After a wildly successful summer, Turkey is reveling in its reputation as an international hotspot that tourists just can’t seem to get enough of.
One of the country’s most coveted destinations, Cappadocia, just broke its all-time tourism record, hosting over 3,000,000 tourists in the past eight months alone.
In comparison, the previous record was set in 2022, when 2.5 million tourists visited the Turkish region from January to August.
So, what’s making travelers flock to Cappadocia in record numbers?
Unearthly Landscapes and Fairy Chimneys
The landscapes in Cappadocia are truly otherworldly, featuring thousands of soft, cone-shaped rock formations usually known as fairy chimneys.
These stunning natural wonders have been sculpted over millions of years through erosion and volcanic activity, resulting in a surreal terrain that looks like it belongs in a fantasy novel.
Some even describe the landscape as what they imagine Mars or another neighboring planet to look like, as there simply isn’t anything else like it on Earth.
While similarly-shaped formations, like hoodoos, can be found in other places in the world, the term “fairy chimney” is generally used to refer to the specific shapes and nature of the natural structures found in Cappadocia, Turkey – that’s just how one-of-a-kind they are.
If that’s not enough to convince you to plan your next sightseeing trip here, the formations are further complemented by the ancient cave dwellings and churches carved into the soft tuff rock.
The best way to experience the entire surreal landscape of Cappadocia is to embark on one of the many hiking trails in the area; however, make sure to research a route you feel comfortable tackling.
After all, you won’t have much breath left to spare after witnessing the jaw-dropping views.
Rich Historical and Cultural Heritage
The region where modern-day Cappadocia is located is believed to have formed over 60 million years ago, giving winds, erosion, and volcanic eruptions just enough time to form the majestic landscape we can marvel at today.
However, the abundant natural wonders are far from the only historical heritage the region has managed to hold onto.
Cappadocia has long been a center of civilization, homing some of history’s most well-known societies, including the Hittites, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans.
The wonderfully diverse cultural heritage is apparent in the numerous historical attractions you’ll find in the area, including rock-cut churches, unique frescoes, and the fascinating underground cities that dot the entire region.
If you’re ever in the area, though, your first order of business should be a visit to the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features everything we’ve talked about so far and more.
Hot Air Ballooning Over Cappadocia’s Skies
Upon reading the word “Cappadocia,” chances are your mind immediately went to the hot ballon-filled skies you’ve seen in hundreds of Instagram pictures.
The reason why the region is so heavily associated with hot air balloons is the fact that both the landscape and the weather make for the perfect setting for a serene ride through the Turkish skies.
However, it’s worth noting that Cappadocia will rarely look like the pictures you’ve seen online – that is, unless you time your visit carefully enough.
Most hot air balloon rides take place from April to November, as that’s when weather conditions are most favorable.
In July, you’ll be able to experience the stunning Balloon Fest Cappadocia, an event that spans four days and honors the region’s prized tradition.
During these days, the sky is filled with hundreds of balloons that create the jaw-dropping panorama we’ve come to expect from Cappadocia, and, best of all – the event is entirely free!
Unique Cave Accommodations
One of the features that sets Cappadocia apart from other historical hotspots is the fact that you won’t only get to see the carved churches and underground cities during your sightseeing trips, but you’ll also get to experience staying at a cave hotel or suite yourself!
The area is filled with charming, unique accommodation options that are carved directly into the soft rock that comprises the very landscape you’ll be fawning over throughout your trip.
Make no mistake, the rooms are filled with all the modern amenities you might expect from a hotel, with the added bonus of having access to stunning panoramic terraces.
Culinary Delights and Local Experiences
No trip to Turkey is complete without a run-through of local dishes and delicacies.
Regional specialties in Cappadocia include testi kebab, manti, and kuru fasulye, which are best followed by a classic Turkish dessert. My top choice would be a pistachio baklava.
You’ll also be delighted to hear that the region has a long winemaking history, with local producers making a diverse range of wines year-round depending on the weather, season, and specific location.
If you’re not sure what type of wine to get just yet, I’d recommend stopping by one of the many wine-tasting shops in the area.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com