“Altogether these rock formations and the multitude of excavated dwellings… appear to me now the most wonderful thing I have ever been permitted to rest my eyes upon in all my travels and among all the wonderfully interesting things it has been my good fortune to see in the land of wonders.” So wrote John Henry Haynes, the father of American archaeological photography, in 1884, and some of his pictures were reproduced in Cornucopia 44. A visitor today will be similarly awed at the famous fairy chimneys, rock-cut Byzantine churches and lunar landscapes. The volcanic lands of Cappadocia stretch across 400km of the high plateau of central Anatolia. Once the Hittites’ domain, its later warlords were famous for their horsemanship, and from their number came the powerful Comnenus dynasty of Byzantium. Cappadocia’s ancient name was Katpatuka, meaning Land of the Beautiful Horse, and for a remarkable 30-page feature in Cornucopia 35 photographer Jürgen Frank saddled up to capture the beauty of the landscape while Susan Wirth described a five-day ride from Avanos to Mustafasa
One of the best ways to view the extraordinary rock formations is by hot-air balloon. On land there is a panoramic view from the citadel at Üçhisar with the the snow-capped capped Erciyes Dağı to the east, a reminder of the volcanic eruption that created this unique landscape. Cappadocia’s man-made achievements lie underground, in communities carved out of the soft volcanic tuff in what the Byzantines called the Land of the Troglodytes. Hermits and monks came here from the 4th century, and the 3,000 churches and chambers around the provincial capital of Nevşehir, ancient Nyssa, date largely from the 9th century. The concentration of painted churches and monasteries at Göreme has become an open air museum.
Underground cities can be visited at Derinkuyu, Ürgüp and Kaymaklı, all within easy striking distance of Nevşehir, and at Ozkonak near the ceramic town of Avanos. Ürgüp is a good base for visiting the area. The ash and lava fields created fertile valleys of fruit and sunflowers and its winelands are described in Cornucopia 31. The 15km Ilhara canyon, known as Anatolia’s Garden of Eden, is the most spectacular gorge in the region.
The transport hub is the provincial capital of Nevşehir, where there is an airport, though the airport at Kayseri has more flights and rail connections. Göreme is 290 miles southeast of Ankara, 70km from Kayseri and 18km from Nevşehir.