Located in the central Anatolian region of Turkey, Cappadocia meaning “the land of beautiful horses” is best known for its unique lunar landscape, underground cities, cave churches and the hot air balloon ride. There are direct flights from Istanbul to Kayseri in Cappadocia that take about 1.5 hours or you can also travel by the overnight bus from Istanbul, which takes about 11 hours. Here’s a list of things to do in Cappadocia:
1. Underground Cities
Beneath Cappadocia’s rock formations, there are underground cities, not just one or two, but 36 of them! Believed to have housed up to 10,000 people each, they were used by the first inhabitants of Cappadocia to escape the harsh winter and wild animals. Later, they became the place of hiding of the first Christians who escaped persecution at the hands of Roman soldiers. You may visit Kaymakli Underground City, believed to be the widest one, which consists of eight floors below each other; only four are open to the public. This architectural masterpiece and the excellent engineering may easily amaze you. There is a winery, ventilation shafts, storage rooms, bedrooms, stables, and a church; hard to imagine how they could have built all this with hand tools and without electricity!
2. Goreme Open Air Museum
This UNESCO World Heritage Site should be definitely on your list of top things to do in Cappadocia. From being an important Byzantine monastic settlement that housed monks, to a pilgrimage site from the 17th century, the Goreme Open Air
Museum houses some of the finest rock cut churches. These are beautifully painted from inside with murals dating from 900-1200 AD. Even today these wall frescoes retain their original freshness.
3. Pasabag (Monks Valley)
Pronounced Pah-shah-bah, the area is famous for its peculiar fairy chimneys. These stunning natural structures are the result of erosion that took place millions of years ago and locals often refer to them as mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys. According to folk tales, the area was inhabited by fairies that lived underground. Later, monks took refuge there in the early period of Christianity, around 4th to 5th Century.
4. Stay in a Cave Hotel
Ever wonder how the locals of Cappadocia lived in caves for thousands of years? The many cave hotels give you the opportunity to experience troglodyte lifestyle in luxury. Unlike the hardships faced by the locals then, these boutique hotels come complete with amenities such as Hamams (Turkish baths), fast speed Internet and modern bathrooms. Other features include rock-cut arches, walls patterned with volcanic color and panoramic terraces with views of the valley.
5. Hot Air Balloon
If you’re wondering why we left this to-do to the end, well the reason is quite obvious; this experience will leave you on a high (quite literally!). It is one thing to see the dramatic landscape of Cappadocia from the ground, but a whole new experience to see it from above! Soaring above the valleys and dramatic rock formations, peeking into pigeon holes and caves, and floating among a hundred multi-coloured hot air balloons was nothing short of spectacular! You will be amazed while trying to absorb the incredulous beauty that lay before us.