You’ve probably already seen enviable photos of Cappadocia, either here or from a friend. And they were so stunning that it’s definitely on your bucket list for Turkey. Maybe you’re planning your itinerary already! Great.
But I do have tips for starting- some valuable things you’ll want to know, which will enhance your trip and help you prepare for it in safety, finances, knowledge and health.
Things to Know before you Go to Cappadocia
It’s a UNESCO site
As the area is preserved, no building outside of restoration is allowed on this land. Thus, most locals actually live in apartments in or near the cities. As such, be prepared to see fairy chimneys, pigeon houses, red rock
Cave dwelling landscape
Cappadocia was inhabited as early as 1800 to 1200 B.C. during the Hitite era, when Christians resided in this area to escape Roman prosecution. Caves were used for hiding and escaping persecution and they eventually transformed into something people lived in. There are monastery caves, underground and cavernous caves. Even caves made for pigeons. Next to the landscape, caves are one of the famous signatures of this region.
Today, some 90% of Cappadocians live in apartments. Due to the need for more modern convenience and the fact unesco has protected it there’s not much else folks can do to modify it other than turn it into hotels. The land is government owned. Farmers can still buy farm lands surrounding it and you’ll see occasional tractors driving through town in the place of a car.
Cappadocia is not for rock climbing
Many of the rocks are man-made (if you can believe that), while Mother Nature has done her bit with rain, snow, wind and elements of weather! This is because the rock is so porous, made from minerals and volcanic ash, which makes it easy to carve. It’s said that an entire cave house can be completed in a month.
Bring Hiking Shoes
I brought runners and I regretted it. Some of the trails are slippery slopes and the due to the porous and crumbly aspect of the rock material, if you don’t tread slowly, you can slide.
Bring vitamin C and cold medicine
For me it started with a sore throat and at first I thought it was just travelers cold. But I quickly realized a lot of people I met either at my hotel or on tours seemed to be coming down with the same cold. Blame the volcanic ash material of the rocks. As I said, they’re soft and crumble easily and the dust is fine. If you have a sick mask, that might be a good idea too.
Stay at least four days
Cappadocia is a vast region. While you can do some of it independently via bus, scooter or on foot, many also go to hike trails to see more sights. I stayed in Cappadocia for 3.5 days. It wasn’t enough and I felt rushed trying to squeeze it all in. (Filming three videos only made things take longer also, despite the fact I work quick). You can easily spend 2-3 days in Goreme just walking and exploring the trails of Love Valley, Red Valley and the Open Air Museum. Uchisar Castle is a 5 minute bus ride but you’ll want to spend some time hiking and exploring the caves. That’s just Goreme area. To get to other parts of Cappadocia, plan for at least two days. Okay well, maybe you
Stay at a cave hotel
Goreme is a cozy and safe town, sprinkled with cave hotels. Yes, real caves, like the Flintstones! Okay, sort of.
Today, the entire area is a World Heritage UNESCO Site, so no building or alteration of these caves and rocks can be done. So it’s simply become hotels for tourists. A cave can run anywhere from 50 Euro to well over 100 Euro. I stayed at Kelebek Hotel (read my review), it had its own Turkish bath, had an awesome buffet of mysterious Turkish food to do taste tests and was only 8 minutes from the Goreme bus station. There are hostel caves as well and well, just staying in the town, you’ll have a priceless view of them all! Check out some cave hotels here.
Watch Cappadocia : Cave Hotels, Turkish Baths, Göreme & Kelebek Hotel
DO the balloon ride
I always wondered what the big deal was hot air balloon rides (read my review of Voyager Balloons and watch my video) . Now I know. It’s pretty friggin amazing to be floated up 1,500 feet to see the lay of the land. The first high you’ll feel other than floating up, is to see 100 balloons (well, 99 counting yours) fill the air at around the same time. The second high comes from the height you’re floating at and finally, the magnificent sight you’ll see sprawled out before you in rock formations from fairy chimneys to pigeon houses, red rocks and more. Rates start at $100, but a reputable agency will be a little more. Do the balloon ride. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do; you won’t regret it.
Watch my Guide to Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia | Sights of Cappadocia
Take a color-coded tour
Red, green, blue… which is the best? Is it worth the splurge?
Firstly, the tours are color-coded and all go in different directions. They each start at around 50 Euro. Lunch and entry fees are included, but drinks at lunch are not.
Depending on which tour agency you go with Tours #2 (Blue Tour) and Tour #3 (Green Tour) can make slightly different stops but overall, go in the same regions. Tour #3 or the Green Tour seems to be the most popular as it goes the farthest and hits Durinkuyu, the largest Underground City in Cappadocia. (Note: this can easily be visited by local bus too- 45 minutes from Goreme). My advice: Skip red tour #1. You’ll be able to do it on your own if you stay in Goreme and you can either, walk or rent a bike. Seriously.
