. . . only wonder understands anything.
—Saint Gregory of Nyssa
Cappadocia’s breathtaking topography of fairy chimneys, towering boulders, and honeycombed hills is matched only by its fascinating human history. Millions of years ago, volcanoes spewed lava that—cooled by wind and rain—began to give the region its endlessly fascinating shape, with natural cones, pillars, pinnacles, mushrooms, and chimneys extending up to 130 feet (40 meters) toward the sky. Sheltered by the Anatolian mother goddess, Kybele, Cappadocia accepted all those who sought refuge in her caves, valleys, and plains: Hittites and Greeks, Romans and Christians, Persians and Turks. Those human hands performed equally incredible work here: caves, living quarters, places of worship, stables, and storehouses, all dug into the soft stone. In fact, more than forty tunnel complexes formed entire towns with as many as eight different stories hidden underground, capable of safely hiding more than 100,000 people in times of trouble. Cappadocia looms large in Christian history, as three Church Fathers—Saint Basil, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, and Saint Gregory of Nyssa—were Cappadocians, as was Saint George, the famed dragon-slayer. This land of wonder and beauty harbors myriad opportunities for hiking, hot air ballooning, and marveling at both stunning natural scenery and the human accomplishments of earlier centuries.
Explore the fascinating fresco-adorned rock-cut churches of Goreme Open Air Museum, the largest collection of such cave-churches in the world. Marvel at the sheer ingenuity of the subterranean cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı. Spend the night in one of the Cappadocia's cave hotels to experience a twenty-first-century cavern dwelling. An utterly unique and fascinating region, Cappadocia promises beauty and adventure to all who visit.
Cappadocia's most celebrated attraction is the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a vast monastic complex with richly painted cave-churches first carved by Orthodox monks beginning in the seventh century. Along with rectories, dwellings, and a religious school, the monks constructeded a large monastic complex carved out of a roughly ring-shaped rock formation and decorated it with elaborate Byzantine frescoes.
Cappadocia is the perfect location for hot-air ballooning, thanks to its outstandingly beautiful landscapes and perfect weather conditions. Your journey starts very early in the morning because hot air balloons fly best in sunrise. After watching the huge balloons blown up with hot air, take off to witness the sun rise. Feel the subtle motion of the balloon as it lifts you over the stunning volcanic landscape.
Formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago and more than 100 meters deep, the scenic Ihlara Valley is fourteen kilometers long, beginning in Ihlara and ending at the Selime Monasery. Hidden all along the valley and its walls are more than four thousand dwellings and one hundred churches, dating from the sixth through thirteenth centuries. An ideally secluded retreat for monks, the valley also sheltered local people during times of invasion.
Roughly forty underground cities have been located in the Cappadocia region, and today six are open to visitors. Many were initially begun during the Bronze Age and completed by the seventh century BCE, serving as protection during increasing perods of invasion and external threat. Stout rolling-stone doors prevented invaders from entering.
Also known as “Monk Valley” this remote vale is the celebrated site of the majestic fairy chimneys that mark Cappadocia’s topography as utterly unique, and the variation in form and style is simply amazing. Tradition holds that Saint Simeon, living in seclusion near Aleppo in the fifth century, grew disturbed as rumors of his supposedly miraculous deeds began to spread.
Soğanlı Valley in southern Cappadocia is a stunningly unique spot with numerous rock-cut churches and a traditonal Turkish village. Originally settled during the Roman period, the stone cones on the slopes of the valley were used as graveyards by the Romans and later as churches by the Byzantines. The beautiful frescoes in the churches date from the ninth through thirteenth centuries.