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A practical and inspirational travel guide to Cappadocia in Turkey. First published in National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime:500 of the World’s Greatest Trips.


Arriving in Cappadocia in central Turkey is like entering a Lord of theRings landscape. All around, the rocks have been whipped into smooth regularcurves like frosting on a cake. Taking a stroll out of Goreme, the region’sepicentre, you pass by slopes shining green with tender vines. Old men andwomen walk on goat paths doubled over with cargoes of firewood. Beyond orchardsladen in autumn you find yourself in fields of giant petrified toadstoolstowering high into a crystal sky.

Cappadocia’s celebrated ‘fairy chimneys’ are the work of the ultimatesculptor: Mother Nature. Time has eroded this volcanic terrain into a twistedmoonscape, a topographical whimsy. Man has followed in nature’s footstepsgouging homes out of these rocky cones. Some have been upgraded as luxuryhotels, so book yourself a cave room and live like the ancients (ensuitebathrooms optional). Walk around the valleys and you discover hundreds ofchurches, chapels, and monasteries hewn out of the stone. Clamber up a ricketyladder to a dark entrance, step inside, and your gaze will be met by the facesof saints decorating the walls, arches, and pillars carved by local Christianssome 700-1,300 years ago.

Travel highlights


A balloon ride. Soar up into the azure sky and gaze down on themagical landscape. You will have chance to take amazing photographs at sky.

Stay in a cave! Release your inner troglodyte and check into oneof the region’s cave hotels, that is  will be a great experience foryou.


Trek through the Ihlara valley. Walk tothe edge of this natural chasm and you’ll see a verdant ribbon, an oasis ofgreen, winding its way through a parched rocky wilderness. Hike along itsdepths and you’ll encounter Byzantine churches carved out of the cliff walls.


Goreme’s open air museum. Take sometime to stroll around the ruins of this vast Christian complex, delving in andout of the bright sun as you discover the cool, dark interiors of ancientchurches, painted with frescoes.


Explore an underground city. Deepunder Cappadocia’s dusty soil lie ancient towns, vast rabbit warrens, tens ofstoreys deep, that offered refuge to people from Hittite times to the rise ofthe Turks.


Traveller info

When to travel to Cappadocia: Spring and Autumn. Mid April to early June,and September to October are the best times to avoid the intense summer heatand crowds. If there’s snow in winter the place shines, glistens, andcaptivates all the more.

How long do you need: At least three days to see the main highlights, or aweek to truly lose yourself in the landscape.

Planning your trip: Here are excellent tour operators who can help organisetrips if you don’t have your own transport, accommodation.


Inside information: It’s not all churches. Cappadocia’s landscape makes ita perfect place for outdoor pursuits, and there’s an ever increasing amount onoffer from trekking to mountain biking, horse riding to white water rafting.