Wandering through Turkey, you’re going to end up seeing fairy chimneys in Cappadocia! It’s absolutely inevitable! You’re also going to head to Goreme – which is a town of cave dwellers (people live in caves … so do tourists), even more fairy chimneys, rock-cut churches adorned with ancient Christian frescoes and underground cities. I’ve seen photos of the famous ‘fairy chimneys’ for years, but nothing quite prepares you for this bizarre almost Martian landscape; not that I’ve been to Mars – it’s what I imagine it to be. These tall stone formations look like they have mushroomed up randomly, some in valleys, others on the side of the road. They have of course been there for thousands of years, and the modern-day and now very touristy town of Goreme has been built around them.
What is a Fairy Chimney?
You’re probably wondering by now what a fairy chimney and how it came into being. The region of Cappadocia is made up of valleys, canyons and large areas of volcanic rock. With volcanic activity, a soft layer of solidified ash covered the landscape. This layer known as “tufa”, was ideal for carving out homes, stables and places of worship many centuries ago during the middle ages – it has also been eroded by strong winds, weather and flood waters to create the bizarre shaped peaks known as fairy chimneys. Cappadocia was inhabited as early as the Hittite era around 1800 to 1200 BC. Its history goes back in time with many different clans making the dusty terrain their home. It eventually became home to early Christians during the 4th century who sort refuge from the Romans. Today, many of these dwellings have been converted into museums, cave hotels or dovecotes. The strong winds in the valley and the mystical feel of the area lends itself to a memorable experience. The fairy chimneys come in various shapes; cone, pointy, capped, pinnacled and in some cases remarkably phallic. If you have a chance to play with some of the the rock, you’ll find that it’s soft, like pumice stone. This is why it could be hollowed out to form cave dwellings. The largest fairy chimney is The Ortahisar Castle – unfortunately it was closed for restoration when we were there.