The landscapes of Turkey are surprisingly diverse and dramatic. Many of these places are in fact so unique that you will probably only see them in Turkey. Imagine seeing them all in one trip!
My trip to Turkey was so amazing that I saw many wonderful places and I was almost overwhelmed. Starting off from the only transcontinental metropolis in the world, Istanbul, I headed down south along the coast of the Aegean Sea and visited a number of ancient Greek heritage sites, then, we continued our journey to the beach resort down in Kuşadası, the white travertine terraces in Pamukkale, the camel trading center on the silk road, the blue hole, Lake Tuz, the Capital city, Ankara, and more… each of these places has left a mark in my heart and it was truly a “once-in-a-lifetime” (if not more), kind of experience.
Of all these incredible sceneries, Cappadocia is probably the most well-known destination in the country. Cappadocia is a semi-arid region located in the heart of Turkey. The name, Cappadocia, means “the land of beautiful horses”. The region’s landscape is famous for being so distinctive from the outside world. While I was there, it felt like I was on a different planet.
There are a number of things to see and do in the area: The hot air balloon ride – for sure, the popular activity offers tourists the best view of the lunar landscape.
The volcanic rock formations are carved by wind and water through years of erosion into peculiar shapes. Even if you think the rocks are not “special enough”, the area also has an ancient settlement that once lived in caves and left impressive artworks and wall paintings. I recommend spending at least two to three days to immerse yourself in the unique beauty of Cappadocia. So, let’s take a look at the top 8 things to do in Cappadocia:
Visit Göreme Open Air Museum and feast your eyes with vibrant Byzantine art
The Göreme Open Air Museum is top of the cake of the Cappadocia. Although the dramatic rocks could be basically seen anywhere (we immediately gasped when our car is approaching Cappadocia), the Göreme Open Air Museum is the best place to get close to the rock and truly understand what the landscape is about. The museum is a cluster of over 30 carved rock churches and chapels for being an important monastic complex in the 17th century, the fine rock-cut churches and chapels showcase some of the best examples of Byzantine Art – and some of them are beautifully preserved being away from sunlight. The frescoes in the dark church and Buckle Church have left me in awe as the paintings still retain their original freshness.
Go to Monk’s Valley and Pigeon Valley to get the best view of fairy chimneys
You will see a lot of “giant mushrooms” in Cappadocia, and they are nicknamed “fairy chimneys”. The “fairy chimneys” are millions of years in the making. This group of mushroom-like rocks had me wondering how many magic tricks mother nature had in its pocket. Actually, the rocks are the end result of millions of years of erosion followed by a volcanic eruption that formed Turkey. After an eruption, the ashes that covered the land were solidified into the soft rock. These soft rocks were then covered by a layer of basalt. Over the years and years of erosion, the softer stuff (light, porous rock formed by volcanic ash) in the bottom layer wore down faster than the harder basalt. Each stone pillar, in the end, has a mushroom-shaped basalt cap left, giving it a “mushroom head”.
The Monk’s Valley (in Pasabag) and Pigeon Valley are two great locations to see the fairy chimneys. While Monk’s Valley is where the tall, remarkable fairy chimneys locate, and the Pigeon Valley offers a panoramic view of the area. There are some nice restaurants in Pigeon valley where you could have an awesome view of the rocks and caves, and have lunch on a terrace.
Get imaginative in the Devrent Valley
Devrent Valley, also known as Imagination Valley, is a place that spikes imagination. Can you imagine why? It is because the valley is where natural rock formations are shaped like animals and so much more. The “camel” is the centerpiece of them all. It would be difficult to not recognize how much the rock resembles a camel, and walk around and have fun naming all the other rocks that you see in the area – you will have a lot of amazing discoveries if you are inspired.
Travel through underground cities and learn about ancient citizen’s lives
Underground cities were built mainly during the period of Arab-Byzantine wars between the 7th to 11th centuries, one of the most incredible ruins to visit is the Derinkuyu Underground City. These cities provide protection from Muslim Arabs attacks and come cities could accommodate as many as 20,000 people with 18 levels constructed. All kinds of facilities (schools, churches, and more) can be found in these complexes. Not only the construction itself has become an architectural wonder, but also inscriptions and drawings in the chapels that made them valuable to historians.
Stay in a cave hotel and sleep inside the rocks
If living in a cave is your thing, Cappadocia offers a lot of choices for you to experience what it feels like sleeping in a cave. Well, I might be claustrophobic to stay in caves, as I see these luxurious hotels and resorts are nothing like how people used to live in the past. They are built in the rocks yet renovated with windowed suites, modern amenities, and even swimming pools. It would be a comfortable and unique experience!
Pamper yourself with a traditional Turkish Bath
After a day out and about, it may be a good idea to just relax and visit a Turkish Bath to wash away all your exhaustion. A Turkish bath is the Islamic variant of the Roman bath or Sauna. It took place in a classic Roman bath-style hall and it involves steam, foam, scrub treatment, and finally, a hot tub.
The foam was created by folding and turning a foam bag (done by the service people) and then applying the foam on your body – Kind of what Mariah Carey does and Instagram every day.
The foam is supposed to clean every pore after steam… Not exactly complicated but well, it’s an experience…
Enjoy a fun Turkish night out and watch Sufi Whirling
Sufi whirling is a very important religious dance in Turkey and whirling dolls or figurines could be seen anywhere in the country. It is a form of active meditation by letting go of one’s “naf”s, egos, or personal desires, and focusing on God with the music. It is a strong expression of emotion toward the love of God. The whirl represents revolution – as is Sufi’s beliefs, everything turns in the universe: The world turns, the sunburns, the blood turns, and also the Dervish turns.
The dance is usually performed by dervishes, who must take a vow of poverty and live in monastic conditions. They are dressed in wide, white robes and hats with arms crossed in front of their chests. When they whirl, their arms are opened – the right palm upward toward heaven and left palm downward toward earth – in a counterclockwise direction.
Hop on a hot air balloon and let Cappadocia take your breath away!
I put it in the finale because it totally earns the “last, but definitely not least” title, and almost does not require any further elaboration.
Viewing the unique and incredible landscape from above and beyond would definitely be the highlight of your trip. it’s simply marvelous and you should see it for yourselves!
Hot air balloon flights started operations in 1991, and over 250 days are suitable for flight annually. The area enjoys pleasant weather and an appropriate landscape for hot air balloons – and over 100 hot air balloons will fly in one day during peak season! Over 2,000 passengers will be amazed by the unique sceneries, some of the balloons may even go as high as 3,000 feet.
If somehow you decided not to take the flight of the day, wake up a little bit early, you may still get to see a fantastic sight with hundred of balloons flying above the rocks from your hotel.