Wandering around Cappadocia
Cappadocia in Turkey is a huge area but the main attractions are all around Goreme, which are famous for their incredible rock formations and Cave Houses built into the Fairy Chimneys. I’ve heard so much about how beautiful Cappadocia is and about the rock formations, but what set my mind to it was a man I had met in my hostel. An old English man overheard our conversation on plans of heading there and said “You have to go to Cappadocia, you will see things there that you will never see in any other parts of the world”. Indeed he was right, and because of that there are many many tourists and very little backpackers. Still we managed to find a dorm to live in, and it was a cave hostel too!
Here are some things you can visit and see while in Cappadocia
Goreme Open Air Museum
The Goreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. It is obviously the first sight to be visited by any traveler in Cappadocia, standing as it does in the very center of the region with easy access from all directions. It is only 15 minutes walk (1.5km, 1 mile) from Goreme village center. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes (wall paintings) which colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique. The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage ListÂ since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey. Entrance costs 15TL per person without audio guide
The open air museum is within walking distance, some people would prefer to pay for transport but in a place as beautiful as this it’s highly recommended you take a walk and look around, who knows what you’ll find?
Only 5km from Goreme, you can take a beautiful walk across the valleys and to Cavusin. There are minibuses that leave from Goreme every 30 minutes but taking a hike is worth it. Once you arrive at this village you’ll quickly notice a rock castle (church of St. John) that stands on top of the hill and it’s possible to explore every part of these rocks.
Rose Valley/Red Valley
Hiking through Red Valley was something extremely memorable, not only because it was beautiful but also because we got completely lost. There are no signs, and sometimes the hiking trails aren’t visible, especially if it’s snow covered. Many people that I’ve spoke to and walked around valleys in Cappadocia always find themselves lost mainly because the maps provided are all hand-drawn and unclear. Being lost in a valley might not necessarily be a bad thing as you can find forgotten churches and see the valleys untouched or frequently visited by tour buses. But it might also become a risky hike if it’s close to sundown and you can’t find your way out ! I would recommend solo travelers to find companions or a local to take you around the valleys.
To read more on what you can see while hiking through these valleys, click here
Hot air balloon ride
Cappadocia is famous for their alluring views over the unique and picturesque rock formations and what better way to view it than to take a tour on the hot air balloon? Like the colored tours, many travel agencies and hotels also offer this. The standard price can cost you up to 100 euros, but if you don’t mind being a risk taker, you can show up at the hot air balloon landing sites the morning that you intend to go, and you might get half priced offers to fill up empty spots on random hot air balloons. This might not work 100% but like I said, if you’re up for taking a chance, why not?
Photo credits to Michelle who visited in peak season
Kaymakli Underground city
Kaymakli underground city is built under the hill known as the Citadel of Kaymakli and was opened to visitors in 1964. The people of Kaymakli (Enegup in Greek) village have constructed their houses around nearly one hundred tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards. The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages. While the underground city consists of 8 floors below ground, only 4 of them are open to the public today, in which the spaces are organized around ventilation shafts. It’s pretty cold down under and extremely touristy, but definitely worth a look. This city goes so deep underground that it scares me how people actually used to live like this :O
Ihlara Valley is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to take a nice hike along the river, see the trees and be in the midst of wild life and nature. It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. There are also churches here that you can enter and appreciate the beautiful paintings on the ceilings as you see very commonly around in this region. As we visited during Winter, there wasn’t much people around which made the hiking experience even more serene !
Many villages and towns around Cappadocia all offer colored tours, and by that I mean the red tour, green tour and blue tour. All the tours will focus on different parts of Cappadocia, some tours visit the same places and others, a little more. The price varies accordingly and I personally went for the Green tour: Note that there are many tour agencies doing the exact same tour, some of them will exclude places or tell you that they will visit a list of places, but at the end of the day they will say they have to cut out one location due to the lack of time. This is very common in Winter when the hiking trails in Ihlara Valley becomes covered with snow and the sun sets earlier. You should also always haggle because competition is steep here. Booking with your guesthouse/hotel will also incur a commission charge so if you aren’t too lazy go out and scout around for a reliable travel agency.
Alternatively you can rent your own car/bike and go around. That would have definitely been our option if it wasn’t for the road conditions. It was -16 deg celsius during our visit and the roads were frozen, slippery and unsuitable for bike riding. But we had an amazing guide and a really good time despite the totally touristy way of seeing attractions 😉
How to get there:
The nearest airport to Goreme is Nevsehir airport, and flights from Istanbul go to and fro very frequently. If you have a hostel / hotel booked in advanced, they can arrange a pick up from the airport. This is also why it’s a good reason to book your accommodation in advanced, as the cost of a taxi ride into Goreme is going to cost a bomb.
It takes approximately 12 hours from Istanbul and 5 hours from Ankara. Many bus companies leave on a regular basis and the cost is similar to that of a flight if you’re lucky.
You can find the bus schedules and more information here or here.
http://www.goreme.com | http://www.tours4turkey.com | http://www.captivatingcappadocia.com