No trip to Turkey would be complete without a trip to bucket list topper, Cappadocia, in the central Anatolian region. Famous for it’s ancient underground cities, stone ‘fairy chimneys’ and trogolidite caves, carved into the rocks, which once housed hermit monks and saints.
The landscape is nothing short of other-worldly. Weathered over millions of years and hacked into by ancient civilisations it’s really no surprise that it looks like something off the set of Star Wars. The town of Goreme is like nothing I have ever seen. Many of the cave dwellings have been repurposed as hotels, restaurants and shops selling beautiful hand made textiles and leather goods. Watch our video ‘A short ride in Goreme’ here.
Camping in the region is difficult to find online though once in central Goreme, there are at least four or five to chose from. We stayed at Kaya Camping just one or two kilometres from the centre. Being early September, we had the campsite pretty much to ourselves! They did have a swimming pool but it was empty due to a sharp decline in tourist traffic… a common theme in Turkey at the moment. The campsite backs onto scrubby farmland with a panoramic view of Cappadocia and Goreme, the sunset and even the hot air balloons at dawn. It was extremely dry and the camp surface is essentially dust with pebbles. I imagine in busy season, when the pool is full, it’s bliss.
Goreme Open Air Museum
Just a short walk from the campsite on the way into town, the open air museum is a great place to get an overview of troglodyte life. Entry fee is around 30tl but for 45tl you can purchase a Cappadocia museum pass which grants you entry to seven different attractions in the area and works out better value. We also went for the audio tour which went into some detail about cave life. Overall we spent around two hours exploring the different chambers, chapels and murals left behind by monks, saints and hermits.
The iconic ‘fairy chimneys’ were also intriguing. It’s hard to get an idea of scale from the picture but these two were around 9 stories high!
There are three underground cities included in the Museum pass. Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Zelve. There is a distance of around 20km between the two furthest ones via the main road so transport is a must. We visited Kaymakli which is one of the largest sites with eleven subterranean levels! Nobody knows how many similar cities have lain undiscovered in the region for thousands of years. Personally, I found our visit terrifying due to the maze of small tunnels. I can only imagine an influx of tourists would make a visit unbearable!
Let’s face it, we all have to eat so why not treat yourself to some delicious lamb and bean stew, served in a cave, plushed out with low tables and turkish carpets. ‘Debek’ and ‘Top Deck’ were our favourites inside the main town. Top Deck felt like a true Turkish experience. The menu was simple and consisted of three mains: Meat, Chicken and Vego options, along with a few Mezzes. We dined on the floor and the service was excellent. After our meal we ended up talking politics with the restaurant owner, his nephew and his friend into the wee hours. Supplied with free beer we got to experience some good old Turkish hospitality!
By far the best way to see this amazing landscape is from the air. Cappadocia is famous for it’s hot air balloons which can be seen floating in their hundreds at sunrise each morning. You can read about our ballooning experience in a seperate post here. It was a breathtaking experience in a surreal location.
Cappadocia was every bit as good as it looks. It had the potential to be overly touristy but this year tourism in Turkey has taken a big hit due to the coup attempt, bombs, tanks and Syria… So for us it was relatively quiet and we seemed to be able to explore the area at our own pace without being bombarded or overcrowded. It also felt very safe, secure and friendly. Obviously always follow Foreign Office advice but remember that Boris is in charge and don’t let the media scare you off!