Day 1 – The Green Tour & Where To Eat In Goreme
Just before the world started to shut down and flights were getting cancelled left right and centre, I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful place that is Cappadocia.
My good friend Emma and I managed to get leave at the same time, so planned an amazing trip to Cappadocia and Istanbul. Sadly we never made it out of the airport in Istanbul as we had to catch one of the last flights out of Turkey before the borders closed, but we really made the most of our time in Cappadocia while we were there.
We are lucky that as cabin crew we have access to cheap standby flights, and from Dubai there are usually 2-3 flights a day to Istanbul with Emirates, either IST (Istanbul Ataturk Airport) or SAW (Sabiha Gokcen Airport). We decided to go via SAW as the connection to Cappadocia was better for us.
We had a couple of hours wait and enjoyed our first taste of some delicious Turkish food in the airport, and then hopped on a quick 45 minute flight to NEV – Kayseri Airport.
There are two airports in the Cappadocia region that will get you to the main town of Goreme (where most of the famous cave hotels and the majority of attractions are), either NEV, Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport, which we flew into, and is around a 40 minute drive, or ASR, Kayseri Airport, around 1 hour drive.
Most hotels will be able to arrange a transfer from either airport, which are fairly inexpensive (I think we paid less than €10 per person). This was a mini bus that dropped a few people off at different hotels, so there’s no need to get a taxi if you can arrange this.
Although we could have flown standby on Turkish Airlines, we decided to book a full fair ticket as it was insanely cheap – somewhere around the €15 mark each!
Where to stay
Once we had been picked up from the airport, we were driven to our hotel. There is an abundance of beautiful cave hotels to choose from in Goreme, and lots of them are even on the same street. We chose Divan Cave House, and I booked via booking.com.
Other popular hotels include Sultan Cave Suites, Cappadocia Cave Suites, Macan Cave Hotel, and many more to suit all budgets.
Our room was incredible, built inside a cave but spacious and had everything we could have ever needed. The bathroom was also huge and had a nice powerful shower and even underfloor heating.
All of the staff at the hotel were incredibly friendly and helpful, and made sure we were well taken care of. We actually organised all of our activities through the reception, as they had everything on offer and would get in touch with the tour agencies for us.
Breakfast was included in our booking, and since it was still low season there were not many people staying at the hotel. The first morning we were brought a spread of dishes to the table, and they just kept on coming! Turkish hospitality at its absolute finest, we couldn’t have asked for more.
Day 1 – Green Tour
As we only had two full days to explore and had arrived in the evening, we booked our tour for the first day to get out and see some of the beautiful scenery of Cappadocia. One of the things that Emma and I were most looking forward to was a hot air balloon ride, as well as watching them from our hotel rooftop one morning. However, due to the wind they don’t fly every day, and the first morning they were not going to be flying.
We decided to go for the “Green Tour”. In Cappadocia there are two main tours on offer, green and red, both with varying sights to see. From what we read online, it seems the sights on the red tour are more easily accessible without needing to join a group, so we went for the green tour which included a fair bit of driving.
The first stop of the tour was Goreme Panorama, a short drive outside of the main town. Our lovely guide gave us lots of explanations throughout the day of where we were and the history of all of the places.
Sadly the weather didn’t start off great, and it was so windy and drizzly that pieces of sand and grit were flying all over the place! We hopped out of the van for a super quick photo stop. The view was incredible, and would be even better in the sunshine.
The landscape is truly unlike anything I had ever seen before!
From here it was around an hour’s drive to our next stop, Selime Monastery. Somehow we both managed to nod off in the van, and without realising we arrived nice and quickly!
The monastery is an impressive structure, cut out of the rocks, and the largest religious structure in the Cappadocia region. There is a cathedral sized church carved out of one of the rocks, where you can find original frescoes adorning the walls. It is said to date back to the 8th or 9th Century, and was converted into a refuge for travellers and tradesmen who journeyed along the silk road in the 10th and 11th Centuries.
We were given some time here to explore the monastery, which has been abandoned since the 16th Century, and walk around admiring the views.
The monastery was fascinating to explore, and there were so many hidden nooks and crannies that we kept stumbling upon!
Our next stop was lunch, and although initially neither of us were hungry after our huge feast at breakfast, once the food was brought out we couldn’t help but start to feel a little hungry! We were given a delicious salad to start, and a choice of a few different options for the main course – I went for some very tasty meatballs served with bulgur wheat and roasted veggies. For dessert platters of baklava dripping in syrup were brought out – we could get used to those!
