Natalie Sayin – – reflects on one of her favourite escapes – Cappadocia.

HEAD east from Altinkum to the central Anatolian plains of Turkey and you will eventually arrive at Cappadocia, a large region with a rugged lunar-like landscape, scattered with large boulders shaped into weird formations.

natalie_sayinThey are so weird that for centuries locals have called them fairy chimneys, although other examples portray giant mushrooms and even a camel.

The official name for these geographical marvels is ‘hoodoo’. Formed over millions of years by Mother-Nature herself, they are the remains of a volcanic eruption from the domineering Mount Erciyes combined with constant wind erosion.

However Cappadocia can also be called the land of caves. For hundreds of years, locals carved caves and entire buildings out of these rocks.

These days, strict preservation laws and modern technology, means the hundreds of cave hotels and houses make you feel like you are living in a modern-day Fred Flintstone era.

Indeed you haven’t really explored Turkey, until you’ve stayed in a cave hotel in Cappadocia.

Soganli-Valley-Cappadocia-TurkeyThree to four days is all that’s needed to explore the major highlights of which the top activity is a sunrise hot air balloon trip over the fairy chimneys.

Obviously not suited to people who don’t like heights, every time I have been to Cappadocia, my fear has overwhelmed me. Needless to say, the activity is still on my travel list of things to do.

One activity I excel at though, is exploring underground cities in particular, the most famous called Derinkuyu.

Dating from the Byzantine era, it opened to tourists in 1969 and visitors can tour half the 60-metre deep city that housed 20,000 people and their livestock.

Mainly used during the Arab invasions of the 7th century, locals shut themselves for six months or more in the underground city that had a school, chapel, morgue, winery and even facilities to deal with people who went mad because of lack of sunlight.

Kubbeli-Kilise-SoganliCappadocia’s other claim to fame is the 3,000 plus ancient cave churches of which the best examples are in the UNESCO Goreme Open Air Museum.

The ceilings of the Saint Barbara, Snake and Apple churches all display marvellous 4th century frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible.

As a region, that helped spread the beginnings of Christianity, historians have also traced the story of Saint George; the Patron Saint of England back to Cappadocia, so just these two examples is enough for any Christian who enjoys travelling to visit the area.

Other than that, hiking, trekking, and photography are all favoured activities of Cappadocia.

Goreme-UNESCO-site-in-Cappadocia-TurkeyAs a destination that is open for tourism all year round, if the winter months in Turkey are boring for you, book yourself on a 4-day getaway to Fred Flintstone’s hunting ground and the land where fairies live.

How to get there: Metro Turizm run direct overnight buses from Didim to Goreme, the tourism centre of Cappadocia. If the 14-hour trip is too much, book a flight to Kayseri or Nevsehir, which have a transfer time of approximately an hour.