 332 BC, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and encountered great resistance in Cappadocia. During this period, the Kingdom of Cappadocia was established. The Roman power began to be felt in the region towards the end of the 3rd century BC. In the middle of 1st century, Kings of Cappadocia were appointed and toppled from the throne by the Roman Generals. When the last king of Cappadocia died in 17 AD, the region became a province of Rome.
In the 3rd century, Christians came to the Cappadocia which became a centre for education. Pressure on the Christians increased between 303-308. But Cappadocia was an ideal place to be safeguarded from pressures and to spread the Christian doctrine. Deep valleys and shelters dug into the soft volcanic rocks created a safe heaven against the Roman soldiers.
The 4th century is the period of the people known as “Fathers of Cappadocia.” But the importance of the region reached its climax when Leon III, Emperor of Rome banned icons. Under these circumstances, some people who were pro-icon started to take shelter in the region. Iconoclasm movement lasted more than a hundred years (726-843). Although some Cappadocian churches were under the influence of Iconoclasm in this period, pro-icon people easily continued worshipping here. The monasteries of Cappadocia developed considerably during this period.
Again, in these periods, Arab raids started to affect the Christian regions in Anatolia, from Armenia to Cappadocia. People escaping the invasion and coming to the region changed the styles of churches in the area. In 11th and 12th centuries Cappadocia passed into the hands of the Seljuk Turks. The region spent a period without trouble subsequent times under the Ottoman Empire. The last Christians in the region migrated from Cappadocia due to the exchange of Treaty of Lausanne in 1924-26, leaving beautiful architectural examples behind.
Cappadocia is one of the most attractive places in Turkey for visitors all over the world. Every year several million people visit that place and the numbers are getting higher and higher every year. This place has a unique structure of buildings and landscape, one of the kind in the world. And it is not just one place, its a larger territory with a lot of villages, cities and different shapes of stones, like mushroom shapes, animal shapes, that can be found in this region.
Here we will introduce You with some of the most popular activities and attractions that you can do while visiting Cappadocia.
Hot Air balloon ride
Certainly the most famous attraction is taking a flight with a balloon. It is one of the most important symbols of Cappadocia. There is a lot of companies that offer flights with a balloon, and their capacity all together is 2000 people per day. The ride takes around one hour and balloon is navigated thought the wind, so You cannot know where You will end up. Balloon goes up in the air around 700 meters during the week (because of the large circulation of airplanes they cannot go any further) and up to 1300-1500 meters during the weekend.
The ride it self is magnificent, the navigator takes You in the canyons and valleys, very close to the stones, then up in the air. The ride takes place at sunrise, so the lights of the sun shines behind canyons and make the events even magical with a dozens of balloons in the air.
The prices vary from season to season, now during the pandemic and off the season, price is around 50 euro, which is the cheapest price You can get. During the season the minimal price is 150 euro, depending on the demand it can goes up to 900 euros. There is always a possibility for bargain, but not in high season because there is a line of people waiting for the balloon ride and they are willing to pay any price.
Horseback riding is a must in Cappadocia. The experience of taking a ride with a horse and experiencing the valley thought narrow passages cannot be compared not even with the balloon ride. There are a lot of companies offering horseback riding tour, so its not hard to find one, You can even ask receptionist in Your hotel, he will find you a tour for a decent price (which is now around 200 Turkish lira).
Even if You never ridden a horse before, there is no problem, the guide will show You everything and help You on the way.
The tour itself involves ridding through Red Valley, Rose Valley and Sword Valley. You will climb trough narrow roads, go trough passages, all that with a slight felling of being in a dessert because of the strong sun and large amounts of stones that absorbs the heat and reflect it. During the tour You will make a stop in some of the valleys with the Byzantine churches that have a well remained frescoes inside.
As for the guides, they are very warm and hospital, although their English in not the best, they will show You great Turkish hospitality and their knowledge for horses and the surroundings will make You feel safe.
There is also option for quad tour, If You are more into the speed and adrenaline.
