What makes the Cappadocia region of Turkey a remarkable place to visit is its incredible landscape, often seen as otherworldly. From its ragged canyons to its famous “fairy chimneys,” every turn is a natural wonder. For my friend and I, it was two days spent in Cappadocia to see as much of them as possible.
My friend and I spent a night in what’s known as a “cave hotel,” which are literally accommodations embedded inside rocks. They’re quite famous and popular in Cappadocia, as visitors can feel as if they’re living in the past like the underground cave dwellers from thousands of years ago. Cave hotels give off a rustic charm, as one can enjoy the comforts within the rocky, but stylish walls (only drawback is that there are few windows!).
Our cave hotel was actually perched on a small hill that overlooked Cappadocia. However, we had to go downstairs to get to our rooms, i.e. underground cave part of the experience. I really liked our accommodation, as it offered Turkish tea upon check-in, an included, delicious Turkish breakfast, and an adorable Cocker Spaniel puppy! It was a shame that we only had one night there, as it would’ve been nice to stay a bit longer to utilize as much of its amenities.
Following a few hour’s rest after our early-morning balloon ride, we checked out of the cave hotel and joined our small mini-van tour for the second day of sightseeing in Cappadocia. We’d gotten a small taste of the fairy chimneys at the very end of our tour the day before, and we would see a lot more in the morning.
Our group headed to several sites of Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, the first stop located around Love Valley. Our guide explained to us the mineral composition of fairy chimneys, which is essentially made up of hardened volcanic ash called tuff.
We also learned that there are several different types of fairy chimneys, from the short, pointy tips to the tall and *erm* phallic-looking ones. Each type differed based on the centuries in which they were formed, from several thousand years to just a few centuries ago. Discovering the story behind these picturesque natural formations was pretty cool, and it gave more meaning to them as we spent an hour or so wandering Love Valley, even climbing a few slopes for views of the fairy chimneys from above.
Our tour had a brief stop at a ceramics shop, where we viewed a bunch of intricately-designed plates, some of them even outlined with luminescent paint! My friend bought a beautiful blue one while I merely took in the dizzying array of ornate ceramics.
Lunch followed, where we were introduced to the testi kebab. It’s essentially kebab cooked in a clay pot, its contents completely concealed inside. We had a demonstration at our table in which the waiter set the clay pot on fire before cracking it open and letting the kebab spill out. It was then a matter of dishing out the food, accompanied with rice, to each of us at the table. Delicious and entertaining!
We spent our afternoon at the Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a former settlement which dates back to the Byzantine period, and it served as a pilgrimage site for monks. The open-air museum is a cluster of various churches and chapels embedded in pointy rocks, similar to the fairy chimneys we’d seen earlier in the day.
Our guide gave us about an hour to wander around once more, and I went from rock church to rock church to check out the frescoes inside. Much of them were faded due to centuries of erosion, but I could still make out the colors and intricacies of the saints and animals depicted on the walls.
The Dark Church was the highlight of the museum, though, as I paid 20 TL (3€) to enter. Its name is due to the lack of windows indoors, and as a result has preserved the frescoes in nearly-pristine condition. The images were clearer than the others I’ve seen in the smaller churches, and I took a moment to admire the details before heading out into the sun.
Our final stop of the day was at a vantage point where we saw the Uchisar Castle in the distance. This imposing citadel overlooks all over Cappadocia, with hundreds of cave homes perched along its ledge. Nearby, an elderly woman sold souvenirs, and I opted for a fairy chimney clay statue to take home.
We completed our tour of Cappadocia around 17:00, and we headed back to Göreme. My friend had about four hours to kill in town before we were to take our second overnight bus to the next destination in Turkey. We spent our time walking around the small town, getting dessert and coffee at the cafe we’d gone to the day before, and having dinner at one of the restaurants in town. I tried manti, which is a kind of a small, Turkish ravioli: I found it just okay, as I wasn’t too keen on the sour cream mixed in. The ravioli itself was nice and chewy, though.
Overall, our two full days in Cappadocia were short, but packed with sights to see. We got our fill of the incredibly fairy chimneys, intricate underground caves and rock churches, and sublime natural views from the hot-air balloon ride. My friend and I definitely checked off a lot of things on our bucket list, all the while learning a bit more about the origins of Cappadocia’s geological and settlement history. There would be a lot more of Turkey to explore later, and we couldn’t wait to see them soon.
More adventures in Turkey to come very soon!