Hiking in Cappadocia: The Freakiest Landscape on Earth

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Of all the landscapes in the world, there is NOWHERE that looks like Cappadocia.

That’s what drew me to this region of central Turkey — this freaky, otherworldly landscape.  During the Tertiary period (65 million to 2 million years ago), volcanic activity formed the mountains in the region.  Over the next few millions of years, volcanic activity and rapidly changing temperatures led to the “fairy chimneys” and unusual cones.

Cappadocia (pronounced cap-pa-DO-kee-ya) is a region and is comprised of several towns.  I flew to Kayseri and took a shuttle to Goreme, Cappadocia’s most popular backpacker town (though these days it’s becoming increasingly upmarket).

I arrived here in late November, and it was very cold — around freezing.  While no snow had fallen yet, the town was deserted nonetheless.  And, to be quite frank, it freaked me out.  Nobody was around.  I was always looking over my shoulder, feeling like a target.

I wouldn’t recommend visiting Goreme in the winter.

But there is far, FAR more to Cappadocia than just Goreme, and I knew I had to explore more of Cappadocia.

Luckily, at WTM in London a few weeks before, I had met Ali of Anahita Travel, a Cappadocia-based travel agency, and he invited me on a tour of Goreme National Park and the surrounding countryside.

We covered so much ground in Goreme National Park, including Pigeon Valley, the Sword Valley, the Red Valley and Rose Valleys #1 and #2.

I could not have had a better guide than Ali!  Ali has lived his whole life in Cappadocia, and he knows the landscape incredibly well.  We hiked together for hours and he wove history, geology, folklore, language, and religion into a tapestry that gave me an understanding of the landscape.

Check out this video, which showed the view of the Sword Valley:

The most fascinating part of Cappadocia by far?  The cave churches, which are built right into the fairy chimneys and other parts of the landscape.

This church was one of the biggest surprises I’ve ever seen while traveling.  We climbed up a ladder into a nondescript cave and found this meticulously carved church with incredible acoustics.  (Yes, Ali made me sing.)

Other churches featured frescoes:

As I mentioned before, Goreme was deserted.  This was true on the hiking trail as well, and Ali and I saw fewer than five people over the course of the day.  (For this reason, always make sure to have a partner when hiking in Cappadocia.)

Soon, it was time for lunch.

And Ali pulled out some sausages, hot peppers, and a loaf of bread!  We built a little fire and roasted them in the sun.

Eating food you cook yourself over a fire after hiking for a few hours?  There’s no better lunch in the world.

I’m so glad that I got to hike into the hills of Cappadocia with an expert — it was a fantastic way to see this region and it remains one of my favorite days in Turkey.

I received a complimentary guided hike of Cappadocia from Anahita Travel.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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21 thoughts on “Hiking in Cappadocia: The Freakiest Landscape on Earth”

  1. Hey, just wanted to say that I love your blog. I’m planning my first backpacking trip this summer to se Asia with my wife. We are both in our 20’s and from the US. She is terrified of going. I think I will show her your blog. It might help. Thanks!

  2. Great post, we were in Cappadocia around October, and whilst it wasn’t as cold, I found it equally amazing. I guess it would have added to the eeriness of Goreme’s ‘moonscape’ being one of few people there! And yes, your lunch looked delicious!

  3. I love your post, it make me want to go there and this those cones between the houses…. It must be really beautful, and as you said really cold too…Are you still over there?

  4. I loved Cappadocia. It’s actually one of my favorite places on earth 🙂 Perhaps because it brings such great memories of my honeymoon back in 2009 🙂

  5. Wow! I honestly had no idea this place even existed! It looks incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it. The cave churches are just spectacular – how many are there?

  6. One of the coolest places on earth, I thought. Did you get to the Dark Church? The best preserved of all of them, none of the faces gouged out and really rich colors! Where did you stay?

  7. Hey Kate, I just stumbled on your website and have been reading vigorously. My wife and I were in Cappadocia in Dec 2011, did the balloon ride and the hike, so definitely can relate to your posts. We’re going to Bali in about a month, so I’ve been reading your posts on that as well. Looked like that shipwreck was quite an adventure. And I also lived in Boston for 8 years and it was interesting to read some of your posts on the city.

    I saw you have South Africa coming up on your itinerary. Do Kruger for sure. We rented a car and drove ourselves, tremendous. Keep up the good work!

  8. Hi Kate!!!

    It’s me again! You probably won’t remember — but I needed some help when I went to Mt. Ijen in Surabaya! Thanks soooo much for that help!!

    Now, I’m up and about planning for my Turkey trip in 3 weeks. 😀

    I needed some help — and figured that you’d be the best person who could help me! I’m planning to do a DIY in Turkey — covering these few places: landing in Istanbul — Cappadocia — Pamukkale — Ephesus — Canakkale (Troy). Do you have any recommendations on how can I go about doing this without going mad? The long hours in between are insane (the bus rides I mean). I’d also want to make a stop over to Greece (Athens/Santorini) and I’m not sure where’s the best place in Turkey that I should get a flight from onwards to Turkey.

    Any help would be amazing! Thank you as always! :))


    1. Hi, Shehnas —

      Check out Pegasus Airlines. They are Turkey’s budget airline and they fly all over both domestically and internationally, including to Greece! Have fun!

  9. Hi Kate,
    I really want to go to Turkey this October.
    I would probably be going without anyone since people seem to be pretty scared of Turkey these days.
    It’s been strongly suggested to me that I take a tour so that in case of any emergencies, I have some support. I don’t have friends in Turkey.
    I’m a blonde with blue eyes and I don’t think I’d fit in, and I’ve been told harassment would probably be an issue by a woman who’s been to Turkey, who strongly recommended a tour.

    Do you think it’s really not the right time to go to Turkey now? As it is, I live in Paris so I’m well aware anything can happen anywhere.
    I’ve done a fair amount of solo travel but mostly in Western and Central Europe and have visited Morocco, just got back from Albania, although both were with friends. Just hit my 30th country actually, and I’m concerned a tour would be as miserable as the cruise through the Greek Isles I did with a friend who had less travel experience, although it could also be as magical and show me things I would have missed like the 2 day 3 night standard Sahara tour I did from Marrakech. Of course, I could have gotten to the desert myself, but all the little stops and the fact all I had to do was show up made it worth any small premium I paid.
    Another possible advantage of a tour is to see a lot in a small amount of time with all the logistics taken care of, and I only have 2 weeks to play with. If I love Turkey, I can come back again and see the parts I really like in more depth but I’m looking to do the Istabnul- Cappadocia- Konya- Coast-Ephesus- Troy- Istanbul route in about 14 days. I’m not much of a lingerer and like to be on the move so not so worried about that aspect of tours.

    Thanks in advance for any guidance you can provide, I know this is a totally unoriginal question of which you probably get thousands for any given destination.

    1. Hi, MJ —

      The thing is, I can’t make that decision for you. Only you can.

      I’ve known plenty of women who have traveled safely through Turkey, including now. The decision is yours and yours alone to make.

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