Cappadocia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. A fantasy land of fairy chimneys and churches cut out of soft rock formations rising up in cone-like protrusions, the region was a Roman province and the refuge of persecuted Christians during the early days of the Roman Empire. Cappadocia is well known for its rock churches that date to the period of the persecution and for its underground cities, amazingly intricate systems of tunnels cut into mountains of rock.
The uniqueness of the region was formed by the eruption of Mt. Erciyes (ancient Mt. Argaeus) and Mt. Hasan some 10 million years ago, which spread a thick layer of ash over the area. This hardened into a soft porous stone called tufa. During the following centuries, erosion from rain and wind created valleys in the soft rock that left behind higher sections of interesting formations called “fairy chimneys”. The land is surprisingly fertile. Farmers plant various vegetables and trees. Also, winery is an important industry in the region. People still live in rock carved dwellings as they lived centuries ago, which is cool in summer and warm in winter.
The Cappadocia area was ruled by a series of small, independent states, under priest-kings as early as the 6th century B.C. Herodotus mentions it as the region between Phrygia and Cilicia in the 5th century B.C. Xenophon mentions people living underground in his book Anabasis although the earliest residents are unknown. In 17 A.D. Tiberius made the region a Roman Province. It became a sanctuary for Christians who hid in the existing underground cities and made their own mark by carving several thousand churches and monasteries. When the Arabs started their raids in the 7th and 8th centuries, they again went underground and continued carving elaborate cities.
Cappadocia has so much to offer in terms of nature, history, and culture, that a visitor should plan for at least three days to fully appreciate the area.