I don`t want to go to Cappadocia – said no one ever. Cappadocia is my favorite region in Turkey that I visited more than ten times. It is home to valleys, hundreds of ancient churches and intriguing rock formations shaped by volcanic activity.
The dramatic landscape of Cappadocia is a result of volcanic activity but what truly makes it special is the remains from the earlier civilizations in the region that are today still present in all their glory. You can visit churches carved into stone by early Christian communities, underground cities and endless valleys. You do not even need much imagination to feel like you are visiting the sites that have been inhabited for centuries. The wall drawings and the state of remains provide enough concrete visual reference to immediately transport you to centuries ago.
Where is Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is located in central Turkey (in a region that we, the Turks, call inner-Anatolia) and is easily accessible thanks two nearby cities with airports – Nevsehir Airport and Kayseri Airport (which are both about 40-50 minutes drive from the area depending on which town you stay in Cappadocia). For those staying in Urgup, Kayseri Airport is the closest choice. Nevsehir Airport is on the other hand merely 30-minutes away from Uchisar and Goreme, my favorite region in Cappadocia. The region is also served by overnight buses from Istanbul or Antalya, one of the most popular summer cities in Turkey.
Cappadocia is not a place to visit for just a few days. It is a place to take your time and soak up the otherworldly atmosphere. It is a place to take long walks without worrying about where the road leads. You will be tempted to take every side route that will lead you to one of the many wonderful and centuries old rock-carved churches in the region.
Cappadocia churches always remind me of a scene from the movie English Patient where Kip takes Hana inside a church and lifts her up with a flashlight so that she can see the ancient drawings on the walls – frescoes in Cappadocia’s churches are even more impressive.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia?
There are three main towns in Cappadocia where visitors base themselves in, Urgup, Goreme and Uchisar. Goreme used to be the prime backpackers choice (now upper scale accommodation options also found their way into the town) whereas Uchisar appeals to visitors looking for a little bit more privacy. Urgup on the other hand is the most well equipped of the three and feels more like a small city than a town.
Urgup: The Busiest Town in Cappadocia
Urgup is the most developed town in the region. It has its own advantages (greater selection of restaurants, accommodation options for every budget group etc.) in addition to the obvious downsides (being not nearly as pretty as the other two towns). Over the course of last decade, I stayed in two beautiful hotels in Urgup – namely Yunak and Esbelli Evi. Both were great with amazing views as both hotels are located in the old district of Urgup and not in the modern and less inspiring part of the town. Their owners changed so I cannot attest to their current service quality but just hope that both still offer a pleasant experience.
One of my favorite restaurants in Cappadocia, Ziggy, is also in Urgup. The restaurant has a very cozy dining area, the staff is very attentive/takes their job seriously and the food is good/reasonably priced.
Goreme: Mecca for Backpackers in Cappadocia
Goreme is another favorite for visitors and a mecca for backpacker tourists. The town is home to many hostels, bars and eateries fitting every budget.
My first real introduction to Goreme was when I was 19. I stayed in the town for about a week with American friends and had a glimpse of what backpack traveler life was all about. We mostly hung out with young Australians. This was my first introduction to the concept of “gap year”, a year during which Australians, often right after high school take a year off to explore the world and discover themselves. They sure enjoyed their time in Cappadocia and Turkey in general. It is always pleasure to experience your own country through the eyes of foreign friends, offering perspectives that a native can easily miss.
Goreme became a little unpleasantly developed over the years and lost part of its small town charm. However, it is still a place very much worth a visit thanks to the Goreme Open Air Museum (an area covered by monasteries and churches carved into rock – more about that in my next post). Zelve, although not located in Goreme, is another wonderful open air museum where the landscape is even more interesting than in Goreme.
My Favorite Cappadocia Town: Uchisar
Uchisar is about a five minutes ride from Goreme and thanks to its position on top of a hill, it offers amazing views of the entire region. When I first visited Uchisar, it reminded me of the opening scene of the movie “Chocolat” where Juliette Binoche climbs through the narrow alleys of the small French town where she intends to move to with her daughter. Uchisar is also full of narrow alleys and many steep climbs. This is not the only common part between the town in the movie and Uchisar as the latter is also a home to numerous establishments originally opened by French people and definitely carries that small French provincial town aura.
During my last visit to Cappadocia, I stayed in Uchisar for around two weeks. For those looking for a longer stay, I cannot recommend Art Residence Cappadocia enough. The spacious home is very tastefully decorated by its friendly owner and has the best views of the valleys around. I would wake up at 5am every morning to watch the hot air balloons filling the sky from the spacious terrace of the Art Residence Cappadocia.
There are so many other things about Cappadocia worth writing about. So please take this as my introduction post about this region that I have been to many times as there will be many more posts devoted to my possibly favorite place on earth. While I now live in Japan, I hope to visit Cappadocia as often as I once did whenever I get a chance to travel to home.