Depending on who you speak to, there’s a contest between the Green and Blue. My hotel recommended the Blue tour because the places were more historical, etc.. and there were aspects like Sognali, which I’m glad I saw. Still, I wish I had taken the Green. The Green Tour is widely recommended because it tackles places that are much further away and that you definitely need a car for!
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
I stayed in Goreme, a small and safe main town of Cappadocia. It’s a preferred town due to its walking proximity to Love Valley, Red Valley and the Open Air Museum. It’s a ten minute bus ride to Uchisar Castle located in Uchisar, another town tourists will stay at.
Getting Around Cappadocia
The cost of a car rental is the near the cost of a tour, but if you’re skimming the dime, you could easily post a notice or spread the word in your hotel or hostel to see if anyone wants to chip in to join you. This would be better than a tour as you can pick the places you want to visit and stay as long as you like.
You can rent a car or scooter in Goreme town, near the otogar (bus station). You can also get around by local bus, take a colored tour or hike. Either way, Cappadocia is awesome for solo travelers.
The well-trodden trails are visible and in some areas, you have multiple ones converging and crossing as if to say, All roads lead to home.
The main bus station
Taxis, local buses and long-distance and overnight buses are all located centrally in town at the otogar (aka Station). You’ll have several long-distance bus carriers to choose from if you want to springboard to other popular destinations. I took an overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia and it cost 70 L. My cost returning to Istanbul was 60L
10 Best Things to Do in Cappdocia (Video)
Read more here.
Things to Know about Cappadocia rocks (Rock Vocabulary)
While it may not occur to you upon first glance at these alien rock eruptions, much of the impressive rock formations you’ll see in Cappadocia are man-made. The rock is made from volcanic ash and minerals, making it soft and porous. Although part of the formations have to do with natural erosion over time, these rocks also were crafted by hand to be turned into houses and secret monasteries to hide Orthodox Christians from prosecution.
Right outside of Goreme just a 10-15 minute walk is Love Valley. It’s a territory where you’ll see a plentitude of Fairy Chimneys, called so because there’s a seeming chimney stack on the top of a column.
But the reason why they call it Love Valley… can you guess? These fairy chimneys actually look like giant monolith penises which stand erect when you enter. Wonder if anyone brings their dates here?
Being that farming was a source of food, manure was important for a fertile crop. This is where pigeons come in. Pigeon poop is a well-known fertilizer to the farmlands of Cappadocia. As a result, farmers built pigeon houses high in the rocks so the pigeons could nest and their poop could be collected. Placing the houses high was also a strategy to keep foxes and predators out. You can easily spot pigeon rocks due to their multiple holes.
Open Air Museum
Put simply, the museum is a preserved area of cave monasteries. It’s worth a look and you’ll have a scenic walk along the way, but if you ask me, you seen one cave monastery… Some have preserved wall paintings and frescoes; meanwhile, some rooms are empty cave dwellings.
The colors of Cappadocia’s rocks have to do with the material in the ground. Certain areas you’ll find red or pink rocks and others you might find yellow.
Uchisar Castle is worth a visit and it’s so close you almost can’t pass it up. It’s the giant rock that looks like Swiss cheese. You can explore the caves and it feels like an archeological site. When you’re done, trek down through to the base of the valley until you hit the main road. You’ll find souvenir stalls and an unmarked bus stop, where you can pick back up on return bus to Goreme.
Getting There: Take the Neveshir bus and tell the driver or bus attendant you’re going to Uchisar Castle, so they can let you know where to get off..
Derinkuyu Underground Museum
Derinkuyu Underground City- It is a multilevel complex that reaches up to 60 meters underground and can house up to 20,000 people, as well as all of their livestock
Did you know Cappadocia has subterranean cities? Thirty-six of them, in fact. Underground cities were known to provide housing to Hittites who were escaping prosecution. Derinkuyu Underground City is the deepest city of all, spanning eight levels. Churches, livestock, ventilation, wells, etc.. were carved so people could survive underground. Tunnels can start as standing and then progressively shrink until you’re walking like a hunchback. Admission: 20TL
Getting there: While I took a tour, you can take a local bus from Goreme to Derinkuyu Underground City. While I hear it isn’t hard, it involves a transfer in another city before reaching Derinkuyu. It takes around 45 minutes.
Soganli is a lovely area with old rock monasteries and a beautiful place to spend time in. Unfortunately, the only way to reach it is by car or on a tour. This is on the second tour of the color coded tours in Cappadocia— the Green Tour. On a tour, you might spend 45 minutes hiking through it and the hike is relatively easy. While I found many parts of it picturesque, I often wondered what the Blue Tour was like. The
What would you recommend in this ultimate travel guide Cappadocia? What are things to know before you go to Cappadocia?