This weekend, we’re going to visit Cappadocia, following the photos that made us dream too much (a hundred hot-air balloons in the sky). We told you about hot-air balloons here. In this article, we will talk about the rest.
Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
Departure from IstanbulWe
wake up at 4:30 am and order an Uber at 5 am. Because of our ignorance, we booked the flight from the farthest airport of Istanbul (code name SAW) which is 50mn – 1h away. In Istanbul, Uber allows us to call classic cabs so when we see a cab stop right in front of our door, we take it and it’s gone. It is only when arriving at the airport that he asks us to pay and we realize that we got into the wrong car:( Uber shows us the license plates in this way: 34T****. We realize (too late) that all the cabs have plates beginning with 34T***. Oops!
It’s a 1h15 flight (with light meal please) to Kayseri, one of the two airports closest to Göreme.
Having booked the shuttle via our hotel, someone comes to pick us up with a sign with our name on it. We had to wait 1 hour a couple who never came.
And when we arrive at the hotel, we ask the receptionist where the car we asked him to reserve is. He answers “do you want to rent a car?”. Rebelote: 1h of additional waiting time for the car.
Note: if you plan to rent a car since the beginning, if you are in a hurry or if you are numerous, it is better to rent a car from the airport of Kayseri (at Avis for example). The price would have been about the same (two days at Avis = 563TL, versus renting from Göreme 320TL + 180TL shuttle for two => 500TL).
confess that we lowered our guard a little bit, by booking the hotels after being influenced by the photos of a blog (which retouch enormously its photos) and of Instagram. For the 1st night, we opted for Cave Life Hotel, with troglodyte rooms, without knowing that most of the hotels in Göreme propose troglodyte rooms. What made us decide, it was the terrace with the magnificent sofa + the view from its breakfast room. But the room is a little too small for my taste. And the gentleman takes a little too much commissions on the services that we take in addition (car rental, airport shuttle). I’m sure you can find better in the area.
Day 1: Visits
Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkey. Small deep rivers have carved their beds in the soft soil of the plateau, stone needles (also called fairy chimneys) stand everywhere. The Bronze Age houses carved into the valley walls by cave dwellers, then used as refuges by the early Christians, are among the most prominent examples. It is therefore a picturesque place, a mix of the Atacama Desert, the great canyon of the United States, Hobbiton, Cu Chi and the Smurfs.
Twin Fairy ChimneysBon
, once we have the car, our first priority is to buy gas because the car comes with the gas light flashing :D. And with all those hills, it’s better to have some, lots and lots of it. Gasoline costs in the 6,6TL per liter (almost 1€) and we buy about 30 liters, knowing that our car (automatic, and old) consumes 6,3L/100km (according to the on board computer), how many km can we do? I’m kidding, we’re not here to do math.
We first visit the Twin Fairy Chimneys just because it’s next to the gas station and finally it was a good decision because we are alone on the spot. I’m super impressed by their size because in my imagination, these fairy chimneys had to be smaller.
It isn’t a fairy that created them, of course, but a phenomenon dating back millions of years. Volcanic ashes form porous rocks, topped by a layer of basalt. Erosion creates this type of chimneys that take quite incredible shapes. And as erosion is less important for the basalt layer, we see this form of mushrooms everywhere in Cappadocia.
continue on our way to Devent Valley, looking for a camel-shaped rock. Here, the landscapes are sumptuous, in spite of the tourists a little too numerous for our taste.
Zelve Open Air MuseumThis
is where we buy the 3-day museum pass that gives us access to many sites in the area for 110TL/person. For those who do not wish to buy this pass, the entrance costs 30TL/person and the parking 3TL. The open museum of Zelve is less frequented than the one in Göreme, we find there at the end of the day with a handful of tourists.
As I was saying, volcanic ash forms porous rocks, and the inhabitants of the region understood very well that it was easy to dig in this rock and make houses or even whole cities out of it. As soon as there is a new member, let’s dig another chamber. Here we can see a chapel, the living rooms… empty, of course, but do you know that some people lived there until 1952? Before being evacuated elsewhere for security reasons.
is one of my favorite places in Göreme. It is said that Saint Simeon would have spent his time in a hole at the top of a chimney, 10m above the ground. There is a church (Saint Simeon) that you can visit, and the many guides on site will show you the chimney in question. I find that the chimneys here look even more like mushrooms, and I like the grandiose side of the place very much.
