Cappadocia is the name of the area on the territory of modern Turkey. Characterized by an extremely interesting landscape of volcanic origin, underground cities, which were founded in the 1st millennium BC, and extensive cave monasteries, tracing their history back to the time of early Christians. Goreme National Park and the cave settlements of Cappadocia are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Hittites are thought to have given the area its original name, “Katpatuka” meaning “Land of beautiful horses. However, linguistic research stubbornly reminds us that in the 2nd millennium B.C. the belief in the goddess Kuta Khepat (Sacred Khepat) was prevalent in this area, and this fact may well be the basis, transformed into the Hellenic language “Cappadocia”, which means “Land/people of the sacred Khepat”.
Save money on travel!
The Cappadocia Phenomenon
The phenomenon of Cappadocia is that it is not a creation of human hands, but a unique natural formation. As a result of the geological cataclysms and the rising of the mountain ranges in the south more than 60 million years ago the area formed an active volcanic chain, which threw out an incredible amount of ash and lava that was systematically deposited in the layers. The terrain rose up to 200 meters and over the years the ash turned into tuff and the lava into basalt. This seemingly monumental but soft and unstable tuff was being eroded by wind, rain, temperature changes. Millennia later, this surreal, surreal picture emerges: inconceivable canyons, “fairy pipes”, bizarre figures and “mushrooms” – everything here resembles fairy tale heroes or mythical monsters, and it is absolutely impossible to believe that it was created by nature itself. Unfortunately, what created this fantastic area, it will also ruin it – the erosion continues to this day, which means that one day all this beauty will disappear.
History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a crossroads of civilizations and the scene of many wars. In the times of 2-1 thousand years BC the Hittites, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and finally, the Suldjuk Turks dominated here. The great routes from China to Europe and from the Great Steppe to the Middle East passed through here.
But the most important role Cappadocia played in the development and existence of Christianity was as a refuge for the first Christians, who found refuge here from the persecution of the intolerant and all-encompassing Roman Empire. As they fled extermination, the first Christian communities carved out residences and warehouses, temples and whole cities in secret in these soft rocks. Some of the underground urban complexes of Cappadocia go underground to 50 meters (Derinkuyu), include up to 10 levels – with many passages, staircases, unique systems of ventilation and water supply, and are still in operation today. In the region there are more than five hundred rock churches and temples, many of which have preserved frescoes from the IX-XI centuries and earlier. Here St. Peter and St. Paul preached their first sermons at the turn of the century.
This amazing land, covered with thousands of legends, can be considered one of the most interesting, inscrutable, and at the same time somewhat undeservedly forgotten regions of Turkey. If the tourists who come to its resorts knew how many scholars around the world are still trying to figure out how the place came into being, who its creators and first inhabitants were, they would never miss an opportunity to see Cappadocia with their own eyes! At first glance, the area is rather unattractive. The vast expanses of eroded rocks and shallow valleys of shallow rivers barely covered by greenery give the impression of barren land, not worthy of attention.
In fact, this is what saved them – during the numerous invasions, the various invading armies simply ignored these areas, wanting to own the picturesque areas of the coasts. Which allowed to form and preserve the color of these places, their pristine atmosphere and even cultural traditions. The way to Cappadocia is along a scenic road along the edge of the wonderful Tuz Gelu Lake (Salt Lake) . The most famous historical sites of the region are located within the triangle between Nevşehir, Avanos, and Ürgüp, such as the fascinating rock churches of Çavuşın, Uçhisar, and Ortahisar. There are nine rock towns and monasteries of all sizes and eras within the area and Goreme village which is a national monument. The name “Goreme” in Turkish means “invisible”, which speaks for itself, around it are concentrated most of the attractions, which turned the picturesque village into a kind of tourist center. Today, Goreme National Park (which is almost 300 square kilometers) is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The beauty and grandeur of the temples of Cappadocia in Turkey is on a par with the legendary temples of the city of Petra in Jordan, cut out in the stunning pink cliffs.
