The earliest record of the name of Cappadocia dates from the late 6th century BC, when it appears in the trilingual inscriptions of two early Achaemenid kings, Darius I and Xerxes, as one of the countries of the Persian Empire. The Greek historian Herodotus tells us that the name of the Cappadocians was applied to them by the Persians. Modern Cappadocia lies in central Anatolia, in the heartland of what is now Turkey. The relief consists of a high plateau over 1000 m in altitude that is pierced by volcanic peaks, with Mount Erciyes (ancient Argaeus) near Kayseri (ancient Caesarea) being the tallest at 3916 m. The boundaries of historical Cappadocia are vague, as are the boundaries of modern Cappadocia.
However, the Nevşehir Province is in the area encompassed by Cappadocia, and the town of Göreme is in Nevşehir Province, and Göreme is home to the Göreme National Park, famous for its Fairy Chimneys, and that is where we are going!
We are driving to Göreme. The highway is uncrowded until we near the town and see a tourist trap.
However, we do not stop as we are captivated by the landscape. The rocky hillside ahead looks like it has dozens of caves.
These human-made caves do not look inhabited, but they might be. There are people on the top of the hill, which gives an idea of the size.
After a few minutes we arrive at the town. There are no tall buildings (thank you, Göreme) and, except for the landscape, the town seems little different from small towns everywhere.
The streets are windy, narrow, and sometimes steep, and there are few road signs. Fortunately, our car’s navigator knows the way.
Cappadocia Cave Suites
We are staying at the beautiful Cappadocia Cave Suites Hotel. According to their website, “As the world was caught up in the knee-jerk reaction to 9/11/01, Bora Özkök , owner of the hotel and Cultural Folk Tours, Inc., reaffirmed his optimism in the future of international travel by undertaking to create a world class hotel.”
The hotel is part brick and part carved sandstone. Although it looks a bit rough around the edges, the interior is comfortable and accommodating, even if somewhat cavelike.
There are two entrances two our suite. One is through a maze of hallways starting at the lobby, and the other is a direct route through this back door. We suppose there are two entrances in order to provide a fire escape, but this place can’t burn, so it’s probably to provide a collapsed-hallway escape. Or so we imagine.
The interior is obviously carved out, but mysteries remain. How did they install the electrical outlets and plumbing so precisely? And how did they know exactly how big to make the room, where to put the window, and how thick to leave the walls? Some people have mad skills, I guess.
Despite the cave-ness, there is a TV, a small refrigerator, coffee, tea, and snacks. Plus a shirt or something hanging on the wall.
The hotel kindly provides a place to build a pillow fort. We can’t tell if the wall is this thick or if it’s just a natural bulge in the rock.
Notice all the lighting; since the rooms are not symmetrical, the hotel has thoughtfully ensured that we won’t be walking into walls and uneven surfaces.
When we arrive, everything is clean. In the morning, we find a layer of coarse dust on everything. Yes, the place is slowly falling apart. I give it another 80,000 years…
There is a modern bathroom in our cave suite, plus a soup bowl bathtub perfect for a bubblebath on a warm Turkish afternoon.
Our room has a patio (as, I think, all of them do) where we can enjoy the Cappadocian evening with its seemingly snow-covered mountains and clear summer skies.
But enough of our hotel. Let’s see what this World Heritage Site has to offer.
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
It’s easy to find look-out points: you just walk “up”, and eventually you’ll get where you want to be.
Despite the rope guardrail, there is little danger of falling. It’s probably there to help control erosion from all of us tourists treading on the soft rocks.
There are horseback tours and noisy ATV tours available, but the quiet hike through the countryside is much more pleasant. Notice the small doors carved in the rock: they don’t seem to be actual doors, but just carvings.
“The rivers, flood water running down the hillsides of valleys and strong winds eroded the geological formations consisting of tuff on the plateau formed with tuff layers, thus creating bizarre shapes called fairy Chimneys. These take on the names of mushroom shaped, pinnacled, capped and conic shaped formations.”
The geologic history of Cappadocia describes volcanic action and erosion, but does not explain why so many of the formation have mushroom heads, other than Mother Nature’s curious sense of humor.
“This area with unusual topographic characteristics was regarded as sacred and called, in the Scythian/Khatti language, as Khepatukha, meaning ‘the country of the people of the chief god Hepat’, although there are more poetic claims on the origin of the region’s name, such as the Old Persian Katpatuka, which allegedly means ‘the land of beautiful horses’.”
Cappadocia is unceasingly beautiful. Enjoy our slideshow!
“For those with an eye for natural beauty, a balloon tour is an essential part of any visit. From the moment of takeoff, around sunrise, the spectacular landscape of Cappadocia enchants the passenger. You will feel as if you are in a dream, drifting gently past fairy chimneys, through valleys scattered with pigeon houses and over orchards and vineyards. The diverse colors and vistas of the flight will make for beautiful photographs and unforgettable memories.”
Besides geology and troglodytes, Cappadocia is famous for hot air ballooning. And signs with crooked letters, apparently. And a Bob’s Big Boy wanna-be.
“The flying season for hot air balloons in Cappadocia is actually the whole year from January to December. The best season is from April to November as the most favorable weather conditions are during these months. The wind is stronger by the end of autumn and beginning of spring therefore most of the balloon tour cancelations are from December to April. There is less chance of doing a balloon flight in winter but winter flying can be incredibly beautiful. The air is frequently clearer, and visibility much improved (up to 100 km visibility is often possible). Because trees are bare, it’s also easier to spot wildlife. The only concern in winter is the cold weather since it may be below zero especially in January and February.”
We see a balloon in the distance, and sit on our balcony to watch the beauty. Other people have climbed the hill on the right for the same reason.
On cue, the balloons take to the sky, their hot gasses momentarily coloring the balloons as their rise into the sky.
Lots and lots of balloons.
Like Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta, Balloon Fest Cappadocia is an annual event with hundreds of balloons filling the skies. We are, sadly, a few weeks too late to attend; maybe next time. 🙂
Note that there is a typo in the website on their sign. You’ll have better luck with https://www.goreme.bel.tr.
We haven’t mentioned Göreme, the town we are staying in because, well, there’s just not much to it.
This is odd to us. No matter how much a car costs, a car doesn’t require feeding when not in use and doesn’t need extra care when the trip is finished. But, I guess, as long as the horse isn’t flatulent, it’s probably a pleasant ride.
Hamburgers, fast food, soda, and coffee; no, we didn’t eat here. It might be good food, but we are in Turkey to eat Turkish food. Sorry, McDonalds…I mean, M&M Cafe.
First, we can never eat and drink “all you can eat and drink”. We have small appetites, so that doesn’t appeal to us. Second, although entertaining, these shows are the equivalent of a rodeo: fun to watch, but you know that never happens in real life. And third, why is this sign in English rather than Turkish? Our spider sense tells us it’s a tourist trap.
You can see that the actual town of Göreme is rather pedestrian. What’s a mystery is the second word on this sign. “Isaritah” doesn’t seem to have a meaning in Turkish, but “Hatirasi” means “Souvenir” or “Memory.” Also, sadly, we don’t have a lock to add to the rope.
Cappadocia is, indeed, a land of unsurpassed beauty. We have enjoyed our brief stay here, never long enough, but there are still adventures awaiting. Until next time!