We know, we know: Turkey is amazing. After all it’s a country with more than its fair share of attractions to entice travellers the world over. From the Hagia Sofya to the Blue Mosque there is living history all over the country just waiting to be enjoyed and explored. But what about those parts of a country that have nothing to do with architecture or historic landmarks? What about the natural beauty of a country? More times than not the natural is passed over for the man-made, but we implore you to get out of the cities and get into the beauty and natural wonders that Turkey has to offer.
We probably don’t have to tell you much about Cappadocia. Its unique landscape is known the world over and it is forever being shared and shown in photos. It isn’t hard to see why, either: with a moon-like landscape of deep valleys and rocky chimneys reaching towards the sky, your imagination cannot help but be sparked. It looks like a scene out of Star Wars—and that’s only with what you see on the surface. Below the funky exterior there are hundreds of caves and underground cities that tell the story of the area’s inhabitants from hundreds of years ago.
In another example of other-worldly natural beauty, Turkey is home to Pamukkale. When you look at this wonder from a distance it looks like a big pile of cotton, hence why its Turkish name translates to “cotton castle.” It is located in south-western Turkey and is a perpetual favourite of travellers. When the weather is warm, you can head to Pamukkale to swim in pools as people have for thousands of years. You may be wondering what makes these pools different from other hot springs. The huge stalactites, cascades, mineral baths, cataracts and basins are all a stark white and the waters in these pools are an ethereal bright light blue. There used to be hotels and roads that were built to ease access to Pamukkale hot springs, but when the site was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988, the hotels and roads were demolished to protect the site from any further man-made damage.
Known in Turkish as Yanartaş or 'Burning Rock', the Chimaera is a cluster of flames that blaze spontaneously from crevices on the rocky slopes of Mt Olympus. If you visit this natural wonder at night it truly will look like hell has come to earth for a visit as the 20-30 flames in the main area flicker and grow throughout the night. These flames, according to some ancient literature, gave birth to the myth of the Chimera, a fire breathing beast with the body and head of a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake's head.
Today, gas still seeps from the earth and bursts into flame upon contact with the air. The exact composition of the gas is unknown, though it is thought to contain methane. Although a flame can be extinguished by covering it, it will reignite close by into a new and separate flame.
Eastern Turkey has a landscape of a different order altogether. Here, you will find a rugged terrain with snowy dramatic peaks, including Turkey’s highest peak on Mount Ararat. This monster mountain rises dramatically from the plains a full 5,165 meters above sea level. The mountain is also considered a dormant volcano since the last eruption of Mount Ararat was way back in June of 1840. Beyond the immensity of the mountain alone, there is an additional twist to its history that may draw your attention: there are many who consider Mount Ararat the place where Noah’s Ark came to rest. Historians, scientists, archaeologists and more frequent the area looking for clues to the spots potential biblical ties.
The Caves of Heaven and Hell (“Cennet ve Cehennem” in Turkish), are located about 1.4 km northwest of Narlıkuyu on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. These caves are worth a visit as natural phenomena, and also as historical points of interest.
When you get to the park, you will first descend about 300 steps into the Byzantine chapel that sits near the cave’s mouth. You’ll be walking through nature to get to this part so pack an extra sweatshirt and a bottle of water or two to keep yourself comfortable and hydrated as you go. Once you go another 70 or so steps down, you will be able to rest on a small cleared area below the chapel. Then, yet another 100 or so steps down, will bring you into the cave itself where you should still have enough natural and artificial light to not need a flashlight. Here, you will officially be in the Cave of Heaven.
If you then want to visit the Cavern of Hell, you will be going 100 meters uphill from Heaven, where there is a smaller depression with significantly steeper sides. The steepness makes it impossible for anyone to enter, so you will be looking more than exploring here.
If you can’t wait to see the natural wonders of Turkey, get planning now. Remember, when you buy your flights, you should also consider buying travel insurance. It’s an added layer of protection against the small annoyances and potential problems that can crop up on any trip.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Deb Collins