Cappadocia. I didn’t know much about it before I went to Turkey, but I knew it was a beautiful place I had to visit. Little did I know what an amazing place it would be.
Getting there wasn’t easy. I didn’t buy my bus ticket ahead of time and the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr meant that the only bus company running the route was full for several days in advance. Luckily, my couchsurfing host spoke Turkish with one of the bus company employees and I found an alternate route going from Mersin to Aksaray by minibus, catching a ride on a regular bus by running after it as it exited the bus station to Nevsehir, then taking two local city buses to get to Uchisar, where I was staying.
Once in Uchisar I couldn’t find where I was staying. It was listed on Google Maps twice and I only found one – the incorrect one. It meant dragging my bag up and downhill all over town, but the scenery was too incredible to be upset about that.
What actually attracted me to Cappadocia was Derinkuyu Underground City. It’s an underground city that held as many as 20,000 people at a time and has several levels. The city is as old as the 7th or 8th century BC. Later, early Christians lived there as they fled persecution and hid the women and children from the wars being fought overhead. It all seemed too incredible to believe and I had to see it with my own eyes. When I found it on Google Maps and realized it was so close to Cappadocia, the plan was set. I had to visit.
Cappadocia is famous for its fairy chimneys. Jutting out from the ground, tall rock spires dot the landscape in a colorful way. Volcanic eruptions millions of years ago left deposits of ash that turned to soft stone. A combination of rain and wind then swept away this softer rock over time leaving behind the fairy chimneys and incredible landscape we know today.
There are many valleys you can hike through to get up close and personal with this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can hike on your own, but signage is poor and mostly in Turkish. I arranged a Golden Tour with New Gerome and hiked a solid 15-20km through several of the valleys, including the infamous Love Valley. My guide, Monika from Estonia, was very knowledgeable about the area and showed me several 1000+ year old churches I never would have found on my own, several of which were frescoed from the 9th century and incredibly beautiful.
I had the privilege to stay in Taskonaklar Hotel in Uchisar. It’s a cave hotel that gives you first-hand experience of what life may have felt like for the inhabitants 100, 1000, even 2000 years ago but with modern conveniences.
Every stone, arch, and chimney was preserved in the construction of the hotel, just minutes by foot from Uçhisar Castle. Rooms for every budget are available, including the rooms actually built into the rock structure that give Cappadocia its beauty. In those rooms you enjoy a near-constant temperature all year round. The fireplace in every room keeps you warm in the colder months and the stone structure keeps you cool in the warmer months.
From the hotel you get unparalleled views of Mount Erciyes, the volcano believed to have caused the fairy chimney formation in the first place. There is nothing quite like having breakfast while looking out into Pigeon Valley while seeing dozens of hot air balloons take flight.