Do you dream of a land with abounding fairy chimney rock formations, underground cities and churches inside rock-cut caves? Well, behold such a land does indeed exist in this universe, and even better, on Earth! Cappadocia is in the Turkish region of central Anatolia (on the Asian side of Turkey) and is famous for its unique rock formations and caves which were used by Christian settlers centuries ago. Being a short 90-minute flight away from Istanbul and Izmir, a visit to Cappadocia is a MUST on your tour of Turkey.
Where to stay in Cappadocia…
Spanning an area of more than 250 square kilometres covered with unique geological formations and important historical sites, it can be quite overwhelming deciding where to stay on your first visit to Cappadocia. Car-less and with my student-budget in mind, I needed to balance cost, convenience and my undying love of a good view to watch the sunrise. After A LOT of research, I stumbled upon the gem that is the Aydinli Cave House situated in the main town of Göreme. This family-run guesthouse is located a short 5-minute walk from the town centre where the main bus station, cafes, restaurants and shops are located. What’s more is the rooms you stay in are CAVE ROOMS (!!!), carved from the natural rock of Cappadocia whilst still maintaining a comfortable living standard in line with 3+ star hotels elsewhere in Europe. Oh and did I mention the view from breakfast? Check it (… and my crazy bed hair…) out for yourself below.
5 truly amazing things to do during your stay in Cappadocia…
1. Go up, up and away in a hot air balloon!
Sometimes you create a memory so vivid that even years down the track you can close your eyes and be back in that moment in an instant. The morning I took a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia is one such memory. When I close my eyes, I can once again feel the light breeze that brushed against my skin, amplified by the hairs on my skin sticking up in fear/joy, and can hear The Postal Services’ ‘Such Great Heights’ track playing on loop on the cognitive turntable of my mind. If you’re toying with the idea of making a similar memory above Cappadocia, I recommend booking the Butterfly Flight with Butterfly Balloons. Recommended by Rick Steves as well as most hotels in the area, they are your best bet for safety, courtesy and a downright amazing experience. Let me just say that our pilot seemed to effortlessly land our balloon upright on the back of a vehicle barely larger than your average 4WD.
2. Take a sunset hike through Rose Valley
For your first night in Cappadocia, I recommend booking the sunset hike through Rose Valley via your hotel, as the tour does not start until late, is fairly un-demanding and will have you immediately writing love songs about the land. The walk begins at the 7th century A.D. Üçhaçlı church. Although still worth exploring, unfortunately, due to its accessibility to passers-by only few damaged frescoes remain inside. As you continue on the walk, you will find yourself wandering through valleys of fairy chimneys and fields of Queen Annes Lace. About two-thirds of the way you will stop for an extended break at a cafe and the Hacli church. The church is a definite highlight of not only the hike but your stay in Cappadocia, boasting many wonderful secoes, including a magnificent green-coloured 10th-century Pantocrator which remains virtually undamaged despite its great age. The final stop is at a panoramic viewpoint to watch the sunset over the valley.
3. Spend a day exploring Cappadocia on the Red Tour
I know what you’re thinking – how could one possibly see all the wonders that Cappadocia has to offer in one weekend? Fear not future wanderers, local tour operators have made it easy for you and divided the region into 2 main tours – one for each day – which together encapsulate all of the necessary sight-seeing for any visit to Cappadocia. The first of these tours is the Red Tour. I can only assume the tour got its name from the sheer number of stops that it incorporates. Let’s just say I never thought I would utter such words but after spending 8 hours visiting the fresco-filled cave churches at the Göreme Open Air Museum, the hoodoo castles at Uchisar and the fairy chimneys at Pasabagi and Love and Devrent Valley, I was almost sick of seeing fairy chimneys. Basically, if Cappadocia was a film, this tour would be the trailer full of powerful explosions and cliffhangers that leave you begging for more.
4. Spend another day exploring Cappadocia on the Green Tour
The second tour of Cappadocia is the Green Tour. If the Red Tour is the trailer full of explosions and cliffhangers, then the Green Tour is the trailer for Cappadocia which focuses on the secret love stories and finishes with the heroine riding into the sunset on horseback. Covering a distance of 230km over the course of the 9-hour tour (in contrast to the 30km covered on the Red Tour…), this tour involves a lot more driving and is thus a lot slower paced than the Red Tour. This tour will take you on an adventure through the ancient underground city of Derinkuyu (the deepest in Cappadocia at 85 meters deep!), scenic walks through cave churches and poppy fields in Ihlara Valley and let you live our your dream of exploring the Star Wars world at Selime Monastery (this spot is said to have been the inspiration for the set of Anakin Skywalker’s home in Star Wars Episode 1!). As both the Red Tour and Green Tour strategically start at 9am and 9:30am, respectively, and end by 5pm, you can easily fit both tours into your weekend AND still have time to appreciate the sunrise and sunset each day.
5. Watch the sunrise from the un-aptly name Sunset Point
Another reason to stay in Göreme is for easy access to this breathtaking viewpoint which is not only one of the best places to watch the sun and hot air balloons rise in unity in the morning, but also a great place to have a picnic dinner as you watch the sunset over the town and its neighbouring fields of fairy chimneys. It’s hard to find directions to this spot online, but when you arrive in Göreme, between the many signs pointing you in the right direction and the friendliness of the hotel staff who will likely offer to personally escort you on the 10-minute walk there, I promise you will have no trouble locating it.
Still have questions about staying in Cappadocia, or Turkey in general? Leave me a comment below or over on Facebook. Being one of my favourite countries it will be my absolute pleasure to share my experiences with you. x L
Elle is a world-wanderer, star-gazer, dog-lover and meteorologist in the making. When she’s not busy studying the Earth’s climate, she’s off experiencing it first hand all around the world. Over the past 3 years, Elle has traveled to 31 countries across Europe, Asia, Oceania and the United States and has no plans of stopping anytime soon. You can follow her colorful adventures on her Instagram, Facebook and blog.