This is part 4 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.
[Note: My aim in writing these posts is that each will stand alone. People coming to Cappadocia will pick the one they need. I do not expect someone coming for 5 days to have to read 5 posts. This means that I am going to be a bit repetitive. For those of you reading them as I write them, I beg your pardon as at least parts of the posts from here on out will be copied and pasted from previous posts in this series. Consider it a challenge to figure out what is new and what is copied. And with that said let us continue with 4 days…]

Cappadocia model

The Kapadokya model has 4 towers which means we must be talking about 4 days in Cappadocia!

4 days in Cappadocia. This is a good amount of time to experience the main sites of the region, but still a little short to get to the outlying areas. You have time to see and do most of the must-sees and must-dos without the stress of a tight schedule. [Note that I define this as four full days and evenings, e.g. Monday morning through Thursday midnight.] Can you see and do everything? No Way! You would need to stay a few years for that.
The way I see it, you have two options in terms of general themes. You can sign up for guided tours and see a bit of everything or you can do your own things and go deeper into a few things. And of course with four days a combination is possible.

The first thing you need is a place to stay. The region boasts hundreds of hotels, and you can find lots of ideas and reviews by clicking on the Trip Advisor ad on the sidebar. For those of you who trust me, I have written about some of the hotels with which I have personal experience. Here are 5 hotels I recommend. They cover the spectrum of price ranges (except for ultra-luxury), are located in a few different towns, and include cave hotels as well as more traditional types.

But regardless of which route you choose I expect you will want to ride in a hot air balloon. Generally this happens at sunrise and lasts an hour, although there are 90 minute flights and private flights (see the Martha Stewart video) which can run 1000 Euro or more from what I hear. For the standard flight in a basket that holds anywhere from 10 to 20 people expect to pay 125-175 Euro. I encourage you to schedule your flight as early in your trip as possible. If the weather does not cooperate they will cancel the flights. You do not want to wait until the last day and then have it cancelled. 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.

Anatolian balloon in cappadocia Turkey on a snowy morning with 9 balloons in the background close the ground in between 4 trees
If you cannot read my information page, here is some helpful advice to keep in mind: Part of the problem in talking to people or reading reviews on flights 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!)

The pre-set group tours are generally named according to colors- Red, Green, Blue, Purple, Gold… They each hit different spots with very little overlap. They last from about 9am to 5:30pm and cost around 100-120TL person. This includes transport, lunch and an English speaking guide. I generally hear positive comments from those who takes these tours.
Red green blue tours
Of course you can also set up private tours with guides. These are totally customizable, and, therefore, I can not give any information. I recommend you read this post along with the Must-See and Must-Do posts and then tell your guide what you would like.

These can be booked online, in person, or through your hotel. I hope in the future to make it possible to book through this website, but I need some more time before that is a reality.

The other option is to take matters into your own hands and explore on your own. I will spell out the options below. The main issues you face on your own are transportation and timing/scheduling. Since you are doing something for the first time, it is hard to say how long you will spend. Maybe you will love it and stay all day, or maybe after 30 minutes you will be done. I cannot help much with the transportation except to give some options, but with the scheduling hopefully I can describe each thing well enough to give you a good idea of how long you will want/need to spend on each activity. And in terms of cost, depending on what you choose, you could spend a few Turkish Liras (TL) or you could break the bank.

Thus, before I get into specific activities to fill up your time during the day, let me deal with some other points:

* TRANSPORTATION – You have a few options that rank on a spectrum of convenience versus time versus cost. The chart below illustrates the differences. Blue is cost, red is time, and green is convenience.
Comparison of transportation options in Cappadocia
BUSES are the lowest monetary cost but the slowest and least convenient alternative due to the issue of getting to the bus stop which may be difficult to find and may or may not be close to where you want to be. (2-5TL for an average bus ride from town to town)

On the other end hiring a PRIVATE DRIVER is the most expensive but will get you around most efficiently and be most convenient as he will be at your beck and call and hassle-free if parking is difficult. (I have been quoted 150TL for the day.)

TAXIS, SCOOTERS, and CAR RENTALS fall somewhere in between. And of course this varies by context. This chart is assuming a whole day. If I am just trying to get from Göreme to Avanos, and I time it right, a bus may be almost as quick and easy (and definitely cheaper) than any of the other options. (Taxi prices vary widely depending on time of day and distance; Scooters go for around 40TL per day, and you can expect to pay around 80TL for a car for a day although a friend found one for 50TL. How good are you at negotiating?)
All of these options should be easy to find online, in person, or through your hotel.
* EVENINGS – Most of your daily activities will end by sunset. At least one day you should plan on getting to one of the high places (a great one sits above Göreme) to catch the sunset. One of the evenings you should catch a Turkish Culture Night show. Your hotel will have information about them. As far as I know two different kinds of shows are available. One experience occurring in a few places scattered around the region is the WHIRLING DERVISH show. You enjoy a set meal while watching the Dervishes perform for about an hour. The show usually starts between 8 and 9pm.
The second option is a mix of cultural performances from whirling dervishes to belly dancers and different regional folk dances and skits. Each performs for 15-30 minutes in a 3 hour show while you enjoy your dinner from 7:30 – 10:30pm.

