Things to do in 5 days in Cappadocia
July 14, 2011 4:57 AM   Subscribe

We'll be heading to Cappadocia for 5 days the last week of August/first week of September. The usual Mefi vacation planning help requested.

We've already booked our cave room in Goreme, but thats about it as far as thinking about it goes. So what are the must-dos in Cappadocia? I'd love to hear all the little gems and the ultra-touristy-but-worth-it places/shows/food/people. Whats the best/most convenient way to get there from Istanbul? Any other general advice would be appreciated as well.

Bonus question: Our 5 days will be split between the last couple of days of Ramadan and the first couple of days of Eid Al Fitr. Any special Ramadan/Eid in Turkey advice?
posted by xqwzts to Travel & Transportation around Cappadocia, Italy (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The Ihlara Canyon walk is very nice - and in that heat you'll be glad to be somewhere with a river. The underground cities are pretty cool as well.

Goreme does cater for European tourists, so you'll be far less affected by Ramadam (which can mean no booze in some places) than you would be elsewhere.

The best way to get there is to fly to Kayseri airport (70km away) and then hire a car. Turkey is big and spread out and a car is a good thing to have to have. Driving is fine. It is possible to drive from Istanbul if you have the time.

We later visited Lake Egidir which is some hundreds of km away in the mountains and very pretty in a quiet, million miles from anywhere sort of way.
posted by rhymer at 5:29 AM on July 14, 2011

It is hard to recommend this because we don’t really know your interests or how you like to travel, but here were things that I really enjoyed:

• The typical tourist things that everyone will do in Goreme but you still can’t miss it – go to the open air museum (churches in caves, elaborate paintings on the wall from ~1000 yrs ago). You should be able to easily get there by foot (~2 to 3 km depending on hotel location).

• More tourist things but interesting: Do get to an underground city (guided or you won’t know what you are looking at) and walk along a few km in the Ilhara valley. Because it sounds like you also have limited time, if you don’t have a car, do the “Green Tour” (You can pick between many, many tourist/travel agencies in Goreme).

• Absolute tourist: A balloon tour/ride at dawn. Yes, touristy. But you see the incredible landscape.It is possible to see it for a much lower rate, try different travel agencies/negotiate. It’s possible to get as low as 90 Euros.

• Much less touristy and really worth it and the high of my trip: Zelve outdoor museum, and get there on your own (you can take a bus towards Avanos but tell the driver to let you off at the Zelve stop … then it is around a3 km walk. Please be careful as it isn’t really built for walking and some people drive like maniacs. However, this was much less traveled to vs the Goreme open air museum. Also, you could walk, crawl, climb into tons of the old caves/churches and see a lot. okay, it was a high for me to crawl and feel as if I discovered new things, if you like exploring, this is it. Also, it is likely you won’t need to take a bus back as lots of Turkish people driving by the bus stop on the way back (Zelve stop Goreme) will offer you a ride.

• Also less touristy and almost not down by 90% of the tourists: get a map from the local Goreme information office and ask where you can walk and see hiking areas. You may need to ask a few times to find out how to get there as the map doesn’t tell where to start and the people working there have limited English. However, a few hours walking into areas like Pigeon valley or any of the other hiking areas is absolutely incredible. You will see local farming, horses wandering around, small churches that you can pay to have opened just for you, and really unique, unique geology/rock formations. Some of the trails were not well marked at all, so a few hours onto any of the trails was enough for me.

Touristy, I didn’t have enough time, but people talked about it and I wish I had more time. Go on a tour on the 4 X 4 motorcycles (I don’t know what the correct word for it is, but they look like motorcycles, 4 wheels). Someone will guide you and tell you where to go, but I heard it was incredible from other people who did this.

How to get from Istanbul to this region - I took a plan ride (not much time, I wanted to spend it at the actual place, but that was me.
posted by Wolfster at 5:32 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seten restaurant has some pretty goddamn awesome food. It's up the hill by Kelebek/Sultan Cave Suites (part of their empire). Maybe skip the Circassian chicken unless you're a fan of delicate flavors (it's good, but some folks find it too bland). Their other items are pretty much all great, or at least were great a week ago.

I liked Nazar Borek more than my companions.

The ruins at Cavusin are worth seeing; you wouldn't need much time but there are some nice photo-ops there that are hard to find elsewhere (holes all the way through both sides of an escarpment).

