Cappadocia travel misty morning balloons

CAPPADOCIA TRAVEL

Often the idea of Cappadocia travel does not arise until late in the planning of the Turkey trip. In the midst of researching a trip to this captivating land, Cappadocia appears on the screen and you, the visitor, realize you want to come here while simultaneously wondering how to spend your limited time.

I know this because I get regular emails relating the situation described above and asking for my opinion on given itineraries.

Now, I will give my definitive answer on the topic which will mainly apply to those with active lifestyles. The reality is that Cappadocia is an outdoor destination that is very handicap unfriendly. Expect to be on the move – riding, walking, crawling, floating, climbing, stooping, and enjoying.

My brother and his family visited us for a week. I gave them my undivided attention, wanted them to have the trip of a lifetime, and made sure everything was accessible to them. They went at a leisurely pace because they had 8 days, but most of what they did could be done in 2-3 days for those who were up for the challenge. These are things I consider to be the best parts of Cappadocia…

My brother, we’ll call him Duffy because that’s his name, is an outdoorsy guy. He daily rides his mountain bike and/or runs on the mountain trails surrounding our beautiful hometown of Chattanooga, TN. I knew that Cappadocia was going to make his mouth water.

CAPPADOCIA OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Cappadocia travel outdoor atv
He rented a mountain bike for a day (I usually use Silk Road Rentals for bikes and ATVs) and hit every valley and trail he could find. Given Duffy’s adventuresome spirit I was expecting a call from the hospital, but he had a great and injury free day and agreed that Cappadocia is a mountain biking paradise.

Next, I hooked him up for a 2 hour ATV tour (used Silk Road again- you know I trust them if I put my family with them). Personally, I prefer doing ATVs without the guide but for visitors who do not know the area a guide makes more sense. Duffy and his daughter shared an ATV, and his wife rode on another, and they had a great time following the guide through the hills between Göreme and Çavuşin. My 16-year-old niece said the ATV was the best part of the trip for her.

Another must-do in Cappadocia is a valley hike and since we had time and the weather was good, we headed to Ihlara. This valley is perhaps my favorite place in Cappadocia, and we were hoping to go swimming in the river that runs through the valley. We parked in the center of Ihlara village and entered the valley through the seldom used South entrance.

The reason I love this entrance is that shortly after you hit the valley floor there is a little waterfall that opens onto a deep pool that is great for swimming. We discovered it our first week in Cappadocia and have enjoyed it ever since. However, this time there had been so much rain that the water volume was at a dangerous level. Regardless, the kids and my brother who can’t avoid water jumped in (wearing their clothes) and had a good swim.

Cappadocia travel ihlara valley
After drying off in the sun for a bit we continued the hike to what is the main entrance a few kilometers down. The valley is so peaceful and green with towering cliff walls full of caves rising on both sides that it feels like a dream world. We climbed the 390 stairs to exit the valley and hitchhiked back to our car.

One more note on this… We brought our own food and had a picnic but there are a few restaurants and cafes that are happy to serve visitors.

THE BIG THREE

But Cappadocia travel would be lacking if it did not include the Big Three attractions: Hot Air balloon ride, Göreme Open Air Museum, and an Underground City (Derinkuyu in this case).

Cappadocia travel open air museum goreme tokali buckle church
They had a great time on a hot air balloon ride. They were up early and back before we finished breakfast. Later I dropped them off at the Open Air Museum, and they spent a couple of hours in awe of the cave paintings from the ancient community that once inhabited the area. We hit Drinkuyu on the same day as Ihlara, and they were freaking out at the idea of living underground with no toilets!
Cappadocia travel Derinkuyu underground city stairs

CAVUSIN & PASABAG

Cappadocia travel Pasabag Cappadocia fairy chimney soldiers
Living in Cavusin village means they had plenty of time to explore. Our kids love scaring people half to death which meant my brother, his wife, and daughter all had to go on the terrifying hike through the maze-like caves of the upper Cavusin church. Seriously, we had a great time and were thankful to be back on flat ground. On the way up the hill we stopped in some of the shops, had some fresh squeezed juice, and the ladies looked at scarves and shawls.

After that I took them around the corner (we drove) to Paşabağ and let them take pictures and hike around a bit while I hung out with some of my friends from Cavusin who run the many souvenir stands interspersed throughout the magnificent fairy chimneys. Pasabag has no entrance fee and free parking which is a double bonus. The pathways are nice and allow for thorough exploration. Definitely go up the hill and get the bird’s eye view.

POTTERY & WINE

Cappadocia travel potteryMy niece was determined to try her hand at pottery so before they left we headed to Avanos and asked for a demonstration at one of the shops on the main drag. The potter was generous with his time both showing us how an expert does it and letting my niece and each of my kids have an opportunity to throw a pot themselves. None of my kids seem to have natural gifts in pottery!

On a couple of other occasions we stopped by wine shops and tasted the local fruit of the vine. Both Avanos and Urgup have shops that are happy to let you taste the many different varieties of Turkish wine.

FOOD & SHOPPING

Cappadocia travel Iftar meal RamadanThey enjoyed our favorite restaurants – Ziggys in Urgup and Seten in Goreme – as well as a few other less fancy eateries in the area. In the end in spite of their activities, they gained a few pounds and were in full agreement that Cappadocian cuisine is blow your head off” good.

And since they had friends and family back in the US they wanted to bring home gifts and a few souvenirs to remember their trip. For this we went to our favorite shops in Goreme including Rose Local Handicrafts. They found just what they wanted and were almost ready to go.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Cappadocia travel Oyku Evi Ayvali front
Except they needed to experience that most ancient of Cappadocian rituals, sleeping in a cave. They spent most of their nights at our house, but we wanted them to have a special memory so for their anniversary we put them up at Kismet Cave House where my friend, Faruk, took good care of them. This included a trip to Elis Hamam in Goreme. They came back to our house clean, relaxed, and regretting they bought return plane tickets.

The only activity they did not get to experience that I wish they had was either the Turkish Night Show or the Whirling Dervish Performance. These occur nightly and the Turkish Night Shows include all you can eat and drink while watching different Turkish folk dances including the famous belly dancer. The Whirling Dervish is more of a worshipful experience that gets rave reviews. They did not see either of these which means they will have to come back and see again!

Hopefully reading this you see why Cappadocia travel is as good as it gets.

Your trip may not include all of these things, but even doing half of them would make for a great vacation.

How about you? What will/did you include in your Cappadocia travel?

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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.