James and I have been to quite a few places in the world by now, and I want to say that Kapadokya is a place that will forever have a special place in our hearts. Not only because it was one of our honeymoon destinations, but because of the unworldly experiences it offered.
If there was one word I’d use to describe this place, it would undoubtedly be “magical.” Turkey would not be on top of everyone’s “magical destination” list, but let me tell you— IT SHOULD BE!
From the moment of sun up, when we saw the hundred hot air balloons dancing in the sky, we felt like we were in a movie! It was just unbelievable. One of the feelings I wish I will never forget in this lifetime.
Not only with man-made experiences does this place become so unique, but also with it’s natural, raw, beauty
Kapadokya was created over millions of years, and several volcanic eruptions by Argaeus, and many other forces of nature, this magical fairyland was created (and still evolving).
God was definitely not skimping on the creativity when he created this part, and the minds of the people, on this side of the world.
You probably think I’m over exaggerating it, but I swear i am underrating it at this point.
None of my photos even do this, and the feelings I have for this place, justice.
Anyway, enough of the sappy stuff, here’s a guide to beautiful Kapadokya (Cappadocia)
How much does it cost?
1 USD = approx 5 Turkish Lira (please check current rates)
Due to friction in politics in the last decade, Turkey was not on everyone’s bucket list...however, now, tourism is booming more than ever. So, as expected from tourist towns, you may have to shell out a pretty penny for a Cappadocia hot air balloon ride, depending on the season, of course. 170 USD each for the sunrise balloon ride. But was it worth it? Yes. EVERY PENNY.
Cave hotels can also cost you, but there are many cheaper options as well. But I must say, seeing unobstructed views of the sunrise painted with colorful hot air balloon was pretty amazing. Sultan Cave suites cost us about 150 USD/night.
Otherwise, food was fairly priced about 50 TL to 150TL for two (approx 10-30 USD)—-in my opinion, especially because of the quality. We never had a terrible meal. Everything was fresh, as it should be :)
Tours can cost you, but you can just walk around the valleys yourself for free, if you wish. The Goreme Open Air Museum 45TL (9 USD)and Kaymakli Underground City 25TL (5 USD) have entrance tickets though. There are also bus lines that you can take to the different valleys.
Should I bring cash?
Most places will take card (VISA or Mastercard) But just in case, about 250TL (approx. 50USD) a day to just have on hand should be more than enough to get you by with good food, and some small shopping, considering your breakfast will be at your hotel (most offer a breakfast). When shopping in small shops/bazaars, it is always easier to bargain if you have cash on hand. So, see what you think is fit for your spending plans.
Where did you stay?
We stayed at Sultan Cave Suites Hotel in Goreme. This hotel has beautifully restored caves that are perfectly positioned for amazing sunrise views. They also have their insta-famous deck, where if you are there early enough (like 6am) you may have a little bit of time to have it to yourself for a nice photo session. Wake up at 7:30am and you will be too late to see them.
Hot air balloons are directed by the winds, so you may get lucky enough to see one up close!
One got pretty close to us!
Which hot air balloon company did you go through?
We did ours through Air Kapadokya, which our tour guide helped us book and recommended to us. It cost about 300 Euro (approx 340 USD) for James and I. This may vary on the basket size you make a reservation for (it may accommodate less people for more money, or more more people for cheaper). Also, there is an option for the first flight, which is sunrise, or the hour after, in which the latter will be cheaper. If there is something I wouldn't leave Cappadocia without doing, it would be THIS! It's such an experience that I guarantee you will not regret spending the money on. But I do advise you to schedule this in the beginning of your trip, in the cause of having to reschedule due to weather issues. Rescheduling is usually complimentary, if due to weather conditions.
What's there to eat?
Given that this area is more of a desert, they are big on meat--lamb, chicken, beef, (no pork because it is a Muslim country). Their most popular dish in this region is called the testi kebab,
which is a stewed meat and veggie dish slow cooked in a sealed clay pot. This area, specifically Avanos, is popular for their pottery, which is fitting that they would do this.They then break the clay pot as they serve it, and pour it on a plate. It's a pretty awesome and yummy spectacle!
For my pescatarian and vegetarian friends, don't worry, they do make some pretty good shrimp and veggie dishes as well. They do some pretty awesome stuff with eggplant out there!
Also, hot wine is a must try, especially during the cold weather!
Where did we go?
When looking up things to do in Kapadokya, you will find yourself trying to navigate through the different types of tours, all color coded. These are great as you can do them yourself or with guides. James and I however decided to do a private tour instead so that we could customize the sights to our liking. We are the type to prefer this kind of tour because it allows us to really get to know the place, the locals, their thoughts, and really just go at our own pace.
Here are some of the spots Asya and her husband took us to.
We visited this famous carpet and lighting store called Galeri Ikman in Goreme. Walking into this place was such a feast for the eyes! But be weary, the shopkeeper will charge you for photos! Much cheaper and easier than buying a carpet, in my opinion.
What should I wear?
We went in the end of March, which is the beginning of Spring. Kapadokya is still pretty cold during this time, and the mountains are still snow capped. Most days were in the higher 40s to 50s. Never to the 60s. Definitely layer up. Comfy walking shoes, as the walkways are not even, and plenty of walking will be done. And of course, if you want to be artsy in photos, you will find many people in cute dresses. But don't let my photos fool you, I was back in my sheep wool jacket in between takes!
The Underground cities
There are about 36 underground cities in Kapadokya. These date all the way back from 1200 BC, and were used in different times by Christian groups, when they were being persecuted by other more powerful entities (Romans and Arabs), for hiding. Later on, it was then used for storage.
Cappadocia's volcanic soil made it ideal for digging and storing things, as it kept temperatures at a cool, and stable temp (i.e. for wine)
These tunnels were very low and narrow. For reference, below are our photos. I am 5'1 and James is about 5'7 AND we still had to hunch down. If you are claustrophobic, definitely take into consideration that IF it is not busy, it will take about an hour to get in and out. Having a guide is also advised.
I am claustrophobic, and I did get pretty uncomfortable as we went in deeper (5 stories deep), and when the crowds started coming in, which meant we would have to wait, hunched down in a squatted position in tiny tunnels, waiting to get out, I had a panic attack. Worst place to have one, right? YUP :\ But our kind guides took on my cues early on, and rushed through the building crowds to get me out of there.
There are some ventilation shafts that made it somewhat easier, however.
Friendly advise: GO EARLY and skip the crowds!
How long of a stay is good enough?
We stayed fo 3 days and 2 nights, which we felt was okay. We could have done more, like ATV-ing or horseback riding. But watching them was okay too. But we felt that it was enough time for what we wanted to do and see.
How did I find them?
Interestingly, I found them on Instagram!
If you are interested in a private tour with them, they also offer hot air balloon chasing tours!! So cool! I wish we had the time to do this!
Book a tour with them @cappadocian and @asya_cappadocia
Is it safe?
Again, places like this have gotten bad reps from political friction and media. I have to say that although this is unfortunate, it must be a reminder to us that, just like any other place in the world, there are people who live in peace and want to welcome us to their beautiful country; and that is all we saw. Cappadocia’s crime rate is close to zero. Shop keepers leave their items overnight, and they are left untouched. Doors are open, tea is almost always welcomely served.
Kindness and hospitality are all we received. As travelers, we must come in with an open mind and good judgment before closing our passports to beautiful places such as this.
Hoping to see your posts in Kapadokya soon! :)
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Please leave any questions, comments, and previous experiences from Kapadokya, I'd love to hear from you!