Although Istanbul and the beaches get more press, those who have visited will agree that Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is no less a jewel in Turkey’s tourist crown.
One could spend weeks exploring Cappadocia’s lunar landscape with its fairy chimneys and ancient cave churches, yet you could pack in quite a lot in a short time.
Hot Air Balloon Flight
If you do not take a hot air balloon ride, you should wake up at sunrise and watch them fill the skies.
However, Cappadocia is the world leader in hot air balloon rides. There are over 20 hot air balloon companies in the region.
Take the 20-minute walk to the Göreme Open Air Museum, pay your 15TL entrance fee, rent the 5TL audio guide, and spend the next two hours marvelling at the 1,100-year-old cave churches and the frescoes. Tip: Pay the extra 8TL for the Dark Church; it is worth it.
Be sure to hit the Buckle Church down the hill (included with the Museum entry ticket) and head back to Göreme’s centre. Across the canal, from the bus station, you will find three unique cafes to choose from for lunch.
Uçhisar Castle / Pigeon Valley / Hammam
Take the public bus (3TL) up the hill to Uçhısar, ascend the castle (5TL) and enjoy the breathtaking view of the valley and then explore the town a bit.
Once you are done, hike the breathtaking Pigeon Valley (free) back to Göreme.
Tip: If you do not feel up for a hike, then use the afternoon to shop around Göreme. There is an abundance of gift, handicraft, and antique shops which cater for all your retail needs.
Stop by your hotel, grab some clean clothes, head to the Hamam (Turkish bath – up to 60TL), and enjoy a massage and good scrub down. Feeling squeaky clean, you will be ready for a nice dinner.
Depending on the time of year, schedule dinner around the sunset. You will want to grab your camera and make the trek up the hill to the sunset point for a breathtaking photo experience.
Underground City & Hiking
After breakfast, head to one of the many rental companies and get a scooter (around 60TL for the day). Head South for an hour to one of the big underground cities, Kaymakli or Derinkuyu (15TL).
You may want to hire a guide waiting past the entrance as there is very little signage in the caves. These subterranean cities date back thousands of years and descend 100 meters underground (not a good place if you are claustrophobic).
If you want more hiking, we recommend going a bit further afield to the captivating Ihlara Valley (8TL). This mini Grand Canyon with cave churches and monasteries follows a small river up to 12 kilometres.
Dinner and wine tasting
Head to Ürgüp for wine tasting and a nice dinner at Ziggy’s. (30-40TL per person). If you have some time before returning the scooter you will want to head to the top of Temenni Tepesi (Wish Hill) for tea and see the beautiful view of Ürgüp and the surrounding valley.
For your last day, go back to the scooter place and do an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) tour through Rose or Love Valley (90TL for 2 hours). After lunch, catch the public bus to Avanos.
Avanos Pottery & Hair Museum
Check out a few different potters (best to do some price shopping as the variance can be significant from shop to shop), watch a demonstration and try your hand at throwing a pot (free).
If you want to be freaked out, visit the Hair Museum, a unique collection of hair from over 16000 women around the world. Once you have finished that you will need to recover so cross the walking bridge and take a seat and order ice cream or coffee at Mado while you take in the peaceful flow of the Red River.
The buses leave Avanos every hour for Göreme so make sure you are back in the town square before the next hour. Return to your hotel and freshen up before catching a ride to the Turkish Night (expect to pay 30 EUR at the most). You will have alll you can eat and drink while watching various Turkish folk dances including the famous belly dance.
Where to Stay?
One of Cappadocia’s unique selling points is the opportunity to sleep in a cave. In Göreme, I recommend the Kismet Cave House, a boutique cave hotel at a fair price. Faruk, the Cappadocian owner and manager, is a great friend.
For a more traditional hotel the Royal Stone Houses provide comfort and elegance with a beautiful early morning view of the hot air balloons as they launch into the sky (on most mornings).
And for the budget traveller, the Köse Pension offers an economical option and a pool (in the summer).
Where to Eat?
Nazar Börek – Besides the delicious food, you never know when the owner will decide to put on a concert. Be sure to try the apple börek for dessert.
Cafe Şafak – A family-run cafe serving delicious food.
Mydonose Cafe – Great atmosphere, excellent food, and speciality coffee drinks.
Manzara Restaurant provides an amazing view and good food.
Fat Boys in the centre of town is a unique Australian-Turkish restaurant with a good atmosphere and an eclectic mix of dishes.
Go to the Kale Terrace Restaurant and order Testi Kebab. This is the unique Cappadocian tourist dish served in locally made pottery. They cook the stew in the closed pottery and then break it open before you. It is an experience as much as a meal.