The Hittites settled Cappadocia (Kapadokya) from 1800 BC to 1200 BC, after which smaller kingdoms held power. Then came the Persians, followed by the Romans, who established the capital of Caesarea (today’s Kayseri). During the Roman and Byzantine periods, Cappadocia became a refuge for early Christians and, from the 4th to the 11th century, Christianity flourished here; most churches, monasteries and underground cities date from this period. Later, under Seljuk and Ottoman rule, Christians were treated with tolerance.
Cappadocia progressively lost its importance in Anatolia. Its rich past was all but forgotten until a French priest rediscovered the rock-hewn churches in 1907. The tourist boom in the 1980s kick-started a new era, and now Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most famous and popular destinations.
When Erciyes Daği erupted many millennia ago, no one could’ve guessed the aftermath would look so dandy. This ‘land of wild horses’ is eerie, beautiful and geologically unique. Where lava once ran valleys now undulate to the horizon’s dusty hilt. The human history here is equally remarkable, most notably that of the Byzantines, whose underground world features frescoes and intimate, cavernous rock-cut churches. Travellers descend on the prehistoric moonscape from hot-air balloons and low-cost carriers, as the poster child of Anatolian tourism continues to define its unselfconscious style. Göreme is the village-turned- ‘buzz town’, where outdoor enthusiasts are rivaled by the cultured set enjoying fi ne local wine and deluxe cave suites. Meanwhile, Ürgüp and Uçhisar provide a more upscale, down-tempo prehistoric escape; former Greek settlements offer peace and quiet; and, outside, colorful valleys twist and turn, shot through with wildflowers, snow or giant phallic boulders. Cappadocia is an ultimate trip.
- Explore Byzantine tunnels of underground cities, such as Kaymaklı.
- Examine fresco-covered churches in the Göreme Open-Air Museum
- Gaze the pigeon houses riddling cliffs and fairy chimneys in Göreme’s labyrinthine valleys.
- Gasp at the outcrop doubling as a castle in Uçhisar.
- Drink in the views over multiple nezes in chic Ürgüp.
- Part the vines and peer into a tumble down Greek mansion in Mustafapaşa.
- Trek through a secluded monastic settlement in Soğanlı.