From the unusual natural sceneries to its rock-hewn churches and frescos, discovering all of Cappadocia is like wanting to eat one whole Enchilada with just a bite. You will not get to discover all it’s different flavors and you will probably end up having a stomach ache.
The endless historic and geographical sites make this National Park very difficult to discover in one visit.
Cappadocia goes a long way back. From 1800 B.C. Hittite settlers used the soft volcanic rock to carve caves for shelter to the cave room hotels of today. Imagine trying to explore a couple of thousand years in just a couple of days: Impossible!
Seek to experience Cappadocia as if it were your own Enchilada to eat, enjoying piece by piece. Even if you don’t finish it all, the taste will last for a lifetime.
Top 5 things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey
1-Göreme Open Air Museum
A group of rock cut churches, featuring the Apple Church, Chapel of St. Barbara, Chapel of St. Catherine and the so called Dark Church, that will satisfy any art standards with the painted frescos inside them.
My personal favorite is the Tokali Kilise or Buckle Church 50m down the hill from the entrance. It features an impressive well preserved small fresco of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus on the far end of the church.
Entrance Fee: 15 TL (6.50 €)
Getting there: From Göreme center a solid 1.5 km walk
Special Eye on: For the Dark Church, named like this because of it’s lack of windows, there is an extra fee of 8 TL that are worth paying for.The extra fee is a way to restrict the acces in favour of the preservation of the site.
2- A Walk Around the Valleys
You can either hike, mountain bike, horse ride or scooter through the valleys from Göreme that naturally exhibit the different rock formations that are particular to this place: mushrooms, columns and cones. It is like walking through a natural phenomenon museum.
If you are into photography there will be plenty of great shots waiting for you to take. It is rumored among locals that George Lucas wanted to film in these valleys scenes for his Star Wars movies but declined due to the fact that producers did not want to portray phallic symbols into the film. When you visit the Love Valley you will understand why.
Fees: free if you walk, 45 TL (19 €) a day for a scooter and around 15 TL (6.50 €) for a bike.
Getting there: There are many valleys around the most central town of the Cappadocia region. Your best bet is to ask for a map in your hotel and program an all day hiking trip if you want to visit the mayor ones.
Special Eye on: The most famous valleys are the Red Valley, the Rose Valley, the (not so romantic to my eyes) Love Valley and Zemi Valley. They are all within a 10km range from the town of Göreme.
It may not make the list of the top 5 places to go on travel agencies of Cappadocia, but for Annika and I, it was a great experience.
It was here where we took some incredible pictures from the top of the deserted rock town that was once inhabited. It is no coincidence that many hiking tours and horseback riding tours use this place as it’s starting point.
Here you will also find the oldest cave church attributed to St. John the Baptist that dates all the way back to the 5th century.
Entrance Fee: Free
Getting there: a long but beautiful 4 km hiking path from Göreme.
Special Eye on: The view from behind the rock town.
This landmark of Cappadocia is one of my personal favorites. This underground city helped me understand the terror of what persecution might be like. To hide from the sun underground is a big price for anyone to pay. It is said that around 10,000 Christans lived here in the 6th and 7th century when Persians and Arabic armies sought to vanquish the Byzantine Empire.
Chapels, rooms, wine cellars and even schools are found deep within the city. Air shafts were designed not only to keep the air circulating but as elevators where water and food where transported to the many different levels of the city. Today you can only access to seven of them.
Entrance Fee: 15 TL (6.50 €)
Getting There: grab a Dolmuş (small bus) from Göreme to Nevsehir and then to Derinkuyu for a total of 7 TL (3 €).
Special Eye on: It would be advisable to hire a guide. Although the site is interesting enough it is hard to make for yourself the distinctions among the rooms and there importance. A guide will charge you upon site so the negotiation is up to you. I would not pay more than 30 TL for a one hour tour.
5- Balloon Ride in Cappadocia
Maybe one of the most famous Cappadocia activities and least to say the most expensive. We have to be honest and say that we did not take this ride but heard so many wonders about it.
We even met a group of Turkish people that came from Istanbul and took the 12 hour bus just to experience what they called “a life time opportunity”. So if you can afford it don’t hesitate and ask your hotel for advice.
Fees: From 120 € up to 180 € per person
Getting There: There are many companies fighting for the tourists choice, the best thing is to follow your gut and check many options before you decide on one.
Special Eye on: A great tip was given to us by a local. If you don’t want to look for a discount price, arrive early at the starting point of ascension. Many balloons might have one or two spaces left that you can be negotiated there and then for a discount. If you are unsuccessful just walk to the Göreme Sun Set Point (on the road towards Uchisar) and watch the balloons color the scenery from there.
So whether you choose to focus your time visiting churches, walking through the valleys or just resting in your cave room the important thing is to have fun and enjoy the magic that this place has to offer. So smile and let Cappadocia smile back at you.
For more information feel free to contact us through the Y Travel Blog or our own. We will assist you in any way we can.
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BIO Roberto S. Gallegos Ricci (29) is an independent travel blogger and Co-founder along with his soul mate Annika Wachter (25) of the project Tasting Travels. The project seeks to promote travel as a means to strengthen social empathy. Currently they are riding by bike direction East and writing articles about the people, places and culture that they encounter along their way. “It’s not only about the bike ride, it’s about the people we meet.”