A Girl's Guide to Cappadocia, Turkey
october 7, 2018
Out of this world in every way, Cappadocia is a sort of dreamland. The particularly interesting scenery with naturally occurring rock formations in cone and phallic shapes are enough to make this region of Turkey an extra-terrestrial getaway. Yet, the dozens of hot air balloons rising into the sky each morning truly create a mythical atmosphere. It’s an orgasm for the eyes to rise at dawn and bring yourself to a higher elevation, watching the landscape slowly reveal itself in the sun’s rays while colorful orbs carrying earthlings into the heavens bob up and down amongst the cave dwellings and fairy chimneys. Let the photos speak for themselves and let the words be your guide in this intergalactic experience.
STAY // SLEEP
First, PRO TIP: You should book an absolute minimum of two days in Cappadocia, but I recommend going for 3-4+. This is because the weather is not always conducive for the hot air balloons to take off. We stayed 3 days and the balloons went up 2 out of 3 of the mornings. Additionally, the region of Cappadocia is comprised of several towns, so it’s nice to separate the trip with two locations. We spent 2 nights in Goreme and one night in Uchisar. If I were to go back, I would do the exact same thing. Here’s more info about each of these towns and recommendations for hotels:
Goreme is the most well-known and developed town. There are tons of restaurants, shops, and touristic agencies. All the main sights are walkable. If you only have 1-2 days, this is where you should stay.
Sultan Cave Suites is where the famous bloggers stay - all the pictures you see online in Cappadocia, complete with a the full spread of food and a girl twirling in a dress, were taken here. They also have a gorgeous pool. I wanted to stay here, but unfortunately, it was fully booked. It is surprisingly very affordable, despite it’s renown.
My top pick for a quiet and luxurious experience in Goreme: the Anatolian Houses, primarily for their spa facilities, including indoor and outdoor pools, sauna, spa, etc.
Another luxe option overlooking Goreme is Kelebek Special Cave Hotel. They have an outdoor pool, with servers bringing drinks and meals. Katie and I did a Hammam here.
We stayed at Yusef Bey House, a mid-range budget option, as we decided to splurge more on our last night. We spent 2 nights in this hotel and it was absolutely lovely! Everything is modern and the staff was friendly. They serve a fantastic buffet breakfast (included) on their rooftop terrace each morning.
Uchisar is the next town over from Goreme, only 10 minutes by car. Where Goreme lies in a valley, Uchisar is higher up, offering the best views of the landscapes and hot-air balloons in the distance. It is more quiet and romantic than Goreme and seems to cater to high-end travellers.
My top-pick in all of Cappadocia is Museum Hotel, although it is by far the most expensive in the region. The facilities are stunning, especially the outdoor pool and terraces. Even if you don’t stay here, you can come by for a drink or meal to enjoy the view and atmosphere. Non-guests can use the pool for an additional fee.
We stayed at the quaint and cozy Ansia Cave Hotel. There are only 6 rooms, which are carved from the natural rock of the cliff itself. The staff was lovely. They whipped up a fantastic breakfast, served on the rooftop terrace offering even better views than that of the Museum Hotel.
Get High // See Colors
Hot air balloons: something worth waking up for.
Now the obvious option for balloon spotting is to book a ride. We elected not to do this. It probably seems weird to go all that way and not take advantage of the opportunity, but Katie and I agreed it would be cooler to watch from the ground. Also, unless you have thousands to pay for a private hot air balloon (€2500), they are usually crammed with 15-50 people, depending on how much you’re willing to fork over (€175-300+). I hate crowds with no designated space for me - especially when there is no way out, except suicide. Lastly, I have already been up in a hot air balloon, so it wasn’t such a novelty for me.
So, where to watch the balloons?
If you’re staying in Goreme, I recommend waking up a half hour before sunrise to trek over to where the balloons take off. One large take off spot is near a shop called Museum Teras Kafe or Goreme Ranch - type one of these into Google and then walk to this spot (it is about halfway to the Open Air Museum, 10-15 minutes from central Goreme). You will see dozens of balloons inflating on their sides all around you. From there make a strategy to get to a higher point to watch - there are lots of little hills you can climb for a nice view. But be careful: the balloons will come very close to you! Close enough that you can exchange words with people in the balloon… or possibly get hit.
