On arrival in Cappadocia you could be forgiven for thinking that you have arrived on another planet, or possibly onto the set of a sci-fi movie. Fairy chimneys and numerous other crazy rock formations dot the landscape, and it all looks a bit surreal. Cappadocia is one of the most spectacular places in the World, and you will want to make the most of your time here. Here’s our top 5 “must-do’s” to help you plan your trip.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Flight
Before arriving in Cappadocia you may be forgiven for thinking that the whole hot air balloon things sounds a bit cheesy, and that there are other opportunities for hot air ballooning in the World. But trust us when we say there are no other opportunities for hot air ballooning over a landscape quite like this one. Nothing is more magical than gliding above Cappadocia’s unique landscape in a hot air balloon as the sun rises. The feeling of soaring above the valleys, and peeking into pigeon holes carved into the rock, and watching the sun rise and cast its warm glow across the valleys is amazing, and for most guests, the highlight of their trip to Turkey. For the first few minutes you are likely to be stunned by what you are seeing, then, you will probably start frantically clicking away with your camera, so make sure you have your camera charged and plenty of room on your memory card. The early wake up will be totally worth it, and you’ll be glad to have had this once in a lifetime experience.
Visit an Underground City
Cappadocia has 36 underground cities, although not all of them are open to the public. These date back to Hitite times and were the hiding places of the early Christians fleeing from persecution. The widest underground city in the Cappadocia region is Kaymakli Underground City, and the deepest is Derinkuyu Underground City. You will be amazed by the ingenuity of the region’s early settlers when you see the amenities of these cities – they have living quarters, stables, cellars, wine pressing areas and more. It is believed that the cities were not intended to be used as a permanent place of residence, and they are clearly designed with the aim of withstanding attack in mind. Make sure you schedule a visit to one of these underground cities during your stay.
Visit Goreme Open Air Museum
Originally a monastic settlement, World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum consists of a number of small churches cut into the rocks and decorated with beautiful frescoes of scenes such as the nativity and the baptism of Christ. Some of the churches are dedicated to local Saints, in particular, the Chapel of St Barbara, and the Chapel of St Basil, who was born in Cappadocia. Three important three theologians lived in this area during the 4th Century – St. Basil the Great, his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Gregory of Nazianzus contributed a great deal to Christian doctrine and were referred to as the “Cappadocian Fathers”. Also part of the complex is a rock carved convent which housed as many as 300 nuns at one time.
Manti is a specialty dish of the Cappadocia region, and is often referred to as “Turkish ravioli”. Manti is actually a Turkic dish, having been introduced to the Anatolian area by migrating horsemen from Asia, and then refined to suit local tastes. It consists of dumplings filled with spiced ground beef and onion seasoned lightly with pepper, and drizzled with a garlic yoghurt sauce and spice-infused oil. Its simplicity and the effect of the combination of the flavours makes it a taste sensation.
Go for a hike
You will have seen the landscape from the air in a balloon, you will have driven past it as you travel around the area, now round out your experience by getting up close and personal with the landscape on a hike, especially through one of the area’s amazing Valleys. Ihlara is our pick because of it’s richness of flora and fauna and lots of things to see, although it is difficult to reach without transport. For something more accessible, try Pigeon Valley which connects Goreme and Uchisar.
Fez Travel is currently running a competition to win a 15 Day tour of Turkey for 2 people which includes a visit to Cappadocia. See here for more details.