Funny little detail: next to the parking lot, look at what the so-called gendarmerie looks like 😀
Church of St. John the BaptistWe
visit this church located in the town of çavusin, just next door, to discover a dilapidated complex full of garbage. It’s a pity because it would have been very nice 🙁 Anyway, I advise against it.
is the favorite shopping stop for organized tours, but it is also the place to be in the region. The “master of the place” is Galip, and he has a story to tell: an old girlfriend, before the breakup, gave him a lock of hair because he asked her to give him a souvenir of her. Hanging in his store, the lock attracts the curiosity of visitors. Moved by the story, the women started to leave him their lock of hair. Now, he receives locks of hair by mail from the other side of the world. His collection is estimated at more than 16,000 samples (see more), and he has turned it into a museum, behind his store.
He is a master of ceramics, who looks strangely like Einstein. We went there out of curiosity, and then finally, since his store looks like a maze, not only did we not find the Hair Museum, but we were also led to attend a small product demo, with the master himself. He made me walk on a ceramic vase to prove his solidity, then he offered me a signed ceramic bowl 🙂 well, he does it with a lot of women eh. For the hair, he didn’t ask for anything though 🙂 We were also brought in a room, the light goes out and we can see that some ceramic pieces are fluorescent, it’s too nice ! In short, go for the pleasure of the eyes, his creations are really extraordinary, the little pot making demo (only 1 minute for a very nice pot) is very nice too.
We hurry to return after this visit because it starts to rain. We dine in a not very good restaurant then sleep.
Day 2 :
Wake up at 4:30 am today for our hot air balloon flight. I talked about it here.
We return then to the hotel around 7:30 am. We make check-out immediately, because a long road awaits us today.
viewing great pictures of Lake Tuz at 2h from Göreme on a travel blog, we thought we had found the equivalent of the Uyuni salt desert (which after more than 2 years of world tour remains our best experience ever) in Turkey. But it disappoints me enormously. We follow the indications on this blog to go by car, and land in a place which has nothing to do with the photos we saw. Basically, Lake Tuz is a salt lake invaded by a pink algae, which makes the color of the lake pinkish. And I believe that this algae isn’t there anymore (not too much anymore). It’s supposed to be very beautiful. By far, it’s super super beautiful anyway!
Up close, big disappointment! Walking in the mud, garbage everywhere. It is a very cheap version of the salt desert Uyuni (which we visited, I let you compare the photos here) Good, 4h round trip for that. I advise you against it (unless you go to Ankara, make a small stop)!
didn’t want to go there at the base, but when we passed by, we were so taken by the beauty of the place that we stopped dead in our tracks. The whole place is dug in a huge, but enormous block of rocks, there are 3 faces, the locals visit both faces (free access) while the tourists visit the paying part, which gives access to the chapels (30TL/person, compatible with the Museum Pass). Apparently, not very far away, is the location of the shooting of Star Wars (the old movies) but I only found out about it later.
Kayabasi PanoramaThen we
drive 2 minutes from there to a view point: panoramic view of the valley, where we realize the enormous size of the rock (or mountain) in which the Selime church was dug. We visit this part of Cappadocia in the opposite direction of the towers so we didn’t meet any tourists, for the moment.
general, people enter from the side of the Ihlara valley to end up in Belisirma, in a restaurant by the river, but as we visit in the opposite direction, we prefer to arrive first in Belisirma. Entrance is paying (30TL) or included in the Museum Pass.
We wanted to visit a few chapels but missed, on this side, the chapels are all high up and very tired from the successive morning awakenings, we decide to look just from below, make 200m, before going to…
… or rather its view point. From here, we have a beautiful view on the valley, we can even see the river flowing in the middle, brave people hiking along the rock face. I know that many enjoy hiking here (5.7km for the bravest, or half for those who give up in the middle). It isn’t ideal to come with a car because you have to go there and back, while those who come on an organized tour start in the village of Ihlara to be looked for later in Belisirma. Without walking, we still enjoy the beautiful view, there are even sofas available right next door to relax.
Derinkuyu Underground CityJB
is very tired from driving and dreams of only one thing: taking a nap. We try all the same to finish by a last visit to the underground city of Derinkuyu, which would comprise 8 floors in all, able to shelter 20 000 people! There are other underground cities in the area and the rumour says that they are all inter-connected ! Note : Pictures were taken with a camera, smartphones can’t take pictures in such a dark place.