You can book these through your hotel and expect to pay between 20 and 40 Euro depending on which show and location.
On the other nights you will need to eat. Some hotels offer a good deal for dinner, but if you want to go out I recommend one of these Cappadocia restaurants or these Cappadocia eateries.
And at your last supper I recommend doing a DEBRIEFING time. 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?
With this you will have one or two evenings to play with and I recommend using them according to your personality. Some people are more introverted and will need the time to relax and be alone, process the day, and build energy for the next. Other more extroverted travelers will be raring to go out and connect with more people. Know yourself and act accordingly.

For those who do want to get out, the evening offers an excellent opportunity to get to know locals through shopping. Especially in Göreme and Ürgüp the shops surrounding the town squares offer great opportunities to pick up some gifts and souvenirs while meeting and conversing with friendly locals. I have found that the shop owners of most of the stores are very eager to share about life in Cappadocia and learn about their customers. Unlike Istanbul I have felt very little pressure here to buy. Of course they want to sell, but they have eschewed the high pressure sales techniques employed in some other parts of Turkey. (If you have had different experiences, please let us know.) At least one of these evenings you will want to get to bed earlier in order to get up for an early morning hike.
* MORNINGS – One morning you will probably do the hot air balloon ride. Probably one night you will be up late taking in one of the shows mentioned above and will want to sleep in. But on another morning, as I also mentioned above, I recommend an EARLY MORNING HIKE.
Besides the balloonists only the dogs are up early in Cappadocia. The scenery is truly captivating as the first rays of sunlight hit the rock formations and the serenity is peace giving. This is a wonderful opportunity to prepare your soul for the day ahead. Of course, if everyone does this, than it will not be so peaceful and serene! But I do not think we need to worry about that.

DAILY ACTIVITIES – This leads us to the bulk of your time. If you are not touring, how should you spend your days. Cappadocia has so much to offer that the answer to this question will be different for each tourist. Therefore, I am going to give a list of the options with times and prices and my recommendations, and then you can choose what works for you.

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 5TL 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) making for a total time of 1.5-4 hours and a 15TL per person entrance fee. 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. But if you struggle with claustrophobia, then you will not enjoy them. My dad entered one of the tight tunnels, hit his head, and decided he was done.

The IHLARA VALLEY is another must see if you are good with hiking a bit (the valley is close to 12 kilometers long, 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.

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 2.5 to 3 days remaining (assuming Ihlara is open).

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.
Two hour-glass shaped tea glasses full of steaming tea in cappadocia
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 or two 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 quads motorcycles and scooters in cappadocia turkey
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 bicycles 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.

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. From the large wineries like Turasan at the top of the hill to the smaller outfits like Mahzen behind the hamam, you have plenty of opportunities to sample the fruit of the vine and pick out some for the road.
CARPETS – Pretty much every town has a few shops selling handmade carpets made from a combination of wool, silk, and/or 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 overpaying for something that can be found at every shop.
Hittite ceramic items
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.

Perhaps you have chosen from the above list and still have some time. If so, here are a few more choices.
UÇHISAR & ORTAHISAR – 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 and monasteries 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.

And two more activities that are relatively unique to Turkey and are probably a bit outside of most people’s comfort zones are the Turrkish Hamam (bath/spa) and Kuafor (shave for the men)
Many of the towns and larger hotels will have a Hamam. For 10-20TL (probably more at the hotels) you get a sauna, a full body massage, a thorough washing and even some chiropractic work by the over zealous massage therapist. I would not recommend this to everyone but with four days you should have a couple of hours to spare. I promise you will remember it for years to come and it qualifies as one of those unique travel experiences you can brag about to everyone back home. For some of you, I know this puts it in the must-do category.
I have written about getting a shave here and here. This is another experience (for guys) that falls under the must-do if you are here for a few days. Leave your razor at home, let the 5 o’clock shadow multiply, and hit the barber on your last day (give yourself 45 minutes). It is the best 5TL you will ever spend; I guarantee it!

With all of this said, you still have some decisions to make. If I were you, here is how I would spend the four days:
Day 1 – Hot-air balloon, open air museum, underground city, take some time to hang out at the hotel (assuming it is a boutique hotel in which the owner/manager is friendly) have some tea and rest, and then go out for a nice dinner and probably a stroll around town.
Day 2 – Ihlara valley (if it is open). If not, visit towns- Avanos- pottery, Urgup- wine, Uchisar- the tower and shops then down to Goreme, and Cavusin upper church. Then top off the evening with the Turkish Night experience.
Day 3 – Towns as mentioned above if Ihlara open – If did towns day 2, then hike a couple of the valleys. End with a visit to the hamam and a nice dinner and relatively early bed time.
Day 4 – Up early for a morning walk. Then I would divide the day up with another valley (probably do either the ATV or horse or mountain bike), get a shave, have tea with a local, do last minute gift shopping, and then close the day with dinner and a good debriefing time. (If I had transportation, I may spend this day in Hacı Bektaş instead.)

How about you? How would you spend your four days in Cappadocia?

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