If you’re staying in Uchisar, good news! You can sleep in an extra half hour because you are already up high enough to get a spectacular view. It’s different than staying near Goreme though, because you are not as close to the balloons.
See // Do
The Cappadocians cater to tourist with plenty of extra activities, including horseback riding, 4-wheel/quad rental, cooking classes, and much more. You can do research before hand or check out all the offerings on your arrival.
There are full day tours that will take you to the more popular valleys to see the notable fairy chimneys. As usual, I’m not a big a fan of organized tours. We were more than satisfied by going out on our own and getting lost in the landscape hiking on our time. Your call though.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is a must for exploring history and religion. Only 20 minutes on foot from central Goreme, this plot of land holds centuries old churches, graves, and dwellings in traditional caves carved into fairy chimneys. There are real skeletons and insanely intricately painted ceilings. It’s all very cool, although it was the most touristically crowded place we visited during out stay.
Kocabag Winery in Uchisar is a fun place to try and buy local wine. They served us 6 wines, free of charge, and we bought a bottle to drink on our rooftop terrace back at the hotel. You don’t get a full tour of the winery or any sort of explanation of their processing or distinct style (or at least we didn’t), because the server doesn’t speak English. It’s still cool though to see the vineyards amongst this strange landscape and to try various wines.
Eat // Drink
Red Red Wine was so good we went two days in a row. The interiors are very cute and authentically Turkish - you sit on cushions on the floor, draped with carpets. Obviously get in on the wine, but also enjoy the super tasty regional cuisine. We especially loved the meaty ravioli. The owner is also super nice, as he taught us to play backgammon and served us free wine when Katie beat him.
Viewpoint Cafe, you guessed it, has a nice view of Goreme. The food is also tasty.
Meihua Chinese Restaurant was a welcome respite after nearly a week straight of strictly Turkish cuisine.
Le Mouton Rouge in Uchisar has a truly lovely and intimate garden. The owner ended up joining us at the end of the meal for wine and dessert. He then serenaded us on a traditional Turkish instrument (similar to a guitar) and then let me choose a novel from his extensive collection of French books.
As mentioned above, I also recommend the restaurant at Museum Hotel - Katie and I shared a fantastic bottle of wine made from grapes growing on the property.
Shop // Splurge
A nice scrub at the hammam is well deserved after an early and exhausting morning among the balloons. We had ours at Kelebek Special Cave Hotel. Afterwards, they let us hang by the pool where we ordered wine and hummus to snack while enjoying the views. This day was 10/10.
Goreme has all kinds of shops selling beautiful Turkish crafts and momentos. Here are some notable shops:
Go Green in Goreme sells textiles and shoes made from organic materials. I couldn’t find their website or even exact location on Google Maps, but it is on the main street called Muze Cd, I believe.
Galerie Ikman is the carpet shop where everyone goes to snap a picture in the dreamy room filled floor to ceiling (two stories) with textiles. There are also lamp, pottery, and other touristic shops connected, so make sure to purchase something or leave a tip in exchange for the insta-pic.
Village Dowry, where Katie and I bought uber adorable matching dresses handmade by Afghani women.
* Note: There are a few shops in the smaller towns, but Goreme has the largest variety.
Getting There // Getting Around
Despite how freaking fantastic Cappadocia is, I was shocked how few people had ventured out this way - maybe because it seems too good to be true from the photos, or more likely because of various travel advisories. Please do not let either of these factors hold you back from venturing to this wondrous corner of the Earth.
Cappadocia is a short 2 hour flight from Istanbul. There are buses as well, but they are very long. Flights are relatively affordable; we booked ours for less than $100 round trip. There are two regional airports. Nevsehir is slightly closer to Goreme, only 40 minutes by taxi (about $15, buses are cheaper).
In Goreme, everything is pretty walkable, but you can also rent a scooter to see more of the region OR have your hotel receptionist call a taxi. Same thing for Uchisar, although there is much more to do in Goreme.