The town of Konya houses the tomb of world famous Turkish poet, thinker, and mystic Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, who lived over 800 years ago. The founder of unorthodox Islam, he died in Konya, the center of the Seljuk state, but the honor of being considered the birthplace of Jalaleddin Rumi is contested by Turkey, Pakistan and India. Rumi, whose vast literary legacy included poetry and theological treatises, achieved fame on such a scale through the formation of the legendary Mawlawi order, whose members sought to achieve union with God through the dance of Sama, “the same age as the universe. The year 2007 was proclaimed by UNESCO as the year of the poet and thinker Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, whose works, writings and views have had a great influence not only on the development of Turkish, but also on world philosophy and literature. Mevlan Rumi revolutionized the high status of women as a symbol of beauty, rather than a way to meet the various needs of men. The famous dervish dance, which (annually in December) specially flies in followers of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi from all over the world to see, is a must-see for tourists.
Nevshehir is the largest city of Cappadocia, with a population of about 70,000 people. It was founded nearly 4,000 years ago by the Hittites, who were slowly moving along the nearby Kizil Irmaq River. At that time this city was called Nyssa. Neveshir has witnessed all of Turkish history, giving shelter to different peoples. The bishop of Nevshehir was at one time one of the fathers of the Orthodox Church – the theologian and philosopher St. Gregory of Nyssa.
The greatest number of intra-rock churches, underground shelters and sanctuaries on the territory of Nevshehir date back to the Byzantine period. After that the underground caves were only used as shelters during the Arab and Sassanian invasions. The museum of the Islamic philosopher and mystic Hadji Bektash-i-Weli, the founder of the Bektash order and the spiritual patron of the Janissaries, is located on the high mountain of Nevshehir.
Derinkuyu and Kaimakla
Some of the most interesting places in Cappadocia, expanded by the first Christians, can be called the cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakly, where some 40 huge underground settlements were discovered, in which at the time of their dawn lived up to thirty thousand people. There are no picturesque mushroom-towers, so characteristic of other rocky complexes of Cappadocia, but in depth, many of them go for 20-30 meters (up to 80 in Derinkuyu), and this despite the fact that some settlements are not excavated, and a third. The origin of these underground cities, some scientists have attributed to the Hittite period (1900-1200 BC), others – to much earlier periods of history. The layout of sites here is almost exactly the same as the usual surface town – a network of streets with small houses-caves, underground squares, smoke-black kitchens, warehouses and wine presses, round slotted doors with loopholes for shooters and many kilometers of many thousands of ventilation shafts – unprecedented complexity of systems for such an early period, where the temperature is kept constant to 27 degrees. From the outside, sometimes you can’t see anything but a small entrance hole. Sometimes you wouldn’t guess how big the hidden inside can be.
So far in Kaymakly excavated five levels of the city of eight projected, but scientists estimate this is far from the limit. In addition, the longest tunnel from Derinkuyu is believed to lead exactly to Kaymakli, which means that the common underground space of these cities is not excluded.
In the Bronze Age in Cappadocia emerged a city of potters – Avanos. It was situated on the banks of the Turkish Kizil-Irmak River (“red river”), the water of which had a peculiar coloring due to the composition of the local clay. This clay is used for the production of ceramic products using techniques that have survived since Hittite times. Each piece is dried for three days in the sun before being sent to the kiln to be fired. Not only wood, but also straw, bundles of sheep’s wool and dried sultanas are added to the kiln. Thanks to this firing method, the crockery made in Avanos rings like a bell when you snap your finger on it. The guests of the town will definitely be shown the local traditions and secrets of pottery.
The city is famous for its fortress, carved into the rock, which stands on top of a hill. Uchhisar Fortress is the only rock settlement of its kind, with towers and spires of white tuff located around the central peak on which it rises. This huge rock is like Swiss cheese with holes – the fortress is riddled with rooms, tunnels and labyrinths. From the top of the rock offers a magnificent view over the entire valley. Climbing up to it you can almost look at the whole of Cappadocia. From here you can also see the mysterious Valley of Love, which is associated with many legends and stories. The nearby Devrent Valley, the Valley of the Doves, and the Church of St. Simon can also be visited.
