It’s possible that you have never seen landscape like the surreal towers of rock that abound in this part of Anatolia, Turkey. If so you are in for a treat, because this soft volcanic rock in the shape of huge pinnacles, many of them with hard basalt caps, will take your breath away the first time you set eyes on it.

Some people think it must resemble a moonscape; others refer to the phallic qualities of the rock towers; traditionally they are known as “fairy chimneys”. Whatever you choose to call them, the cause is the same: erosion of a plateau soft rock by wind and water over millions of years. It is difficult to believe now, but between 9 and 3 million years ago this arid region was a place of lakes and streams.

The caves and the ability to easily carve out new ones, along with the excellent fertility of the soil in this area, made this region important long before the birth of Christ. Then in the Christian era persecution caused the inhabitants to carve out underground cities where they could be safe and continue to follow their religion. You can visit some of these refuges at Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

At the open air museum at Göreme you can explore over 30 churches and chapels carved out of the rock, for Cappadocia was a monastic centre from 300 to 1200 AD. You can visit some of the caves used for dwellings and even stay in cave suites at Esbelli Evi and Kelebek cave hotels.

One of the best ways to view the fascinating landscape is from the air, and every morning when conditions are suitable, up to 100 hot air balloons rise majestically into the dawn sky taking tourists on a memorable flight over the fantastic rock formations. Alternatively you can hike along trails in Göreme National Park, with a guide if you wish: the Rose Valley is one of the most beautiful locations to walk in.

What to see in Cappadocia (apart from the landscape, which is the best thing):
Göreme Open Air Museum – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cappadocia Art and History Museum – in Ürgup, a settlement with Seljuk and Ottoman architecture.
The Museum of Nevsehir – in the Cultural Centre of the hill-top town of the same name, displaying archaeological and ethnic objects.
The Monastery of Gumusler – a 10th century monastery with a church carved in the rock, and important frescoes.
Caravanserais – traditional, walled courtyards where camel caravans would stop to rest and refuel during the Seljuk period in Turkey. Some of these are now effectively service stations for modern travellers.

Cave hotels:
Museum Hotel, Uchisar – modern comfort in cave rooms overlooking the Göreme Valley.
Cappadocia Cave Suites – 28 rooms inside fairy chimneys, in Göreme.
Akkoy Evleri – a 9 room hotel in the quiet mountain village of Akkoy, with a mixture of cave rooms and stone-built ones.
Kayadam Cave Hotel – at the top of Ürgup cliff, this hotel overlooks a fairy chimney landscape. Modern comforts in a 1,000 year old dwelling.

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