Is this Earth or Mars?
When I first set foot at this land of fairy chimneys, I couldn’t believe my eyes. In many ways, Cappadocia is the reason why I started travelling.
Cappadocia is a place of surreal beauty—sculpted by complex geological formation which started with volcanic eruptions and followed by 60 million years of erosion from wind, rain, snow, rivers and rock fissures.
While the conic-shaped rocks grace most postcards from Turkey, don’t let it fool you into thinking it’s everything Capadoccia has to offer.
In Honey Valley, for instance, you can find layers of volcanic tuff which looks like whipped cream. In the aptly-named Imagination Valley (Devrent), you can find animal shapes from camel, snake, seal, dolphin to bunny! And if you fancy something more X-rated, you can’t go wrong with the penis rocks of Pasabag.
Life finds a way, even in bizarre topography
Hiding behind this land of psychedelic beauty are rich prehistoric settlements.
As many as 36 multi-level cities lie buried underground, the largest of which (Derinkuyu) sheltered up to 20,000 people! They were used by early Christians as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Byzantine period.
Numerous troglodyte villages and churches have been built by cutting out rocks, leaving behind fascinating caves with frescoes. These homes have complex networks of stairs, tunnels and passages—the tallest of which is the 1,350-meter Uçhisar Castle.
For every time I thought I have seen Cappadocia, a new turn reveals another Martian landscape, another eye-opening experience which challenges my preconception of what Mother Nature could look like.
1. Uniqueness: 20/20 — A true geological oddity with alien-like landscape.
2. Aesthetic: 18/20 — Carved through million years of erosion, Cappadocia never falls short of mind-boggling vista.
3. Integrity: 13/15 — The area is well-protected and development remains respectful to its cave living tradition despite increasing tourism activities. Unfortunately, natural factors have eroded some of the famous frescoes.
4. Significance: 8/15 — A notable testament to the harmonious interaction between Byzantine settlement with dramatic land forms, as observed through the troglodyte villages and underground towns.
5. Shelf Life: 15/15 — Plenty of trails to explore and each of them has something different to offer. The region’s generally slow-paced atmosphere also makes it a homely place to stay for long.
6. Access: 15/15 — Generally good infrastructure at affordable cost. As it gains popularity, Cappadocia is now served by multiple daily flights via Kayseri Airport.
Destination Score: 89/100
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