The videos and photographs of air balloons drifting across a fairytale landscape on the Anatolian plains of Turkey is something you will probably have seen before in a tourist brochure or film. This is Cappadocia, like nothing else on the planet, a land of strange honeycombed hills and boulders that has captured the imagination for centuries.
Cappadocia, as legend would have it, suggests that it gets its name from the Persian word Katpaktukya which translates as “The land of beautiful horses” and whilst this lends itself to the whimsical fantasy landscape it is more likely to have come from the Hittite words katta peda meaning low country.
No single video can capture the essence of Cappadocia in its entirety. The area covers around 5000 square kilometres through the provinces of Nevshehir, Kayseri and Nigde. This short video takes a look at the most popular destination of Goreme but other towns such as Urgup, Avanos and Zelve are just three of a number of destinations popular with tourists. Aside from what you see on the surface there are several undergound cities of which a visit to at least one of them is highly recommended. The most visited are Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Gaziemir and Ozkonak.
If you get up early in the morning you will be lucky enough to witness the hot air balloons drifting effortlessly across the valleys. There are many local companies from which to choose if you fancy taking part yourself.
For millions of years sedimentary rocks formed in lakes and streams that erupted in ancient volcanoes millions of years ago. The rocks which you see around Goreme and further afield have eroded over time to form strange pillars, minaret like features and rock formations.
The earliest record of Cappadocia dates from the late 6thcentury when it would have been part of the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great tried to impose his rule on the area without much success. Cappadocia became the largest province in the Roman Empire, expanded during the early Christian and Byzantine periods with a large Greek and Armenian population. Slowly the Turkish clans under the leadership of the Seljuks began to arrive in Anatolia. Eventually in the 15th century it came under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
The town or village of Goreme is the main tourist centre. There are plenty of rock dwelling hotels, some excellent souvenir shopping and a number of very good restaurants and bars. There is also plenty to do. The area is popular with hikers and adventurers on motorbikes. You can hire quad bikes and explore the terrain or just sit back and watch the sun go down over this extraordinary landscape.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985 and much restoration is taking place with particular attention to detail on the numerous churches and chapels with their beautiful Christian artwork. Although the landscape might seem to be quite barren there are actually a lot of vineyards here and the region produces some excellent wine.
Cappadocia is a magical place. It is one of those destinations that you should plan to see if you are visiting Turkey. The best times to visit are in the Spring or the Autumn when its not too hot and not too crowded. The nearest airport is in Nevsehir which places you close to the main towns of Cappadocia but you can also fly into Kayseri airport which is about an hour’s drive away by car.