Well, to live there, you don’t have to be very tall (like me for example), JB breaks his back in the mini-stairs and he thinks it’s a very good idea to visit by ourselves because he couldn’t have survived long in there, if he had to listen to the long explanations of a guide. We thought we would get lost in there but in fact it is very simple: just follow the red arrows for the visit, and the blue arrows for the exit. As there are some guides who are there at the same time as us, I take advantage of it to listen a little to their explanation. On the contrary, I think that the visit with a guide is very important because we will die of boredom here and don’t know what to look at (no explanation on the site). We just see several doors (in round form) out of stone, supposed to protect the city and to prevent the progression of the enemies.
Sunset View PointWe
watch the sunset behind the valley at a place that bears its name: Sunset View Point (type this on google maps to find the exact location). It’s one of the most beautiful sunsets since our departure on our world tour, I recommend you too !
We return to Göreme, very tired. We receive the key to our room at Sultan Cave suites. The room is huge, the bathroom very beautiful, but I don’t really like the attitude of the hotel employees, nor the fact that it is squatted the next morning by a horde of instagrammers (who don’t even sleep on the spot) and who lead a fake life. I think that if you want to stay in the area, it’s better to opt for the Kelebek Special Cave Hotel, which is right next door.
The only positive point of this hotel, apart from its beauty, is its excellent Setan restaurant, which offers the famous pottery kebab to fall.
It is the specialty of the region. The meat is cooked in a ceramic pot, and at the time of serving, we break the pot by banging it with a hammer or a knife. It’s very good!
Day 3 :
We wake up around 6am to watch the balloons fly, this time as spectators. I also talked about it here. It was also an opportunity to see, again and again, the Love Valley. This valley bears its name because the fairy chimneys have a phallic shape 😀
We return to the hotel at 8:30 am for breakfast (delicious, buffet) before getting back in the car to visit all the sites around Göreme that we couldn’t visit the first day.
Goreme Open Air MuseumMorning
arrival at 9 am (while the museum is open at 8:30 am) does not spare us from the presence of a few morning groups. Admission costs 45TL/person (or also included in the Museum Pass). I opt for the rental of an audio guide (15TL).
Here there is a concentration of chapels, all more beautiful one after the other. Unfortunately, the visit is very quick because they are very small (limited to 20 people at a time). My favorites are the dark church, and a chapel right next to it, accessible by a metal staircase.
For Dark Church, the entrance fee of 15TL (or free if you have a Museum pass), already eliminates all organized tours. But on top of that, the paintings have been renovated so it’s super nice. I put here a picture of Gettyimages because we aren’t allowed to take pictures inside all the chapels (at the risk of damaging the frescoes).
It is a site to visit absolutely, but as soon as it opens to avoid the crowd.
haven’t told you about it yet but you often see small holes on the walls of cave houses. Apparently they are pigeon houses. Not because they needed carrier pigeons, no, it’s more to trade fertilizers… from pigeon droppings.
You can make a big trek in the Pigeon Valley, provided that you are well briefed in advance because there are no clear indications on the site. The view we have from Pigeon valley is really incredible, I recommend you to go there.
is a huge rock transformed into a castle, in fact, it must be the highest place in the area, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings. The ascent isn’t very difficult thanks to the stairs. We will cross there the French couple who was in the same balloon as us the day before, that Göreme is small! We discuss a little and we realize that the man of the couple works in a competing agency of those for which we had worked in our former Parisian life 🙂
Salkım Tepesi PanoramaIf
everyone is brought to Göreme Panorama by the organized tours, we preferred to have an orange juice at Salkım Tepesi Panorama
The light is more favorable (whereas we are against daylight in the morning in Göreme Panorama) and the landscapes are very very beautiful. Look at that! (and admire my cautious gait because it looks like nothing, it slips quite a lot)
Sunset View in GöremeWe
return the car in front of our first hotel and take the opportunity to visit the Sunset view (type it on google maps), be careful it isn’t the same place as Sunset view point 😀 this one is in the hills of Göreme and offers a 360°C view on the whole city (and surroundings). It must be the place to watch the sunset, see the hot air balloons or take a picture of Göreme at night. I regret a little bit that I didn’t discover it earlier.
It is 2:50 pm, a shuttle comes to pick us up to drop us off at the airport of Kayseri. We return to Istanbul + 1H of cab. Very tired, we go to bed at once, with the stars full the eyes because we saw only wonderful things since our departure on Friday for Cappadocia.
Here are some bonus pictures of Göreme, I think it’s the most beautiful city of all, and I would have liked to stay a few more days to discover all its secret corners.
Practical advicePractical advice (itinerary, budget) is available in another article, this one is already quite long I find