January 20, 2020

Turkey and Spain - Part 2 (Cappadocia)

After five days in Istanbul, we arrived in Cappadocia for four days. While we didn't take a hot air balloon ride – one of the area’s top attractions – Cappadocia is great for hiking and has other things to do. There is Göreme’s open air museum, Avanos’ pottery workshops, Uchisar’s castle and onyx shops, underground cities, and lots of cave hotels to choose from.
View from Uchisar Castle

Getting to Cappadocia

Flying to Cappadocia (and elsewhere in Turkey) is dirt cheap with many Pegasus Airlines flights costing less than $25 USD one way. While food and drink are extra, the prices are very reasonable for domestic flights while you can check one free luggage up to 15 kilograms in addition to your carry on and personal item. When booking our cave hotel (Stone House), we booked an airport shuttle directly with them which costed 40 Lira one-way per person and took one hour from Kayseri Airport.

Stone House Cave Hotel
Since we visited Turkey during the low season, finding cave hotels in Göreme for under $50 USD per night was not a problem. We were impressed with Stone House Cave Hotel which offered top notch quality rooms, great service, and offered help with booking activities. Their rooftop terrace was a good place to watch balloons, the included breakfast ensured a variety of dishes, and their restaurant is very good with a 10% discount for hotel guests. I especially recommend their pottery kebab!

Open Air Museum and Rose Valley
Göreme Open Air Museum
Our first stop was the Göreme Open Air Museum. While not as impressive as Petra, there are plenty of cave homes and Christian frescoes to enjoy. The ones at the Dark Church – which cost extra unless you have the Museum Pass – are the best decorated and worth seeing.
Lots of cave dwellings can be found along the Meskinder Valley Trail
As with Petra, Cappadocia has several great hikes you can do. The Meskinder Valley Trail – which connects with the Red and Rose Valley Trails – is just down the road from the museum. Before doing those trails (as well as Ihlara Valley, Pigeon Valley, and Love Valley), I recommend downloading the maps from Anywhere We Roam which were a life saver when getting around.
This dog kept us company for four hours on the Meskinder and Rose Valley Trails
While we had several stray dogs accompany us to the museum, there was one we found on the Meskinder trail which followed us for four hours back to Göreme. Probably because of some sausage we brought to snack on. 😉 The trail has lots of cave dwellings on mountain sides while the Cross Church in Rose Valley is nice inside. The landscapes make you think you were on another planet with some of them being red, green, and white. There were several cafés along the route – including one at Cross Church – which were closed for the season. Aside from some damp spots and one steep downhill, the trail was pretty easy.
Rose Valley Trail and their colourful rocks
Underground Cities and Ihlara Valley

There are two options for exploring Cappadocia beyond Göreme; book a Red or Green Tour through your hotel (40 Euros per person including entry fees) or rent a car. Since we already had the Museum Pass and wanted flexibility, we rented a car through Cappadocia Rent A Car. While the car was cheap (35 Euros including full insurance) and dropped off at the hotel, it was old and had almost no gas. While the car did the job, those who want more reliable service may prefer an international company such as Enterprise. Still, driving in Cappadocia felt safe with the use of roundabouts to minimize conflicts.
Eight stories below in Derinkuyu Underground City
We first stopped at Derinkuyu; one of two underground cities on the way to Ihlara Valley. Derinkuyu is the deeper of the two going down eight stories of chambers and can be done in 30 – 45 minutes. Some tunnels required ducking and the use of flashlights, but it wasn’t anything special.
Ihlara Valley is a pleasant place to hike with waterfalls and cave churches along the way
Ihlara Valley’s entrance isn’t the best marked, but was very pleasant once inside. We hiked to St. George’s Church just before Belisirma before turning back which was about eight kilometres return. The Valley passes by some waterfalls and cave churches with no shortage of frescoes and tombs inside.
Docks at Diker Aile Tea House
You can enjoy some tea (or another drink) on a dock at the Diker Aile Tea House, while there are lots of places to sit on the trail. St. George’s Church offered the best view of the valley, as well as beautiful frescoes. On the way back, we saw a cave with a ladder and wooden door which looked like a Hobbit hole from Lord of the Rings.
Frescoes at St. George's Church
We finished the day in Avanos which has many pottery shops. Dinner options there weren’t as plentiful as in Göreme with one place serving only alcohol and another requiring reservations. The place we settled on (Morfoz) didn’t have prices nor English in their menus - forget using Google Translate - while the service wasn’t great.
One of the pottery shops in Avanos
Pigeon and Love Valley Trails

Hiking to Uchisar via the Pigeon Valley Trail had several damp spots, but was pretty easy to follow and one of the two tea houses (Caglar) was open. The tea house offered excellent views of the valley, though the rocks weren’t as colourful as those in Rose Valley.
View of Pigeon Valley from Caglar Tea House
Uchisar is very hilly and can be easy to get lost. However, the views from Uchisar Castle (9 Lira) where you can see Göreme and other nearby towns makes it worthwhile, while the town feels less touristy than Göreme.
Uchisar Castle
We took the road next to Ozler Centre – an onyx and jewellery shop not worth visiting – to find the Love Valley Trail. Unfortunately, the Anywhere We Roam map wasn’t that accurate for this trail and we – as did a few other tourists – had trouble finding how to go down with several dead ends.
The trails in Love Valley are poorly marked and difficult to navigate
We eventually found the way down the valley – make a sharp left at a red trail marker – but the trail within the valley was unmarked and difficult to navigate. We eventually turned back and took the road back to Goreme.

On To Antalya
Even if you can't take a hot air balloon ride, watching them from the ground is equally cool
Our last morning in Cappadocia was spent watching the balloons and walking around Göreme. One store we recommend for buying Turkish bath towels is Sultan’s Charm, while Old Cappadocia Café was our favourite restaurant.

The airport experience in Kayseri felt more primitive than in Moncton (New Brunswick), despite Kayseri’s much larger population. There were no automatic check in kiosks, no WiFi, very small bathrooms (only one urinal), and no covered plane boarding. Once we arrived in Antalya, we didn’t have to worry about flying again until heading to Spain.

Hike on!
Rob Z (e-mail)

2 comments:

  1. Many of these places are so unique , like being in a whole different world. Not much greenery but really neat.

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