The valley of Goreme
The open-air museum of Goreme Valley is the most popular tourist attraction in Cappadocia . Undoubtedly, the monastic cells and the paintings in the churches of this valley are a sight to behold, but the fact that the place itself is fenced with ropes and the paths are dotted with signs, somewhat diminishes the joy of the journey.
Göreme was one of the great centers of Christianity from the sixth to the tenth century. Here one can also see the Byzantine art, provincial, rich in nuance and emotional coloring, which is so lacking in modern Constantinople creations.
The paintings are badly damaged, particularly by inscriptions made by the Byzantine Greeks themselves. It was believed that if you throw a piece of fresco into the water, it gets magical healing power. In addition, the petitioners left their names and the date of their visit on the walls, in the place where a piece of fresco was taken from, to be sure that God put them in the lists.
Later, Christ, Mary and the saints were mutilated, deprived of their faces. The local Muslims, for whom the depiction of a man is heresy unless done by God himself, had done the “job”. Faceless figures were believed to be dead.
The most popular symbols of Cappadocia, of course, can be called the famous rock formations, huge stone “mushrooms” scattered in the valley near the town of Zelve. What are they? The remains of ancient castles or giant pipes sticking out of the ground? The locals call them “peri bacasi” – “fairy fireplaces”. Tourists here will tell fairy tales about the fairies that fly out of their underground chimneys at night to give people prophetic dreams. In fact, the “fireplaces of fairies” – the handiwork of wind and rain, once basalt rocks covered the tuff completely, but over time remained only on the “hat” of stone mushrooms. Under the basalt “caps”, a horizontal line is clearly distinguishable, dividing the tuff from the rocks, and the process of destruction continues to this day. The necks of tuff cones are getting thinner and thinner, so that in a few thousand years the “cap” of the fireplace can simply collapse to the ground.
A bird’s eye view
Of course, it is impossible in one tour to see all the beauty and solve all the mysteries of this stunning region, the most “rich” area of which is more than 300 square kilometers. Therefore, wishing to feel the scale and embrace with one glance this magical country, we advise not to miss the unique opportunity during the tour to see everything from a bird’s eye view (from 300 to 1200 m) . Needless to say, an hour in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia is a memory to last a lifetime. Balloons rise at dawn, when the magnificent disk of fire languidly rises from behind the famous Mount Ergias. Here, in the morning hours, there is little air movement, making the balloons float leisurely along the gorges, although the order of sightseeing depends, of course, on the direction of the wind currents. From the balloon you can fully enjoy the beauty of local nature, all the valleys – Love, Dove, Fairy, Goreme open-air museum, and all this – leisurely strolling through the sky. By letting the basket hover, you get a great view of the surrounding towns and villages, and it’s akin to visiting a high observation deck. The pilots of these magnificent balloons skillfully maneuver among the many tufaceous pillars, towers and pyramids so that the journey, just like Cappadocia itself, will not leave anyone indifferent.
It would be surprising if such a mysterious place as Cappadocia, practically the same age as the Egyptian pyramids, would not cause controversy and astonishing hypotheses and scientific discoveries which continue to this day. More and more often one can find insistent statements, not by science fiction writers, but by scholars from all over the world, that the age of these places is much greater than is commonly believed, and that the first Christians certainly contributed to the development of these places, but were not their creators at all. And, judging by some of the facts, such a version has every right to exist.
The largest underground city is located in the Turkish province of Nevshehir. Local archaeologists believe that they have not dug up everything – there are still about 20 floors “below”. A total of 200 subterranean settlements are being dug out in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Scientists still do not understand: where did this underground empire come from, who built it and, most importantly, WHO LIVED THEM?
“Officially, the underground cities of Cappadocia are considered the refuge of the first Christians,” explains Süleyman Komoglu, professor of archaeology at Nevşehir. – Christians had been hiding underground since the time of Emperor Nero, when the Romans began to persecute them. However, they found the caves already deserted – having discovered the labyrinths by accident. According to the Ministry of Culture of Turkey, the “underworld” existed in the 6th century BC, during the reign of King Midas of Phrygia – the same one who, according to legend, turned things into gold. The inhabitants of the dungeons not only built elaborate cities, spiraling downward toward the center of the earth, but also connected them with each other by tunnels. Each tunnel is so wide that a horse-drawn wagon could pass through it. Many questions are answered, except one: what was this civilization?”
