Cappadocia – Chimneys, Cheese and Wine.

Turkey has a wide range of landscapes. From snowy to lush green mountains, Turkey’s natural wonders are as fascinating as its history and culture. Be it a cave house or a weird penis look-alike rock, Cappadocia’s magical landscape is the strangest of all. You can call it “Moon-like” or “Alien”, “Extraterrestrial,” – Cappadocia justifies all the above words. I was surprised to see questions on online forums when people asked if Cappadocia was worth the hype! So here is our post to show you the beautiful the place is and how to avoid tourist traps here.

Index

What is Cappadocia

Cappadocia (pronounced Kapadokya) is a Persian word translating to the land of the horse. So by this word, it is clear that this cave town of the Anatolian region was under Persian, later Ottomans, and fell into Christians’ hands.

Why should you visit Cappadocia?

For the caves & unique landscape

The strange-looking Penis, mushroom-shaped rocks result from volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. It is super strange to see the ancient cave houses with a Minaret of a mosque popping up next to them! Call it the land of fairy Chimneys or stranger things, Cappadocia is the land of unique things. The best part is you get to see the magic from above too! If you love hiking and biking, Cappadocia has hundreds of trails for you. When you want to see it as a bird, the hot air balloons take you up in the air, making you feel like you really landed on a different planet. If you want to do neither of it, sitting and watching the balloons rise up in the air behind the crazy rocks while eating some delicious Kayseri cheese and smoking hookah on a Turkish carpet can soothe your soul to the fullest.

An hour drive can take you to the nearby villages to see the endless grasslands with snowcapped mountains on the horizon. Solitude, nature and great works like a great combo in the heart of Turkey’s best-preserved natural wonder.

How Many days to spend in Cappadocia?

In the heart of nature like this with good food, you can easily stay for a week in the small town.  But one thing I am sure of – A day trip to Cappadocia is impossible and a waste. If you are taking up any private guided tour, if the organiser says a day trip to Cappadocia from Istanbul, please don’t fall for it as you don’t get to even scratch the surface of this Chimney land. We spent two full days and stayed for two nights in Cappadocia. We lost half a day because of the delay in our flight. So we missed watching the hot air balloon rising from our cave hotel terrace. Three full days for Cappadocia is good to explore all three routes by bike, along with hot air balloon ride and to watch the balloons rising in the sky from your breakfast table. With the super cheap cave houses for rent, full-time travellers spend a week to ten days hiking and walking in the different trails.

How to reach Cappadocia

The nearest train station and airport to Cappadocia is Kayseri. Which is 70km away.
The fastest way is air, mainly Turkish airlines. The airport is a small domestic airport, with nothing else but a runway and an entry/exit gate. To get to Cappadocia, cheap and best shuttle buses will be waiting right outside the airport. Or you can book a private taxi at the Kayseri airport if you don’t mind spending.
The cheapest way is by night bus. From Istanbul to Cappadocia, it takes 12hrs which may be tiresome. The night bus journey that we took was of 8hr from Cappadocia to Pamukkale, which was super comfortable. You find lots of bus agencies in the town centre.

HEADS UP – Probably 20 minutes after Kayseri, the magical land reveals. Very likely, you will be sleep-deprived. Put an effort to stay awake for a while. Once the fairy chimneys and rolling hills appear, your eyes, mind and soul will be awake mesmerised by the beauty outside your bus window.

Where to stay in Cappadocia

Cappadocia region consists of multiple towns. One common thing among all these areas is the cave hotels and the usual hotels. So any area you choose, you can get a cave room ( mostly), or you can stay in a regular hotel/BnB to save money.

  • Goreme – The main town with the bus stand that leaves to Pamukkale, many Bike/Car rental places, Travel agencies for hot air Ballon rides, route tours, lots of choices for restaurants and so on. The town centre caters to everything that a tourist needs, so the prices here are higher. Touristy, yet you can get rooms with views of Chimneys and caves. A famous Instagram photo of Breakfast with the dog and Balloons in the background is usually taken in the hotel Sultan Caves here at Goreme.
  • Urgup – A quieter town, 12km away from Goreme. With few restaurants and hotels, you can expect more excellent views of the new village meeting the older caves.
  • Uchisar – The highest point in Cappadocia, so expect some Best Views. Less touristy than Goreme, but make sure you have either car or bikes to go around Here.
  • Avanos – The smaller town is famous for its cheese and Pottery. Very likely, you may not get the views of the valley or chimneys here, but rooms will be cheaper. If you want to stay with locals more than the tourists and don’t mind going around with your bikes, this is a great choice.

