Cappadocia is Turkey’s jewel, with its historical monasteries, beautiful valleys and fairy chimneys. Here there are underground cities made from volcanic stone, with labyrinths to explore in an air of mystique and wonder. Churches and monasteries have ancient paintings adorning their walls depicting scenes of early Christianity. Visitors are drawn to the strange landscape and houses that are built into the cliffs here, and they become absorbed by the impressive history and culture of this place. Cappadocia has so much to offer, and this makes it a compelling, surprising destination for tourists from around the globe.
A World Heritage Site
The Goreme National Park and Rock sites in Cappadocia are a World Heritage site because of the historical significance of the underground settlements and the many examples of art from the Byzantine era to be found here. A fairytale world was created underground in this valley by the chambers and tunnels carved into the rock. Work began in the 4th Century A.D and the inhabitants carved caves, storehouses and places to live underground in the soft volcanic stone that had been formed here after ancient eruptions. Today, visitors come from around the globe to see the wonders of these early settlements situated on the high plateau of Cappadocia in the center of Turkey. There are good public transport links to the region and for visitors who want to do some independent exploring, there are bikes, scooters and cars to rent in Goreme.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Located in the town of Derinkuyu, a 30-minute drive from Goreme, the city has around 600 doors, which are hidden in courtyards, and Derinkuyu is the deepest underground city in Turkey, reaching 85m into the earth. There are many rooms to explore, such as stables, refectories, churches and wineries, and on the lowest floor is a cruciform plan church. Water wells were used to stop the inhabitants being poisoned by raids and there are around 15,000 ventilation ducts spread around the city for fresh air purposes. Stone doors were used to block corridors if an attack took place and were only operable from one side. The Derinkuyu underground city was used to defend its people and was designed so that they could inhabit the rooms buried deep underground for some time.
Fairy Chimneys and Frescoes
The Fairy Chimneys are possibly Cappadocia’s most famous feature, and are situated in Goreme and the villages around it. The volcanic eruptions formed peaks, which the elements sculpted to create cliff faces with curves and surreal fairy chimneys. Beneath the chimneys are the homes that have been carved into the rock and some of these have been turned into boutique fairy chimney hotels. Visitors to the area can marvel at the colorful frescoes created on dry plaster. The Dark Church features angels in multicolor and Jesus’s birth, and the natural low light here allows the frescoes to survive and look as vivid as ever.
Goreme Open Air Museum
This collection of ancient monasteries and churches sits in the center of Cappadocia and can be accessed from Goreme village center very easily. The rock cut churches make an impressive sight with their colorful frescoes. St Barbara Church has a cruciform plan and its dome and walls are adorned with many different motifs, whilst Apple Church features stunning 11th and12th Century frescoes in its cross in square plan. Tokali Church (also known as Buckle Church) can be accessed via the Goreme Open Air Museum and is at a distance of some 50 meters away. There is an Old Church, with a barrel-vaulted design and a New Church with a rectangular shape. The Old Church frescoes date back to the 10th Century and depictscenes from the Bible with colors and detail that draw visitors here every year.
Tips for Visiting Cappadocia
Cappadocia is an unspoilt region where the inhabitants carved their homes into the countryside and complemented what was there in quite a stunning way. Visitors can hike through valleys, fly in hot air balloons over the lunar terrain and admire the ancient art here at their leisure. There is a wealth of adventure activities to enjoy in this summery climate. The pace of life in Cappadocia is slow and relaxed, very unlike the buzz of Istanbul. Tourists using the public transport system should announce Goreme as their destination and there are free shuttle transfers available if you do so. Visitors traveling around Cappadocia may find it difficult to access foreign exchange services to change their money, and may find it useful to do so before they journey to the region, by comparing rates online so that they get the best deal available to them.
Many thanks to JULIE LYNDHURST for this great article