I didn’t love Turkey as much as I thought I would and, specifically, didn’t have the best experience visiting Istanbul. Cappadocia though was different. It was more relaxed, more approachable and friendlier. The region is home to one of the worlds most unique landscapes from pinnacles, valleys and rose coloured sands. With the exception of a pricey hot air balloon ride, we were able to comfortably fill 3 days with activities that didn’t cost a penny.
1. Enjoying the balloons from the ground
This activity will involve an early morning, but not quite as bad as the 4am start if you choose to take a ride up in the balloons. Get up before sunset and head to a high point with a good view of the area. I went to the roof top terrace of my hotel, Bedrock Cave Hotel, which was perfect.
2. Taking a moment at the Sunset View Point
15 minutes walk from the centre of town up a short hill is Sunset View point – you can probably guess but the name the best time to go. Ask your hotel or any local and they will point you in the right direction. There is a main viewing area which can get very crowded. I walked a bit further along the mountain to an empty area, which offers the same good views, but with a much quieter experience.
3. Getting lost in the surrounding area
There are tons of different options for hiking in the area, but after some careful research, we decided on doing what are considered the 2 best in the area, Pigeon Valley and Rose Valley:
Everyone we spoke to about doing this walk said that we would need to take a bus or taxi 1 way as the walk is too long to do both ways. It really isn’t! We did both ways comfortably in half a day, with plenty of breaks and a stop for coffee and food when we reached Uschisar Castle, which is the end point.
The walk is signposted from the centre of town. It was easy to get lost as the paths fork sometimes and the direction is not clearly marked. Take one of the free maps with you from the local tourist offices, although we mostly used google maps which showed the path. If you find yourself on a steep, climbing section then you have taken the wrong turning. We didn’t bother paying to go into Uschisar Castle as we felt it was enough seeing it from the outside. The town surrounding it is interesting to wander around as many of the buildings here are cut into the rock. It’s amazing to see.
Most hotels will offer to drop you at Rose Valley free of charge. We were shown a hike we could do and told to take the bus or taxi back. Again, this really isn’t necessary as it isn’t very far from the town, although a slightly longer walk than Pigeon Valley as a return hike. Rose Valley was a highlight and my favourite of the 2 walks.
The area was beautiful and, as we were visiting off season (end of September) it was deserted. There are so many cool cave churches along the way. We got lost lots (which resulted in us doing double the intended distance!) and, again, relied on Google Maps to point us in the right direction. Take plenty of water and food with you as this was a more remote walk than pigeon valley and, although there were a couple of cafes dotted about, they were all shut.
4. Discovering hidden Cave Churches
There is the open air museum which has an entry fee. There are so many free ones dotted about the town though, we didn’t feel the need to go. We spoke with a couple who said that the entry isn’t worth it as the free ones are just as good. The best place to go is Rose Valley where there are lots. The bigger ones are marked on the maps (from the tourist office) and on Google Maps, but we also stumbled across some small hidden churches as we wandered about getting lost. As it was off season and empty when we were there, exploring these caves felt really quite magical.
5. Drinking too much Coffee
Drinking Turkish coffee is a cheap (1 lira) and a popular local past time. You will likely be offered free coffee with your meals and at your hotel, but I enjoyed finding run down little cafes to sit, with my book, people watching for an hour or 2.