After lunch, we drove (and napped!) to the incredible Ilhara Valley for a roughly 3km hike. The perfect opportunity to burn off lunch!
The valley itself consists of a 14km gorge along the Melendiz River, so we would only be hiking a small part of it. Nevertheless it was a great way to see some of the stunning nature up close, as well as getting some exercise.
As there were around 15 of us in the group, most in pairs, we all took the hike at our own pace, some of us stopping for photos along the way, some walking extreeeeemely slowly, and Emma and I going at what we thought was a fairly leisurely pace. Turns out we were so much faster than the rest of the group, and waited for quite a while for everyone else to arrive!
Halfway through the hike we came across a cute little café setup – a few tables and chairs alongside the river where you could stop for a freshly squeezed juice.
After trying the mix in Georgia when we visited together last year, both of us went for a refreshing glass of orange and pomegranate juice.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Our next stop after the hike through the Ihlara Valley was the Derinkuyu Underground City. This place is seriously unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before – a whole city built underground into caves, extending up to 60 metres below ground!
It’s quite fascinating to learn about the history of this place – and it all started with ancient volcanic eruptions. Millions of years ago, layers and layers of ash were built up, and eventually turned into rock that is capable of being carved into.
It is thought that the underground city was built sometime between the 8th and 7th Centuries BC, and could house up to 20,000 people as well as their livestock and food stores.
Somehow it wasn’t discovered until 1965, when a Turkish man was renovating his home. While is it now open to visitors, there are still many passages and rooms that remain inaccessible.
As I’m sure you can imagine, it was hard to get pictures inside, as the rooms were mostly in darkness. The ceiling height was extremely low, especially in the narrow passages, so you had to bend over substantially to get through to each room.
Inside, historians have discovered all sorts of rooms, from a school, to a chapel, family rooms and even feeding areas for animals.
We spent some time wandering through the narrow stairs and passageways, and marvelling at how much work it must have taken to carve out a whole city underground that could house 20,000 people.
Our last and final stop of the day was Pigeon Valley, a stunning viewpoint across the valley.
Also known as Guvercinlik Vadisi, Pigeon Valley earned its name from the countless man made pigeon houses that have been carved into the soft volcanic rock.
In ancient times pigeons were used in the Cappadocia region for food, and the droppings were collected to be used as fertiliser. The birds no longer play such an important role, however the pigeonholes can still be found all throughout the region.
It was starting to get quite windy again by this point, and a little chilly, so once we’d taken our pictures we sat back in the van to wait for the rest of the group.
There was one other stop on the Green Tour, a jewellery workshop where we were given a short tour, as well as an explanation about a new stone that has only been discovered recently, Zultanite. It seem to magically change colour between green and pink, depending on the light that you look at it in, however neither of us were interested in buying any jewellery.
Luckily the shop assistants were not at all pushy and there was no pressure to buy anything or even look around if you didn’t want to. It was right next to the Pigeon Valley, so you could just walk over there as soon as you wanted.
Eventually the tour was coming to a close, and after a wonderful day out exploring Cappadocia, we were ready to put our feet up and have a nice cup of tea in our hotel room!
Where To Eat
As you can imagine, there are plenty of great restaurants to choose from in Goreme. We decided to pick somewhere based purely on the proximity to our hotel, and had spotted a place called Topdeck Cave whilst driving back.
Let me tell you… what a find! Tucked away into the side of one of the windy streets, this unassuming restaurant houses a beautiful interior, complete with fireplace and colourful Turkish rugs and tablecloths.
The hospitality we received was second to none, and our waiter made sure we were well taken care of from start to finish. We were brought out a delicious yoghurt soup to start with, as well as a basket piled high with fresh, hot bread.
To eat we chose the Turkish mezze selection – living in Dubai we’ve both tried some pretty good Arabic mezzes, but these were all delicious and paired perfectly well with the freshly baked bread.
Since neither of us had tried Turkish wine before, our waiter brought over a couple to sample, in tiny little wine glasses! We also shared some amazing deep fried cheese pastries which were delicious. Of course, we couldn’t end the evening without some more baklava (when in Turkey, right?) and this was was even better than at lunch – served hot, and with vanilla ice cream on the side. What a treat!
Despite being one of the “pricier” restaurants in town, coming from Dubai where everything is overpriced, we found it to be incredibly good value for a delicious dinner including wine for 2. The perfect way to end our first day in Cappadocia!