Visiting Cappadocia, Turkey
Many travellers spend a mere two days in Cappadocia but for a fuller and richer experience, we recommend at least four days (We could easily have filled six days). With only two days, you’ll barely scratch the surface and spend all your time rushing around like a crazy person, instead of enjoying what the region has to offer.
Here are some suggestions on how to spend your time in this incredible landscape.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Start one morning with a hot air balloon ride. Hot air ballooning is not an adrenalin filled activity. Instead it’s a peaceful, quiet (except for occasional bursts from the gas burners), magical experience. Floating amongst the rock formations and fairy chimneys of Cappadocia is pretty special.
Most balloon trips begin at dawn (the early morning is worth it), include a buffet breakfast before you fly and a champagne toast once you’re back on terra firma. With 25 balloon companies in Cappadocia, you should always do your own research into the type of company you want to fly with but we have experienced and can recommend www.royalballoon.com. Your hotel can give you details of other companies.
Tour of Cappadocia
If you are pressed for time, joining a tour of the region is a good way to get a taste of things. A tour can include stops such as Monks Valley, famous for its trio formations of fairy chimneys, Imagination Valley, where you can spot all sorts of animals and faces in the rock face, a visit to Chez Galip, a potter famed for his resemblance of Einstein and for his use of the traditional kick wheel in throwing clay.
Visiting Goreme Open Air Museum is also worthwhile, either as part of a tour or on your own. The museum is a monastic complex including a nunnery, monastery and churches, all carved directly into the soft volcanic Cappadocian rock and dating from the 10th Century. It’s famous for the original frescos inside the churches and earlier traditional red painted motifs.
Hiking in Cappadocia
A hike through one of the many valleys of Cappadocia is the best way to get up close and personal with the rocks. The trails in the Red Valley in particular are fairly easy walking and there are many former troglodyte dwellings and churches to explore. It’s easy to start a hike in the Red Valley from the panoramic carpark. The paths can crisscross all over the valley but if you head back in the correct general direction (climb some hills for amazing views) then all paths eventually lead back to the carpark. A trek through the valley will probably take two to three hours, depending on how long you spend exploring the caves on the valley floor!
Kaymakli Underground City
Cappadocia is dotted with 36 discovered underground cities. They were carved during the Hittite times of 1200BC and were used as a refuge in times of conflict. Kaymakli is seven stories deep (five of which are open to the public) and you can see rooms like bedrooms, living areas, ventilations shafts and wineries carved into the rock. There is little information in the underground city so it’s best to take a tour or hire a guide when you get there.
For a more sedate activity, and for wine lovers, a visit to Turasin Cellar in Urgup is a must. I never knew Turkish wines were so delicious. Turasin run tours and tastings of their wine cellars for 18 Turkish Lira. If you don’t have time for a tour (or if you visit in winter time when the tours are not running), they offer a free tasting of a red and white wine. I had never heard of some of the grape varieties but really enjoyed them both, particularly the dry white Emir. Bottles to take home are reasonably priced.
This is just a small sample of things to do in Cappadocia (we missed out on cooking classes, whirling dervish shows and many more). You should also take the time to enjoy your hotel. There are many cave hotels throughout Cappadocia but we can recommend the small town of Urgup.