Cappadocia, Turkey is a 1.5-hour plane ride from Istanbul. This walkable city is known for its jagged rock formations that resemble bright orange construction cones and display colors of faded red and ash gray. It is easy to see the sights in just a few days, but adding an extra day or two can be beneficial.
There are three main valleys, an underground city, and an open-air museum. While walking around, notice the hanging, circular evil eyes displayed around the city on trees, houses, and inside shops; they are thought to offer protection.
Many businesses in Cappadocia accept foreign currencies like Euros, making payments easier.
Here are my eight suggestions to check out when visiting:
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Imagine watching the sunrise from a few thousand feet up in the air. These rainbow-colored balloons can hold almost 20 people in one big wicker carrier resembling a large picnic basket.
The balloon rises with the help of a fluorescent yellow flame. Every time the operator releases the flame, it sounds as if someone is jumping into a water canyon. Looking down, you can try to spot the valleys and open-air museum.
If there is good visibility and wind speeds less than 10 mph, then the ride will last about one hour.
Assiana Balloons is one tour company offering rides. Their website is assianaballoons.com. A hotel pick-up can be arranged and before going on the ride they provide coffee, tea, and cake. After the ride, each passenger receives a flight certificate, along with a choice of juice or non-alcoholic champagne.
It costs 1,650 lira (about $212). This was a highly organized tour and worth the price to be able to watch the sunrise from high above the sky.
Goreme Open-Air Museum
This museum is about a 15-minute walk from the center of Goreme, a town in Cappadocia. There is an entrance fee of 25 lira (about $3) and a headset for audio tours is available.
Each area consists of different rock formations; once churches, the rocks still feature ancient frescoes inside. Walking around this museum can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour depending on your pace.
The Dark Church has many frescoes inside, including one from the Last Supper, but it costs an additional 8 lira ($1). It is worth visiting the Dark especially since the frescoes are still in their original form.
The museum gets crowded, so it is best to go when it opens at 10 a.m. There is a small café where you can buy Turkish coffee and tea.
It takes 10 minutes by car from the city center to reach the valley. Car rentals are available or stop into one of a dozen tour companies in the city center and sign up for a tour (which will also stop at the other two valleys).
This valley is just like it sounds. Metal-shaped hearts surround the area, along with a cobalt evil eye tree. Many evil eyes hang from this tree. There is a rumor that if you take a picture in front of this tree, then the marriage will happen in less than a year.
Looking out from the valley, take in the cone-shaped rocks. You can see across the red valley as the sun shines down and illuminates faded red and linen stripes around the rocks. Bright green, fire engine red, rose, and sky blue pottery vases also hang from trees, adding to the beauty of the area.
It is best to visit before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
After a day of walking around it is nice to relax and treat yourself to a Turkish bath, also known as a hamam. There are at least 10 baths around Cappadocia; some are found at upscale hotels, while others offer a more budget-friendly experience. Your hotel can arrange a visit, tour companies offer bookings, or while walking around stop inside one and make an appointment.
Starting from 230 lira (about $30), the service includes a sauna, a face mask, and a good body scrub that leaves your skin feeling as soft as a baby. After getting rid of the dead skin cells, you get a massage with foamy soap bubbles. The scrub and massage take place on a marble countertop that resembles a kitchen counter. After the massage, the attendant uses hot water to get rid of the soap.
Some baths also have a jacuzzi and a small pool. After showering it is time to relax with tea. The treatment takes around one to 1.5 hours.
Kaymakli Underground City
Kaymakli has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. The entrance fee is 42 lira (about $5). A guided tour is recommended for this site because there is so much history to discover.
Imagine walking through dark tunnels, looking at the carved rocks, and learning that these square rooms were sitting and storage rooms, kitchens, and even churches. The underground city was built to protect the people from soldiers. Historians believe 30,000 people lived here for up to three months.
There are lights in some areas, but make sure to have your phone light ready. It starts to get crowded after 11 a.m.
Finding bargains is mostly hassle-free here since shop owners do not haggle. While walking around the city center, go around and check out turquoise jewelry, cobalt blue ceramic water pitchers, and bright green- and yellow-colored lamps with rainbow-colored triangular shapes decorated on them.
If looking for protection, evil eyes can be found on bracelets, vases, clocks, and more. Apple tea is also a nice gift to buy.
Euros and lira are both accepted, but if you pay in euros, some shops will give your change back in lira. Make sure to bring smaller bills! The prices in Cappadocia tend to be slightly cheaper than the shops in Istanbul.
Old Cappadocia Restaurant
The warm fire makes this place very inviting upon entering. The restaurant smells of oven-fired bread, grilled meat with cumin and other spices, and a sweet tomato sauce used for pasta. The clay oven is visible if you are seated in the right spot, where you can watch the pide (a Turkish flatbread) and pizza being made.
Ravioli is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes; it is topped with yogurt and sweet tomato sauce. The portion is large, so if there are two people, then it is best to split. Hot oven-fired bread comes with each meal.
Make sure to save room for dessert. The apricots with ice cream came highly recommended. The ice cream balances out the sweet syrup on top of the apricots. The syrup has a slight maple flavor.
Take a break to wander around the alleys. They are filled with old concrete and cement houses, old wooden doors, and metal white and pale pink decorated bicycles along the walls. Most houses have an evil eye above the front door, and some have hanging pottery water pitchers on trees.
While Cappadocia is small, it is easy to get turned around since many of the alleys look the same. Walking to the Red Valley is also an option and takes about 20 minutes from the city center.