Otherworldly, historical and moving – these are the adjectives that come to mind after my trip to Cappadocia. We landed at a rather dull military airport and city with a lovely
mountain as a backdrop. After a 40 minute drive, the scenery changed
radically with valley after valley of strange rock formations.
Created over 100,000 years ago from volcanic eruptions and once inhabited by ancient Hittite, Christian and Muslim civilizations, the region is fascinating. Wind and rain have worn the tuff-ash formations into free-standing outcrops and rock-towers—called “fairy chimneys”. One valley, with giant penis-looking rock-formations houses ancient churches, mosques, and residences.
Rock-cut monasteries were first founded in the region by Basilius, archbishop of Caesareia, in the 4th century. Soon after the foundation of the first monasteries in the valley of Göreme, they became the centre of pilgrimage for Christians in search of physical and devotional succor.
One site, dating back 2000 years to the Hittites, housed underground cavernous villages where up to a thousand Christians in each refuge, fearful for their lives, hid out during Arab invasions from 840 AD on.
The best-preserved site is fascinating – one descends down 20+ metres into the bowels of the earth via rock-carved corridors (some quite narrow) to see ancient underground habitats, kitchens, wineries and graveyards. They actually go far deeper, but are closed off. Quite frankly, this was more impressive to me than the pyramids in Egypt. It’s not for big people or those who suffer from claustrophobia, but well worth a visit.
At another site, we saw underground ancient frescos and hidden churches which were awe-inspiring.
Hotel-wise, there are only two properties in the region where we prefer to book people. The Museum Hotel is a boutique luxury property with fabulous cave-rooms with Jacuzzi-baths, flowering gardens with pergolas and grape vines and an infinity pool with amazing views of the rock formations. There are even red/white wine taps in some of the rooms and a full wine cellar in one suite. Their restaurant Lila is beautifully decorated and is known for some of the best food in the area.
The other hotel in the area worthy of mention is more recent, far larger and for clients seeking a resort / spa environment. The Cappadocia Cave Resort features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a full-service spa with marvelous treatments and wonderful views. Their suites are spacious and well-appointed and the place has a village atmosphere.
Whatever you choose, rest assured that Cappodocia is a magical place well-worth a visit.