Guide to Cappadocia, the Turkish fairy-tale world

Posted In: blog | Turkey

Some thirty million years ago, a fairytale land called Cappadocia was created in Turkey by an eruption of three volcanoes and the erosion that followed. The colourful moon-like landscape with unique rock formations and canyons dotted with beautiful cave churches is a fabulous place that definitely should not be missed if you travel around Turkey.

After two months we spent house sitting and exploring the south of Turkey, we headed to Cappadocia.  Five days in Cappadocia wasn’t enough and we could have easily spent there one more week at least! We skipped the “must dos” such as tours to different valleys, Goreme Open Air museum, and the hot air balloon trip and explored Cappadocia independently. There is so much to do in Cappadocia!

Red Valley, Cappadocia

Red Valley, Cappadocia

 

What to do and see in Cappadocia

We stayed the first 3 nights in Goreme that is supposed to be a base for hiking. Even though it was the end of March and the season didn’t start yet, we found the town quite touristy and couldn’t really imagine what the town looked like in the full season in summer. Tour operators are at every corner and offer various tours to different valleys that you can explore on your own too. The only exception is Ihlara canyon that is quite far from Goreme and there is no direct public transport going there. 

When it comes to finding a place to stay in Cappadocia, Goreme is not the only option, as most people think. Luckily, Cappadocia has got several authentic picturesque villages where travellers seeking serenity will find what they look for. A beautiful cave room in The Castle Inn in Ortahisar, a pretty village located just 2km north from Goreme, became our temporary home for the last two nights. Cave hotels are quite typical for Cappadocia and we would really recommend you to stay in one of them rather then in the usual hotels –  it just completes the whole Cappadocia experience! 

Flying in a hot air balloon during the sunrise over Cappadocia must be an amazing experience, but we skipped it as we don’t like following the crowd and doing what everybody else is doing. What’s more, we really don’t like heights. 

 

RED VALLEYPINK VALLEY (MESKENDIR VALLEY)

As you might imagine, hiking is the main activity that travellers do in Cappadocia. Our favourite hike was definitely in the Red Valley that is somehow interweaved with the Pink Valley – and as the names say the amazing rock formations are red and light pink. It was simply remarkable to find ourselves in spacious caves and cave churches when hiking in both valleys. We hiked the Red Valley twice and although we started both days at the same place – the so-called sunset point close to Ortahisar, each day we chose to trek a different route. Both were absolutely stunning and if we ever go back to Cappadocia, we will do these hikes again! 

Route 1: Start at the Sunset Point and follow the path leading along the huge rocks. When you see a sign, turn left down to the Valley. You will pass by two cave churches on the way. When you reach the ground level of the valley, go left and hike through the Meskendir Valley alias Pink Valley; apparently Meskendir is too difficult to remember for tourists and that’s why most people call this valley the Pink Valley. 

The path leading to the huge rocks, of the Red Valley, Cappadocia

The path leading to the huge rocks of the Red Valley, Cappadocia

 

 

Cave Church, Red Valley, Cappadocia

Cave Church, Red Valley, Cappadocia

 

Pink and Red Valley, Cappadocia

Pink and Red Valley, Cappadocia

 

Route 2: Start at the Sunset Point and walk all the way along the mighty cliffs. You will pass by a magical cave on the way from where you will have a stunning view of Cappadocia. After viewing the cave, keep following the path until you see Cavusin. Then turn left and go down to Cavusin. 

The rocks of Red Valley, Cappadocia

The rocks of Red Valley, Cappadocia

Cave, Red Valley, Cappadocia

Amazing Cave in the Red Valley, Cappadocia

CAVUSIN 

The village of CAVUSIN boasts a stunning complex of abandoned houses that are carved into steep cliffs. Surprisingly, you can see modern hotels and cave hotels in Cavusin too. Unlike Goreme, Cavusin has got a somehow special vibe and doesn’t have an overwhelming tourist feeling.

 

ORTAHISAR

Spending the last three days of our time in Cappadocia in Ortahisar, we realised how lucky we were! We got an opportunity to stay in a lovely cave room in Castle Inn, which turned out to be a very pleasant experience. It had always been our dream to spend some time living in a cave, and this dream came true in Ortahisar:)! Not only the hotel was very nice, but we enjoyed exploring the rather quiet village too. Staying in Ortahisar, one feels like being far from the crowds, and the Red Valley and other valleys are within a stone’s throw. 

 

UCHISAR  &  PIGEON VALLEY

Following the Red and Pink Valley, the Pigeon Valley was the third most spectacular valley we hiked in. The hike though the valley is 4 km long and it’s quite an easy walk between Goreme and Uchisar, another lovely traditional village in the area that is famous for its castle.  If you are based in Goreme, you can either start the trek there or you take a bus from Goreme to Uchisar and walk down back to Goreme. 

Wear good shoes, take plenty of water with you, stop at small cafes on the way and expect to get lost often!

Uchisar & the Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia

Uchisar & the Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia

 

Pigeon Houses, the Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia

Pigeon Houses, the Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia

 

What to skip in Cappadocia

Zemi valley – the hike was really boring. The valley is too long, there are bushes covering the rocks and there is just nothing special about this valley.

Derinkuyu Underground City – the history of underground cities in the region is really very interesting.  The underground cities may have been built by the Phrygians, Indo-European people, in the 8th–7th centuries B.C., Later were used as protection by the Christians against the Arabs and the Mongolians.

We expected probably something different. If you like places that resemble dark cellars and dark narrow corridors, you will love it. 

A lot of visitors go to the Goreme Open Air Museum. You have to pay a fee to enter and you can not find anything else there than in the rest of Cappadocia  where you roam freely without seeing many people. 

 

Where to stay in Cappadocia 

If you decide to stay in Goreme choose a hotel with a terrace to enjoy the stunning scenery.

Check out Agoda and Booking.com for the best offers. 

If you want to escape the tourist crowds, stay in Ortahisar, Uchisar or Cavusin

Have a look also at our review of The Castle Inn in Ortahisar. 

 

How to get to Cappadocia

Whether you are already in Turkey or you are abroad, the easiest way to get to Cappadocia is by flight. The closest airports are Nevsehir and Kayseri.

Check out  Skyscanner  for the best offer.

Staying in Cappadocia was simply a very nice ending of our 2 month stay in Turkey, spent mostly by housesitting and exploring the south of Turkey. What a beautiful and hospitable country Turkey is!

Can’t wait to be back, there is so much so see and do!

What about you? Have you been to Cappadocia? 

 

 

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