Somewhere in the heart of Anatolia, 750 kilometers away from Istanbul, you can discover an amazing region called Cappadocia. This region is famous for its unusual orange and light brown rock formations, which give the entire area a magical appearance. Besides these interesting fairy chimneys, as they are called, the entire area is blessed with churches dug in volcanic rocks, troglodyte dwellings eroded by water and mysterious underground cities.
I have been planning to visit Cappadocia for a long time and fortunately last year I managed to spend four days there. After my experience in this magical land, I must confess that I was simply impressed by the beauty of Cappadocia. It goes without saying that during my trip there I tried to visit as many places as possible. You should know that there are three different routes you can explore in the region of Cappadocia. The red route, the blue route and the green route will help you discover the beauty of this region. I explored all of them and the following 12 places are the ones I liked the most:
1.The town of Göreme is the perfect place to stay while visiting Cappadocia. We chose to accommodate in this town and this is why we had enough time to enjoy our trip. Also known as “the cave town”, Göreme has a spectacular appearance thanks to its idyllic buildings carved in stone. A lot of these buildings are used as hotels, guest houses and restaurants. It’s an amazing feeling to look around and be surrounded by fairy chimneys of different shapes and sizes. You can admire them when you walk in the narrow streets of the town or when you go up to Göreme Panorama. This is the perfect place in case you want to spend a couple of moments of relaxation while admiring the panorama of the entire town.
If you love shopping, there are a lot of shops in Göreme that can satisfy your passion. In this regard, I advise you to visit at least a pottery shop in case you want to find out a lot of details about the mysteries of the pottery and admire or buy unique exhibits. Besides, in front of many of these pottery shops, you will discover the famous wishing trees. A wishing tree is a tree decorated with pots, small pieces of paper or evil eye amulets. As the name suggests, it is believed that a wishing tree can make a wish come true.
Visiting a carpet shop is another interesting experience you can live in Göreme. On this note, I recommend Sultan Carpets, a shop where you can find a variety of handmade carpets and rugs.
Last but not least, Göreme is the best place to try the hot air balloon experience. Somewhere on the outskirts of the town, you can fly in a hot air balloon above Cappadocia, surrounded by hundreds of other colored balloons. As far as I’m concerned, the hot air balloon experience was one of the best experiences I have ever lived.
2.The Love Valley is one of the best places to go to in case you want to admire the sunrise and the sky full of colorful balloons. This valley is blessed with very interesting rock formations. If you let your imagination run wild, you may compare these rock formations with mushrooms, arrows, columns, umbrellas and so on.
On the platform above the rocks, there are swings and benches embellished with decorations. The Love Valley is the perfect place for taking interesting pictures. Taking into account this aspect and the fact that it is close to Göreme, I visited the Love Valley twice. I went there in the morning because I wanted to admire the sunrise and I also came back in the evening.
3.Paşabağı Valley or the Monks’ Valley is another beautiful place that deserves to be visited. Located on the road to Zelve, this valley is remarkable thanks to its interesting fairy chimneys which look like bunches of mushrooms. Besides its mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys, Paşabağı is also famous for a hermit’s shelter built in one of these chimneys.
The valley is also blessed with an old chapel built on three different levels. St. Simeon Chapel has a unique appearance. Attracted by the solitude and isolation that the region provided, St. Simeon took refuge in Cappadocia. I enjoyed exploring this beautiful valley and admiring all these interesting rock formations
4.The Göreme Open-Air Museum is a rocky settlement area that displays the remains of a few beautiful monasteries, churches and chapels carved in stone. These settlements are appreciated by tourists thanks to their well-preserved frescoes and paintings which depict portraits of saints and other Biblical figures and scenes. According to the legend, the locals built these religious places to pray in secret during religious persecution.
The Göreme Open-Air Museum is situated in a beautiful valley, a few kilometers away from Göreme. It was a real pleasure to spend a few hours of relaxation inside this complex.
5.The Uchisar Castle and the surrounding area are also worth visiting. The castle, one of the best viewpoints in Cappadocia, is only a short drive from the nearby town of Goreme. The Uchisar Castle is a Roman edifice built in stone whose rooms are connected through tunnels, passages, and stairs. Unfortunately, only a few of these rooms can be visited because of the erosion.
