26 June 2023
A realm like no other
Welcome to a land of enchantment, where ancient history merges with otherworldly landscapes to create a realm like no other. Cappadocia, a captivating region nestled in the heart of Turkey, is the place where dreams and reality become one. Brace yourself for a journey that will transport you through time, where you'll discover the secrets of ancient civilisations, marvel at surreal rock formations, and immerse yourself in a world of fairy tales come to life.
This is a region steeped in history that stretches back millennia. Explore the depths of ancient underground cities, marvel at rock-cut churches adorned with vivid frescoes, and wander through timeless villages that have stood the test of time. From the Hittites to the Greeks, Romans to Byzantines, numerous civilisations have left their mark on this land, creating a tapestry of culture and heritage that is as diverse as it is captivating. Delight your senses with the aromas and flavours of the region’s delectable cuisine, where Turkish delights and local delicacies make food comas hard to avoid. Indulge in the region's renowned wines, nurtured by volcanic soils and ancient winemaking traditions, creating a symphony of flavours that complement the enchantment of the surroundings.
For the adventurous souls, Cappadocia offers a myriad of outdoor activities. Embark on exhilarating hot air balloon rides at sunrise, where you'll soar above the fairy chimneys, valleys, and ancient cave dwellings, witnessing the most breathtaking panoramic views. Explore hiking trails that wind through majestic valleys, revealing hidden rock-cut churches and panoramic viewpoints that offer glimpses into the region's ethereal beauty. And when the day draws to a close, immerse yourself in the unique experience of staying in a cave hotel: remarkable accommodations carved into soft volcanic rock, allowing you to sleep within the very fabric of Cappadocia's rich heritage.
However you spend your time in Cappadocia, it’s sure to leave its mark with its incredible landscapes, ancient mysteries and warm hospitality of the locals.
What makes Cappadocia, Cappadocia?
1. Take to the skies
Embark on an exhilarating adventure that will take you soaring above the captivating landscapes of Cappadocia: the unparalleled experience of hot air ballooning. Prepare to be enchanted as you float gently through the skies, embraced by the tranquility and awe-inspiring beauty that surrounds you.
Take in breathtaking views as the sun peeks over the horizon, casting its golden glow upon the undulating valleys and fairy chimneys. Watch as a kaleidoscope of colours turns the sky into a masterpiece of oranges, pinks and purples, as if it were a canvas. And as the other balloons take to the skies, their vibrant hues dotting the horizon, it’s hard not to feel a sense of wonder.
A wicker basket will be your vessel for this journey, and as you ascend to the heavens, savour the unique feeling of weightlessness as the balloon gentle lifts off the ground. Leave earth behind as you embrace a seemingly endless expanse of sky. Look down to see the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia unfurl beneath you, revealing hidden wonders you’d never spot on the ground. Those iconic fairy chimneys rise majestically, casting long shadows across the valleys. The contours and textures of the rock formations become more pronounced, as if reaching out to tell their ancient tales. The valleys and gorges reveal their secrets, exposing hidden caves, winding trails, and the rich tapestry of colours that make Cappadocia so unique.
Revel in the unparalleled tranquility of this unique experience as the silence of the skies envelops you, broken only by the occasional whoosh of burners filling balloons with hot air. Watch as the world wakes up below you. The gentle rustling of the trees, the distant calls of birds, and the soft murmurs of the land below: a symphony of nature's melodies.
Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is not merely an adventure—it is an immersion into the beauty, tranquility, and sheer awe that this extraordinary region offers. It is an experience that will stay with you forever, a cherished memory of floating above a world so beautiful, it defies imagination.
Fun fact: Three to four million years ago a series of volcanic eruptions shook the Central Anatolian area, forming what we now know as the Cappadocia fairies or ‘Cotton Castles’.
2. A rich historical tapestry
Journey through the captivating annals of Cappadocia's rich history as you unravel the mysteries of its past. This is a land whose ancient tales are etched into every stone - a place holds the legacies of innumerable civilisations.
Travel back to the Bronze Age, where the Hittites forged one of the earliest great civilisations in Anatolia. Their kingdom, with its mighty warriors and advanced culture, left an indelible mark on the region. As you explore the fascinating historical sites, be sure to visit the Hittite ruins of Alacahöyük and Hattusa, where you can wander amidst ancient walls and temples, and imagine the vibrant life that once filled these ancient cities. They carved their mark into the very bedrock, leaving behind mesmerising rock reliefs and sanctuaries that reveal glimpses of their gods and empires. When you’ve had your fill, stand in awe before the majestic Yazılıkaya, a rock-cut sanctuary adorned with intricate figures, where ancient rituals once unfolded.
See how Persian and Hellenistic culture come to life as you journey further back in time. Picture bustling Greek city-states flourishing amidst Cappadocia's fertile landscapes, their architectural splendour rivaling the heavens. Once the thriving capital of the Cappadocian Kingdom, Mazaca, now known as Kayseri, still bears the marks of its storied past. Wander through ancient streets as you discover the grandeur of the Roman theater, a majestic structure that reflects the fusion of architectural styles—a mesmerising blend of Persian elegance and Hellenistic grace.
