Travel to Turkey: 6 Scenic Reasons to Visit Captivating Cappadocia

Travel to Turkey: 6 Scenic Reasons to Visit Captivating Cappadocia

Google the word “Cappadocia” and you are likely to find an abundance of off-the-charts phrases describing this region in central Turkey: “other-worldly,” “whimsical fairytale,” “spectacular landscape,” “mesmerizing moonscape,” “fantastical topography.”

All true.

Cappadocia is the heart of Turkey, capturing the imagination of those who travel to this central Anatolian place, with its strange topography and religious history, as well as its growing popularity with outdoor adventurers. Having lived in Turkey and returned eight times, these are a few of my favorite highlights in Cappadocia:

  1. Cappadocia’s Lunar Views
  2. Fairy Chimneys & Rock Formations
  3. Göreme National Park & Open-Air Museum 
  4. Sunrise Hot-Air Ballooning
  5. Village Visits
  6. Classic Turkish Cuisine

1. Cappadocia’s Lunar ViewsFrom Istanbul or Ankara, you can easily reach central Anatolia’s Cappadocia by all modes of transportation. I prefer traveling by bus, watching the honey-colored volcanic moonscape unfolding with hills honeycombed with caves, cave homes, cave churches – all carved from soft volcanic tuff rock eroded by eons of wind and water, and topped with a cap of the more resistant basalt.

  • Tip: If you don’t mind a windowless view, for a full-immersion experience consider staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia. That will make you a “troglodyte” – one who lives in a cave.
Volcanic rock erosion has carved Cappadocia into a strange landscape of caves, chimneys, and pillars <br>Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Volcanic rock erosion has carved Cappadocia into a strange landscape of caves, chimneys, and pillars
Photo credit: Peter Guttman

2. Fairy Chimneys & Rock Formations (UNESCO)The strange towers dotting Cappadocia are tuff rock formations set in a solidified volcanic landscape; depending on their shapes they’re nicknamed “teepees,” “dunce-cap pinnacles,” “mushrooms on steroids,” and their groupings are called “Love Alley,” and a few rather more suggestive names.

  • Tip: Step inside a tuff cave for an unusual framing for your fairy chimney photos.
Fairy chimneys come in all varieties, including these straw mushroom-shaped ones <br>Photo credit: Jered Gorman

Fairy chimneys come in all varieties, including these straw mushroom-shaped ones
Photo credit: Jered Gorman

(click on photo to see larger version)


3. Göreme National Park and Open-Air Museum (UNESCO)Explore this former Byzantine monastery compound with its caves, Byzantine fresco-painted cave churches, and underground chapel; the restored Dark Church (Karanlık Kilise’) is my favorite. Nearby is Uçhisar Castle, a towering cave-riddled rock citadel seen for miles around in Cappadocia. Easy and well-marked hiking trails are plentiful in Göreme’s meandering valleys filled with fairy chimneys; Güllüdere (Rose) and Güvercinlik (Pigeon) are my favorites.

If you’re not claustrophobic, explore one of 200 underground cities in Cappadocia, such as Derinkuyu. It is the deepest underground city – 275 feet and eight floors deep – where as many as 20,000 Christians lived and hid from their Roman and Muslim persecutors. The history of this underground hideout is spellbinding, and certainly worth the crowds and confinement.

  • Tip: Everywhere in Cappadocia, wear shoes with good traction; the smooth tuff rock can be slippery.
Cappadocia's Göreme Open-Air Museum was once a thriving monastic complex <br>Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

Cappadocia’s Göreme Open-Air Museum was once a thriving monastic complex
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

(click on photo to see larger version)


4. Sunrise Hot-Air BallooningCappadocia is one of the best places in the world for hot-air ballooning, with sunrise views of an otherworldly volcanic landscape: fairy chimneys, cave villages, curvy valleys, and vast vineyards. It often ends with a bang – a champagne celebration upon landing. Pricey? – yes, but the memory is priceless.

