CAPPADOCIA: The shopping bazaars of Istanbul, turquoise beaches of Antalya and fascinating thermal waters of Pamukkale make Turkey a true tourist paradise.
Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey, is another tourist draw — albeit one that is lesser known.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cappadocia is located among volcanic mountains. Several years of volcanic eruptions — resulting volcanic ash, floods and strong winds — have created unique, porous rock formations called fairy chimneys. These geological formations were used by fleeing refugees as hideouts, monasteries and to house entire cities. If you are a history aficionado, these rock formations are sure to have you captivated.
How to get there: Only an hour’s flight away from Istanbul, the easiest way to get to Cappadocia is to take a direct flight from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to the nearest airport in Kayseri and make the hour’s journey to Cappadocia by car. To get a true experience of the Byzantine era (albeit with some luxuries), check in to one of the many cave hotels in Cappadocia. Restored to some degree, these caves were once used as retreats by monks and now serve as hotels for tourists, with modern amenities like hot tubs and Roman Baths — an experience that is totally worth it!
Things to do: The next morning, check off one more item on your travel bucket list as you head out to your early-morning hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s valleys. As the sun rises, be prepared to be stunned by a valley of fairy chimneys and a sky filled with color as other hot air balloons float through the air. After spending a luxurious morning savoring the sights of Cappadocia, head back to your hotel for a lavish Turkish breakfast that will keep you fueled up for the day ahead.
Apart from the traditional Turkish spread, try Cappadocia’s testi kebap — meat sealed in dough and cooked in a clay pot. An entertaining show is made out of breaking down the pot and serving its tender contents.
With intricate designs and rich colors, the silk carpets of Kayseri are some of the best in the world. Visit a carpet-making factory to watch the local women spin beautiful silk carpets and perhaps buy some to take home. You can also visit the renowned Chez Galip pottery factory and see how traditional Turkish ceramics are made.
Places to visit: Visit the Derinkuyu underground city in the province of Nevşehir, making your way in and out of secret tunnels and passageways while you try to decipher Greek inscriptions on the walls. While there, you can try to fathom the daily life of the nearly 20,000 people who used to reside in the Derinkuyu underground city and the neighboring underground city of Kaymakli.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is an archaeological delight. You can wander around for hours and marvel at 11th century frescos, paintings, communal eating areas and monasteries.
To experience the wonders of nature, take a trek through the Rose Valley, named after the red and pink hues of its rock formations, or the Pigeon Valley, named after its rock formations that look like bird houses, in Göreme.
To revive your inner child, visit the Devrent Valley and try to spot the hidden creatures in the rock formations. If you look closely, you can see horses, camels and whatever else your imagination can cook up.
A three or four-day trip should suffice to see everything in the Nevşehir, Ürgüp, Göreme, Uçhisar and Ihlara areas of Cappadocia — pack a camera for the incredible sights and enjoy your trip!