Monday, 11 March 2019

CAPPADOCIA TRAVEL GUIDE - PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO TURKEY

Unicorns, Rapunzel and a magical land of fairy chimneys and hot air balloons filling the sky at sunrise - what do they all have in common? They're all fairytales - or so you think! 
Cappadocia (meaning: "the land of beautiful horses") is very much a REAL PLACE in Central Turkey that has the most otherworldly feel. 





But it's so much more than just the most instagrammable place ever (And one of the only places in the world where you can sleep in a cave!). The region is most definitely worthwhile of a visit on your trip to Turkey, if not the main attraction. Even though it's such a popular tourist destination, it's not very well known in South Africa. This guide should help you planning your trip to Cappadocia (Because let's face it, I can skip the part of trying to convince you going to Cappadocia is the best decision you'll ever make - you already know it is).

Cappadocia is in the central Anatolia region of Turkey, around 700km from Istanbul (Or about an hour and a half flight). Cappadocia refers to the region which consists of different towns i.e Göreme, Nevşehir, Uçhisar, Ürgüp, and Avanos. Each of the towns is a couple kilometers apart and chances are you'll stick to the one you stay in unless you take a tour. Göreme is the most popular and also where I stayed.





Where is Cappadocia?



Getting to Cappadocia


I flew to Cappadocia from Istanbul Ataturk Airport with Turkish Airlines and my flight cost around R2000, or $150, return (It's usually cheaper if you don't go during peak season and book in advance). The flight was around an hour and a half.

You should also know that there are 2 airports that operate in the Cappadocia region. There's Nevsehir airport and Kayseri airport. Nevsehir is 30km to Goreme and Kayseri is 75km to Goreme. I flew to Kayseri because the flight was much cheaper and at a better time.

When you land, the easiest option would be to book a cab or shuttle through your hotel. I booked a shuttle through my hotel and it cost 30TL per person one way and took about an hour and a half from Kayseri Airport to my hotel. 


Where to stay in Cappadocia


As I mentioned, I stayed in the Goreme region which is definitely the most tourist region. I didn't rent a car and there are few transport options in Cappadocia, so while I love taking the road less travelled, I'm glad I booked into this tourist hotspot because everything I needed was in walking distance. 


Accomodation in Cappadocia


Cappadocia has no shortage of accommodation and at incredibly low price points. Now, when in Cappadocia, how can you not stay in a cave hotel? Staying in a cave hotel is an experience on its own that I would definitely recommend (Especially since most are actually so cheap!). 

I personally stayed at Kayatas Hotel and booked into a cave room but there are loads of other options. I usually go to booking.com and choose a hotel that has at least a 8+ rating. I think in a country like Turkey, where there is a huge language barrier one of the most important things for me was having helpful hosts at my hotel to organize things like the shuttle as well as the activities (Which I'll get to now).


Our Cave Room
The view outside my window at Kayatas Hotel

What to do in Cappadocia


Usually I enjoy exploring on my own and creating my own itinerary as opposed to going on a tour but Cappadocia is an exception. Most people choose a red or green tour and select activities (whirling dervishes, horse riding, hot air balloon). These can be organized with a travel agency or through your hotel, so planning what to do in Cappadocia is quite easy because it's all planned out for you. 




Apart from the tours and set activities I would highly recommend that you have some time to just walk and explore! The awesome thing about Goreme is that everything is walking distance so it's easy to just take a walk from your hotel and find fun activities, go shopping and find some nice restaurants. I did my fair share of shopping, tried out some local restaurants, smoked a shisha at a local cafe and even watched the sunset over Goreme just by foot.


Sunset Over Goreme



Turkish Hammam


Another experience unique to the region is a Turkish Bath or Hammam. A Hamam is a type of public bathing originating in the Ottoman Empire. In short it involves a bath, a massage and a scrub. I suggest choosing a package that includes to whole shebang as opposed to just the bath. Treat yo self! It can be a little awkward if it's your first time but it's also very similar to a Moroccan bath (Which I love!). For this we kinda just took a walk in town and went to the first Hammam we saw. I don't remember the exact cost but it was around 100TL per person.


Turkish Night Show


On our first day we decided to experience a Turkish Night show. We booked it through our hotel and it included the transport there. To be honest, we went into it having no idea what to expect!