The Roman Empire, with its imperial might, transformed Cappadocia into a thriving province. Marvel at the remnants of once-grand cities, as you explore the fascinating rock-carved churches that tell the story of the region's Christian heritage. Trace the footsteps of early Christians who sought solace in the hidden caves and monastic complexes, finding refuge in the timeless tranquility of Cappadocia's unique landscapes.
Delve deep into the heart of Cappadocia's underground realms, where communities carved intricate dwellings and built vast subterranean cities. Descend into the labyrinthine depths of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı, where hidden chambers and winding tunnels unveil the remarkable engineering genius of the past. Imagine the lives that unfolded in these hidden havens, protected from the ravages of time and external threats.
Let the allure of Cappadocia's past guide your steps, igniting your imagination and evoking a sense of wonder. Traverse the realms of time, from the Hittite kingdoms to the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire. Uncover the mysteries hidden within ancient ruins, and listen closely as the winds carry the ancient echoes of a land steeped in history.
Fun fact: Cappadocia’s landscape was formed by volcanic erosion. Thick ash solidified into soft rock, called tuff, and over time the tuff rocks eroded with wind and water, creating the iconic fairy chimneys we see today.
3. Charming cave hotels
Nestled within the ethereal landscapes of Cappadocia, a unique and enchanting accommodation experience awaits: the captivating cave hotels. Immerse yourself in the charm and mystique of this extraordinary region by staying in these exceptional establishments carved into soft volcanic rock.
Cappadocia's cave hotels blend ancient tradition with modern comfort. Each room and suite is meticulously carved into the natural rock formations, creating a harmonious fusion of nature and architecture. As you step into these remarkable spaces, you will be greeted by a sense of tranquility and a connection to the earth that is truly unparalleled.
The interior designs of these cave hotels are a testament to the region's rich heritage. Discover intricately carved details, traditional Turkish motifs, and carefully selected furnishings that evoke a sense of timeless elegance. The warm and earthy tones create a cosy and inviting atmosphere, where you can unwind and immerse yourself in the serenity of your surroundings.
Each room possesses its own distinctive character and layout, reflecting the natural contours of the rock. From cosy nooks with arched ceilings to spacious suites with stone fireplaces, every corner tells a story and invites you to embrace the magic of Cappadocia. Wake up to breathtaking vistas, as you take in panoramic views of Cappadocia's surreal landscapes, with windows and balconies perfectly positioned to capture the awe-inspiring beauty of the region. As the first rays of sunlight paint the sky with hues of gold, you can witness the mesmerising hot air balloons floating gracefully above the fairy chimneys.
Indulge in luxurious spas, where ancient therapies are combined with modern wellness practices to rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit. Delight in exquisite cuisine that blends traditional flavours with innovative culinary techniques, offering a tantalising journey for your taste buds. Cappadocia's cave hotels are not just places to stay; they are gateways to an extraordinary experience. As you nestle into your cosy cave dwelling, you become part of the fabric of this ancient land, connecting with its history and embracing its timeless beauty. It is an opportunity to immerse yourself fully in the spirit of Cappadocia and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime.
Fun fact: The name Cappadocia derives from the Persian word Katpaktukya, which means ‘the land of beautiful horses’, as in ancient times, Cappadocia was known for its horses.
4. Hidden cities
Beneath the enchanting landscapes of Cappadocia lie hidden marvels that have fascinated explorers and historians for centuries—the underground cities. These subterranean labyrinths are a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of the ancient inhabitants of the region. Embark on a journey deep into the earth as we unveil the mysteries and captivating features of Cappadocia's underground cities.
Cappadocia's underground cities were carved into the soft volcanic rock, creating intricate networks of tunnels, chambers, and passages that stretch for miles beneath the surface. These cities served as safe havens and communal dwellings, providing shelter from invaders and harsh elements throughout various periods of history.
Derinkuyu Underground City stands as one of the most remarkable underground complexes in Cappadocia. Delve into its depths and be awed by its vastness and complexity. With multiple levels reaching a depth of approximately 85 meters (279 feet), Derinkuyu housed an estimated population of thousands, offering them protection and sustenance. As you explore the labyrinthine tunnels, you'll discover living quarters, storerooms, communal areas, ventilation shafts, and even places of worship. Marvel at the ingenious ventilation and security systems that were ahead of their time, showcasing the resourcefulness and strategic planning of its ancient builders.
Kaymaklı Underground City is another awe-inspiring subterranean marvel. While it is not as extensive as Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı offers a unique glimpse into the underground life of Cappadocia's past. Descend into its depths and wander through narrow passageways, discovering hidden rooms, kitchens, stables, and churches. The interconnected chambers and tunnels provide a fascinating insight into the communal lifestyle and architectural prowess of its inhabitants.
Exploring these underground cities allows you to step back in time and imagine the daily lives of those who sought refuge within their depths. Imagine families gathering in communal areas, sharing meals and stories. Picture the glow of oil lamps casting flickering shadows on the rock-hewn walls. Feel the coolness of the air and marvel at the resilience of the ancient communities who carved these vast underground dwellings.
