Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in a desert in central Turkey is one of those whimsical destinations that looks like it fell out of a fairy-tale.
Unique rock formations, fairy chimneys, camel rides, oil wrestling and hot air ballooning are some of the things that make Cappadocia magical.
The quickest route is Istanbul to Nevşehir-Kapadokya Airport 40km away from Cappadocia.
Tourists love Cappadccia and surrounding areas because of the amazing scenery, unique rock formation, history of cave dwelling and the most beautiful annual balloon festival which will be open again to foreigners from 2022.
If visiting, here are the top things you must do:
1. Underground Cities
There are a total of 36 underground cities in the Cappadocia region with Kaymakli being the largest.
The underground cities were first used to escape the harsh winter and wild animals by the Hittites in about 1750 BC and later by Christians escaping persecution. The city is eight levels deep with four being open to the public. Please note: some of the underground tunnels are very narrow and you’ll need to bend down to get through.
2. Goreme Open Air Museum
This museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing ancient cave churches that are beautifully painted with biblical fresco's dating back to 900-1200 AD. It was originally used as a Byzantine monastic settlement, and later as a pilgrimage site from the 17th century. The open air museum is a 15 minute uphill walk from Goreme Village centre.
Formerly known as Monk Valley and famous for its mushroom shaped fairy chimneys, these stunning natural structures are the result of erosion that took place millions of years ago. According to local folklore, the chimneys were originally used by fairies (hence the name). During the 5th century, Saint Simeon and his disciples lived in seclusion in Pasabag. In one of the 3-headed fairy chimneys you will find a chapel dedicated to St Simeon.
4. Devrent Valley
Also referred to Imaginary Valley is located 5 kms from Pasabag. The valley is made up of the most unusual rock formations resembling a lunar landscape and rock shapes that look like animals. If you let your imagination run free, you will see all sorts of things!
5. Stay in a Cave Hotel
Sleep like a troglodyte did thousands of years ago - but in luxury! You will find a great assortment of boutique hotels that come with amenities such as Turkish baths, modern bathrooms and terraces with dreamy views of the valley.
6. Camel riding
Riding a camel through wild valleys and ancient settlements is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most. Please note that there are usually two separate charges: one to take a photo with a camel, and another to ride it. Be sure to clarify this before you get on the camel.
7. Hot air ballooning
Witnessing the breathtaking Cappadocia landscape from up above during sunrise is an experience you will never forget. Floating over valleys, through chimneys and rock formations is a sight like no other.
The average flights last 1 hour and costs between $200 AUD and $300 AUD. In the early mornings it can be quite chilly so take a jumper and always wear trainers or flat shoes. Imagine being in a hot air balloon in high heels boots!
When you're on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday why would you not want to be part of this? Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera!
8. Oil wrestling.....
Not something you will find in any other country, oil wrestling dates back thousands of years and is a show of male strength.
9. Other info
Turkey is home to 6 of the most moderately or very safe cities in the world. Turkish people as a general rule love children and families are very welcome.
The best way to see the country will be by a tour booked through an agency or your hotel. You can check on TripAdvisor to see if the tour has a good reputation.
About 45 million people and 70 million passengers a year visit Turkey and Istanbul airport so tourism is one of Turkey's most important industries. You need to make sure that you keep your passport, credit card and cash safe which you can do with Squirrl undies, and comply with Turkey's travel and entry restrictions.
A visa could take up to 48 hours. If you apply at least three days ahead of time, it's likely you will be able to enter the country without a problem.
Do not under any circumstances try or carry drugs as these are highly illegal. Drinking and driving can result in a 6 month license suspension which, if you're travelling on an international drivers licence, may have ramifications for you.
As a primarily Muslim country, people fast for Ramadan (or Ramazan) and the dates change each year for this religious event. Make sure you factor in Ramazan as it is a holy time and there may be restrictions on entry to areas or attractions and it may be difficult to find food after sunrise and before sunset.
It's Turkey and you may never go there again, so make the most of it by also visiting Ankara and Istanbul.
10. Always be aware of your governments' advice on travelling
We cannot wait to start travelling again to Turkey.
Got some magical Cappadocia experiences of your own? Feel free to share them with us.
📸 Soyoung Han
📸 Hut Atkas
Footnote: We at Squirrl have been heartbroken by the devastation resulting from the 6th February, 2023 earthquake. We have many Australian friends from Syria and Turkiÿe and will support them through their grief as they come to terms with the loss of family, friends and home towns.