Think about whether you want to do a balloon flight, but remember that most of them take 18-20 people up at a time so if you're after a relatively solitary experience you might be disappointed unless you pick carefully.

As far as underground cities go, the main ones are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. I've been to both, and thought Kaymakli was somewhat more interesting due to smaller rooms and funkier geometry. However, if you're a very large person you may have a hard time in Kaymakli as there are a couple sections that get both narrow & low-ceilinged. I'm 6'4" and it was no problem, but I'm also thin so I could scrunch up easily.

I also liked scrambling about the ruins near Yaprakhisar, although you do have to be a bit intelligent about risks.

Getting there: fly to Kayseri or Nevsehir. Get your hotel to send a car to pick you up. There are (obviously) buses from Istanbul, but flying is vastly faster and mostly reasonably priced.
posted by aramaic at 5:44 AM on July 14, 2011

I kind of loved the Mirror Church (Aynali Church) on the road from the Goreme Open-Air museum to Ortahisar. Very tiny, very dark, with a lonely caretaker who made me tea. It's less showy than the Open-Air churches but cool! Bring your headlamp. I loved walking the Rose Valley too.

I was glad I took the balloon ride, but yeah, they really packed us in there. If you don't decide to go up in a balloon, you might want to go watch the balloons take off anyhow - it was beautiful just seeing that many balloons ascending all at once.

I took the bus to Cappadocia, but I bought a plane ticket while I was there and flew back (because the bus... it was a nice bus, but it is a long way). If you do decide to take the bus for whatever reason, all that stuff the guidebooks say about touts trying to con you into their sketchy minicabs in Nevsehir is 100% true - keep your wits and your bags about you when you get off the main bus to transfer to the Goreme minibus. The bus driver will not look out for you.
posted by mskyle at 6:53 AM on July 14, 2011

My trip was in 2001, so my memory is a bit gappy. We took a bus from Istanbul to Ankara, saw the museum there, had dinner, and took an overnight bus to Goreme (I think, or maybe it was the Istanbul to Ankara that was overnight) Once in Goreme, we stayed at an awesome cave pension. We walked a lot - all around town, to the open air museum, etc. Good food and a nice town to walk around, that's where we did our carpet shopping of the trip. For the more regional stuff, we did a bus tour that drove us out to hike a gorge in the morning (lots of trees and a river, rocks on both sides - I think this was pigeon valley, that sounds familiar anyway) and stopped the afternoon at the underground city on the way back.

We ended up making friends with some people who had a car, so we did one trip out to see things with them, that involved driving to a more isolated site - but while driving around in that area, there will be little signs on the road saying "X historic site 3km --> ", I'm not sure why we chose that particular one, but I'd estimate that such sites are all pretty similar, things that would be dramatically awesome if they weren't in an area where there are such rooms/houses/churches cut into stone pillars all over the region. The site wasn't particularly awesome, except in that we were the only ones there.

This was a trip on a budget, so we didn't do a balloon or a 4-wheeler or a horseback tour or any of that, and I don't regret it, it was a full and delightful trip. I bet that would be awesome, though, if you've got the cash.
posted by aimedwander at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2011

What everyone else said. And here are a couple things I'm glad I have memories of...

There's a little ruin of a church in a valley outside Güzelyurt. It's called the Red Church (Kizil Kilise). Very cool and remote and lovely. Our driver found it after getting directions in town.

I don't know if you'll find a Karavansaray nearby - I saw the one outside Sultanhani. They're ancient way stations for the caravans, and give a vivid glimpse into the past.

Have fun.
posted by booth at 5:14 AM on July 15, 2011

I almost forgot - Uchisar Castle is great, if they still let you climb it. And it's right in the middle of all the touristy spots.
posted by booth at 5:19 AM on July 15, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the awesome anecdotes/advice! We'll be taking an internal flight from Istanbul rather than driving [time is an issue and the flights are pretty affordable]. We were planning on hiking/biking once we got there rather than renting a car, will have to reevaluate that.

I've noted this all down in my travel notebook under "todo list from mefi: proceed with caution". Can't wait!

[They're all best answers so I'll avoid marking any individual one, you'll have to survive on my gratitude and eternal happy thoughts]
posted by xqwzts at 2:43 AM on July 16, 2011

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