There's nowhere else in the world quite like this region in eastern Anatolia, Turkey. Made up of several small villages, Cappadocia (pronounced Kap-a-dokia) is a UNESCO world heritage site. With settlements that date back to the 8th century B.C., thousands of years of rich history provide visitors with plenty to see and do, in addition to luxury accommodations and shopping.
Natural wonders are the No. 1 attraction in Cappadocia, with unique rock formations of the fairy chimneys (tall, thin spires of sedimentary or volcanic rock) covering much of the land. While the area has been home to the Hittites, Phrygians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks and Ottomans, it was the early Christians who perhaps left the most fascinating mark in Cappadocia's many caves. There are some 3,000 rock churches in the area, from a time when the early Christians hid in the region to escape persecution. The Goreme Open Air Museum allows visitors to tour the preserved living spaces and chapels, which feature stunningly intricate frescoes of prominent early figures in the church.
Those who aren't claustrophobic should visit the many underground cities in the area. The network of tunnels in the Kaymakli Underground City in Nevsehir extend at least four floors underneath the surface. Archaeologists estimate that the cities were created between the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. for people hoping to hide from neighboring enemies.
Hot air ballooning is a popular activity for visitors to the region. At sunrise, the area is peppered with ascending balloons that overlook the various rock formations.
Ceramics are a specialty of Cappadocia. Omurlu Ceramic in Avanos hosts tourists for a look at how the traditional Hittite designs are hand-painted onto cookware, vases and decanters.
Turkish rugs are one of the prime exports of both this region and the country as a whole. Showrooms will host tourists for a look at how the carpets are made. Expect your host to apply a bit of pressure to purchase some wares, but never accept the first price. Haggling is a necessary part of the transaction.
Out of the many lovely accommodations available in the area, the Museum Hotel has the distinction of doubling as a tourist attraction in its own right. Renovated from ancient ruins in 1998, the hotel makes use of the cave dwellings that populate so much of the landscape in the region. Each room blends the rustic nature of the raw stone walls (originally inhabited by nomads called the Tekeli clan) with luxurious antique furniture and artifacts from the Museum of Nevsehir.