The castle is located on the road between Göreme and Nevsehir. If you get to this area, you should also explore the surroundings and Mount Erciyes. As far as I’m concerned, I liked the surroundings because the landscapes are simply amazing.
6.The Pigeon Valley which stretches between Uchisar and Göreme is another area that deserves your attention. The name of the valley comes from the pigeons which live in the area. The Pigeon Valley is famous for its pigeon houses which are used to collect pigeon dung. I found out that farmers use this dung as a natural fertilizer for orchards and vineyards. To attract the pigeons inside, a lot of these houses were painted white and this makes the scenery even more gorgeous.
7.The Symmetrical Church or Aynalı Kilise was a great surprise for me. I must confess that I didn’t expect to discover such an interesting and beautiful church in this area. Carved in stone and decorated with interesting geometric ornaments, the church has a unique appearance.
Exploring the church might be quite an adventure taking into account its dark, narrow and steep passages. After visiting the first rooms, a narrow and dark stone staircase leads you to the next floor, where you can admire an old dovecote. Behind the church, following a narrow tunnel, you can find another interesting room. After my experience there, I can honestly say that I don’t regret the decision to visit this amazing place.
8.Devrent Valley, also known as the Imaginary Valley or the Pink Valley, should be on your trip list. This valley is special thanks to its unusual rock formations which give you the feeling that you are in the middle of a lunar landscape. If you let your imagination run wild, these small fairy chimneys might look like animal-shaped rocks. From camels and snakes to seals and dolphins, the entire valley could be considered an atypical zoo. It is said that there is also a rock pillar that looks like the Virgin Mary holding Jesus.
Devrent Valley is only a ten-minute drive from Göreme. Even though I couldn’t discover too many animal-shaped rocks, I must admit that I had a great time here.
9.The Three Beauties or the Three Graces are three beautiful fairy chimneys situated near the town of Urgüp. Besides their interesting appearance, these natural formations are known for their sad story. According to the legend, a long time ago, there was a king who lost his wife and had to raise his daughter by himself. When his daughter grew up, the king wanted her to marry a rich and influential man, but the girl fell in love with a shepherd.
Shortly after that, she escaped the palace and got married to the shepherd. The king didn’t agree with this marriage and after his daughter gave birth to a child, he ordered his soldiers to kill his daughter and her family. God answered the girl’s prayer and turned her entire family into stone pillars before the soldiers had a chance to kill them. Therefore, it is said that the three fairy chimneys are the princess, her husband and their child.
10.Ortahisar Castle is a 90-meter high natural fortress which dominates the town with the same name. This imposing castle which was built on a big rock urges you to explore it. If you follow the metal ladders to get to the viewing terrace, you will have the chance to admire a spectacular panorama of the fairy chimneys of Hallacdere and the peak of Mount Erciyes.
The interior shelters interesting caves connected through tunnels, passages, and stairs. Even though I was afraid to climb to the viewing terrace, I must confess that exploring Ortahisar Castle was a great experience.
11.The Derinkuyu Underground City is a troglodyte cave-city that shelters an extensive network of passages, tunnels, pits and inclined corridors that connect the rooms and the spaces inside. In the underground city, there are wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, churches, wineries, stables and so on.
Even though there are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, I chose to visit the Derinkuyu Underground City because it is the deepest one. Maybe it’s hard to believe, but the city is about 85 meters deep. Situated in the town with the same name, the Derinkuyu Underground City is located 40 kilometers away from Goreme.
12.Last but not least, you cannot leave Cappadocia without visiting the beautiful Ihlara Valley. Situated near Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz, the Ihlara Valley is a 100 m deep canyon. Formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago, the valley covers an area of about 14 kilometers. According to the legend, the Ihlara Valley sheltered more than a thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Besides the spectacular landscapes, the charming village of Belisirma can also be admired in the area.
The village is special thanks to the restaurants built on the Melendiz River. These restaurants are open wooden huts which create the perfect setting for lunch. It is an amazing feeling to eat and relax in one of these wooden huts.
To sum up, Cappadocia is an amazing destination which will impress you with its variety of tourist attractions. Even though there is much more to discover in the region of Cappadocia, these are in my opinion the places you should not miss during your stay there.