There is plenty of stuff to see while staying in Cappadocia, but luckily almost all of them are concentrated very close. There is entrance fee for every attraction, but if You are resident or student in Turkey, You can make Museum card and with that card You can enter in every attraction for free. In case You are foreigner, the best thing to do would be to take a tour with some of the agencies, because with the price of around 200 lira You can see majority of things and with the guide You will learn a lot about the history and facts. It is honestly much cheaper to do that then to pay individually for every single thing.
Goreme is a town in Cappadocia, the heart of the land and it is the best starting point for Your stay there. You can find a lot of Cave hotels there for very affordable prices. All the hotels are carved into the stones and the place just look magical, like it has come from a fairy tale. During the night the sky is full of stars and every hotel has several terraces where you can enjoin the view. It is a very touristic place and most of the people there speak English. You can also find a lot of restaurants that offer traditional Turkish cousins, but also there is a lot of Chinese restaurants due to large amount of Chinese tourist during the summer.
Goreme Open Air Museum
This is probably the first stop You should visit. Goreme Open Air Museum is a small territory consisted mostly of Byzantine Churches dating from 10th to 12th century. They all contain well preserved frescoes and even bones of the deceased. Each of the Churches bare a specific name like Dark/Karanlik churche (because of the small amount of light that was entering inside), Snake/Yilanli Church (because of the frescoe that shows Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore, Apple (Elmali) Church, St Barbara Church and many more.
The entrance fee is 75 Turkish lira.
The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum by its appearance and structure is very similar to Goreme Open Air Museum. Its is situated around 10 km from Goreme city. It consist out of Churches (Geyikli Kilise /the Church with the Deer; Uzumlu Kilise/The Church with Grapes-the grapes in this case represent Christ itself); Balikli Kilise /The Church with Fishes, a winery, mosque, caves…
The names of the churches are almost in every cases related with dominant fresco on the wall (fish, grape…)
This place is famous because Christians were hiding there during the persecution of Romans and because of the its Dionysiac (solemnity that consisted od singing, dancing and drinking wine) rituals.
Uçhisar castle is situated on the highest point in Cappadocia, 5 km from Goreme. The castle consist of many rooms which are connected with tunnels, passages and stairs. Due to erosion it is not possible to enter in all to rooms and for safety reasons the castle is temporarily closed. Most of the Rooms today have function of pigeon houses. Pigeon was a very important animal for this part of the country, before they used them as messengers, but their bigger contribution was in that that people used them for fertilizing the land.
Very close to Uchisar and Uchisar castle there is a Pigeon Valley/Guvercinlik Vadisi, which takes its name after many pigeon houses that were carved into the stones of the Valley. Today there are many pigeons still there.
Ortahisar Castle is a fortress situated in city of Ortasihar, alongside with Uchisar and Başkale formes most important fortresses in Cappadocia Region. It name means the “middle castle”. It is builded on the stone which is knows as the “biggest fairy chimney in Cappadocia” .
At this moment the castle is closed because of the safety measures.
Paşabağ fairy Chimneys (Valley of the Monks)
This Valley is situated on the road to Zelve and it consist out of stones pillars. The name of the place means Pacha’s vineyard because the pillars are situated in the middle of vineyard. Word Pacha means “General” in the Turkish military rank. This place is special because of the unique fairy chimneys with twin and even triple rock caps in the shape of the mushrooms. Also some Churches can be found here, like St. Simon Church.
Devrent Imagination Valley
Also known as the Imaginary Valley or Pink Valley, this Valley offer you an opportunity to see many different stones that take shape of the certain animals or objects like camel, dog, dolphin… But here You can just let Your imagination work, if You look carefully You can see some objects, its like looking in the clouds and searching for shapes in the sky. A lot of tourist guides will tell You some stories about this places and made you pay attention to the specific stones that for them represents Napoleons hat. Honestly maybe this is not the most impressive part of the Cappadocia, but since You are already there, You can visit it. And there is no entrance fee, because it is not possible to walk in this Valley.