WHERE DID WE STAY –

SOS Cave Hotel, Goreme. CAUTION – WE DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS HOTEL. As per booking.com, the check-in time was 12, but when we went there, the owner made us wait for an hour even after 1.30 telling, booking.com had given us false information, and his check-in time was 2 PM. He did help us in booking bus tickets and the Green route trip, but was extremely rude! We even hired a bike from his father’s rental agency – Gortur. He was unfriendly wasn’t ready to answer our two or three questions. While we returned the bike, we saw other tourists fighting with him for false allegations of the bike’s damage. Fortunately, he did not try to cheat on us. Breakfast was very basic; the cave room was clean enough. The views were good, but We are sure there are better hotels for the same rate in Cappadocia.

Exploring Cappadocia by Bike

Self-driven cars/bikes/bicycles are the best way to explore Cappadocia because the roads are more fascinating than those labelled destinations on the map. It was in May where there were few vehicles on the road. We have missed some routes, taken detours, and ended up in some noman’s land with a poor network. I wouldn’t say drop your guard and get lost in the woods; it is still safe to do so. The other advantage is, you can stop at random places which the bus tourists don’t come. Local Turks also love to play music and dance with their hookas in some exotic locations. So it is all good to go by yourself to witness the magical land by yourself.

If you feel like not walking in the hilly areas, you can hire either the horse or camels in that spot( Keep in mind that Camel and Horse rides aren’t available everywhere.) My recommendation is Two-wheelers, either bikes or Bicycles since you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space much.

Cycling will be fun but may consume more time. A motorbike is the best option if you are in Cappadocia for less than 3 days. We rented a motorbike for a day, and we had a fantastic chilling evening and Ashrith’s fever that he got from Hagia Sophia increased. Without any choice left, we booked two seats in a Group bus tour, which was a waste of money – I will tell you why next.

You have to show your original DL and a copy of the same to rent bikes or cars. I had forgotten to carry my DL. Fortunately, I had the copy in my email. We rented it from the agency called Gortur in Goreme. He did agree to give the bike without seeing the original document. You can hire based on the number of hours ( Minimum 2hrs) or days together.

Why don’t I prefer bus tours?

It may be suitable for those who don’t or can’t drive and are ok with the limited time allotted to see particular spots. After having a splendid time the previous day, all according to our wish and will, this time-constrained tour felt restricted. Plus, they take you to certain spots. There was no way we could choose if we wanted to go further ahead or stay back more. It was very irritating to be mechanical and bound to clock at a free world in the heart of mother nature.

Exploring different routes -Red, Blue & Green

The maps you get at your hotel room will have three routes marked in different colours. Red- Blue and Green. We explored the Red route by bike, Green by bus group tour. If you plan to take up any two routes and Ballon ride, make sure to sort out which trail you want to see by bike. Because the hot air Ballon ride takes you to the valleys and spots on these trails, it is better to explore the valleys that aren’t covered from the Ballon ride.

Red route –

Love valley – Penis Rocks
Uchisar Castle
Pasarbag valley
Devrent Valley – Camel rock

This is the shortest route, with a 29km round trip. Perhaps the best. Red highlights of the route are – Love valley, Uchisar castle, Pasarbag valley, Devrent Valley (camel rock). You get to see a lot of rock formations and chimneys on this route

Green route 

Hasan Dagi mountain
Pigeon Valley
Ilhara
Kaledibi monastery

Longest of all routes – Round trip 213km. I wish we had chosen the Blue route over this! The brochure or internet image about Ilhara is way far from reality. With floating huts on water and spending greenery. Highlights of this route are – Göreme Panorama, Kaledibi monastery, Ihara. Compared to the Red route, this route is less impressive. 

Blue route Round trip 119km. More of Monasteries, churches, Greek villages and vineyards

It is good to follow these routes, but it is all fine to even miss them and end up in some village or rocks you never thought of going to. On our way to fairy Chimney, we missed a right turn and ended up in a beautiful compact village called Avanos. The village is famous for pottery and cheese. Plus, the chilling cold made us buy a good quality jacket here for a cheap rate. An unintended detour’s result is that the jacket that we have used in every colder place since 2018 is something unexpected.

What you see on social media Vs reality

Cappadocia is one of the most Instagrammed locations. Before you get carried away by the over-edited glam pictures or get discouraged by the off-beaten travellers who label this extraordinary place “Touristy”, read ahead to decide for yourself.

PS: Cappadocia’s Dervish dance is supposedly hypnotically beautiful. The good whirling Dervish dance ceremony is as expensive as 40 Euros!

The Carpets & Cappadocia

Most Carpet shops in Cappadocia don’t encourage you to photograph them! So that pretty photos on Instagram of Cappadocia carpets may be difficult to click, or you may have to pay for clicking the carpet photos. So allow yourself some budget for the pretty carpet photos in Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is not worth the hype.

The sights of Love valley, red valley and vineyards from above was beyond our imagination. It looks more fascinating than the internet pictures. I don’t deny the fact that it is touristy, but the valley is so big that you can go infinite hiking and camping if you want to and know how to do it. The monasteries and their caves are breathtaking. The cave openings sometimes frame the snowcapped mountains at the horizon. This scene looks like a painting. When you see the underground cities, you will be speechless and wonder how humans lived 8 floors underground with each floor interconnected. IT IS WORTH THE HYPE. TOURISTS FLOCKING CAPPADOCIA IS FOR A VALID REASON.

