Cappadocia Turkey Travel Guide
Cappadocia, located in central Turkey, is known for its unique landscape filled with various shades of browns, yellows, and pinks. It looks like a big, colorful carpet with trees along old lava paths from extinct volcanoes. This place is famous for its "fairy chimneys," also known as peribacı in English.
The area is filled with these fairy chimneys, rock churches, and monasteries. People used to live in houses carved out of stone, right next to where monks lived. The rock, called tufa, formed from volcanic ash and was shaped by water and wind over time. It's easy to shape but gets hard when exposed to air. Until the 1950s, people lived in these unique rock formations. Now, they are a major tourist spot in Turkey, often seen from hot air balloons.
But to enjoy Cappadocia, walking or riding is best. There are multiple things to do at Cappadocia but before we dive into those wonders, let us find out about this beautiful place’s history.
History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a special place in Turkey that's been around for a long time, about 60 million years! It was made by rain and wind slowly wearing down lava and ash from nearby volcanoes.
People have lived in Cappadocia since the very old times, like the Stone Age. It was a big deal for Christians a long time ago because they could hide from the Romans there. They made homes and churches by carving into the rocks and caves, which was pretty cool.
This region covers a few areas in Turkey, including Nevsehir, Kirsehir, Nigde, Aksaray, and Kayseri. What's unique about Cappadocia is how nature and history come together. People made their homes and churches right inside these weird natural towers called fairy chimneys and even painted them inside.
The history of Cappadocia is super long and interesting. It starts with the Hittites, an ancient group, and goes through many changes, like being part of the Silk Road, which was a big trade route.
There were lots of different rulers over time. The Persians called it the "Land of Beautiful Horses." Then Alexander the Great came, followed by the Romans. Cappadocia even became a Roman province at one point.
In the 3rd century, Christians moved in and made it a learning center. They were hiding from the Romans in the caves and valleys, which were perfect hiding spots. This place was also important during a time when there was a big disagreement over religious images, and people who liked those images hid here.
Later, when the Arabs attacked, people ran to Cappadocia, changing how the churches looked. The Seljuk Turks and then the Ottomans took over in the following centuries. Finally, in the early 20th century, the last Christians moved out due to a big treaty, but they left behind some really beautiful buildings.
Zelve Open Air Museum
Visitors often see Cappadocia from hot air balloons, but walking is just as great. This museum lets you see how people lived a long time ago, including their houses, stables, kitchens, and churches, all carved into the rocks. It shows what life was like when Orthodox Christianity was big, around medieval times. Zelve has been lived in for over 1,400 years! Paths are well-marked, making it easy to explore.
In summer, Cappadocia can look dry, but Ihlara Vadısı is different with its green trees by the river. There's a nice eight-mile walk from Ihlara Village to Selime Monastery. Along the way, you might hear birds singing and see flowers. The hike passes by old churches, picnic spots, and a big monastery worth climbing 300 steps to see inside.
Çavuşin to Kızılçukur
Start in Çavuşin village, where you find a big, ancient church. The walk to Kızılçukur goes through orchards and vineyards, passing by old churches. The fairy chimneys in Kızılçukur look pink in the day and red at sunset. It's good to have a guide who speaks Turkish to see more, like hidden churches.
Mehmet Güngör has been a guide since 1998 in Göreme. He knows a lot about the area and can show you places you might miss alone. He offers different hikes, like night walks and photography tours. Mehmet loves his job and feels connected to nature when guiding tours.
Cappadocia is also known for horse tours. In the past, wild horses roamed here. Cemal Ranch offers horseback riding tours for all skill levels, even beginners. They provide training and helmets. You can even try food cooked by Koksal’s mom on longer tours. Riding during sunset in the valleys is a special experience, according to Cemal, who loves riding horses in this beautiful place.
ATV riding is a common activity in Cappadocia, and you'll see many groups riding around. While it's an option for fun, I wouldn't put it at the top of your list. The noise from the ATVs can be loud in town and they can harm the local environment. They can also be risky, especially for riders who are new to driving big vehicles. If you're thinking about an ATV tour, think twice if these issues bother you. But if you still want to try it, pick a responsible company and be extra careful!
Turkish Rug Hunting
Turkey is well-known for its unique, colorful, handcrafted rugs. Even though we weren't looking to buy a rug, we were curious about them. Some places in Cappadocia let you pay to take photos with these rugs. This became popular thanks to Instagram in the late 2010s. You can visit these rug shops and pay for a photo session if you want. We decided to skip the photo and explore the rug shops ourselves. It's fun to look around in different shops in Göreme to find genuine ones. You can enjoy this without spending money unless you decide to buy a rug.
Göreme has famous spots to watch the sunrise with hot air balloons or the sunset. We went to the highest point in Göreme for the sunset, and it was beautiful. This place is also great for watching balloons in the morning. Remember, these spots can be crowded and there's a small fee. Keep some cash handy for this. We didn't have cash once, but a kind local helped us out. Turkish people are really friendly! You can find this viewpoint at the top of Aydan Kiragi Road. It's on the map in this post, and you can ask your hotel or guides for the best spots to watch the sunrise or sunset. The locals know the best places!
How to Get to Cappadocia?
Göreme is where most visitors start their trip to the park, but Nevşehir, Avanos, and Urgüp are also good choices with places for tourists to stay. You can take a bus from Kayseri airport to get to these towns. If you're coming from far away, like Istanbul or Ankara, there are long bus rides that go straight to the Cappadocia area.
Best Time to Go to Cappadocia
Cappadocia is up high in a dry area in the middle of Turkey. It's usually really hot and dry in the summer, but in the winter it can get cold and sometimes it even snows.
When you're in towns like Göreme, you'll find lots of tours and guides who can show you the best parts of the park and Cappadocia. If you want to explore on your own, you can rent bikes, scooters, or cars in Göreme.
How Long Should You Stay to Enjoy Cappadocia?
You can see the main sights in Cappadocia in three days, but to have a great time, it's best to stay for four or five days.