Cappadocia is a region in central Anatolia of Turkey best known for its extraordinary landscape that shares a striking resemblance to the surface of the moon. The region covers several provinces, including Aksaray, Nevsehir, Kayseri, Kirsehir, and Nigde. Ancient volcanic eruptions and rivers erosion are believed to be the main factors behind the formation of this unusual landscape marked with clefts, caves and chimney rocks.
One of the reasons why Cappadocia is such an extraordinary place to visit is because of its sophisticated underground cities. These cities were prehistoric human settlements mainly created as protection against wild animal attacks and extreme climate. They were later discovered by Christians during the Roman Empire era, and were subsequently used as secret dwellings.
There are a number of underground cities in Cappadocia that you can explore, including the ones in Kaymakli, Gaziemir, and Ozkonak. However, the biggest, deepest and most extensive underground city is located in Derinkuyu. This city has several interconnecting chambers that extend to eight floors with a depth of about 80 meters.
Open Air Museum
One fascinating place you should visit is the Goreme Open Air Museum located just beside the Goreme town of the Nevsehir province. This area holds a very religious and historical value. The museum is composed of monasteries for priests and nuns, and old cave-churches, which were built by Christians who immigrated to Cappadocia. Some of the well-preserved churches decorated with frescoes included in the museum are the Hagios Basileos and Karanlik Kilise. Another similar open museum you can visit is the Zelve Valley, which also features the oldest cave monasteries.
One of the most popular tourist activities in Cappadocia is the hot air balloon tour. This exciting high- altitude journey typically starts at sunrise. The tour can last for around an hour and balloon basket can carry approximately 20 passengers. This balloon ride takes you around the valleys and close to the chimney rocks. Even if you spend a bit more for this type of tour, it also gives you the rare opportunity to experience the magnificence of Cappadocia’s landscape from afar.
If you want to be closer to the action, you can also hike around the surrounding valleys to get a better look at the natural cliffs and rock tunnels. The GÃ¼vercinlik (Pigeon) Valley is one of the highly frequented hiking destinations, and in located between the towns of GÃ¶reme and UÃ¡hisar. There are numerous trails scattered around the region, but it is wiser to follow the more travelled trails because it very easy to get lost in the terrain without an experienced guide.
The Cappadocia region can be reached by riding a bus from any major city in the country. To maximize this unique travel experience, you can stay in one of the cave hotels, which are widely popular. However, if you are traveling on a budget, there are other kinds of accommodation available in towns like Goreme, Urgup, Uchisar and Avanos. In Goreme, you can easily find accommodation with rooms carved into the rocks. You can visit Cappadocia during summer or winter, but you need to stay a couple of days to enjoy fully what the region has to offer. It is a quite large area, so it is important that you make early transportation arrangements to reach the best attractions.
Most cruises originating or ending in Istanbul offer an optional pre or post tour.