When you ask people about going on a holiday to Turkey, most of them probably think of exploring the vibrant capital Istanbul or lounging on the beaches by the popular Turquoise Coast resorts. However, Cappadocia in central Turkey is well worth a visit.
This stunning region is renowned for its natural beauty, and has even been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This recognition isn’t just down to its breathtaking scenery, but also the various historical sites that have been discovered in the area.
Cappadocia’s natural attractions We’ll start by taking a look at what makes Cappadocia’s landscape so unusual. The Goreme Valley, which is the best place to get a feel for the stunning scenery, is made up of soft rock, which has been eroded by the elements over the course of hundreds of years to create the rock hills, pinnacles, cones and cliffs that you’ll find here today.
The geology is truly fascinating - ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed the whole region in a thick layer of ash and other material, which eventually solidified into a predominantly soft rock. The hard parts of its composition are what’s left in today’s rock formations, with the rest having been worn away.
However, the reason why Cappadocia is so special is down to how humans have shaped the landscape over the centuries, with people carving out a vast network of caverns and tunnels in the soft rock of the hills to create what’s best described as a honeycomb of habitations, many of which you can still explore today.
As you can probably imagine, the area is a wonderful place for hiking and there are numerous trails you can follow to really get a good overview of Cappadocia and all its attractions. Companies like Explore Worldwide offer trips dedicated to uncovering some of the region’s secrets and best-known sites.
The history of Cappadocia What will undoubtedly blow you away on a trip to Cappadocia is the elaborate cave dwellings that have been carved by hand and added to over the centuries. These are much more than simple homes, though, with shrines, churches, stables and convents among the places created.
In some cases, there were subterranean villages that were completely hidden underground, with homes up to eight storeys below the surface of the earth. This is truly remarkable and exploring these winding tunnels and ancient dwellings will certainly be unlike anything you’ve ever done before.
As well as the caverns themselves, there are many beautiful frescoes painted on the walls. In the early days of Christianity, this part of Turkey became something of a refuge for monks, nuns, priests and the other faithful who were displaced. There are incredible examples of Byzantine artwork hidden within these subterranean places of worship, some of which date back as far as the 4th century.
Work is constantly ongoing to preserve these rare paintings, not to mention the chapels and churches they are part of. You can learn about this preservation work, along with finding out other nuggets of information about Cappadocia and its fascinating past, at one of the many museums that have been established in these troglodyte dwellings.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is also worth a visit, and within its boundaries you can admire rock-cut churches and fairy chimneys - it’s a magical place to wander around.