Turkey has become quite the hot travel destination in the past few years. And while Antalya and Istanbul are probably high on your cities to hit in the country, make sure you also star the Cappadocian region on your map; Cappadocia is a Turkish travel gem. Located in the center of the Anatolian Region of Turkey, Cappadocia is widely known for its unique volcanic moonscape, and is home to incredible underground cities, rock houses, and world famous balloon tours.
Cappadocia owes its breathtaking landscape to volcanic eruptions in several of the surrounding regions of the area. Combine that with the erosion of the Kizilirmak River and thousands of years of wind, and you get the famous "fairy chimneys," one of the many wondrous natural formations you'll find here.
For all you culture and history buffs, Cappadocia is steeped in ancient history dating back to the late Bronze Age under the rule of the Hittite Empire. The city is also rich in religious culture as there are over a thousand churches and chapels in the region; the natural rock served as a great foundation for arches, columns, pillars, and aisles. When you explore some of these churches, be sure to keep an eye out for indigenous decorations such as painted frescoes – they are continually undergoing restoration.
When to go: The best time to visit Cappadocia is from April to the middle of June and September–October. Temperature change is drastic in the region from day to night, and can be uncomfortable for those traveling out of the realm of these months. If you're traveling from either Antalya or Istanbul, either rent a car (the drive can be upwards of eight hours), or fly direct from Istanbul to Cappadocia's airport in Nevsehir. You can fly from Antalya as well, but flights are less convenient. You can also take a bus to the region from many major cities. When you book your trip, if you're looking to do some major exploring, choose from the three main areas to stay in (they have the most activities): Urgup, Goreme, or Avanos.
What to do: Don't miss out on an incredible balloon tour where you can see the deep canyons and valleys of Cappadocia from a bird's eye view. The balloon tours begin everyday at sunrise and run for about an hour. Since this is an extremely popular activity, rates vary among the countless companies in the area. Love souvenirs? Many balloon companies allow you to get your own flight certificate after the tour. Dress comfortably and don't forget your camera! You won't want to miss a minute of this once in a lifetime experience.
What is the coolest place you've ever been to or seen? Tell us below!