Cappadocia Itinerary 3 days: how to get there, when to go and what to see? The best balloon tour? Plan by yourself or with a travel agency?
In this first article we want to give you many useful tips to avoid troubles during your journey to Cappadocia and, if like me, you have included in the “100 things to do before you die”, you really can’t be wrong!
How to get to Cappadocia?
From Istanbul, daily nonstop flights to Nevsheir airport, the nearest airport to Göreme (the city where we recommend to stay) or to Kayseri, the most popular airport (we have also chosen it) because it guarantees a greater number of flights and more comfortable flight times. Once landed in Cappadocia, wait for the shuttle booked through the hotel (the best and cheaper option) that will finally lead you to your final destination in about an hour. Alternatively, you can reach Goreme from Istanbul with direct overnight buses (730 km, 10 to 12 hours) or high-speed.train-and-bus via Ankara and Konya.
Cappadocia Travel: plan by yourself or with a travel agency?
We arranged a tour with an authorized guide and the choice was excellent. We were lucky: the guide is a lovely person who made our journey unforgettable thanks to the passion he carried out his work and he is also a photographer (not bad to find a personalized book at the end of the journey)! The guide also has an agency that can handle any type of request and I strongly advise you to contact and agree a personalized itinerary (focused on trekking, churches, nature, UNESCO sites). We had three full days available. We told him we wanted to make a mix of experiences and to be absolutely interested in avoid classical Cappadocia to discover a less touristic area. Only a few indications were enough to formulate a proposal that we accepted without reserve! The further plus: he rented a car and drove us everywhere, avoiding the hassle of driving, parking and gasoline!
Cappadocia Itinerary 3 days
Consider the city of Göreme the starting point of your tour (on the Cappadocia tour map you can see what we saw).
Day 1: Visit Mustafapaşa, the ancient Sinasos, a city of Greek origin, full of decorated houses (and splendid doors for fans like me!) and Greek churches. A 6 km trek in the suggestive (and practically unknown) Soğanlı canyon. Visit the Keşlik monastery, one of the most beautiful and less visited places in Cappadocia with the Archangel’s church, the church of Saint Stephen and the refectory. Sunset in the Rose Valley.
Which travel insurance to choose? I chose Columbus (and you get a 10% discount if you buy it through turistadimestiere.com).
Day 2: Flight with a hot-air balloon, visit the troglodyte village of Zelve (inhabited until 1955), stop at the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys of Paşabağ and the Valley of Love. Trekking in a ring circuit between the Rose Valley and the Red Valley.
Day 3: Visit the Open Air Museum of Göreme (included by UNESCO in the World Heritage Site in 1985) and to the nearby Church of “Tokali”; about 4km of trekking in the Ihlara canyon where the Melendiz river flows and walk among the ruins of the cathedral of Selime; visit the underground city of Derinkuyu that sinks, with its 7 levels, up to 55 meters deep. Two panoramic steps on the citadel of Uçhisar and the Valley of Pigeons.
Flying over Cappadocia in a balloon was one of my 100 things to do before you die. It is considered, given the costs, a luxury experience. Prices per person are between € 150 and € 190. The difference depends on the choice of doing a comfort tour (with up to 16 passengers on board) or a standard tour (with 20-24 passengers). We had a great experience with Voyager Balloons: the pilot was very good, he took the balloon to a height of 600 meters, came back down, literally brushing the fairy chimneys of the Rose Valley and made us fall in love with Cappadocia from the high! Important: book the flight BEFORE arriving on site because the request is very high and you risk to miss it (we lived the “drama” of two Chinese who stayed on waiting list during all their stay in and did not get it!!!).
We stayed in Göreme (but also Urgup is beautiful) and we chose a rock-cut hotel, the Kelebek Special Cave Hotel! In this magnificent structure overlooking the valley (if you wake up early in the morning you can capture dozens of hot air balloons in the sky) there are both normal rooms and rooms carved into the rock: you can’t miss a sleep in a fairy chimney!
Breakfast is buffet style (both sweet and savory) and is served respectively in a panoramic room and on two stunning terraces (in case of departures at dawn, they will not let you leave without a personalized breakfast box!). The plus of the Kelebek bar is to allow free access to guests who can use fragrant cups of tea during the day (of course, for free). The property is charming and is connected, through corridors and steps to the nearby Sultan Hotel and to the superb Seten Restaurant (where we recommend at least a dinner in good company). There is also a small spa, a swimming pool with a view and corners where you can sit and read a book or chat.
On request, the Kelebek organizes the transfer to and from the airport at a cost of 30TL per person (about € 6.50) each way and the hot-air balloon tour (with a different company from the one we chose. If you book in advance, they will make a small discount).
When to go to Cappadocia?
We went between April and May. We had 5 sunshine days (with temperatures between 25 and 15 degrees) and then I would recommend you to go in the spring, when nature awakens and colors make real postcards od landscapes. It must be said, however, that May is traditionally a fairly rainy month and our guide told us that only two weeks before our arrival it snowed at altitude (and in fact on the two volcanoes of the region there was still snow). To be safe in terms of weather, therefore, it would be appropriate to go in summer (don’t be scared about heat, it is very dry). Autumn promises rich contrasts of charm and winter the snow between the fairy chimneys …
What to pack for a journey in Cappadocia?
We have traveled, as always, only with hand baggage. We brought the essentials: sportswear and trekking boots, essential for walking between lava and tufaceous formations (not only for trekking, but also for the large amount of dust that rises step by step); t-shirts and sweatshirts (in the evening there is always a significant thermal excursion and in the underground cities the temperature is constantly around 10-11 degrees so you need to cover yourself); rain jacket (you never know!); backpack for excursions where to put sunscreen and cocoa butter; some clothes for the evening (I have even worn heels but I’m an acrobat: in Göreme it is recommended low shoes as it is a continuous up and down).
Museum pass or not?
Absolutely yes, if you are going to retrace our own itinerary because although many sites are free access, the entrance fees of the paid museums would make you spend more if purchased individually. The 72h pass has a cost of 75TL and can be purchased in any museum. For example:
Göreme Open Air Museum: 30TL + 10TL for entry into the black church
Zelve Open Air Museum: 20TL
Canyon Ilhara Valley: 20TL
Derinkuyu Underground City: 25TL
If you want to visit (and I would say to do) these sites, you should pay 105TL, 30TL more than the pass. The others are free. P.S. Remember always to bring some cash to access the abandoned villages or valleys (for example, to enter the Rose Valley, the meeting place for tourists and locals to see the sunset sipping a drink, 2TL), to park or to leave some free offer to small businesses trying to preserve sites with few subsidies (like the monastery of Keşlik).
original article on www.turistadimestiere.com | translation by Gigilatrottola