Up Up and Away!
Best ways to explore Cappadocia and its famed Fairy Chimneys
In the wee hours of the morning long before the sun begins to rise, people begin making their way to the lift off site. The only light to be seen in the distance is the light from the flames as they begin the process of filling giant, colorful balloons with the hot air needed to begin lift off. Luckily the early morning weather conditions in Cappadocia are some of the best in the world for ballooning. Once the ok is given, the baskets, now full of excited passengers waiting for a once in a life time experience, begin their ascent gently gliding up, up, up into the air. Whether Joining the fun in the air, or being part of the many people who fill the park pre-dawn to watch from down below, the experience is breathtaking. A symphony of colorful balloons, well over a hundred, dotting the skies and dancing above one of the most beautiful natural rock formations in the world.
Floating above Cappadocia
In Anatolia,Turkey, just a short flight from Istanbul, you’ll find the beautiful region of Cappadocia. This treasured UNESCO site is home to colorful valleys, unusual rock formations, a multitude of cave dwellings, completely carved and once hidden underground cities, and beautifully frescoed Byzantine churches. Here the valleys, hills and rock formations of this region, form one of the most unusual landscapes in the world. Rock formations that truly allow ones imagination to run wild.
At first glance you might think you were looking at an image of the moon or maybe Mars but these incredible natural formations were created millions of years ago. A volcanic eruption covered the zone in multiple layers of volcanic ash and soft volcanic rock. Natural erosion wore away the softer material sometimes leaving pieces of the harder more durable basalt on top many times resembling a strange hat.
A Hikers Paradise
The region is made up of a many valleys. Each valley has very distinct characteristics and each one worthy of exploration should you have the time. Rose Valley, Red Valley and White Valley take their names from the color of the formations which become brighter and deeper with the reflection of the sun at various times of the day. Here both sunrise and sunset can be spectacular to see.
The stories of the various valleys and the people who lived in them are a fascinating piece of Cappadocia’s rich and ancient history. Monk Valley for example, is named for the story of the monk, St. Simeon. Legend has it that in trying to escape the fame caused by his reputation as a healer and worker of miracles, he came to Cappadocia and carved his dwelling high up top a fairy chimney with three caps, far away from the noise of the world. It was there that he lived his life as a hermit in prayer and contemplation. This cave dwelling carved deep into the tall Fairy Chimney was the perfect place for monastic life. Later many others searching out the solitude and the peace of monastic life followed in his footsteps thus given name to the valley. These unique monastic dwellings are open to visitors and truly interesting to explore.
Fairy Chimney in Monk Valley
Valleys like Göreme, are also Open-Air Museums. Here there is so much to explore in this wonderful UNESCO site. Cave dwellings and monasteries abound. Churches colorfully frescoed in the Byzantine style. Evidence of monastic dwellings exists going back to the 4th century. The many frescoed churches date from the 9th to the 13th centuries.
Not all of the dwellings in Cappadocia are carved above ground. There are also unique troglodyte cities carved deep underground. These amazing villages kept early Christians safe from persecutions during many periods including the Arab Byzantine wars from the 8th to the 12th century but they may have been carved out by the Phrygians. These self sufficient underground locations were incredibly well hidden and the perfect hiding places for times of emergency. Well worth the visit.
Underground City Cappadocia
Castles and Picturesque Villages
Some of the tallest and largest of the Fairy Chimneys were used for yet another useful purpose. Castles! They became the perfect natural bastions, and look out points for defense and protection dating from the time of the Romans, and up to the Ottomans. Some so tall they were carved with multiple levels and floors.
There are also lovely villages to visit during your wanderings. Places to experience a slice of life from a different era, taking time to refresh and taste the flavors of Cappadocia. There are many small restaurants which serve simple yet wonderful local cuisine from the region. Shops with artisans at work on traditional crafts like the beautiful local pottery you find in the city of Avanos, made with the local red clay and brightly painted.
Handcrafted Pottery of Avanos
With so much wonder to see in Cappadocia you may choose to keep your feet planted nicely on the ground. Hiking, walking, exploring the beauty from the ground and down below the colorful, fanciful Fairy Chimneys is enough to keep you busy for days, but flying above the wonder is also a magical experience, one not soon forgotten.
Colors of Cappadocia from the Sky