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classic landscape in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia's volcanic geology has created a range of bizarrely beautiful landscapes

Over the years, many of the guests on our Turkish cruises have opted to extend their vacation by a few days to visit Cappadocia, that legendary landscape in the heart of Anatolia, well known for its geological wonders and its countless historical and archaeological sites. We have often led tours exploring this extraordinary region and have a number of preferred hotels, such as one in an evocative setting amid the volcanic scenery of Uçisar an immensely picturesque village, crowned by a crumbling castle, in the very heart of Cappadocia. One of our expert guides, Nota Karamaouna, reported back after a recent recce.

Rock-cut dwellings in the fairy chimneys surrounding Uçhisar castle in Cappadocia, Turkey

Rock-cut dwellings in the fairy chimneys surrounding Uçhisar castle in Cappadocia, Turkey

“The sunset view from the terrace of our hotel at Uçhisar, ranging across the valley, was impressive and beautiful. It brought to my mind the original accounts by the early 20th century explorers and travellers in the area – the pioneers who discovered Cappadocia and its exotic volcanic landscape undergoing intense erosion. Admiring the multi-coloured tufa rock, I also thought of Strabo, the Greco-Roman geographer who knew the region well: “where the original base stands proud, one finds veins of rock crystal, onyx and gypsum, and the red clay from which the Hittites made pottery...”

Cappadocia is also well known for its wide variety of traditional restaurants, offering delicious meals of regional specialities. You can also savour many of the area's well known local red wines.

A rock-cut church in the verdant Ihlara valley in Cappadocia, Turkey

A rock-cut church in the verdant Ihlara valley

“That same evening, I enjoyed some outstanding traditional Turkish cooking on the veranda of a restaurant overlooking the Valley of the Pigeons (Güvercinlik); the local meze (an assortment of small dishes), pide (Turkish pies), grilled meats and vine leaves in the style of the house, perfectly matched by a glass of excellent red wine from the area.”

But such necessary indulgences aside, most of her trip was spent on the main task. She reconnoitred different parts of Cappadocia, walked through famous volcanic valleys and explored countless archaeological and historical sites.

Heading for Ihlara, my colleague and I stopped by the famous ancient underground city of Kaymaklı, taking time to explore its long-gone troglodytic way of life. Later, we reached the Ihlara valley, where in summer the slopes are shaded by poplars and fruit trees. At the bottom of the canyon-like valley, lined by many rock-cut churches located at the intersection of cliffs and scree, we reached the mid-point of our walking route: a little open-air tavern offered rest and refreshment. In the afternoon, we strolled around Mustafapaşa (Sinasos), a large formerly Greek village. Its restored houses feature sumptuously sculpted façades.”

Dome fresco of Christ in Karanlık Kilise in the Göreme Archaeological Park in Cappadocia, Turkey

Dome fresco of Christ (11th century) in Karanlık Kilise, Göreme Archaeological Park

The region is enormously important for its Byzantine heritage: its numerous rock-cut churches, many of which still bear rich fresco decoration in remarkably vivid colours e.g. the many churches in the Göreme Archaeological Park, including the celebrated Karanlık Kilise.

But there are so many highlights in Cappadocia: others phases of the area's history, and also with its fascinating geology and its remarkable natural beauty:

We devoted an entire afternoon to walking in the Red Valley, without doubt one of he most fascinating excursions in the region. In all of rocky Cappadocia, there is no place more exotic, more unique than this valley, where erosion has reshaped the magmatic stone by cutting vales and gorges, dissolving the softer rocks and sculpting radiant pleated surfaces, creating am extraordinary flowering of mineral shape and colour. Cones, pyramids, fairy chimneys and round domes occur in all the varied hues of tufa: from white via yellow to pink, depending on the density and the chemical composition of the rock.”

It is clear that Nota can hardly wait to go back to Cappadocia:

Fascinating rock formations in the Red Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey

Fascinating rock formations in the Red Valley

“My thoughts often return to Cappadocia, that crossroads of varied civilisations and cultures, a place where the present meets the past across a complex and enigmatic history.

In spite of the fact that I have visited the area often, and have studied it for many years, Cappadocia remains a world apart, both mysterious and alluring. Its rich and exciting history, its ancient architecture – pagan or Christian – arouses lasting curiosity and fascination.

And there is always more to discover: another beautiful landscape, a church, a temple, frescoes that range between the finest Byzantine art and a more naive “provincial” style, local products such as the famous dried apricots, savoury pies, and the superb local wine (which is just now being discovered on the international circuit), as well as the generous hospitality of the locals...”

 A trip to Turkey is not complete without an amazing voyage through this remarkable ancient land. Do join one of our expert-led tours of Cappadocia.

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