Turkey is rapidly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and particularly the historic wonder that is Istanbul. Nonetheless, for those on a budget, Istanbul can be a little bit too expensive. For those looking for cheap Turkey holidays, however, there is a little corner of the country that is both wondrous, and little known.
Cappadocia, an eleven hour overnight bus journey from Istanbul is found nearly exactly in the middle of Turkey. It is a region that seems to have come straight out of a fairy tale, as is reflected in the name of its most famous feature ‘the Fairy Chimneys’.
Cappadocia is a volcanic landscape formed by a combination of eruption and erosion which have come together to form a surreal luna landscape. The soft rock was ideal for early settlers, who chiselled themselves grottos and entire houses from the rock itself, setting the standard for inhabitants over the next two thousand years.
During the medieval period, Cappadocia was home to Christian refugees, hiding from Romans and then latterly the Muslims who periodically swept through the region. The Christians built entire churches – of which the finest example is probably the Dark Church – inside the chimneys and decorated them with amazing frescos that have, for the most part, survived the elements and are still remarkable sights.
Underneath the spires of the Fairy Chimneys are entire subterranean cities, when threatened the locals would abandon their dwellings on the surface and take shelter under the ground. Some of the cities held as many as 10,000 people and carried many lines of defences. No one lives underground any more, but you can get a guided tour of one of the underground cities, complete with granaries, churches with baptismal pools, and stables where animals were once kept in safety.
Nowadays, many of the caves have been converted into boutique hotels, many which even include underground Turkish baths, so you don’t have to rough it out to get a feeling of what life may have been like a thousand years ago. At the end of a long day sightseeing, you can even enjoy a glass of wine from the region. Cappadocia’s history of viticulture goes back 4,000 years and you’ll see why as soon as you taste the first drop.
Although staying in the caves is expensive, transport is not particularly, and its well worth splashing just a little extra cash to spend a night in one of the most remarkably located hotels on the planet.