Is Cappadocia Hot airballon ride worth the money?

A trip to Cappadocia without taking a Hot Air Balloon ride is like eating Veg Biryani. You get the taste, but the actual taste lies in the meat. The prices aren’t as low as in Egypt, but it is worth every single paisa we pay. Every weird formation that you saw on land the previous day becomes visible at one glance from above. The combination of vineyards, caves and rocks makes you realise how feeble you are in front of mother nature. Take up early rides that start right before the sunset. The sunrays falling on the valley makes it even more dazzling.

Hot Air Ballon ride is blissful

There is no doubt in the natural beauty, but it isn’t all about serenity. We booked a non-private ride through Hot air Balloon Cappadocia online a week before the day of the ride. It included a two-way transfer o the hotel, morning mini breakfast and tea. Plus a certificate of Participation ( LOL Ya, we did nothing but stand and watch the phenomenal landscape . Still a certificate of participation :D) and a champagne celebration at the end.
Be prepared to face the annoyance of the fellow passengers in the ballon. There were 16 people in one cradle. All of us were overexcited, and few of them didn’t know how to control themselves. Many made video phone calls to their families to show them how beautiful their background is. Some were jumping with joy, unaware of them pushing the person next to them. There were over-enthusiastic videographers recording and giving live commentary for their vlogs. And there were only a few of us who quietly took photos on phones for a while and savoured the otherworldly landscape while trying to ignore the annoyance for 1.5hrs. To avoid this annoyance, you can book private Balloon rides that cost you a fortune.

Hot air Ballons in Cappadocia are throughout.

On paper, YES – IT IS THROUGHOUT. If the fortune isn’t in your favour, the ride may get cancelled if the wind speed is more than 10km/hr or the weather is rainy, snow, stormy or foggy.

Breakfast, Ballons and Cappadocia – Most famous picture on the internet.

You have to have a perfect plan for one of the most sought or Instagrammed pictures of Cappadocia. You can’t get the Ballon+breakfast frame randomly. It is not as candid or natural as it looks on Instagram. You have to schedule your trips to do Breakfast at a particular time of the day and particular locality. Balloons fly above particular locations. Make sure your room or hotel is in that area, especially near Goreme, at around 6 AM! IT IS NOT AN ALL-DAY PHENOMENON. Plus, most cafes that have the perfect spot are expensive.

Every route/spot on the map is magical

NOPE! The underground villages are a charm, but not everything on the map is worth your time in Cappadocia for less than 3 days. Green tour itself is a big trap. Ilhaara is not worth wasting your time if you are in Cappadocia for two to three days. Those sloped roof hanging huts on the river are not as good as they appear on the brochure. Plus, the food tastes horrible in the place where I ate.

Do’s and Dont’s in Cappadocia

  • Don’t buy Turkish delights at Cappadocia; they are not as fresh as the ones in Istanbul.
  • Don’t buy Zultanite or Sultanate from random shops, even if your tour organiser says these are genuine stones.
  • You don’t need camels and horses to climb unless you want to. Don’t get fooled by agents who scare you by saying the trails are hard to walk.
  • The magical post/pre-wedding shoots cost you a bomb and are not as easy as it looks.
  • Avoid bus group tours as much as possible.
  • Go hiking, carry lots of water and some food. Many hiking trails don’t have shops selling water also.
  • Wear most comfortable footwear and carry jackets even during early summers.

Few spots for Awesome views

If you are in Cappadocia for two to three days, it may be overwhelming to find out the best If you are in Cappadocia for two to three days, it may be overwhelming to find the best spots for sunset times. Here are our 7 favourite spots for watching sunset and hiking. Click on the image for the Google Map link.

  1. Near SOS Cave hotel, Goreme – Anytime hiking
  2. Near Spelunca Hotel – sunset spot
  3. Rose valley – view of wineyards and hiking
  4. Love valley – Hiking and Balloon ride views
  5. Fairy Chimneys – Craziest of all chimneys, touristy spot. Make sure to climb up for better views and to escape crowd
  6. Devrent Valley – The best road we have ever driven. Go to this exact spot for sunset.
  7. Cruising Red Hill – Wavy hills with tint of red. One of the famous trail for hiking, best viewed from ballon ridee.
Near SOS Cave hotel, Goreme – Anytime hiking
Near Spelunca Hotel – sunset spot
Rose valley – view of wineyards and hiking in morning
Fairy Chimneys – Climb the hill opp to monastery
Devrent hills – Best spot for watching sunset
Cruising Red Hill – Best time is during sunrise

Do you consider going to Cappadocia or skip it after reading our post? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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