I know the fact that my website has become a platform full of travel posts, and I decided to give a break right after I share this two day trip I made a while ago to Cappadocia; probably the hottest of the tourist spots in Turkey. This will be a full 2-day itinerary to all you can do in this UNESCO World Heritage site that’ll take you to another level of falling in love with various landscapes, as well as Turkey. Before I start, I would like to state that I ended up here thanks to a foreign friend visiting. All the trip was actually planned on a very short notice -even though I knew she was coming long before- and I believe the details I’ll be sharing in a while will help a lot to whomever is thinking of seeing this world of wonders in a parallel situation.
What will you read?
+ History of Cappadocia
+ Hot Air Balloon Experience w Rainbow Balloons
+ Love Valley
+ Paşabağ Fairy Chimneys
+ Devrent Valley
+ Three Beautifuls
+ Turkish Night
+ Derinkuyu Underground City
+ Selime Monastery
+ Ihlara Valley
+ Pigeon Valley
A brief history of Cappadocia…
The history of Cappadocia dates back to 6th century BC, and the timeline that reaches today includes Hittites, Persians, Roman and Byzantine Empires, and finally Turkish starting with the Battle of Manzikert in 1071; the date when Turks started to rise in Anatolia. The place was formed by the volcanic activities happening in the mounts of Erciyes, Hasan, and Melendiz surrounding the area. Some say, the name Cappadocia is derived from Haspaduya, the ancient Persian word, meaning “Land of Beautiful Horses”, but some of the sources claim that it comes from “Ketpatukh” meaning the country people of Khepat.
How to reach Cappadocia?
A huge part of Cappadocia is located in Nevşehir city in central Anatolia; in other words, the center of Turkey. In fact, the area is scattered around the cities of Kayseri, Aksaray, Kırşehir, and Niğde as well. The easiest way is landing in Kayseri Erkilet Airport in Kayseri city, and then taking a shuttle bus or a rental car from there. Reaching the accommodation locations of Ürgüp, Göreme, and Avanos takes about an hour after that. There is also another airport, which is named after Cappadocia, but that isn’t operative year round. The shuttle buses are pretty cheap, but I would definitely recommend you to get your own ride to have more flexibility, thinking that your time will be limited.
What to do and see?
Ok, this is a pretty long story actually, which I’ll explain in plain details in a while. To give you a basic picture though, the most important two attractions you should do are the hot balloons, and seeing the fairy chimneys around. To accomplish both in the rightest way, I would strongly suggest to talk to your hotel and ask for daily Cappadocia tours, and agencies for hot balloons. There are three major routes for Cappadocia separated into groups as green, red, and blue, all of which are day trips each. For the hot balloons, you book with the agency a couple of days in advance, and they come get you very early in the morning from whichever hotel you are staying at – around like 5am- and according to the wind forecast, they decide whether to take off or not. Now I’ll explain all the crucial details that you’ll have to know along my experiences with Woop Woop Travel for Cappadocia city tour, and Rainbow Balloons for the hot balloon…
So my friends were coming via Greece, and I was coming from Istanbul. I landed in Kayseri Airport late in the evening, got the car below from Garenta, and started waiting for them. I don’t have any connection to Garenta whatsoever, but they are probably the most convenient and cheap rental company that we have in Turkey. My friends arrived around midnight and our an hour trip to Çavuşin/Avanos was on…
Our hotel: Jacob’s Cave Suites
Normally, most of the tourists stay in Göreme, the heart of Cappadocia to have a genuine experience of the cave hotels and stuff. Even though they have great views, especially in the morning when the balloons are all up, those hotels are fully booked year round, and it’s very hard to find any available rooms if you aren’t booking far in advance. We chose a cave hotel at a place called Çavuşin, a bit out of the city center, which was still just perfect. It’s actually a small family business run by a very sweet lady called Müyesser, who helped us big time to have a great experience in Cappadocia. Their lobby is just like a combination of the living room and kitchen of your house. Amazing Turkish breakfast, coffee, tea, cookies, and Turkish style cake all day long, makes everything just awesome. Müyesser arranged our 2-day city tour with Woop Woop Travel as well as Turkish Night, which I will get into the details of in a while…
First atttempt of the balloon…
There are several balloon companies operating in Cappadocia, and you do an advance booking by calling them, or mailing them. They send you a mail order form to lock the expenses, but you aren’t charged anything until the time you take the ride, because when the wind isn’t in the right condition, the Turkish Association of Aviation doesn’t let these companies operate. Even though I knew that it’d be around 2am when we make it to the hotel, I decided to book the balloon ride for the same morning so that we have two chances. Who would know that it would work the other way around… When making the reservation for the balloons, companies ask for the hotel you’ll be staying at, and the night before, they tell you what time their bus will be picking you up. The news might even be direct cancellation if the weather forecast is very negative. We were picked up around 5:30am by Rainbow Balloons and made our way to the open land, where the balloon was supposed to take off. Waiting for about half an hour over there didn’t help us take the ride though. Wind was pretty strong, and as it wasn’t safe, we had no chance but going back to our hotel to nap a little, and then have breakfast.
