Walking within the furrows of the valleys is like strolling amid a storybook land. The region's conical rock formations, known locally as 'fairy chimneys', could have been plucked straight out of a child's imagination. Just as amazing as these moonscape sweeps of natural scenery is the human history that can be explored here.Whichever way you choose to explore, when you land back on earth after your hot air balloon ride, it's time to pull on your hiking boots and stride into the valleys themselves. To sample a great cross-section of both cultural history and natural wonder, here are three of the best valleys for walkers.
Çat Valley missed the region's tourism boom in a big way. Hikers walking through this wide valley, hemmed in by high-rise cliffs, rarely see anyone except the odd farmer grazing his cows. The visitors may be missing but this valley is home to some of Cappadocia's best pigeon-house art. The cotes pockmark the cliff faces here. Their slim entrances, chiselled into the rock high above, are bordered by decorations of simple scrolling patterns, 'tree of life' motifs and whimsical daisy chains. Hikers follow the valley until it opens out into a field of poplar trees and then ends at the ruins of Açiksaray; a 9th-century group of churches.
The local Christians were persecuted, first by the Romans and then raiding Muslims, and they often had to hide from hostile forces. When they heard hoof beats, they would abandon the cave churches and go underground - quite literally. Beneath Cappadocia’s rock formations is a network of subterranean cities, which housed up to 10,000 people each. The largest discovered are almost ten levels deep, with narrow passages connecting the floors like hamster tunnels.
Touring the cities, you pass stables with handles used to tether the animals, churches with altars and baptism pools, walls with air circulation holes, granaries with grindstones and blackened kitchens with ovens. The ventilation shafts were disguised as wells, and chunky rolling-stone doors served as last lines of defence. Not many artefacts remain - the inhabitants took their possessions when they returned to the surface - but the cities give a sense of life continuing in tough conditions.