Cappadocia on your own: what and how to see a tourist?

HBeing on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, it is worth plunging into the unique world of Cappadocia. This unusual land in central Turkey with a characteristic lunar landscape. Loyal Star Wars fans should definitely see this land. This is where many of the scenes for this movie were filmed. But is Cappadocia real on its own in 3 days, as most travel agencies suggest? Is it possible, how and why it is worth choosing an excursion to Cappadocia without the services of travel agencies.

Why you should choose a self-guided trip to Cappadocia

In general, the choice of the way to explore Cappadocia depends on the tour plan, that is, those attractionsthat you would like to see and time, which you plan to take to this.

Wherever I looked for information about excursions in Cappadocia, I saw similar offers everywhere: Cappadocia in 3 days, so I decided that three days for an independent trip would also be enough. In principle, this is true, but what ultimately came out of it, read on.

With a tour bought from an agency, you go on an organized trip, visiting certain places where you have a clear amount of time to see them.

If you like this kind of historical tourism, where you don't have to organize anything and everything is unequivocally predetermined, then this trip is for you.

There are many tour operators and travel agencies that offer organized two and three day trips to the moon valley. But this form of organizing an excursion to Cappadocia has several, in my opinion, significant drawbacks.

Disadvantages when choosing an organized tour to Cappadocia:

  • The need to visit tourist sites that you might not have included in your personal tour plan. Honestly, this is the least of all the evils of an organized tour. Almost all objects are worthy of attention;
  • The absence of interesting objects in the organized tour, visiting which would not be superfluous at all and undoubtedly informative;
  • The high cost of an organized tour, which, in addition to direct costs and expenses of the travel agent, includes its profit.

It is for these reasons that I definitely recommend that you go to Cappadocia on your own. Such a solution is probably more complicated in some ways, but it is definitely richer and more effective.

Unfortunately, during my stay in this fabulous land, I did not have time to see all the places planned for inspection. The result of this was mainly the lack of sufficient information about what to visit, how to better organize the route, how to get around in general in this region and a banal lack of time.

Therefore, in this article, I will share with you my personal experience and tell you how to economically and effectively organize an independent trip to Cappadocia without spending hundreds of dollars on organized trips.

How to get to Cappadocia?

Wherever you are in Turkey, flying is the most convenient and fastest option. The two nearby airports are in Kayseri And Nevsehir. You can go there by bus, from Istanbul, Antalya, Side, Kemer, or you can consider the option of air travel.

I will give an example of the way from Antalya. The road from Antalya to Nevsehir is about 530 km. A bus ride costs around 15 USD, and the travel time is approximately 10 hours. A plane ticket from Antalya to Kayseri usually costs around 100 USD, but there are almost always offers in the region of 50 USD and very interesting offers often pop up in the region of 30 USD round trip. So choose your option based on your budget and time.

Airfare Antalya Kayseri
An example of a cheap flight offer from Antalya to Kayseri

I flew from Istanbul and the whole flight took just over an hour. I paid 28 USD for my Pegasus round trip flight. In general, depending on the season, the airline itself and, of course, luck, prices can vary significantly. I recommend that you also take a look at Turkish Airlines flights, because you can also find great deals on domestic flights there.

airfare istanbul kayseri
An example of a cheap flight offer from Istanbul to Kayseri

By the way, the cost of a flight from Moscow to Kayseri from the same Pegasus airline can be about 130 - 150 USD round-trip. So aviasales is in your hands ...

How to get from Kayseri or Nevsehir to Goreme or Urgup

Now I will explain what Göreme and Urgup have to do with it. A flight or transfer to Kayseri or Nevsehir is not the whole road to the final destination. In advance, you need to decide on the place of stay in Cappadocia. How to consider the most suitable options Goreme And Urgup (Ugrup).

Goreme in Cappadocia
General view of Goreme from a hill

These are two of the most popular tourist sites among solo and package travelers. Goreme is a village located in the very center of Cappadocia, where most tourists stop. I also booked a room there and I think it's a great base and starting point for exploring Cappadocia.