This place were probably never inhabited and unlike the rest of the sites it does not contain any human settlements or churches.
Derinkuyu and Kaymakli Underground City
Certainly one of the most fascinating places to visit are these two underground cities. You will be stoned by the fact that people built cities under the ground and actually lived there. The cities are full of tunnels, passages and rooms and its an amazing experience just to get lost into the tunnels. Although they are quite small, and you need to bend to go trough them, You will feel so much join, because You will have a feeling of a child who plays and explore the Underground.
This caves cities dates from Hittite time and there is around 36 underground cities in Cappadocia. Kaymakli is the widest one and it consist out of 8 floors, but only 4 are open for public today.
The cities consist out of rooms, storages, stables, kitchens, common rooms, churches, ventilation area, wineries, melting rooms… Supposedly this cities were inhabited by 3500 people.
Derinkuyu is the deepest cave citie, approximately 85 meters deep.
Both of this cities are located 30 minutes ride from the Goreme city.
This Valley is located a bit further from the rest of the attractions, between 2 out of 3 volcano mountains: Hasan Mountain and Mount Melendiz. It is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago.
It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around eighty thousand people once lived in Ihlara Valley.
It is a great area to visit, especially in spring, when everything is blossoming, there is a large area for walking next to the river and great caffees incorporated into the nature.
Avanos is a city famous for the art of pottery that dates from 2000 B.C. in the times of Hettie when they named the town “Zu Wanes“.
What makes this place so involved into the pottery its it location, which is next to the longest river in Turkey, Kizilirmak (red) river. The river provides the clay for the pottery and even today most of the families there are involved into the craft of pottery.
Instead of the sites mentioned above, there are also: Hacibektas (center of Bektasi sect of Islam); Gulsehir (first settlements in Cappadocia); Forgotten Cave Churches ( churches located in the valleys); Caravanserais (13th century hotels on the silk road); Red Valley; Rose Valley; Village Çavusin; Soganli (twin valley with pyramid shape rocks)…
The best choice for staying is for sure one of the Cave Hotels which can be found in Goreme, Nevsehir, Kayseri. They offer You a magnificent experience that will contribute to make your trip the magical as possible. It is like returning to the past, walking on the stone ground, stares. The walls of the rooms are all stone with big Sultan beds and royalty sheets.
In most of the hotels breakfast is included in the price and it a Turkish breakfast, so You can enjoy variety of choices with no restrictions on the amount of food.
Food and Wine
Like many other cities and regions in Turkey, Cappadocia region also has its own version of kebap and it is Pottery Kebap/Testi Kebap.
Meaning “jug” in Turkish, testi or pottery kebab is an Anatolian speciality prepared in a clay pot or jug. It’s usually made with lamb, beef, or chicken with vegetables like carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Traditionally cooked in a tandoor or clay oven, the pot is sealed with bread dough and left to simmer in its own juices for hours.
When ready, the blazing hot jug is brought out and cracked in front of you, releasing the aroma of its still gurgling contents.
Cappadocia is famous for its production of what is considered one of the best wines in Turkey. The soil that is found in the region is sand, sandstone, and decomposed volcanic tuff which contributed to good quality grapes for wine production. This region produces 12% of all Turkish wine. There are 4 biggest and most popular local wineries that produce best quality wine: Turasan, Kocabağ, Kapadokya, and Şenol.
Turasan and Kocabağ are the biggest winery in all the Turkey. Turasan produce over 25 types and Kocabağ 17 different types of wine.
The most famous sorts that are being used are: Emir ( the only Turkish grape exclusive to Cappadocia), Narince, Kalecik Karası, Öküzgözü and Boğazkere.
Although Turkey is a country with many hidden gems to visit, Cappadocia is becoming more and more famous worldwide and that is with reason. The place itself is like no other, You will feel like You have been trown into a movie with an unreal dessert and stone landscape with beautiful people that will make the experience even better.