A fragment of another planet,
a mirage of stone in the heart of Anatolia... There
are parts of the Earth which do not seem really belong
to; Cappadocia is one of them, a strange and spectacular
landscape from the pages of science fiction. It is an
extraordinary region, unmatched in the world. A fascinating
beauty. An incredible harmony of shapes and colors.
An ideal landscape for history and art lovers.
What could possibly lie behind the creation of such
an alien place?
The name “Cappadocia” dates back to Persian
times, when the region was called as “katpatukya”
meaning “Land of Beautiful Horses”. Since
that time Cappadocia has seen the rise and fall of many
different civilizations. It is a land of vast plains,
rolling hills, rugged mountains and extinct volcanoes.
It is a veritable treasure of historical relics from
the Chalcolithic era to the Seljuk Turks period. The
visitor may seldom travel more then a few miles without
encountering some wonderful reminders of Cappadocia's
In recent times, Cappadocia became famous for its unique
landscape of valleys and unusual rock formations, known as
chimneys". The formation of this strange landscape
during the third geological period, when three volcanoes
located on the edges of this region began erupting frequently.
The deposits of volcanoes ash, lava and basalt laid
the foundations for today's landscape. Earthquakes and
ongoing effects of erosion have contributed to form the valleys and
chimneys" that can be seen today.
As the rock below the top layer of basalt is extremely
soft, it can be easily carved. Communities took advantage
of this to make their home in the rock pillars and under
the ground. Today, these examples of homes, churches and whole
cities abound in Cappadocia.
The surrealistic geological formation of Cappadocia
is one of the wonders of the world. It is the result
of the natural forces during the intense volcanic activity.
In addition to the European Alps, the Taurus Mountains
of southern Anatolia were formed during the Tertiary
period of geological development (65 million to 2 million
years ago). During the "Alpine period" of
mountain-building, deep fissures and large depressed
areas were created. The fracturing process allowed the
subsurface magma (rocks in their molten state) to find
its way to the surface where it formed the Erciyes,
Develi, Melendiz, Kegiboydoran, and Hasan Dag
After numerous eruptions these cones increased
in size and formed a chain of volcanoes running parallel
to the Taurus Mountains. Also the volcanic material
slowly ran towards the depressed areas and covered the previously
formed hills and valleys. This geological activity changed
the general landscape of the region, giving it the appearance
of a plateau.
Wind, climate, mechanical weathering, rain, snow, and rivers
caused the erosion
giving to Cappadocia its unusual and characteristic
The Cappadocian climate, with sharp changes of temperature,
heavy rains, and melting snow in the spring, plays an
important role in the formation of the Cappadocian landscape.
In addition, mechanical weathering is responsible for
fragmentation because rocks expand when heated and break
up as they cool. Frozen water in the cracks can also
cause fragmentation. However, the most important sources
of erosion are rain and rivers. Heavy rainfall transformed
the smooth surface of the plateau into a complex pattern
of gullies that followed preexisting fissures in the
rocks. Eroded materials were then removed by the rivers.
Sometime streams and rivers made very sharp vertical
cuts into the volcanic soil and created isolated pinnacles
at the intersection of two or more gullies. Rain and
rivers also formed valleys such as Zelve and Goreme.
GEOLOGICAL MARVELS OF THE REGION
“Fairy chimneys" were formed when lava covering
the tuff (consolidated volcanic ash) gave way along
preexisting cracks of sloping areas and became isolated
pinnacles. They can attain a height of up to forty
meters, have conical shapes and consist of caps of
harder rock resting on pillars of softer rock.
A "fairy chimney" exists until the neck of the cone
erodes and its protective cap falls off. The subsequent
disintegration of the remaining pinnacle continues until
it is completely leveled down.
Erciyes, located to the southwest of Kayseri, is the
tallest volcano in Central Anatolia and covers almost
1,500 square kilometers. The cessation of volcanic
activity and the ensuing erosion of the central crater
give Erciyes the appearance of being much older than
other volcanoes in the region.
Because Erciyes was always snow-covered, the Hittites
(second millennium to 1200 BC) called it "Harkasos"
or "White Mountain." The Hittite pantheon
included a number of mountain gods, including Erciyes.