  • Tip: Layer, layer, layer!
Making travel memories: hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia at sunrise <br>Photo credit: Jered Gorman

Making travel memories: hot-air ballooning over Cappadocia at sunrise
Photo credit: Jered Gorman

(click on photo to see larger version)


5. Village VisitsExperience small-town Cappadocia; my favorites are Mustafapaşa (named for Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk) and Güzelyurt (“Beautiful Home”). Here women wear baggy trousers (shalvar) while picking pumpkins and washing clothes in the river; children hopscotch on sidewalks instead of playing X-Box; and mustachioed men wear traditional Turkish wool jackets and caps, even to shovel dirt or lead their donkeys home.

  • Tip: Learn to play backgammon (tavla) so you can mingle with locals over tea. This is also the place to experience an authentic Turkish bath.
Even scooping squash leads to lively interactions with Turkish locals in Cappadocia's village of Mustafapaşa <br>Photo credit: Helen Holter

Even scooping squash leads to lively interactions with Turkish locals in Cappadocia’s village of Mustafapaşa
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


6. Classic Turkish CuisineCappadocia is a perfect place to sample authentic Turkish dishes, including lentil soup (mercimek çorbası), stuffed eggplant (ımam bayıldı), shish kebab (şiş kebap), shepherd’s salad (çoban salatası), lamb meatballs (köfte) and flat-bread pizza (kiymalı pide). Save room for traditional desserts of Turkish delight (lokum), goat-milk ice cream (dondurma), or walnut baklava (cevizli baklava), washed down with sweet Turkish black tea (çay) or thick Turkish coffee (kahve).

  • Tip: You’ll often hear “Afiyet olsun!” as you begin to eat – it means “Enjoy your meal!”
Roadside, picnic, or formal: freshness is the hallmark of Turkish cuisine Photo credit: Jered Gorman

Roadside, picnic, or formal: freshness is the hallmark of Turkish cuisine
Photo credit: Jered Gorman

 (click on photo to see larger version)


Travel to Cappadocia with MIR
  • Handcrafted Private Journeys in Cappadocia: Cappadocia may be a side-trip from Istanbul, or it might be a traveler’s singular destination, realizing the rich offerings of this region’s history, culture, food and – of course – “moonscape landscape.” MIR’s custom private journeys experts can create handcrafted itineraries for Cappadocia that might include:
    • Horse-back riding or mountain-biking through Cappadocia’s volcanic valleys and hills. Too tame? Climb extinct volcanoes near Kayseri and Aksaray.
    • Watching an Avanos master potter create earthenware from the local Red River (Kizilirmak) mud, a craft and trade since ancient Hittite times. Pottery workshops are also available. Avanos is an excellent place to buy traditional Turkish-design ceramic plates, pots, and vessels.
    • Taking culinary classes in traditional Turkish country cuisine, perhaps making gözleme pastries filled with goat cheese, lamb and other savory fillings; stuffed grape leaves called dolma; or Turkish mantı dumplings filled with ground lamb and heaped with tangy yogurt and melted butter.
Everyday life in Cappadocia, against a backdrop of fairy chimneys and strange rock formations Photo credit: Helen Holter

Everyday life in Cappadocia, against a backdrop of fairy chimneys and strange rock formations
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Explore More of TurkeyBecause Turkey is so large – the size of Texas – it’s easier to comprehend and visit by focusing on its geographical regions, each one unique in its sights, history, and cuisine. What remains the same everywhere is Turkey’s legendary hospitality. Here is an overview of Turkey, along with key regions to visit:

  • Travel to Turkey: 6 Favorite Highlights in Istanbul: Istanbul is an easy introduction to Turkey’s legendary hospitality. Its minaret-studded skyline glistens with mosques, palaces, and water views that demonstrate the country’s living history, diverse cultures, and international cuisine.

With so many Turkish delights in store when you travel to Turkey, MIR’s expertise in handcrafted private journeys can easily transform your dream trip into an unforgettable travel adventure at the crossroads of East and West, in the heartland of history.

 (Top photo: Imaginatively-shaped volcanic rock formations draw travelers to Turkey’s Cappadocia. Photo credit: Helen Holter)

PUBLISHED: February 20, 2015

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One thought on “Travel to Turkey: 6 Scenic Reasons to Visit Captivating Cappadocia

  • Kati – Mystery Of Iran

    This is really a beautiful country))
    Thank you for your interesting article and colourful photos!