Cover smallerNote: This post spells out how to spend 3 days in Cappadocia…
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And now back to our post…

3 DAYS IN CAPPADOCIA ITINERARIES

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on planning for a specific number of days in Cappadocia. To see all the possibilities check out the Series Introduction.

3 days in Cappadocia…ahhh…sit back and relax…it’s like a lifetime… Or Not!

3 fairy chimneys in love valley under a blue sky

THREE Fairy Chimneys in Love Valley means 3 Days in Cappadocia.

I have to admit that with three days at least you can do a bit of justice to this place. But the reality is that Cappadocia touches 5 provinces with historically significant sites spread out over thousands of square miles. Explore a different area every day for a year, and you will not exhaust this region. Unless you are going to move here, however, you only have a few days, three in this case, and you probably do not want to spend them reading this beautiful prose, so let’s get to it.

I am going to change the format a bit for this length as the daily schedule will be a bit tedious, I fear. I am still going to give the options but will not be so detailed in the timing. If you are unclear as to how long activities last, please look back at the 2-Day post.

OPTION 1: Guided Tours – Breadth instead of Depth
GREEN – RED – BLUE – PURPLE… TOURS
If you are the kind of person who wants to see the most things in the most efficient way and likes structure, then this is the option for you. Taking a different tour each day will allow you to canvas the region and at least get a taste of most of what is available.

Red green blue tours in Cappadocia, Turkey with different listings describing each tour

These are three standard tours offered by many tour operators in Cappadocia.

The tours last from around 9am to 5:30pm and cost 100-120TL per person as of spring 2014. This gives you some time in the morning and evening to fill in the missing pieces.

HOT-AIR BALLOONING
On one of the days you will want to do the hot-air balloon ride. Cappadocia is perhaps the best place in the world for this with its unique landscape, dry climate, and relatively calm early mornings. The rides start at sunrise and last 60-90 minutes. This means you will need to be up early in order to get to the launch site (they will pick you up at your hotel). You should be back to your hotel in plenty of time to catch breakfast and be ready for the tour bus pickup. The cost for a one hour flight is between 125-260 Euro. You can book online, through your hotel, or in person once you arrive.

Hot air balloon landing in front of our house in Cappadocia.

This was taken as the balloon landed right near our house.

In terms of recommending a certain company, I am still learning but I have done a lot of research and flown a few times. The best thing you can do is visit our Hot Air Balloon Ride Information Page where you will find everything you need to make an informed decision.

But if you do not have time to read that, here is some advice to think about…
Part of the problem with reviews is that very few people fly more than once and even those that fly twice usually go with the same company. Most people give positive reviews. However, since they have not flown with any other company, it is very difficult to say their flight was better or worse. In addition, the wind conditions make a big difference. The wind will determine which direction you go and what you see. We live right in the middle of the balloon area. Every morning we see 50-100 balloons fly around our house. Some mornings they are over towards Love Valley, some mornings behind Çavuşin, sometimes they head towards Uçhisar, but generally they start near Göreme and land somewhere past Çavuşin. The point is that every day is different which adds to the comparison problem.

And with all of that said, the pilot does make a difference, however, I have yet to find a service that rates the different pilots. I may think my pilot was great, but how do I really know if he is the only pilot with whom I have flown? As you can see, it is a bit ambiguous and the reason I am not giving recommendations at this point. But with that said, I do not think you can go wrong (and if you do, you will not know anyway!)

Last note on balloons: I would recommend booking the flight for the first morning you are here so that you will have opportunities in the following days if the weather is bad or you oversleep.

MORNING WALKS
If you are a morning person, I recommend getting up early on at least one of the non-ballooning mornings to enjoy the view from the ground before the world wakes up. Except for the ballooners Cappadocia is quiet in the early morning, making for a glorious time of enjoying nature. Being the only people walking around such a beautiful place with the birds singing (and the dogs barking) will be a sweet memory for your mental scrapbook. My wife and I do this a few days a week and cannot speak highly enough of the experience.

TURKISH CULTURE NIGHT
You have two choices here. One option is to go to the Whirling Dervish show. As I understand it, this includes dinner and about an hour of the Dervishes doing their thing. These shows usually do not start until after 8pm.

The alternative is a mixed cultural show which also includes dinner but lasts close to three hours. Every 15-20 minutes a different Turkish cultural group enters the room to entertain you. Whirling Dervishes, belly dancers, folk dancers, and on and on. These shows go from 7:30pm – 10:30pm.

Depending on which show and where you book them, you will pay between 20 and 40 Euro per person.

DINNER & DEBRIEF
On the other nights you are free to do some shopping (wine, pottery, carpets, gifts) and of course you will want to eat. Here is a post with some restaurants I recommend.