From the region of Imamkulu in Cappadocia, a 13th century
BC Hittite rock carving depicting a storm god above
three mountain gods, furnishes proof of the Hittite
veneration of Cappadocian volcanoes. In fact, a man-made
tunnel discovered near the summit of Erciyes might have
been used for worshipping the mountain.
It is highly probable that a link exists between the
Greek legend of Typhon and Zeus and the volcanoes of
Cappadocia. According to the legend, Typhon was an enormous
monster with horrible dragon heads, countless coiled
serpents for legs and arms, and a mouth emitting flaming
rocks. Volcanic eruptions were said to be the battle
between Typhon and Zeus, the only god who stood firm
against the monster from Cilicia (of which Cappadocia
was a part). A Hittite bas-relief from Malatya dating
from 1000 BC portrays the weather god (prototype of
Zeus) slaying a coiled serpent. Flames and volcanic
bombs issue from the serpent's body, which might symbolize
In ancient times Erciyes was known as "Argeus"
and was mentioned by many historians, including the
famous 1st century geographer Strabo, who claimed one
could see the "Black Sea" and "Mediterranean
Sea" from the top of Erciyes. Although Strabo erroneously
identified these bodies of water, his comments nevertheless
indicate that large lakes existed nearby in central
Anatolia. He further described Erciyes and the surrounding
area as having vast marshes emitting fire and smoke.
During Roman times most of the coins minted in Kayseri
had images of Erciyes, since the early Hittite cult
of mountain worship merged with the Roman veneration
of their emperors and Zeus (Jupiter). Numerous statues
from that area also depict Erciyes and demonstrate the
degree to which it was venerated by the people of Cappadocia.
In much later times the renowned 16th century Turkish
architect Sinan, a native of Kayseri, was inspired by
Erciyes's conical form. This influence can be seen in
his masterpiece, the Suleymaniye mosque in Istanbul,
whose silhouette reflects the conical shape of Erciyes.
On the way to Goreme near Aksaray lies Hasan Dag, one
of the most impressive volcanoes in Anatolia. Hasan
Dag consists of two summits, and rises almost 3,300
meters above sea level. Although Hasan Dag and Erciyes
were formed at the same time, Hasan Dag looks much younger
because of constant eruptions through its central vent.
THE KIZILIRMAK / RED RIVER
The Kizilirmak, the longest river (1,182 kilometers)
in Turkey, starts in the eastern part of Turkey and
makes a great circle in Central Anatolia before flowing
into the Black Sea. It was called the "Red River"
due to the soil that colored the water. This river,
known to the Hittites as "Marassantiya" and
to the Greeks and Romans as "Hallys", was
historically important. According to Herodotus, the
Hallys divided Anatolia into two major parts, "the
Black Sea shores" and "the land facing Cyprus,"
and formed a natural border between the Persian and
the Lydian empires.
Before his campaign against Persia, the Lydian King
Croesus consulted an oracle that predicted, "If
you cross the Hallys, a great empire will be destroyed."
Croesus interpreted this in a favorable way and had
the Greek philosopher and physicist Thales diverts the
Hallys so that Croesus' armies could cross the dry river
bed. However, this ingenious solution did not save him
from defeat at the hands of his enemy, Cyrus the Great
THE MELENDIZ AND THE IHLARA VALLEY
The Melendiz, one of the most important rivers in Cappadocia,
originates in Sultan Pinari on the outskirts of Melendiz
Dag to the south of Nevsehir. It is fed by many sources,
passes between the villages of Ihlara and Selime, and
disappears into the marshy area surrounding Salt Lake.
Over thousands of years the Melendiz cut a path through
the rocks to form the vertically-walled Ihlara valley,
an area fourteen kilometers long and up to one hundred
meters deep. The canyon eventually attracted human beings,
who made rock-cut dwellings, storage areas, monasteries,
and churches in the canyon walls.
Salt Lake is the second largest lake in Turkey and was
at one time twice its present size. The Melendiz furnishes
Salt Lake with fresh water, and a subterranean source
supplies it with a vast amount of salt water. During
the summer heavy layers of salt can reach a thickness
of up to thirty centimeters along the shore. In the
spring a variety of birds such as flamingos, cranes,
and sea gulls can be seen on Salt Lake.