These remarkable sites not only offer a glimpse into the region's history but also serve as a reminder of the human spirit's ability to adapt and thrive in even the most challenging environments. The underground cities of Cappadocia—Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı—stand as testaments to human resilience, architectural brilliance, and the desire to create secure havens amidst an ever-changing world. Exploring these underground marvels will transport you to a realm where history, mystery, and awe-inspiring engineering intertwine, leaving an indelible mark on your journey through Cappadocia.
Good to know: There are as many as 600 churches carved from the soft Cappadocian rock and possibly many more that have not yet been discovered. These churches date back to Medieval times and display beautifully painted frescoes, which have retained an amazing amount of colour and detail over the centuries. Some painted figures have had their eyes scratched out by superstitious locals afraid of the Evil Eye.
5. Breathtaking landscapes
Lace up your hiking boots and venture into the mesmerising trails and viewpoints of Cappadocia. This enchanted land beckons with its mystical rock formations, ancient caves, and breathtaking panoramas that stir the soul.
Begin your journey in the Rose Valley, a realm of ethereal beauty where nature's artistry unfolds with every step. Traverse winding paths and find yourself immersed in a captivating landscape adorned with rose-coloured rock formations. These soft hues create an otherworldly ambiance, casting a gentle glow upon the surroundings. Along the way, hidden within the rock-carved chambers, ancient frescoes come to life, depicting scenes of devotion and spirituality. Take a moment to stand in awe of the Church of St. John the Baptist, where intricate paintings breathe life into the walls, transporting you to a bygone era. And when you ascend to the viewpoint at Çavuşin Castle, witness the most breathtaking panorama: a vast canvas of vineyards, fairy chimneys, and valleys that rise and fall, stretching as far as the eye can see.
Venture into the heart of Pigeon Valley, a sanctuary that captivates the senses. Meandering along the trail, you'll encounter a fascinating harmony between nature and human ingenuity: pigeon houses meticulously carved into the cliffs. This architectural marvel once played a vital role in the region's thriving agricultural traditions. Orchards and vineyards, bathed in sunlight, bestow a sense of abundance and serenity upon the landscape. Ascend to the apex of Uçhisar Castle, a timeless sentinel that offers a majestic vantage point. From this towering height, the most incredible view unfurls: an awe-inspiring tapestry of rolling hills, lush valleys, and ancient settlements—each bearing testament to the indomitable spirit of this extraordinary land.
Embrace the whimsical allure of Love Valley, where nature's imagination has run wild. Here, colossal phallic-shaped rock formations rise proudly from the earth, seemingly defying gravity. Wander amidst this extraordinary landscape and feel a sense of awe as you take in the soft, reddish hue of the rocks, so beautifully contrasted against the cerulean sky; a surreal juxtaposition of colours.
Seek solace in the secluded realm of Zemi Valley, where tranquility reigns supreme. As you venture along the winding trails, let yourself be swept away by nature’s beauty. Discover hidden cave dwellings whose walls tell tales of a long-forgotten era. Follow the path deeper into this untouched sanctuary, where the gentle melodies of chirping birds and rustling leaves become your constant companions. A sense of peace washes over you, freeing your mind from the burdens of the world. The verdant greenery, punctuated by vibrant wildflowers, adds splashes of colour to the serene landscape. Here, in the heart of Zemi Valley, time slows down, allowing you to truly appreciate the unspoiled beauty that surrounds you.
Embrace the vibrant hues of Red Valley, where the land blazes with fiery passion. Feel captivated by the whimsical chimneys that stand tall, like ancient sentinels guarding a forgotten realm as you traverse the enchanting paths that wind through this kaleidoscope of red and orange. Discover hidden gems, like the network of rock-cut churches that stand here, their interiors adorned with mesmerising frescoes. Marvel at the craftsmanship of centuries past, as scenes from biblical tales and lives of saints come to life on the walls.
Good to know: Cappadocia's extraordinary landscapes and historical sites have earned it a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List, recognising its outstanding universal value and cultural significance.
Good to know
Make sure to book your hot air balloon ride in advance! This is one of the most popular activities in Cappadocia, and spaces can fill up quickly, especially during peak seasons. Booking ahead ensures you secure your spot for this unforgettable experience.
The balloons don't fly if the wind hits 10 km/h, and unless you pay for a private experience, there are typically around 20 people in each balloon.
Comfortable and sturdy footwear is essential. As you explore Cappadocia's rocky terrain, you’ll find that some paths can be uneven, and some areas require climbing or descending stairs, so proper shoes are a must-have.
Stick to sealed, commercially available, bottled water to avoid tummy troubles while in Cappadocia!
When visiting historical or religious sites in Cappadocia, it’s important to respect local cultural traditions. Be sure to dress modestly, covering your shoulders and knees - especially when entering mosques or monastic sites.
A timeless land of whimsical beauty
Cappadocia, a realm of enchantment and discovery, where nature and history converge in a breathtaking symphony. Its surreal landscapes, adorned with whimsical fairy chimneys, invite you to step into a world where dreams become reality. Wandering through ancient underground cities and sleeping in cave hotels carved into the very heart of the earth, it’s hard not to feel a deep connection to this timeless land.