From the airports to these settlements you can get:

  1. By taxi — Private transfers. For example, the cost of a taxi from Kayseri Airport to Cappadocia is 90 USD, and from Nevsehir Airport - 75 USD;
  2. On minibus — Shared Airport Shuttle Services. This type of transport regularly runs along the route, and the fare is from 7 to 9 USD;
  3. By rented car, if you decide to rent it and are ready to pay from 25 USD per day for its rental plus fuel costs.

Remember, there are no bus routes to Cappadocia from airports. The cheapest option is a minibus. Minibuses deliver passengers to the hotel, and also pick up passengers on the way back from it. In principle, also a taxi, but much cheaper.

I would recommend that you book a seat in the minibus before you arrive. You can do this on a booking site such as argeus.com, or make arrangements with the hotel where you plan to stay. They arrange transportation for you, which is what I did on the way back. At the airport, a driver with a name on your card will be waiting for you in the arrivals hall.

Why is it advisable to reserve a seat in the minibus in advance?

Pre-reservation of a seat in the minibus gives confidence in the departure from the airport immediately upon arrival. That is, you will definitely leave the first minibus. Before my trip, I did not pay much attention to this part of the route and thought to continue from the airport on a public bus.

I was lucky that my flight was early. There were not many people at the airport and I was quickly able to find the driver of the minibus, who still had an empty seat in the minibus. But later, after talking with other tourists, I realized that sometimes upon arrival you have to wait for a free minibus if you do not have a preliminary reservation.

About Cappadocia hotels: cost and location

Cave hotels are very common in Cappadocia. The hotel I booked was cheap and didn't have fancy design. But you can search for “cappadocia cave hotel” and look at the pictures on request to get an idea of how beautifully decorated some hotels rooms are.

View from the hotel
From the breakfast terrace at the hotel for 20 USD you can enjoy a great view of the nearby mountains

For promotions, on the same Booking, you can book a double room with breakfast for 20 USD per room. And if you are a single tourist, without any special claims, or your company consists of four people, book a 4-bed room from 10 USD per person.

However, if you wish and financially possible, you can choose something suitable for you, because the prices for a hotel room can reach up to 1000 USD per night :))

What is worth seeing in Cappadocia and how to get to these important places?

Each agency, any guide will tell you about the most interesting and important places that you must see in Cappadocia and will be right to some extent. There is really a lot of things that a tourist can and should see. The main task is to choose your route from the many worthy options.

Below I will describe those sights that I personally visited. And even lower are those that I had in my plan to visit, but the time allotted by me in three days was simply not enough. Therefore, it is likely that more than one visit to the “country of Cappadocia” awaits me ahead.

Goreme Open Air Museum

Recognized as the most important site in Cappadocia. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is a complex of numerous monasteries and churches carved into the rocks, in the interiors of which you can admire beautiful frescoes. Most of the churches in this museum date from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.

Goreme Open Air Museum
The Open Air Museum is the most accessible nearby attraction

The Göreme Open Air Museum is located at a distance of 1.5 km from the “center” of the city, that is, it is about a 20-minute walk from it.

The time for a comfortable and relatively complete examination is about 2 hours
A one-time ticket for one person costs 75 lira
Daily. From 15.04 to — 2.10 from 08:00 to 19:00 From 3.10 to 14.04 from 08:00 to 17:00

The museum is best visited early in the morning immediately after opening or in the evening. Such a visiting time gives a high probability of avoiding the accumulation of tourists. I visited the "Goreme Museum" from about 12.00 to 14.00, and at that time there were quite a lot of visitors.

Göreme Valley - Pink Valley

Another well-known attraction of this land from the “must-see” category. The distance from the city center is about 3.2 km. Most of the route is very calm and peaceful. As soon as you leave the settlement, then along the way you will no longer meet any houses or cafes. There are only beautiful landscapes, peace and quiet.

Goreme Valley
Pinkish tuff makes this valley attractive for independent tourists

Rose Valley is the point from which you can watch beautiful sunsets. As guidebooks and travelers say, the rocks change color at sunset. Unfortunately, dark storm clouds and the approaching bad weather thwarted my plans, and I did not wait there for sunset. But I recommend visiting the Rose Valley at any time of the day.

