Known as the land of beautiful horses because of its Hittite heritage, Cappadocia defies everything you thought you knew about Mother Nature. The rugged landscape, formed over thousands of years after an eruption from Mount Erciyes is a weird collection of soft rocks shaped into what the locals call fairy chimneys.
Tucked away within the vast network of tall fairy chimneys are ancient caves once used as homes and now promoted as hotels to accommodate thousands of eager visitors flocking to see this geographical landscape resembling a lunar moon surface.
Ancient Cave Churches from the Christian Era
Receiving more praise than the hotels though are the 13th and 14th-century cave churches reflecting Cappadocia’s status as a key player in the early days of Christianity. Over 600 sit majestically across the region but the best collection is in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Goreme Open Air museum and include the Apple, Dark, and Snake Churches.
With their restored frescoes depicting scenes of the Bible, the churches and monasteries within the museum boundaries portray the story of persecuted Christians who used the churches for shelters while adhering to the words of the Cappadocia fathers, three local men who reverted to Christianity and later became saints because of their pious dedication.
While cave hotels and churches are a quirky and unique aspect of Cappadocia, the region throws out many more surprises for visitors.
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons and Underground Cities/
At sunrise, a beautiful sight of hot air balloons rising into the skies fills the horizon view over Cappadocia. Thanks to the shapes of the rock formations, wind conditions provide the perfect setting for a gentle cruise to see the lunar landscape from a different angle.
Now the most popular activity to do in Cappadocia, visitors indulge in an all-you-can-eat, buffet style breakfast before climbing into sturdy baskets holding 6 to 20 people. Professional hot air pilots ascend slowly to treat their passengers to a panoramic view of the sun rising from behind the Erciyes mountain range. The ride lasts roughly an hour before passengers descend to sip on champagne and photo shoots of their memorable morning.
After the ride, well-known landmarks often feature on most people’s sightseeing agendas. Stretching across the vast Cappadocia region, hundreds of underground cities sit quietly beneath the rocky landscape. Exciting historians and prompting conspiracy theories of alien construction, the cities are an intense network of rooms and tunnels used to accommodate thousands of people for many months.
The most famous and mysterious, Derinkuyu extends 60 meters underground. Mainly used during the Byzantine period as protection against invading Muslim Arabs, the stables, churches, schools, sleeping quarters, kitchens and equipment such as wine presses, water wells, and airshafts, prove the ability of humankind to survive when under threat.
Other Things to Do in Cappadocia
Memorizing landscape views exist at Esentepe Panoramic Viewpoint or from the top of the ugly stone castles of Ortahisar or Uchisar. Alterntively the town of Avanos, sitting next to the Red River is famous for its gondala rides and pottery workshops. For many years, locals have crafted pottery from clay taken from the Red River and visitors watch them working in their small shops or even have a go at the pottery wheel themselves!
Most touristic sites to see in Cappadocia are spread out over a vast area, so organized tours are a cheap alternative and take care of arrangements such as transport and entrance tickets. Independent hikers though prefer valleys such as Ihlara, Love, and Pigeon while others take to alternative forms of transport to explore the region.
During the summer, quad bikes are apt at navigating the country lanes while horses take the slow, gentle trotting routes between hills and valleys, providing the perfect way to explore the land of fairy chimneys, hot air balloons, cave churches, and underground cities
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