How to experience Cappadocia, Turkey as Do-It-Yourself & in Limited Time

8 Feb

A trip to Turkey is incomplete without a visit to Cappadocia! Mention of this place immediately conjures an image of multiple hot air balloons floating over the unique landscape. However, as we were to realize during our trip, there is so much more to see and do here than just these hot air balloon rides and the typical Instagram shots.  Cappadocia boasts of multi shaped and colored natural rock formations (fairy chimneys), cave villages, underground cities and multiple archeological sites. These rocks were formed millions of years ago when ancient volcanic eruptions blanketed the region in thick ash, which solidified to form a soft rock called ‘tuff’. Over the years, erosion due to wind and water shaped these rocks to form the famous fairy chimneys we see today. Then during the Roman times, persecuted Christians fled to Cappadocia and realized that this tuff was a soft and malleable and could be dug to make dwellings. And it is these surviving structures that make Cappadocia so worth a visit.

Hiking through the Red & Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

We had very limited time here i.e. only 2 days and it’s definitely not enough to see everything there is to see here. Additionally the public transport is very limited and slow and we were not very comfortable driving on the left hand side. We also didn’t want to take any tours – as they were expensive and we didn’t have the entire day required for each of them. So we had to plan and be targeted in our approach on how to best spend our limited time here and experience as much as we could. And based on our research and the actual trip, I am sharing all the things we managed to see and do here in 2 days by ourselves.

Paintings in rock cut churches, Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

Hike in the Valleys to see the unique rock formations

Cappadocia is one of the best places to go hiking with multiple options and routes i.e. Meskinder Valley, Rose Valley, Red Valley, Love Valley, Pasabag Valley, Ihlara Valley, Pigeon Valley, Devrent Valley, etc. We just had half a day and didn’t want to spend much time traveling so based on online reviews and recommendations, we decided to hike through the Red & Rose Valley. We loved walking through this trail, seeing the colored rocks, many panoramas, ancient rock cut churches, cave dwellings, stopping at multiple cafes and meeting people from across the world. For us hiking was the best way of experiencing this landscape.

Tip for the trip – This hike is moderate in difficulty level and if I can do it, then anyone can. However carry adequate food and water, a cap and sunsreen for the sun and wear correct footwear.

Up Up & Away.. In a hot air balloon ride.. Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot Air Balloon ride

Hot Air Balloon ride is definitely one of the highest rated and the most expensive activity in Cappadocia. While hiking you see the rocks from the base but with the hot air balloon ride you get a birds eye view of the entire landscape, that too at sunrise. You fly over multiple valleys, literally see the changing shapes and colors of the rocks with the sun.  The pickup for this tour is around 4.30am, the rides take off around 6.30am and finishes in a couple of hours, thereby leaving the entire day open for you to do whatever you want.

Tip for the trip – Book this ride as soon as you confirm your trip here as this is a popular activity with limited take-offs per day. This ride is dependent on weather conditions and permits received for the ride, thus can only be confirmed on the evening prior to the ride. If weather conditions are not favorable then the rides are cancelled and you are either accommodated on the ride the next day or get a refund.  

Hot Air Balloon at sunrise, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Watch the Hot Air Balloon Rides Take Off over Goreme

This too is a beautiful sight – around a 100 multicolored balloons taking off against the stunning landscape and the gorgeous colors of sunrise. There are loads of Instagram shots of this view from hotel tops with various possible props. There are multiple viewing points for watching this spectacle in and around Goreme, but we saw it from the rooftop of our hotel itself. Again these balloon rides take off around 6.30am and you can watch it for around an hour, thereby leaving the entire day open for you to do whatever you want.

Tip for the trip – The actual balloon ride and these views are only possible if these rides are not cancelled that day. So it’s always advisable to plan for a few extra days as a back-up in Cappadocia to be able to witness this.

Tunnels in the Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Visit an Underground City

Cappadocia’s rock formations are not just above the ground but also under it and early inhabitants in this region have built entire multi-level cities in it. These underground cities are believed to have been used by them to escape the harsh winter and wild animals. Later, they became places of refuge for Christians escaping persecution at the hands of Roman soldiers. There are two popular underground cities open for visitors here – Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. We decided to rent a taxi and visit the Kaymakli Underground City, as it was closer to Goreme and also believed to be more spacious. I was amazed at how early inhabitants built these spaces with such limited resources and tools. There is everything in this city from rooms for families, kitchens, storage rooms, stables, winery, ventilation shafts and even a church.

Tip for the trip – Despite being the most spacious of the underground cities it’s still quite narrow with many tunnels that need you to bend in and crouch. Additionally it tends to get quite crowded and then claustrophobic in the tunnels.

