Everyone deserves a visit to Cappadocia, the magical land of Turkey. Situated in the central part of the country, Cappadocia can be reached by car from the capital city Ankara or from Antalya – the biggest Mediterranean city, which to attracts more and more tourists every year.The city of Antalya has a charm all of its own and deserves a special visit itself – the combination of crystal blue sea and snow-capped mountains is simply mesmerising.
We travelled from Sofia, Bulgaria to Antalya via a charter flight – just a one-hour trip altogether, and then spent the night in a nice resort at the Mediterranean seaside. The next morning, after the lavish breakfast, we headed north-east to Cappadocia.
You might have read or heard that ‘Cappadocia’ comes from Persian language and means ‘the land of the beautiful horses’. Well, this is debatable. Some sources claim the name actually denotes ‘a low land’, while other link it to a creek in the region, named ‘Cappadox’. Another historic interpretation relates Cappadocia to ‘the country of Khepat’, who once was the main god of the locals.
Cappadocia is indeed a God’s land
With its fairy chimneys and bizarre rock formations, it is a world-renown region, attracting millions of tourists each year. The top experience, of course, would be seeing the land from a hot-air balloon at sunrise.
Geologically, the surreal landscape comes from volcanic lava rocks in conical shapes, spread in several beautiful valleys. Later on, water and wind have put the final touch to the weird rock sculptures.
Where to Stay
Turkey is world-known for its hospitality. There are numerous accommodation options in Cappadocia, designed to suit every need and budget, including luxury cave suites.
- We stayed in the town of Ürgüp, considered to offer the richest selection of hotels, more targeted to travelers from European countries and their standards. We loved the food there: a farm-to-table approach, local ingredients depending on the season. Very healthy and tasty!
Interestingly, on our way from Antalya to Cappadocia we did see a lot of cattle and vegetable gardens. The area of Cappadocia is popular for its wine-production. There are grape varieties that cannot survive anywhere else due to the unique soil of volcanic origin there.
- Göreme hotels, on the other hand, boast amazing views over the rocks and hot-air balloons in the sky. The town is the preferred choice of Cappadocia’s first-time visitors and offers a very good array of traditional places to stay, including boutique cave hotels and rock-cut houses.
- Although very close to Göreme, the village of Uçhisar is not that well-connected to public transport, but it is much quieter. Perched on a hillside, it provides some of the best views over the stunning landscape. Uçhisar is home to the most luxurious hotels and restaurants in the area. The village is very popular with French tourists, who have been regular its visitors for decades.
- You can book a hotel in the town of Avanos. There you can take advantage of the numerous pottery and ceramics craft-stores with handmade souvenirs, meticulously painted by hand. Avanos is also known for its long carpet- weaving traditions and a visit to a local factory would be an interesting overview of the historical Turkish craft.
What to Do
Definitely book a hot-air balloon ride! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Few things can compare to sky-floating over the bizarre rock valleys. The air balloons, scattered in the pink sky just when the sun is rising is a view to remember for life.
Arrange a visit to the Göreme Open-Air Museum. It is thought to be a Byzantine monastery complex. There are numerous small halls in the rocks, some featuring really early, fascinating frescos. Now it is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Go to the Pigeon Valley. There you can see hundreds of pigeon holes, carved into the rock surface and literally hundreds of birds clapping wings at once to fly in the sky. A spectacular experience!
Walk down the Ihlara Valley along the beautiful river gorge. Alongside you will see some churches, carved in the rocks, dating from 7th to 10th century. Allow yourself half a day for this walk. You can have a traditional Turkish coffee or fresh pomegranate juice in the middle of the trail.
Visit the Pink Valley (‘Devrent’ in Turkish), also known is the Imagination Valley. Unlike the other landmarks, this one does not feature churches, but you can see weird shapes of rock, looking like a camel or a dog, for instance.
Schedule a visit to the scenic Love Valley rocks at sunset. The view is breath-taking.
Go to Uçhisar Castle. Actually this a rock, which is about 60m high, riddled with numerous passageways and caves.
Go to the underground cities of Kaymakli or Derinkoyu. There are lots of subterranean havens, carved in the volcanic ash rocks. People used them as shelters. Note that the passageways may be too narrow and low, and entering the corridors might not be suitable to everyone.
Attend a Sema – a dance of whirling dervishes, performed as a prayer or pure joy.
What to Consider
The best time to visit Cappadocia is spring: mid-March, April and May. Summers are really hot there, while winters are too cold.
Hot-air ballon rides need to be booked well in advance. Prices range between 120-160 Euro. The weather conditions on the day should allow the ride.
If you travel by car, you can stop in the city of Konya and visit the Mevlâna Museum there. Konya is one of the first capital cities of Turkey (then Seljuk Sultanat) and home the mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi – Mevlana (the ‘Teacher’). The city is thought to be the most conservative one in the country.
Food to try: Turkish pizza, called ‘pide’. Pomegranate juice – one of the most energizing drinks, offered on every corner. Turkish coffee and traditional desserts, like baklava and kadayif, are a must.
Check out our photo gallery below: