Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination in Turkey. Much of its popularity is due to its unique geological and cultural features, which gives the area an ethereal appearance. The region is located southwest of the major city Kayseri, which has airport, as well as a train running to Istanbul (and other cities), but the journey is a long one, so careful consideration is required to decide if you really want to visit Cappadocia and see its fairytale beauty.
The most important towns and destinations in Cappadocia are probably Ürgüp, Göreme, Selime, and Guzelyurt. I visited Göreme for the most part (on a night bus from Nevtur), but it was a difficult choice to make when researching the trip beforehand. When arriving here from Istanbul, you had better be well-prepared in where you want to stay, as “Cappadocia” is a very large region and bus companies will ask for your destination before getting on the bus. Different towns in the area generally offer different experiences – including “underground cities” and cave houses – and not all towns are sufficient for all travellers.
Among the underground cities worth seeing are Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Gaziemir, and Ozkanak, whereas the best cave houses (in which you can stay overnight, for a hefty price) are in Urgup, Göreme, Guzelyurt, and Uchisar. Aside from ‘rock photography’, hot-air ballooning is very popular in the region and is available in Göreme. Trekking is enjoyed in Ihlara Valley, Monastery Valley (Guzelyurt), Urgup and Göreme.
I once labelled Cappadocia as one of the top 5 most mesmerising landscapes in the world, and my opinion has not changed since. The ethereal atmosphere is quite unlike anything else I have seen or heard about (Thar desert in India, Uluru in Australia, Mount Bromo in Indonesia, Sahara desert in Morocco, Patagonia in Chile, etc.) and you really have to see it to believe it! It all happened because of sedimentary rocks forming in lakes due to ancient volcano eruptions up to 3 million years ago. Eventually, the rocks of Cappadocia eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and minaret-like forms. People of the villages at the heart of the Cappadocia Region carved out houses, churches and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits. The people of Cappadocia still play an important part of what makes this area special, including very enthusiastic pottery salesmen who sell their wares outside to the tourist crowd!
The Göreme Open Air Museum is the most visited site of the monastic communities in Cappadocia and is one of the most famous sites in the whole of Turkey. The complex contains carved-from-rock churches and chapels, some having superb frescoes inside, dating from the 9th century to the 11th century. It was an enjoyable experience to see this kind of history (as well as the landscape), and it made me wonder what it would have been like to live like a caveman during the height of Cappadocia. While I didn’t sleep in one of the cave houses, nor fly high in one of the touristy hot-air balloons, I nevertheless had my feet firmly on the ground as I took in the atmosphere.
The problem is, with Cappadocia being just so far from Istanbul, would it be worth your while to come here? It may also be best to base your entire focus on Göreme rather than travel between towns in the region, as this will just complicate things further. The 8 hour journey back to Istanbul (4 hours to Ankara) is another thing to consider…