Uchisar Castle, Cappadocia, Turkey

See the Uchisar Castle

Uchisar is a neighboring town of Goreme and the castle is situated at the highest point in Cappadocia. The castle has many rooms hollowed out into the rock and some rooms are still used as pigeon houses (the droppings are used by farmers as natural fertilizer). We just saw the castle from the base of the hill as a quick stop from our taxi enroute to Kaymakli Underground city. It’s possible to hike from Goreme to Uchisar through the Pigeon Valley and the sunrise and sunset views from the top are supposed to be stunning. Unfortunately we didn’t have time for this.

Tip for the trip – If you have your own car and are looking for a place to stay as an alternative to Goreme, do consider Uchisar. It had a very non-touristy and non-commercial vibe with the castle looking over the entire town from its vantage point above making a very pretty picture.

Views from the Pigeon Valley View Point, Cappadocia, Turkey

Visit some of the famous View Points

Cappadocia is full of stunning viewpoints where you can admire the unique land formations, watch the sunrise or sunset or the hot air balloons taking off. We walked to the Panoramic View Point from Goreme and stopped at the Pigeon Valley View Point on our taxi ride back from Kaymakli Underground city. Views from both the viewpoints were beautiful and we got our photos of the landscape with the fairy chimneys and trees with Turkish evil eye talismans.

Tip for the trip – There are multiple viewpoints all across Goreme and the hiking routes and you can visit anyone you like or the one closest to you.

Our room in a cave hotel, Cappadocia, Turkey

Stay in a cave hotel

Cappadocia is full of caves that were used as homes, monasteries, churches and are now hotels. These cave hotels provide a small flavor of how early inhabitants of the region lived in caves. However unlike then, these caves are not primitive, claustrophobic or cold, dark places. Instead these caves are boutique hotels that incorporate pretty much all modern amenities including modern bathrooms and wifi. There are many options of cave hotels in Goreme and you can chose any based on your budget and other preferences. We stayed in a budget cave hotel but I liked our spacious room, the rock cut arches and the niches in the walls.

Tip for the trip – There are two options for stays here (apart from standard hotels) – cave hotels and stone hotels. Be sure to choose a cave hotel. Additionally cave hotels are expensive so plan your budget for stay accordingly.

Borek at the Nazar Borek Cafe, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Eat at Nazar Borek Café

During our research on Cappadocia, I came across references and rave reviews of the Nazar Borek Café across multiple blogs. Intrigued we decided to visit this café for lunch post our Kaymakli Underground city visit. This family run cafe is a bit of an extra walk from town and on the outskirts of Goreme. It is at the base and inside a fairy chimney with beautiful views of the valley all around.  The place itself is small, has outdoor seating with a very homely feel and the most friendly and lovely hosts possible. The food was fresh, super tasty and very reasonably priced. We had and loved the vegetable borek, the gozleme and the kunefe. The cafe had a very laid back feel and the hosts invited us to sit and enjoy for as long as we liked; we would have too if we didn’t have a flight to catch.

Tip for the trip – Visit Nazar Borek Café at leisure and enjoy the beautiful place and the views with a cup of Turkish tea.

Pottery Kebab, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Eat a Pottery Kebab

A regional food specialty in Cappadocia is a pottery kebab so named for the pottery (clay) vessel in which it is cooked. Available in both vegetable and meat versions, the clay pot is filled with vegetables and spices and sealed with bread dough. It is then cooked for around 5 hours to result in a slow cooked vegetable stew. Once ready the hot clay pot is served and cracked in front of you to be eaten with rice or bread. A definite must try.

Tip for the trip – I read in a blog that for a truly authentic pottery kebab you need to give a restaurant a few hours’ notice to enable them to freshly prepare this dish. Normal restaurants pre-cook and keep this dish earlier in the day and just reheat when customers’ order it. We didn’t have time to pre-order hence just ate a pre-cooked one.

Colorful Carpets, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

Walk through the Goreme market

Goreme is small town with everything within walking distance. The main street of Goreme is filled with many local souvenir shops with some amazing ceramics, carpets, lamps, fridge magnets, socks etc. We had a very nice time walking through the various streets, checking out the shops and picking small gifts for friends and family back home.

Tip for the trip – If you are buying many things from a single shop do try and bargain to get better deals.

Rose Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey

A few pointers on Cappadocia –

  1. While booking our flights, we got quite a surprise to realize that Cappadocia is the name of the region and not a city or town. Cappadocia has multiple small towns such as Göreme, Ürgüp, Uçhisar, Avanos, etc but no airport by any of these names.
  2. For flights to Cappadocia, you can fly into two airports i.e. either Kayseri or Nevşehir. Kayseri has better connections and all budget airlines fly from here. 
  3. If you take a flight to Cappadocia, it is important to pre-book a shuttle transfer in advance to your hotel.  Once you arrive at Kayseri or Nevsehir, look for your name on a board and the local shuttle company will drop you off at your hotel. 
  4. Public transportation is slow and in-frequent, so either rent a car, scooter or taxi or plan to walk all around.  
  5. We didn’t visit the Goreme Open Museum as it was super crowded and the ticket was quite expensive. Instead we decided to hike the Red & Rose Valley to see the same sights for free and without the crowds.
  6. I found this blog link that mentioned some different things to see and do in Cappadocia and you can check the same out here.
  7. If you have a car and are interested in a self guided / DIY tour of Cappadocia, then check our this blog for a roadmap.
  8. If you are self driving and have the time, do visit the Pink Salt Lake – Lake Tuz near Aksaray.