Did the dwarves actually live?
“Both Christians and Phrygians have already found these rooms empty,” claims Raul Saldivar, an archaeologist from Los Angeles who has been living and working in Neuve Shehir for five years. – In 2008, they did a radiocarbon analysis. It showed that the megalopolises were carved into the rocks about. 5,000 years ago. Separate cells were used as banks – tons of gold were stored there. Excavations have brought to the surface hundreds of pet bones, but. not a single skeleton of a local inhabitant. No one can clearly explain why such huge cities were built underground and why their inhabitants preferred to live in darkness without sunlight. From whom were they hiding and for what reason? It turns out that there was another, separate world under the ground. And was it only in Turkey? Perhaps there were identical cities all over the world. “
“We don’t have much direct evidence. Basically, scientists are only able to put forward rather vague hypotheses,” says Professor of History at Istanbul University Ibrahim Beyhan, “although from the scraps of information that have been collected during years of archaeological excavations in Cappadocia, we can already conclude: about 5000 years ago under the ground lived and developed a mysterious race of so-called dwarfs. They were short people who built tiered cities inside caves and connected them with each other by tunnels. Now I am interested in two questions. One: why did these people prefer to live in twilight? And two: where did they disappear to?”
The 70-year-old archaeologist Mohammed Jeidabar, who has excavated one of the main underground cities in Turkish Cappadocia, Ozkonak, believes that the “first layer” of the dungeons – 10-12 stories – is just the tip of the iceberg. At one time he even gave an interview to “AiF” where he did not rule out that the depth of the hidden settlements could be up to hundreds of stories, and even more: “We dig and dig for decades. As soon as we clear one floor from the ground, another floor is immediately discovered. I wonder what the end result will be.
. Unfortunately, it is still unknown what kind of race inhabited the dozens of underground cities of Cappadocia 5,000 years ago. Since no skeletons of the cave dwellers have been found during excavations, scientists have only theories: either the Lilliputians themselves left their cities and returned to the surface and mingled with the humans, or they went deep underground unknowingly, or were taken captive by conquerors and taken into slavery. “I think in the future we will have an accurate answer,” assures archaeologist Mohammed Jeidabar, “science does not stand still!” We can only hope that it will.
Cappadocia (Turkey) – the most detailed information with photos. The main attractions of Cappadocia with descriptions and location of the region on the map.
Cappadocia is a region in Turkey in Central Anatolia. This is an area with unique geological structure and natural features, rich historical and cultural heritage. Cappadocia is one of the most unusual and beautiful places in Turkey, with a fabulous landscape, over which at dawn rise up dozens of balloons, stunning underground cities, cave churches and houses carved right into the rocks.
Things to do (Turkey):
€150 per tour
First Steps in Istanbul
The Ayia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern with a professional guide
€150 per tour
Eastern Istanbul: Kadıköy, Usküdar, Kuzguncük and Çamlıca Hill
Walking on non-tourist trails and discovering authentic corners of the Asian part of the city
Geography and Climate
Cappadocia is located almost in the center of the Anatolian Peninsula. One of the most interesting natural features of this region is its unusual topography. This plateau was once a lava valley between the volcanoes Erciyes, Melendiz and Hasan. After volcanic activity, a layer of tuff formed on the surface, which under the influence of erosion has turned into unusual geological formations of the most bizarre shapes.
Winter in Cappadocia
The climate of Cappadocia is moderately continental. Summers are hot and dry with cool nights. Winter is quite cold with frequent frosts. Some nights the temperature can drop to -15°C on the plateau.
The distance from Cappadocia to some cities in Turkey is as follows: Kayseri – 70 km, Ankara – 305 km, Istanbul – 757 km, Antalya – 541 km, Izmir – 777 km, Bursa – 679 km, Konya – 238 km.
