An incredible area, created in hundreds of thousand years. Volcanic eruptions, caused by tectonic movement under the Taurus Mountains pushed ashes and lava out of two volcanoes. Before these eruptions swamps covered this area. Volcanic ashes first covered an area of 10000km2 with a thick layer. Later parts of this area where covered by liquid basalt. These volcanic eruptions where even witnessed by people living in the ancient city of Çatalhöyük 8000 BC. By then the erosion was shaping the area already. It started with the rain. Wherever the rain could get under the Basalt layer it carved the tuff beneath. Later winds found their way to the tuff as well. Over thousands of years water and wind erosion created fairy chimneys and valleys.
The etymology of Cappadocia probably goes back to the Hittites who controlled this area around 1200 BC. According to historians the word Cappadocia comes from a Hittite word Catputka “Land of the nice horses”.
The area stretches out between tree cities, which shape a triangle. These cities are Nevşehir, Ürgüp and Avanos. Although these cities/towns are just 10-15 miles apart from each other you still need someone who drives you around. Trekking through the valleys gives you the best idea of this scenery (which truly looks out of this world) and you would need someone who can take you trough them and arranges a pick up on the other side so you don’t need to go back all the way you came. All the interesting sites are away from the main road connecting these tree cities/towns.
Dervent Valley: The sun rises from the east and the best area to start is off course the far east point of this triangle. If you can manage to be there at sunrise you will be awarded with a spectacular game of hide and seek between light and shadow. In this valley most of the fairy chimneys are dying, that’s because they lost their hat (the basalt rock on top of the fairy chimneys; when this rock falls down wind and rain can erode the lower part of a fairy chimney). Some of these hats have strange shapes and with a little bit of imagination you can see interesting things in them, like Virgin Mary with young Jesus in her arms or Napoleon’s hat. The most obvious shape is a huge camel, which is behind a wooden fence. Be careful, this valley is one of the most dangerous ones for guests who are not fit on foot or lack appropriate footwear (broken ankles or wrists are pretty common in this valley).
Zelve Valley:Very close to Dervent Valley, this valley holds a whole monastery where monk’s lived all their life. In Zelve you can see more of a monk’s normal life then churches in a monastery. Because Göreme Valley is more popular (best preserved churches and frescoes), Zevle Valley is rarely visited.
Pashabag: Very close to Dervent Vallley, this is the best Valley to see the fairy chimneys. If you follow the shape of the hill you can imagine how the area was shaped by erosion.
Goreme Valley: This is the most visited site in Cappadocia. It’s one of the best museums in Turkey. Several churches from the 7Th C. Ad. with wonderful frescoes from the 11-13Th C. Ad. are a magnet for every visitor in Cappadocia. Don’t forget a torch and keep in mind that taking pictures within the churches is strictly forbidden.
If you are interested in to see more you have to drive longer distances off this area. To the south you reach two of the biggest underground cities in the world named Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. They are about 20 miles away from Cappadocia and heavily visited. There are more then 110 underground cities found in the area of Cappadocia and about a dozen of them are open for public. Christian’s have used these underground cities for hiding against prosecution in roman era. Some of them could hold more then 10000 citizens and provide everything for a daily life underground up to several months.
For every underground city you should be healthy without any problems of heart or blood pressure. Claustrophobia is another reason to stay away of these cities as the tunnels taking you down almost 8 floors are tight and narrow. Especially in Derinkuyu these tunnels serve both ways (visitors going down and up), are tight and narrow (if you have wide shoulders??!!) and you have to walk in bend over position.
About 50 miles away to the South West you reach Ihlara Valley. This is the biggest Valley in Cappadocia and very easy for trekking short distances.
The beauty of Cappadocia is indescribable. It should be on every bucket list to see before you die and it should be pretty high in ranking.