28 Responses to “How to experience Cappadocia, Turkey as Do-It-Yourself & in Limited Time”

  1. Maghal February 8, 2020 at 16:52 #

    This brought back memories of my visit to Cappadocia many years ago, before hot air balloons and cave hotels. I love your photos but how are you able to post so many? I was really annoyed when WordPress began to only allow one photo a while ago.

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 9, 2020 at 10:04 #

      Hi, thanks so much for the kind words. Wow, you must have visited Cappadocia when it was not so popular as a tourist destination then… WordPress allows posting multiple pictures in the same post, I have never had an issue with it..

      Like

      • Maghal February 9, 2020 at 17:52 #

        Maybe you pay for your site to get multiple photos? I taught in Turkey 1988-93 then 1997-99. I travelled extensively and it was lovely then with far less tourists.

        Like

      • getsetandgo February 10, 2020 at 10:58 #

        I use the free version… Maybe it needs a change in some settings in your account? Oh, I would have loved to visit Turkey then too…

        Like

  2. adventurervicky97 February 8, 2020 at 17:04 #

    Going on a hot air balloon is something I’ve always wanted to do, and seeing your amazing photo of them all taking off is spooring on this desire! Amazing pictures!

    Like

  3. kagould17 February 8, 2020 at 18:54 #

    The food looks amazing. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Like

  4. scbates February 8, 2020 at 19:52 #

    Great post, thanks for the info…I hope to visit one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Supernatural Hippie February 9, 2020 at 13:15 #

    This looks like an amazing place to visit. Great Photos. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brothers Campfire February 10, 2020 at 03:48 #

    I want to see the Cut Rock Church!

    Like

  7. Christie February 10, 2020 at 22:24 #

    The landscape is amazing, definitely riding in a hot air balloon is on my list🙂

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 11, 2020 at 09:54 #

      Actually pictures don’t do justice to this beautiful landscape.. Cappadocia is a definite must visit and ope you can visit soon 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jasper Hoogendam February 11, 2020 at 08:54 #

    The “fair chimney” reminds me of an unusual land formation found in Alberta, Canada. There one can see hoodoo’s in the Drumheller area. A unique formation caused by a hard layer with a softer layer below. The softer layer gets eroded but is capped by a hard layer that keeps a column of the soft layer protected.

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 11, 2020 at 09:56 #

      Thank you so much for introducing me to Hoodoo’s.. Till not I thought this landscape was unique to Cappadocia.. I’ll add this to my “To Do” list in Canada 🙂

      Like

  9. Megan Virona February 11, 2020 at 14:30 #

    I love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. SK Srinivas February 11, 2020 at 17:58 #

    Wonderful pictures!

    Like

  11. storiesofourboys February 11, 2020 at 22:28 #

    I have never seen such as this. A city full of hot air balloons and cave dwellings and underground city. I love it. Who knew Turkey had all this? I know they have a tumultuous history, and I wasn’t sure how open they are to Western tourists. I feel like I just learned so much here.

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 15, 2020 at 09:44 #

      Hi, we had heard a lot of mixed things about Turkey’s current politics, etc but we can’t have had a better holiday.. They are open to tourists, have so much to see and do, so much history and culture, yet very modern and friendly.. We had an amazing time and can’t recommend it enough..

      Liked by 1 person

  12. poppytumpno4 February 12, 2020 at 20:10 #

    What a beautiful post ! Photos and such really good insider *tips and info . Always thought it would be an amazing trip to do.We loved Bryce Canyon in USA for its Geological formations with some of those hoodoos as mentioned in an earlier comment .. Turkey of course much nearer 😉 Maybe one day …
    You certainly made the most of your short sojourn !

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 15, 2020 at 09:32 #

      Thank you so much for the kind words.. Bruce and Antelope Canyon have been on my list for so long and I hope I can make it there someday. These landscapes are so amazing and leave you in so much wonder about nature and these geological formations… I hope you can visit Turkey soon and these tips are helpful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Marisa D. Aceves February 15, 2020 at 03:19 #

    WOW! Amazing. Beautiful travel photography! Thank you for sharing these unforgettable experiences.

    Like

    • getsetandgo February 15, 2020 at 09:58 #

      Thank you so much for visiting the blog and the kind words 🙂

      Like

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