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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region, Cappadocia is a land of surreal landscapes, rock formations and natural wonders. Tourists come from all over the world to experience the fairy chimneys and unique historical and cultural heritage of this UNESCO World Heritage Listed region that includes the Göreme National Park. While erosion forces were responsible for creating this amazing landscape, they are a constant threat to its survival as they continually sculpt and recreate Cappadocia’s rock formations.
HistoryThe name is thought to have derived from the old Persian name of ‘Katpatuka’ meaning ‘the land, the country of beautiful horses’ in relation to one of the old countries of the Persian Empire . The area is mentioned in the book of Acts 2:9 with the Cappadocians as one of the groups listening to the Gospel being spoken from Galileans.
In the 5th century, the region was reported as spreading from the Taurus Mountains in the south to Pontus in the north, and from the upper Euphrates in the east and Lycaonia in the west. It was later divided into Pontus and Great Cappadocia, the inland and central region, and the Kingdom of Cappadocia ,with its feudal aristocracy and peasant farmers, existed until the time of the Greek historian, Strabo (around the birth of Christ).
Geography:The area known as Cappadocia today stretches approximately 249 miles east to west and 155 miles north to south. It is a high altitude region consisting of a plateau with a height of over 3,281 feet, interspersed with volcanic peaks. It is semi-arid with hot and dry summers and cold, snowy winters.
The geology is underlain with sedimentary rocks that formed in lakes and streams before erupting from ancient volcanoes around 9-3 million years ago. This thick ash blanketed the landscape before solidifying into a soft rock called tuff. The resulting rocks were eroded over thousands of years by wind and water leaving the harder elements behind which are the dramatic pillars, mushrooms, chimneys and conical formations seen in the region today.
Villagers carved houses, churches and monasteries into the soft rocks, and underground cities pocket the landscape. Houses, places of worship, stables and storehouses were built into the soft stone, connected by a complex of tunnels, and many of these underground structures served as hiding places for early Christians before their religion was accepted.
Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Gaziemir and Ozkanak are among the most important underground cities visible today, many fitted with creative trap doors customized to stump potential defenders. Urgup, Ihlara Valley, Seilme, Guzelyurt, Uchisar, Avanos and Zelve are some of the most important destinations in the region.
Göreme became an important monastic center from 300–1200 AD as Christians escaped persecution in Rome. The Göreme Open Air Museum is an intriguing cultural complex with more than 30 rock-carved churches and chapels, some with spectacular frescoes.
ActivitiesHot-air ballooning over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys as the sun rises is an extremely popular activity in Göreme. Prices start at around $ 150 USD for a standard flight and up to $ 300 USD for a smaller group ‘deluxe’ experience, including a champagne breakfast.
A number of troglodyte museums also offer an insight into the history and culture of the region. You can observe how these cave dwellers lived (and continue to do so) with all the modern cons!
Trekking is the best way to explore this incredible landscape. Tracks traverse the Ihlara Valley, Monastery Valley, Urgüp and Göreme regions and can be accessed via organized tours, by bicycle or with private car hire. While organized treks with a trained guide will offer cultural and historical insights from around $ 40 USD per day, getting lost on the plethora of trails that wind through each distinctive valley is also a great way to experience the region.
Horse-back riding, alternative terrain vehicles (ATVs) and motorcycles are other options for adventurous explorers who want to access multiple valleys in a day and can be arranged through tour companies in Göreme.
Volcano hiking is also possible on Hasan Dağ near Aksaray and Erciyes near Kayseri involving overnight climbs. Neither volcano is currently active so conditions are safe, however a good level of fitness is required.
Cappadocia is also famed for its ‘Turkish Nights’ – an evening of all you can eat and drink accompanied by Turkic and Ottoman folk dances. Prices start from around $ 30 USD (sometimes including transport to/from hotel) and evenings run from around 8-11 PM.
Getting There:The region sits to the south-west of Kayseri – a major transport hub with flights and rail services to Ankara and Istanbul. Many tourists base themselves in Goreme which can be reached via overnight bus from Istanbul for around $ 25 USD . Nevsehir, Avanos, and Urgüp also have tourist facilities from which the area can be explored.
Unique accommodation opportunities include troglodyte cave dwellings, both hotels and hostels, which are built into the underlying rock and offer a cool respite from the summer heat. Prices start from around $ 10 USD for a dormitory bed.
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Author: Pip23. Last updated: Jun 17, 2015