Cappadocia is simply a dream. I expected it eh, but not like this. It is unabashedly beautiful and offers a number of absolutely embarrassing sights and attractions. I expected to be ecstatic in front of the fairy chimneys of the valley of Goreme, but I didn't know I would see a real open-air museum, of ancient underground cities, canyons with incredible colors, and rock churches with crazy frescoes. In fact, beyond the attractions of nature, men have created truly unique works in these areas that leave you breathless. Depending on the time of day, the earth and the rocks of Cappadocia take on different colors, from the pale pink of dawn, to the white of the day, to the yellow / ocher of sunset and everything is simply magnificent. There are many things to see and the advice I would like to give you is to dedicate at least 3 days to Cappadocia, the minimum time in my opinion to be able to see all the main attractions without running, enjoying these magnificent landscapes (I visited it as part of a longer trip, 10 days, through Turkey).
When to go to Cappadocia
You can go to Cappadocia all year round, but you have to calculate that Cappadocia is located on a plateau about 1000 meters above sea level, so in winter it snows (I caught a snowfall even at the end of April, but that's another story ..), but to see it with snow it can certainly have its charm! In summer, on the other hand, it can be very hot; the intermediate seasons are certainly the best if you do not want to suffer neither the heat nor the cold.
How to reach Cappadocia and how to get around
To visit Cappadocia, the most comfortable thing to do is fly to Kayseri, the "capital" of the region. From Spain you will have to do stopover in Istanbul; the cheapest company to reach it is Pegasus (but it also flies there Turkish Airlines). You can then see everything by basing in Goreme, Uchisar or Urgup and moving within the day (at this link you will find the map with all the stages mentioned). To get around, my advice is to rent a car directly at the airport (I usually use the Rentalcars website- the cost for 3 full days is around 100-120 euros). There are buses, but they only reach the main and most touristic centers; the car will allow you to be completely free to move wherever you want and the costs are quite cheap. The roads are good and it is easy to find your way around. If you really don't want to take the car, you can explore the area using the guided tours offered by all the local agencies; there are 4 main tours, the Red, the Green, the Blue and the Yellow, where the first 2 are the most popular because they touch the most touristic places. If you want to take a Japanese tour .. go ahead .. but I recommend .. always follow the Piedmont holiday group! (You understand that I do not recommend them? Ahahah).
Visit Cappadocia on an organized tour from Istanbul
If you don't have time or desire to organize everything, or you don't want to rent a car and drive, you can buy a package for one 4 days organized Cappadocia tour departing from Istanbul. The tour also includes Ankara, the whirling dervish ceremony, transfers and overnight stays in 4 or 5 star hotels for 3 nights with breakfast and dinner included. The price, however, is very competitive.
Where to sleep in Cappadocia: Goreme
In this regard, before leaving I had read some comments from other sites / blogs that advised against sleeping in Goreme and going to Uchisar instead. My advice is to sleep in Goreme instead. It is true that it is the most touristic town in Cappadocia, but it is also true that it is the most convenient for exploring the whole area and it is very nice and full of bars, restaurants and agencies to choose from. It is also the best spot to photograph the hot air balloons at dawn and, sleeping here, you won't have to drive at 4 in the morning. Here too, as in Uchisar, most of the accommodations are dug out of the tuff and, in some cases, integrated into fairy chimneys: you will feel like you are sleeping in a city of fairy tales! I must say that too Uchisar it is very nice, but it is being "redeveloped" now and does not yet have all the services you can find in Goreme.
- The Dorm Cave by Travellers : I slept in this small hotel that has both double rooms with private bathroom (large and super comfortable!), and dorms with shared bathroom. It is located in the center of Goreme, the rooms are nice and it is really good value for money.
- Sultan Cave Suites : if you have a higher budget and want to sleep where all the famous influencers go, you should choose this boutique hotel located in the upper part of Goreme. Half of the photos on Instagram were taken from its terraces!
The Cappadocia Museum Pass: is it convenient or not?
The answer is yes, it pays off. What is it? AND a combined ticket which costs 110 Turkish Lira (around 18 euros) which is worth 3 days and includes most of Cappadocia's attractions. If you buy single tickets you will go to spend more. The Museum Pass Cappadocia you can buy it online or in the following places (whose entrance ticket is included in the pass):
- Open Air Museum of Goreme (don't buy it here, you will queue!)
- Ilhara Valley
- The underground cities of Derinkuyu (the largest), Kayamali and Ozkonak
What to see in Cappadocia
Goreme Open Air Museum: the most beautiful cave churches in Cappadocia
This magnificent open-air museum it is located 1km outside Goreme and probably is the most touristic place in Cappadocia. You will not be able to visit it alone or in the company of a few people, but it must be seen, without ifs and buts. In this area, which is also beautiful in terms of landscape, they are grouped together many rock churches, among the best preserved in Cappadocia. Most date back to the XNUMXth-XNUMXth century and inside there are magnificent frescoes in excellent condition and still vivid colors. Try not to visit them in the central hours of the day because they are overrun by tourist groups and you will have to queue for tickets too (in this regard, try to arrive here with the Museum Pass already in hand, at least you will skip the line).
Derinkuyu (and Kaymakli) underground city
Cappadocia is full of underground cities (or underground cities), used by populations to escape wars and persecutions. Created between the 30th and XNUMXth centuries (understand how?!?), There are many, but only XNUMX have been brought to light and can be visited. Derinkuyu e Kaymakli they are the largest (Kaymakli is the largest in the whole of Cappadocia) and the most famous and visited. It seems that these cities carved into the rock were able to accommodate up to 10.000 people in rooms and environments that developed up to 85 meters below ground level: simply incredible! When you enter it seems to be in a labyrinth !! There are rooms that served as stables, warehouses, homes, kitchens, chapels, churches and so on. I've never seen anything like it !! It looks like an anthill .. but for humans!
