Up Above and Down Below in Cappadocia, Turkey

I have a list of places around the world that I absolutely must go and see. Sometimes I prioritize this list and many times I add and revise. Sometimes it’s a place that I have read about in a magazine, or stumbled across while researching a different place. Or maybe it’s somewhere that someone told me about…I honestly don’t remember where I first heard of Cappadocia, I only know that it was on my list for quite a few years before I finally made the journey. Cappadocia is Known for its “fairy chimneys” (volcanic rock formations, carved into homes, castles and churches) and hot air balloon rides. It’s one of the most incredibly magical places I’ve ever been to and I’m so glad it made my list!

Getting There

Although getting there sounded challenging, it was easier than I thought. Cappadocia is under an hour by plane from Istanbul. There are many daily flights on Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Air. Flights seemed to be pretty consistent at around $50. R/T. There are 2 major airports in the Cappadocia region, both equal distances to the towns to stay in. We flew into Kayseri and then joined a shared shuttle ( $10. pp) to Gerome. It took a little over an hour by van. The driver was an absolute lunatic behind the wheel.

Things To Do

Visit the underground cities – There are several underground cities that you can visit in Cappadocia, though some are not preserved enough to go into. The caves are believed to have been dug out over 2,000 years ago and are thought to have been built to protect people from invaders. They were also used during the 14th century by Christians fleeing the Mongolians and again a few centuries later, for people trying to avoid persecution during the Ottoman Empire. We visited the Kamakli Underground City, which is 8 levels deep!! You can only visit the first 4 levels. As we descended the first two stories, the tunnels became longer, lower and extremely narrow. At one point I just kept repeating that I wasn’t scared. Out loud. Not embarrassing at all. There were stables, storage rooms, kitchens and even a church to see on the way down. The red arrows throughout the cave show you the way out.

Gee Barnie, I love what you’ve done with the place.

Explore the Gerome Open Air Museum – After paying the small admission, you are free to walk around a large outdoor area filled with the remains of many churches carved into the volcanic rock. There are some beautiful frescoes within these churches worth viewing as well.

I’ll just take the elevator…

Hike the Ihlara Canyon – We hiked about 2.5 miles along the canyon floor and stopped for lunch along the river. The walk down into the canyon affords the most amazing views…it’s almost 400 steps to the bottom. The hike follows the river and is a moderate hike with some small boulders along the way to climb. You will pass several restaurants along the river as you hike.

Climb up to Selime Monastery – The climb is only slightly challenging, the views are unbelievable and the actual rooms and paintings are amazing. Allow about an hour for this stop. The climb takes about 10 minutes, but there is a lot to explore once you get up there.

Visit Love Valley – Sooooooo…this valley is filled, and I mean filled with a bunch of volcanic rock formations that are in the shape of penis’s. It’s hilarious. Just a heads up, (hehe) the hike isn’t too far, but good walking or hiking shoes are necessary, otherwise It might be hard-on your feet. I could give a few more tips…but there are already so many. Sorry. I’ll stop….before I’m in too deep. Sorry, that one slipped out.

Stop at a traditional pottery workshop – We stopped at Avanos to watch artists operating manual potters wheels and creating bowls and vases. These families have been making pottery this way for many generations. I actually had the opportunity to experience the process firsthand with the help of a local artist. After I was handed a large block of red clay, I was instructed to dip my hands in a bowl of very unsanitary water. As I write this, I feel the effects of Typhoid setting in. The potter used his foot to spin the wheel and told me how to press my thumbs into the clay to create a bowl. In my mind I was transported to 1990. I am Demi Moore and my boyfriend…I MEAN MY INSTRUCTOR is Patrick Swayze (RIP). Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers plays in the background… In reality, my master potter is clearly NOT Patrick Swayze, 1990 has come and gone in the blink of an eye and the only music is a ringing in my ears. Still, it was so much fun! You can also buy pottery in their shop. Look for my piece if you go…

Someone give me a hand..

Hop in a hot air balloon – I was conflicted about this excursion. Torn between “I don’t want to die” and “This sounds incredibly cool”. The winds kept the balloons from flying during the days we were in Cappadocia, so the decision was made for us…. but many people do get the chance to take a ride while visiting (weather permitting). The rides are not cheap ( over 200. pp) and your trusty alarm will have to wake you up before sunrise if you do go….yikes!

Where To Stay

Mithra Cave Hotel – I cannot say enough good things about this place. They were so friendly, the hotel (carved into the hillside) was unbelievable and the breakfast was fantastic. Walking around the property is a site in itself. Some of the rooms are actually “cave rooms”.

Where To Eat

Turkish Ravioli – We loved this place so much we ate there twice. The food competed with the views.

Cafe Dawn – A great little place down the road from Mithra Cave Hotel to grab a donut and a coffee.

Tips and suggestions

Cappadocia is in Turkey which is a predominantly muslim country. You can hear the call to prayer throughout the city at a minimum of six times a day, including the wee hours of the morning! This also means ; dress modestly while visiting.

Bring a scarf to cover bare shoulders when visiting chapels, mosques and religious sites.

Drink bottled water, not tap water.

Much like my recent trip to Nepal, Turkey has many stray dogs and cats. They never bothered me in Cappadocia, but be aware.

Tipping is not like in the USA. If you want to leave a little something, its you’re choice, but not expected.

Carry small change to pay for public restrooms. They charge.

You can either rent a car and do the sites I mentioned on your own, or take a small group day tour. The two main tours are the Red Tour and Green Tour.. each a full day with hotel pick-up, admission to sites and lunch included. We did both tours and thought they did a fantastic job! Each tour was $50. pp. I booked through Viator.

I’ll just take the stairs.

So, if you are like me and keep an ever changing list of must see destinations around the globe, consider adding Cappadocia to your list. Don’t be intimidated by the distance and logistics… be fascinated by the thought of exploring an underground ancient city. Be enthusiastic about riding in a hot air balloon high above the magical fairy chimneys…and of course, be intrigued by the phallic rock formations found in the appropriately named “Love Valley”. They’re hard to miss.

3 comments

  1. Loved this post, Christine! Your description of the Valley of Love cracked me up. Some of the places you visit are places we will never see but seeing them through your eyes and lens make us feel like we’re traveling with you. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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