Photo Essay: Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

We spent a month travelling through Turkey last summer and our week spent in Cappadocia still tops the list. Cappadocia is located in the Central Anatolia region and is famous for its unique landscape of caves and rock formations, called fairy chimneys.

The landscape of the Cappadocia plateau has been sculpted naturally by erosion. The ancient volcanoes of Mount Erciyes, Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz expelled many layers of thick volcanic tuff over the area thousands of years ago. Over time this volcanic tuff has been eroded by wind and water carving out gorges and creating varying rock formations including pillars, columns and towers some which extend 40 metres. Within these rock formations people have hollowed a network of caves which have served as refuges, homes and places of worship dating from the 4th century.

We based ourselves in Goreme, a town located among the fairy chimneys, where many homes have been carved straight into the rock formations. Many locals still live within these formations and staying in ‘cave’ accommodation is a big attraction in the area.

Fairy chimneys can be seen in all shapes and sizes, however most are tall and phallic-shaped, capped with harder stone that protects the soft rock underneath from erosion. Eventually these caps fall off, and wind and rain whittle away the cone until it collapses.

Prior to Christianity becoming an accepted religion, Cappadocia was inhabited by Christians who created underground cities to use as hiding places from the Romans. 36 underground cities were excavated in Cappadocia, the deepest one being Derinkuyu at 85 metres deep with eleven storeys. Many cave churches and monasteries were also carved throughout the area by the Christians and decorated with art and frescos depicting saints.

The Goreme National Park, extending to the surrounding valley of fairy chimneys, Byzantine church architecture and religious art was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.  The dwellings and churches in the area contain fossilised images of a Byzantine Empire province between the 4th century and the Turkish invasion.

While many continue to be inhabited, some caves previously used for refuge and residence around the area have since be abandoned. We met some people going on an ‘adventure’ to sleep in the some of these abandoned caves..but with all the wild dogs wandering around the area, it wasn’t really our cup of tea! We never did find out if they came back alive :S

We enjoyed discovering the Cappadocia area by foot, scooter, bus, and hot air balloon and loved the view over the unique geological landscape at both sunrise and sunset. An early morning hot air balloon ride was a great experience, seeing the sunrise over Goreme and Rose Valley.

With its unique geological, cultural and historic features this is an interesting area to explore. If it’s natural beauty, unusual landscape and a bit of adventure you’re after, Cappadocia is a great place to visit in Turkey.


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