It resides in the Valley
Another surprise of this trip to Cappadocia was certainly theInhala Valley, which is about an hour and a half by road from Goreme, going southwest. This valley (but it is better to speak of a canyon) counted nearly 100 churches (always carved into the rock) but today unfortunately most of them are in ruins and about fifteen can be visited. Descend into the canyon 1km outside Ilhara and from there walk the 6-7km stretch to the village of Belisirma. The churches are located along both banks of the river but there are connecting bridges that allow you to pass from one bank to the other. The churches are beautiful, as is the surrounding landscape. Along the path then there are some restaurants with tables right on the water to rest and have lunch.
Valle delle Rose and Valle Rossa: the sunset not to be missed
These two valleys are among the most photographed in Cappadocia and they are named for the colors, pink and red (but not only) that their rocks take on. My advice is to go there in the late afternoon to see the sunset, perhaps doing a mini-trekking with a guide who takes you to some panoramic points. I did it with an agency in Goreme (which is located right along the square) called Stoneland Travel and I was fine (3h mini-trekking from 16: 30-19: 30- 20 euros). Here too there are several cave churches but they are not easy to find on your own. Of course, the sunrise is also magnificent to appreciate the various shades of color of the valleys, and it is precisely above these valleys that the hot air balloons soar.
Zelve, Aktepe e la Valle di Devrent
If you arrive in Zelve coming from Avanos or Cavusin, a couple of kilometers before arriving there, on the right, you will see huge fairy chimneys. Well, they are the most beautiful and largest in the area and it is absolutely worth stopping for a ride (the place is called Aktepe or Valley of the Monks). It is a super tourist site and is likely to let you pass the poetry a bit, but the view of the fairy chimneys from the hill is simply superb. Continuing you will then arrive at Selve, another amazing place. It is a rock city hidden in three blind-bottomed valleys; inhabited until the early decades of the 1900s, today like the Goreme valley, it has been transformed into an open-air museum. Zelve is not mobbed by organized tourist buses and has a much more relaxed atmosphere (plus the objective beauty of the place of course!). Continuing further along the same road, you then arrive in another still different valley, the Valle di Devrent. Here, in addition to the fairy chimneys, there is a valley with a lunar landscape dotted with rock formations with the strangest shapes, also magnificent.
There is no doubt that the most iconic image of Cappadocia is that of the hot air balloons flying at dawn over the fairy chimneys and indeed it is one of the activities that is worth doing at least once in a lifetime. The balloon flight is done at dawn (around 4-4: 30 am), lasts about 1h and, depending on the wind, we start from different points. Each balloon can carry from 10 to 25 people and there are really many balloons that operate in the Goreme area (the most popular to do this activity). Despite the not insignificant cost (85-100 euros per person), the demand is very high so it's worth it book it and buy it directly online a few days before. Another piece of advice I give you is not to schedule it for the last day: in case of too strong wind the flights can be canceled and postponed to the next day. In the end I decided not to do it because I am convinced that, to take beautiful photos, it is better to see them from the ground (or at least from a panoramic point), but whoever did it told me that it is really crazy. To you the choice!!
You can book your flight here the hot air balloon at sunrise
Sunrise in Goreme to see the hot air balloons
If you opt, like me, for the idea of seeing them from the ground, the best place to take pictures is the viewpoint located in the upper part of Goreme, where there is the great flag of Turkey that flies (you can see it practically from every point of the town). Begin to perch above it half an hour before sunrise and you will witness a grandiose spectacle. Another solution is also to go and see the sunrise from the Valle delle Rose or Valle Rossa, but in this case you will have to wake up even earlier and you will probably need a guide. I know that you can also go on horseback tours at dawn, always in the Valley of the Roses; if you are a fan of the genre, it could be another must see.
Uchisar, along with Goreme, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful country in Cappadocia. The town can be seen from afar, with its tuff pinnacle on whose walls hundreds of cavities appear engraved. The huge rock, with the castle at the top, looks like a kind of meteorite that has fallen to earth. In fact it is a real citadel carved into the tuff and, slowly, the various houses and the various streets are becoming more and more beautiful, with boutique hotels, restaurants and shops that I want to compete with Goreme. The Kale (or castle) it is a must to visit, preferably in the morning or at sunset: from here you will have a 360 ° view of the whole region!
Love valley e Urgup
La Love valley it is located just outside Goreme and is so called because, in this area, guess what the fairy chimneys look like? To giant penises! Go there in the afternoon / evening: in the morning you will have them against the light. Urgupfinally, it is located a few kilometers from Goreme and, along the road that connects them, there is a magnificent viewpoint where you can take beautiful photos of the fairy chimneys that are right in front of you. The location of the belvedere is called Catalkaya.
Where to eat in Cappadocia (Goreme)
- Top Deck Cave : small restaurant carved into the rock, really good and cheap (less than € 15 for a full meal)
- Turkish Ravioli : nice restaurant with terrace. Excellent Turkish ravioli (their specialty), but not only. Photo below
- Seten : the restaurant of the Sultan Cave Hotel. Very nice atmosphere (and view) and good food. Maybe a little pretentious
- Haruna : the restaurant of the Hotel Carus Cappadocia. An elegant bar / restaurant with a magnificent covered terrace overlooking the center of Goreme. Perfect for both drinking and eating.
You might also be interested in these other articles I wrote about Turkey
- Turkey: what to see in 10 days (or 2 weeks)
- What to see in Istanbul in 3 days
- A trip to Istanbul: where to sleep, where to eat and how to get around