- The currency is the Turkish Lira.
- The language is Turkish.
- Visa – For a stay up to 60 days it is enough to have a passport that is valid for more than four months from the date of entry into Turkey.
- Time – UTC +2, in summer +3.
The best time to visit
The best time to visit Cappadocia is in May and September, when the weather is most comfortable. In summer, it is hot during the day here.
The first mention of the area called Cappadocia dates back to the 6th century BC when this territory was ruled by the Persians. The Persian name of the region, Haspaduya, can be translated as “the land of beautiful horses.
Another view is that the name comes from the Hittite katta peda, which means “the area below the capital”.
Cappadocia at night
Cappadocia was already settled in the period of the ancient Hittites (over 2000 years BC). Later Moschians, Cimmerians and Persians settled here. In the 4th century BC, the region was conquered by Alexander the Great. During this period, the local population assimilated to the Hellenistic culture. Later these lands became part of the Roman Empire.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Cappadocia became part of Byzantium. The Turks took over the region in the 11th century. This led to the Islamization of the population. Interestingly, until the middle of the 20th century there was a Cappadocian language that emerged from the Karamanian dialect.
How to get there
The nearest airport is located in Kayseri (about an hour’s drive from the center of the region). You can also use the air ports of Konya and Ankara to reach Cappadocia. Approximate travel time to Cappadocia by bus from some cities in Turkey: Istanbul – 12 hours, Ankara – 5 hours, Bursa – 11 hours, Izmir – 12 hours, Konya – 4 hours, Antalya – 9 hours.
Balloons in Cappadocia
The most popular purchases and souvenirs in Cappadocia are: ceramics from Avanos, carpets, wines, onyx products, amulets against the evil eye (“blue eye”), and jewelry.
Balloons in Cappadocia
Traditional foods: mantı (dumplings served with yogurt or garlic sauce), testi kebap (meat with vegetables in a clay pitcher), pastirmali kuru fasulye (beans in spicy sauce). Cappadocia is also famous for its wines, sweets and dried fruits.
Cappadocia – an extremely interesting place where you can enjoy exploring the ancient cave towns and wonderful natural attractions, watch dozens of balloons at dawn or fly in them yourself, ride through the picturesque surroundings on quad bikes or horses.
We recommend booking one of the many cave hotels around Goreme.
Göreme is a small village practically in the center of the fabulous landscape of Cappadocia. It is considered one of the most beautiful places in Turkey, where the famous cave houses are arranged in the rocks. The most famous tourist attraction of Goreme (and the symbol of Cappadocia) are the balloons that rise every morning over the valley. To enjoy this spectacle, you have to get up at dawn and walk to the nearest observation deck. The cost of flying ranges from 150 to 180 euros per person.
Ballooning in Göreme
Not far from Goreme is an interesting open-air museum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an ancient Byzantine monastery with rock churches in which fabulous frescoes have been preserved.
Kaymakli is one of the largest underground towns in Cappadocia. Such settlements began to appear here back in the Bronze Age. Specifically this city dates back for the most part to early Byzantium. It was home to Christians who hid from the Arabs and the Persians. Kaymakli has eight levels and is a labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms. Four levels are open to tourists.
Rock Monastery in Zelva is an open-air museum, which is an ancient Christian complex founded in the 9th century.
Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city, the largest structure of its kind in Cappadocia. Used as a shelter for the first Christians. It is a tangle of tunnels with many underground living and household premises.
Çavusin is a small picturesque village with beautiful old Byzantine churches with beautiful frescoes. The Church of St. John the Baptist, located here, is considered the oldest in Cappadocia.
Pashabag is one of the most famous natural attractions in Cappadocia. The bizarre mushroom-shaped rocks that erosion has created seem like something unreal.
€150 per tour
Old Antalya – a journey into the past
A stroll through the winding streets of the historic city center with ancient squares, towers and mosques.
200 €170 for the tour.
Photo date with Istanbul
Capture yourself in the most interesting scenery of the city on a walk with a professional photographer