Cappadocia is unlike any tourist destination in the world. Rather than centuries old buildings, gorgeous gardens and sun kissed white sand beaches, it is sought for its seemingly extraterrestrial landscape and underground cities.
It is located in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey and comprised of the five provinces of Aksaray, Nevsehir, Nigde, Kayseri and Kirsehir. Its unique geological features are a result of volcanic eruptions and the eroding effects of the flowing waters and blowing winds in the region tens of thousands of years ago. Now, Cappadocia looks like a vast rock tableland with soaring vulcanic tufas or what appears as rock towers to the layman’s eyes. These volcanic tufas are popularly known as fairy chimneys.
The best way to fully appreciate the volcanic landscape of Cappadocia is to look at it from above. What better way to do it than from a romantic canopy of a hot air balloon? Hot air balloon rides are popular in Cappadocia and several outdoor outfitters are more than willing to take you for a ride.
The town of Avanos is a promising base of your exploration of the Cappadocia region. It is a charming town of pottery makers set on the banks of the Red River in Kizilirmak. Beautifully crafted pots and plates are available for sale and you can see how potters work in their kick wheels that remained authentic to its original form from generations long gone.
Another good alternative is the town of Uchisar which literally means “Pointed Castle” referring to one of the most popular landmarks in Cappadocia, the Uchisar’s Kale or fortress. Its many century old stone houses have been converted into hotels and other affordable guesthouses and pensions. Some of these structures have cave rooms that were restored into hotel rooms for tourists to experience cave accommodation.
Cappadocia is also famous for the hundreds (nobody really knows the exact number) of underground cities. These are not just little rooms in a cave but are actually interconnecting chambers that house an entire village. Derinkuyu is the biggest of these discovered underground cities.
It has 8 levels of interconnected tunnels and said to accommodate 20,000 people, at the very least, all at the same time. Just imagine the size of it! It has also its own ventilation ducts, toilets, water wells, stables, wine and oil presses, cellars and storage rooms. Refectories and chapels are common among many of these underground cities considering that these chambers were used by the first Christians as hiding places from the persecution of the Roman Empire.
Of course, you can’t leave Cappadocia without visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum. Goreme houses many churches and chapels that vary in size and splendor or the lack thereof. A remarkable collection of century old frescoes at these churches and chapels provide fascinating insight to the faith of the people during a dark period and their efforts at keeping it alive.
A similar monastic complex can be found in the town of Zelve about 10 kilometers from Goreme. It may not have the extensive collection of frescoes in Goreme but the Fish and Grape churches are good enough reason to visit this place.