And I strongly encourage you to take some time on your last evening to debrief your trip. If you are alone, schedule in time to journal/blog. If you are with family or friends, spend dinner discussing your time in Cappadocia. Here are some questions to get the conversation going:
What was the best experience of our time here in Cappadocia?
What was the worst experience?
What will we remember 5 years from now?
What can we recommend to other visitors?
What do we wish someone had told us before coming?
What do you wish we had done that we did not get to this time?
What’s the most interesting historical fact you learned?
Which site/activity was your favorite?
OPTION 2: Frank Sinatra – I did it my way!
If you are not the tour type (or at least not the three tour type), then you have plenty of options. If you are fully open to whatever and do not like to be pigeon-holed, then check out these posts and make your own plan: 10+ Towns, Must See Sites, Must Do Activities

I will summarize those posts here to save you time and highlight the key points. Three days gives you enough time to hit the key sites and pick some of your unique preferences without feeling rushed.

The morning and evening will be the same as above (Hot-air balloon, serene morning hikes, Turkish Cultural Night, and dinner and debrief). The difference is how you spend the time that would have been a tour. By not choosing the tour you are saying that you want to choose a few things and focus on them, go deeper, really explore and enjoy them.

Everyone who comes should see the GÖREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM and an UNDERGROUND CITY (Derinkuru or Kaymakli are the most popular).

two girls standing and holding up the walls in Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey

My daughters show that ancient Cappadocians were not claustrophobic.

The museum entrance fee is 15TL (plus an optional 10TL for the audio guide). One church within the museum has been newly restored and the charge is an extra 8TL. I personally do not think it is worth it, but I have friends who have seen it and were glad they did. Expect to spend up to 2 hours in the museum.

The underground cities are 30-45 minutes by private car and probably 90 minutes by public transport (bus to Nevşehir and transfer) with the necessary waiting. The time in the city will probably be 30-45 minutes depending on how much you enjoy being in cramped, dark tunnels (there are some rooms). I recommend hiring a guide (one will most likely be waiting to be hired underground) as there are no signs except arrows pointing which way to go. You only need to see one city as they are similar. Derinkuyu is deeper and Kamaklı is wider. I do not mean to discourage you with my “cramped, dark” talk. They are truly extraordinary places worth seeing. I have no idea how people lived in them for any length of time.

The IHLARA VALLEY is another must see if you are good with hiking a bit (the valley is close to 12 kilometers but you can exit at different points or turn around whenever you like). Over an hour away from central Cappadocia in the middle of nowhere you find yourself dropped off in a poor village on the edge of a beautiful valley. Enter by descending the seemingly never ending stone staircase and follow the lush green trail next to the fickle river and between the towering cliffs (does this sentence give the impression I had to come up with interesting adjectives for a 10th grade English class?). Caves dot the cliff faces forcing you to imagine the peaceful monastic life of 1000 years prior. Entrance to the valley is around 5TL if I remember correctly. Plan to spend at least a half day here and bring your bathing suit if the weather is nice. We went swimming in our clothes and then let them dry as we walked through the valley.

boy jumping in the river in Ihlara valley in Cappadocia

We joined some local kids and had a blast.

Transportation is a bit of a trick. You can use your own car and then you have to hike down and return to where you started or hitchhike back. Or you can hire a driver who will wait for you at the other end. Or you can take public transport and either return to the same spot or have your go with hitchhiking again. I think most people just hike down and then return. We hiked halfway and ate lunch. Then I hitchhiked back to our car and drove back to the restaurant to pick up the rest of the family.

SUMMARY SO FAR
With these three activities/sites you have spent a day and a half to two days. It is possible to do the museum and underground city in a half day if you hustle and then Ihlara in 2/3 of a day the next day. I would not recommend doing all three in the same day as you will feel quite rushed. However, if it is summer with long days, and you want to get it done, it is possible, but you will be wiped out the next day.

This means you have 1.5 to 2 days remaining. Here is where your individuality blossoms (does anyone else value individuality like Americans? If I was Asian, would I have written that sentence?)

Choose from the following:
Drink TEA with a local- this will be one of your most memorable times and will help to forge a friendship that could last for years. You may want to do this more than once. The owner of the Kismet Cave Hotel is a close friend of mine. As I write this he is on a one month trip to Australia and New Zealand to visit people who stayed in his hotel. They had tea, made a friend, and now are able to host him and show him their country. I am not saying that drinking tea with someone means they will visit you back home, but they might.