It took about 10 minutes of the drive to get there. It was basically a round room in a "cave style" that felt very typical to Cappadocia. There were tables and chairs all around and an open area in the centre for the show. We were shown to our seats, given a selection of mains and drinks and could snack on the starters on the table. 

The actual show was a selection of traditional turkish dances as well as whirling dervishes (Another traditional Turkish dance). While we were being entertained we could enjoy the delicious food. We also met another South African mother and daughter traveling together! It ended at around 10pm and we were taken back to our hotel. It cost around 120TL per person. Was it worth it? It depends. It wasn't a highlight to the trip but an exciting add-on cultural experience.


The end of an awesome performance


Starters

Cappadocia wine


Mains



Tours


The Red Tour and the Green Tour are the most popular ways to see Cappadocia and each have a set itinerary

Basically how these tours work is that they will pick you up from your hotel (In most cases) and you will join a tour group of around 12 others. Together you will depart on a tour bus and go to the different attractions. If I remember correctly, my tour started at around 8 and ended at around 5. You get an English speaking tour guide who will give you the history and importance of all the attractions and is also there to answer your questions (My tour guide was amazing, and his passion and knowledge of the region was so inspiring!). All of the entrance costs are included. Most of the attractions are quite far and you end up being on the road for at least 3 hours just driving.  

I went on the Green Tour and I'll take you through the itinerary.


The Green Tour - Cappadocia, Turkey


Goreme Panorama: The first stop is perfect for you to take loads of pictures and get Evil Eye souvenirs! The Goreme Panorama gives a stunning view of the fairy chimneys. We stayed here for around 30 minutes listening to the history of the area and had time to take pictures.




Derinkuyu Underground City: We got to visit an actual underground city! To go into Cappadocia's history would require a whole other blog post but basically these caves were used by Christians who needed protection from Muslim Arabs during Arab-Byzantine Wars. In 1923 the Christian inhabitants in the area moved to Greece during a Turkey-Greece population exchange (Christians in Turkey moved to Greece while Muslims in Greece were sent to Turkey). We explored a few level of the tunnels which were incredibly well thought through! They made room for everything from kitchens to churches in the shape of a cross underground. 




Ihlara canyon hiking from Ihlara to Belisirma: Now this is the one thing I didn't enjoy. It was a very average hike of about 2km with no spectacular views and that left me exhausted because I'm so unfit. Mehh.

Belisirma for lunch: Finally, food!

Selime Rock Monastery: Now this was another highlight! It is a massive volcanic rock landscape that resembles the moon-like landscape in the Star Wars movies (And contrary to what some tour guides say, Star Wars was NOT shot here. But it totally could have been!). Again, lots of history and if you have a good tour guide he'll hopefully fill you in so you can fully marvel at how fascinating it is. 









Pigeon Valley: After a looooong drive you should reach the final destination which is the Pigeon Valley. Honestly, after all the incredible sites you've seen, this will be pretty average. But it's still amazing getting to see the pigeon valley up close. We ended off with some Turkish delights which was such a delight after such an eventful day!

The tour cost around 160TL per person.


Hot Air Balloon


HIGHLIGHT. OF. MY WHOLE DAMN LIFE.

Experiencing a hot air balloon flight was the single best experience of my life and I'm not even exaggerating. It absolutely took my breath away




Now for all the admin. It's probably the most expensive thing you'll do in Cappadocia yet it's also the cheapest you'll probably get a hot air balloon ride for. Prices are around 200 Euro and vary depending on how many people other people there are in the basket, how long the trip is etc. All the hot air balloon rides start at sunrise (You leave your hotel around 4:30am). From your hotel you go to their offices where you can have breakfast (Not a ton of options, I think we just had cereal) and then are put into groups and take a shuttle to the hot air balloons. Once you get there you climb into the hot air balloon basket and set off into the sunrise. That's it. I took an hour ride and it was PERFECT. I actually can't even put into works how incredible the hot air balloon was. 





At the end of the flight everyone gets a certificate and you cheers to a successful flight with champagne (or juice). Remember hot air balloons are weather permitting and don't go up every day so make sure you account for this and have enough days incase they don't go up on the day you'll be there.




And that sums up Cappadocia, Turkey! Going to Cappadocia was definitely one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.


ALSO READ: THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL TURKEY

ALSO READ: ACCOMODATION AND FOOD IN ISTANBUL


ALSO READ: TRAVEL TIPS FOR ISTANBUL











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