After having done with our super tasty breakfast in Jacob’s Cave Suites, it was time to leave for the tour of Northern Cappadocia, which they call the RED TOUR. The tour bus of Woop Woop Travel took us from our hotel around 8am, and we picked up several people from the hotels around and stopped at the tour office two pay up. It was around 35 euros at the time. This tour included Uçhisar Panorama, Göreme Open Air Museum, Love Valley View Point, Paşabağ Fairy Chimney Formations, and Devrent Valley. So let’s move on with the details…
Uçhisar is the highest point of Cappadocia and the castle named after this place is a unique one with many cave rooms and stairs connecting to each other like a maze. The panorama tour doesn’t include going up there, as most of these rooms aren’t open to tourists. We just stopped somewhere close-by, listened to the history from our tour guide, who explained everything about the history of Cappadocia into all of the details. To be honest, some of the info he was giving out was a bit too much, so we decided to take a look around, have a couple of funny pictures as you can see below and moved on with the next stop.
Göreme Open Air Museum
This place is called an open air museum, and it has been listed on UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1984, but most of its historical beauties are located inside the churches located next to each other. Visitors aren’t allowed to take pictures inside, not to harm the paintings and frescoes dating back to 10th-12th centuries. You can see all the details of the life at those times from the first hand by looking at these pictures. These pictures mainly tell stories from Byzantine Empire times as they are named after the stories that the frescoes are telling. For instance, there is one called Snake Church, and inside, the Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore is depicted. The museum is located at 1.5km distance from Göreme.
Love Valley Viewpoint
Love Valley is where you get to see many fairy chimneys located next to each other, with a 4900m long land full of chimneys. Even though people come from Göreme and hike around for hours and enjoy the different landscapes formed millions of years ago, what we did at this part of the trip was just to overlook at the valley for about half an hour. I researched a bit to find out why this is called Love Valley, but there is no real evidence to that. Some say that the reason is it makes you fall in love with the beauty of the views as well as the beauty of these fairy chimneys. If you have time, you can roam around the vineyards and fruit trees located around these chimneys about 2 hours to have the greatest experience of all.
Our stop right after an open buffet lunch was traditional handicrafts of Avanos, which was actually a contribution to Turkish Economy stop. We learned how rugs were handcrafted, how it can take years to make some of the rugs, and how the ingredients were naturally made. None of us were keen to buy rugs even though they were all beautiful, so we just enjoyed the history of rug making while drinking the super tasty apple tea that we were treated.
Paşabağ Fairy Chimneys
This might be one of the most picturesque spots of all trip along with the balloons. Located on the road to Zelve that comes from Avanos via Göreme, Paşabağ lets you wander through narrow and steep ways of some distinct volcanic formations. The name means The Vineyard of Pacha(General in Military), and it is also called the Monks Valley. This name was derived from the vineyard by the road, and the tuff stones standing apart. A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon and hermit’s shelter was built in one of the chimneys with three heads. One of the most iconic spots is a fairy chimney that looks like a horse. You can go inside if you are a bit fit and climb the little cave on the second floor, then have an amazing picture taken by someone standing outside. This was also the place that we saw some couples having wedding pictures.
Close to Paşabağ, there is the valley called Devrent, where you let the chimneys widen your world of imagination. Animal-like shapes, Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ, lunar landscapes, moonscapes and the lot. This stop of the trip was actually very short, and it was all about taking pictures.
I believe this wasn’t on the itinerary but the tour wanted to do us a favor. Close to Devrent, there are three special chimneys stated next to each other, and their shapes are assumed as father, mother, and the child. Standing apart from all the other chimneys around, the Three Beautifuls has many tales. One of them tells that once upon a time a beautiful daughter of a king fell in love with a shepherd. They couldn’t convince the king to accept the situation so they run away, then eventually had a kid. After a while, they decided that the king would forgive them when seeing his grandson. Though at the entrance of the castle, the king ordered his men to kill the family. The daughter begged God to save them from getting killed by his father’s men and they were eventually turned into stones; the chimney in front is the shepherd, the one in between is the kid, and behind them is the daughter of the king.
The RED TOUR was over with this last trip and we went back to the hotel to rest for a while, then head to Turkish Night in Göreme.
Turkish Night in Evranos Restaurant…
So this Turkish Night concept is actually made for foreigners to have a better understanding of Turkish traditions from all around the country. The restaurant is inside a cave, and there are little rooms where the guests have an elevated view of the circular dance floor surrounded by these rooms. While having your dinner and drinking, you can enjoy the show of belly dance, Turkish folk dances, groom and family asking the girls family for the marriage, henna night and various related shows. The shows start around 8pm and takes about 2.5 hours. The drinks are inclusive to the price of around 20 euros.
Second Balloon Attempt
We finally had the chance to get on the balloons on day 2. The story until getting into the balloon basket was all the same, so I’m skipping that. Only thing I’d like to mention is the take off place was different, because locations are selected daily according to wind directions.