Hiking in the valleys- Red, Rose, Pigeon, Love, and ?
For those who like to hike, Cappadocia is the place to visit. The valleys have hills but are not extremely steep, they have side trails, they have fairy chimneys and caves and trees and creeks and wildlife (foxes, rabbits, tortoise, hawks,…). You can easily spend hours exploring in each valley and feel like your miles from civilization when, in fact, you are just a few minutes from Göreme and Çavuşin. My kids and I go hiking every Sunday (weather permitting) and hours pass before we know it. You can hit all the valleys quickly in a day (why would you want to?) or take one a day. They are each unique. I cannot recommend one over the other. And lastly, I put the “?” in the header because you do not have to stick to the set path. Pick a place that looks interesting and start walking, make your own trail. Do not forget your camera, some water, and good shoes.

ATV/QUAD, BICYCLE, HORSE
And if you are not up for walking, this is your chance to use alternative transportation. The ATV’s cost 60TL for 2 hours and usually require a guide as they do not trust you to stay on the paths/roads. They have had too many complaints of tourists tearing up people’s crops so they generally require guided rides. Nonetheless, they do not lack for exciting rides. The mountain bikes are 20TL for the day. God must have been thinking of mountain bikes when he made the valleys as they are perfect for X-Games type action. And the horse tour will run you around 70TL for a two hour tour into the hills and through the valleys. These tours are generally for experienced riders, although I think they do have some options for beginners. Be sure to clarify. I talked to one guy who was thrown from his horse. He was okay, but he warned me not to assume it was easy riding.

SHOPPING
Most people who come want to leave with something to show for their time here. I wrote a post for those who need to buy inexpensive gifts. But if you have a more refined taste, Cappadocia’s big three are worthy of your time.

WINE – Ürgüp is the place to go for wine.
CARPETS – Pretty much every town has a few shops selling handmade carpets made from a combination of wool, silk, and cotton. Unless you are an expert I would recommend taking your time and asking lots of questions. The sellers are happy to educate you. Drink some tea and enjoy the process. You can do this without feeling any obligation to buy, but do not go into heavy bargaining unless you intend to purchase something. In terms of price, if you are happy, then you got a good deal. Do not waste your time with comparisons.
POTTERY – Avanos is the place for ceramic items. Every shop has a master (Turkish: usta), but they most likely also sell items from other regions and, if they are big, from other shops. The usta will do a little demonstration at the pottery wheel and then you will be allowed to go through the shop. Expect to bargain. If you are going to buy something, I recommend picking out something made by that usta. Then you know you are not getting something that can be found at every shop.

MISCELLANEOUS – Besides these the innumerable trinket shops carry everything imaginable from silk scarves to evil-eye key chains to fairy chimney sculptures to Nargile (hookah) pipes to knives to lamps and on and on.

TOWNS & SITES
Perhaps you have chosen from the above list and still have some time. If so, here are a few more choices.
UÇHISAR & ORTAHISAS – These two towns are named for their landmark rock towers that jut into the sky and offer a wonderful view of the surrounding valleys. As in all of the towns, they have plenty of shops and restaurants.

View of Cappadocia from uchhisar rock tower - the whole valley spreading out below with the road winding through it

The view from Uçhisar is stunning on a clear day.

ÇAVUŞİN, PAŞABAĞ & ZELVE OPEN AIR MUSEUM – Church in a “holey” cliff, perfect fairy chimneys and more cave churches for those who have not fulfilled their quota.

HACI BEKTAŞ – Named after the Alevi saint and spiritual leader, this town is about a 45 minute drive from central Cappadocia. The museum and culture center give an excellent picture of 13th century life as well as an understanding of the teachings of Bektaş. Every August is their big three day festival when visitors from around the world descend on the town for singing, dancing, speeches, and a generally festive atmosphere.
MUSTAFAPAŞA & GULŞEHİR- These two towns are located in opposite directions a few kilometers from the central area. Mustafapaşa or Sinasos as it was called by its former Greek inhabitants still has some Greek buildings and churches. Gulşehir as well has a large Greek church, the beautifully frescoed St. Jean Church, housed in a fairy chimney, and Mushroom Rock that is worth seeing, if you have the time.

FINAL THOUGHTS – MY CHOICE
I did not intend to list everything like this, but I realize that everyone is different with different tastes. There is something in here for everyone. Unfortunately, you will have to choose as you cannot do it all in three days. Personally I would recommend doing the museum, the underground city and drink some tea/do some window shopping on day one along with the hot-air balloon ride in the morning. On day 2 I would go to Ihlara and do the Turkish Night. On day three I would hit one or two of the valleys and then do some shopping for whichever item I most fancied. That includes a little bit of everything, and I would leave fulfilled but not exhausted.

What would you choose to do with your 3 days?

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Duke Dillard moved to Turkey with his wife and 6 children in 2007. He got an MBA at Bilkent University in Ankara, where they had their 7th child. After 4 years in Ankara the whole family moved to Cappadocia, and this blog was born. We love Cappadocia and Cappadocians and want to help visitors make the most of their time here. You can connect with Duke on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and/or link circles on Google+. Click here to read more about Duke and his family.