Even though the history of ballooning dates back to 1783, France, it wasn’t before 1990 that the hot air balloons started to operate in Cappadocia skies. A British lady called Kaili Kidner, and her husband Lars Eric More were the first people to fly a balloon over Cappadocia and they started the very first balloon company called Kapadokya Balloons in 1991. There were many other balloons next to ours waiting to be pumped up to fly over the fairy chimneys. Our balloon had around 15 people on it, and we were standing in cubicles of four people. The pilot stands in the middle, firing up and changing direction using the ropes according to his view and the radio; receiving direcitons from the ground. The ride takes about an hour, and although it was a bit chilly as we were there on October, the staggering views without a second of hesitation made it totally negligible. We couldn’t stop taking millions of pictures while up on the skies as high as 1000m. In the middle of the tour, the pilot even placed the basket on the cap of a chimney to have a look around. If you ever visit Turkey, I can clearly say that this is one hell of an experience that you will never ever forget.
After an hour of ride, we landed on a pick up truck, and then treated with glasses of alcohol free champagne as our balloon ride certificates were presented. It was time to go back to our hotel to enjoy the breakfast, and then move on to with the GREEN TOUR.
The first part of the GREEN TOUR was almost identical to Love Valley viewpoint part of the RED TOUR. We overlooked at Göreme instead of Love Valley, which had chimneys as well. If you put the pictures side by side, it’s very hard to differentiate what the difference is to be honest. Only thing I could say that there was a little hill that you could climb on in Göreme Panaroma to have a cooler picture then the one you can have at Love Valley overview.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Cappadocia has 36 different underground cities connecting to each other. This might have been the most interesting part of all the trip, as it is also the biggest underground cities among all 36. Thought to be built around 7-8th centuries BC, Derinkuyu is an underground city with a depth of 200m that includes stables, wine cellars, storage rooms, refectories, chapels and so on. It’s a comprehensive city built under the ground, no shoot. The complex was found by accident in 1963, when a resident realized a secret room behind the wall of his house, and by 1967, it was open to tourists. According to official statements, it can accommodate 20.000 people, but the gateways and rooms are super tiny that you can’t help thinking the Phrygian people who made all this were actually hobbits, and that number doesn’t mean much. Historical records say that it was used intensively by Byzantines during the war between Muslim Arabs, in centuries of 7th-11th, till the battle of Manzikert I presume. The city has 20 floors under the ground, though, only 8 floors are open to visitors. Anyway, it’s truly a must see in Cappadocia.
Closer to Aksaray city and at the end of Ihlara Valley(next stop), Selime Monastery is one of the biggest religious buildings in Cappadocia with a rock-cut cathedral size church. To reach the top section that has a staggering fortress-like structure, and the rooms, first you need to pass a tunnel-like corridor, which was part of the caravan path for camels. After that, there is a protective waiting section for them. It was thought to be built for people to pray while the camels were resting at this part. The monastery requires steep climbs and going through very narrow passageways, but it’s definitely worth it.
After a traditional sort of lunch with kebabs, we headed to Ihlara Valley. The 100m deep, 45km long valley was formed by Melendiz River riding across, and has four different entrances. Although there is an entrance close to Selime Monastery, we entered from the one nearby Ihlara Village to walk down 300 steps, and have a better understanding of the landscapes and the depth. During our 3.5km hike, we saw several rock cut churches with many sorts of frescoes, listened to the beauty of rushing Melendiz River, took pictures on huge stones, chilled on top of wooden logs drinking Turkish Tea…
The last stop of the GREEN TOUR was Pigeon Valley. This could have been a hiking trip as well, but as the time was very limited, we only had time to look over the valley with hundreds of pigeon houses. The reason why so many pigeon houses were carved on the rocks of the valley was that pigeons were used as a source of food and fertilizer. The advent of chemical fertilizers have reduced the use of pigeon dung, but there is still some locals using them stating that the dung, I mean pigeon poop, makes food tastier. How yummy, isn’t it!
Actually before we made it to the last stop of Pigeon Valley, we had the stopover of Contribution to Turkish Economy Part 2. Below are the videos of ceramics and clay artistry, that also have hundreds of years of history dating prior to Ottoman Era.
Dinner at Seyyah Han
So we were done with the tour around 5pm, and after getting off all the dust with quick showers at our hotel, we went to a restaurant close by recommended by the hotel owner Müyesser. The restaurant Seyyah Han was nested in a cave by a huge rock formation lit up from the bottom. The two floor restaurant has an open terrace upstairs for a wider view, and a cafe downstairs to enjoy the Turkish Coffee after dinner. They said the specialty is Lamb Neck cooked on wood fire so we didn’t resist. Traditional serving, wood burning stove nearby to heat the room, and super tasty local wine made everything just amazing.
So after having our Turkish Coffees along with Turkish Delights, our super intensive Cappadocia trip was finally over.