Kaymakli - "Creamy" underground City

There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, while Kaymakli is the largest and also the most popular among tourists. It consists of 8 floors, while only 4 are open to tourists.

Kaymakli Underground City
Cave of the "Creamy" underground city (Kaymaklı - "of cream" in Turkish)

I'll give you a little advice or a warning. If you are claustrophobic or feel uncomfortable in a confined space, then I would by no means recommend a trip to Kaymakli or other underground cities.

Frescoes of the Underground City
Christian images and frescoes in the ancient city of Kaymakli

You can get to Kaymakli by minibus. From the Goreme bus stop, you must first get to Nevsehir. Minibuses run between them every half an hour. In Nevsehir, you need to transfer to another minibus, which will take you almost to the entrance to the underground city.

Travel time is about one and a half hours (including transfers). The price of tickets for minibuses one way: from Goreme to Nevsehir - 3 TL, from Nevsehir - Kaymakli - 4.5 TL.

The time for a comfortable and relatively complete examination is 1.5 - 2 hours
A one-time ticket for one person costs 25 lira
Daily. From 15.04 to — 2.10 from 08:00 to 19:00 From 3.10 to 14.04 from 08:00 to 17:00

Güvercınlık vadisi - Pigeon Valley

It is located about 4.2 km from Goreme. It is located very close to the city. Uchisar. Just an hour's walk. But you can also use the services of a minibus and get to Uchisar, and from there go to Pigeon Valley. In my opinion, it is worth taking a walk, because the road is absolutely not annoying, but rather very pleasant. My personal opinion: visiting the Pigeon Valley is without a doubt.

pigeon valley
Pigeon Valley is within walking distance of the city

Devrent Valley - the valley of fairy creatures

Another place in the same “must see” category. A place where you can give free rein to your imagination, watching unusual rocks, sometimes so similar to the figures of fairy-tale creatures.

Devrent Valley
Devrent Valley - Valley of Magical Creatures and Beasts

Devrent Valley is located 11 km from Goreme. In her direction there are no routes with minibuses or public transport. You can choose to hike, you can rent a car, a bike, you can book a taxi, or you can ask for this particular tour from one of the hundreds of travel agencies dotted around Göreme.

My opinion about the choice of way to get to the Valley boils down to the following. If you are full of strength and energy, nothing hurts and your body is used to something more than a soft sofa and beer, then walking is what you need. Amazing views and landscapes that come across along the way convinced me of the correctness of the decision. But I also think that a moped or bicycle is also a great alternative.

But keep in mind that most of the route is wilderness, and you are moving through the wastelands all the time. To be completely honest, I was the only person who went on foot to the Devrent Valley.

What I did not have time to visit in Cappadocia

As you already understood, succumbing to the hypnosis of the assurances of travel agencies about the sufficiency of 3 days to visit the main beauties of Cappadocia, I planned my trip for three days. As a result, I did not have time to visit several attractions in the region from my personal list. What did I plan to attend but didn't visit?

Zelva Open Air Museum

A city that was inhabited in the recent past. It was considered one of the largest settlements in the region. But in the early 1950s, the inhabitants were forced to leave Zelve due to the progressive erosion of the rocks and the danger of their houses collapsing.

The Zelva Open Air Museum is not a bad alternative to the Goreme Open Air Museum. It is located about 10 km from Goreme. It is not so crowded here, and you can safely focus on sightseeing and the preserved churches of the 11th-13th centuries.

Derinkuyu Underground City - "Deep Well"

This in turn is the deepest underground city, about 85 m deep. The city is also very popular with tourists. Some say that Kaymakli And Derinkuyu are not much different from each other, and seeing one of them is enough. Unfortunately, I have not been able to confirm or refute this statement personally. But, I hope next time I will open this "secret", at least for myself.

Derinkuyu is about 40 km from Goreme, and when it comes to minibuses, the route is standard, with only one difference. In Nevsehir you have to transfer to the minibus to Derinkuyu.

Ihlara Valley - a canyon 15 km long

This is a canyon about 15 kilometers long and up to 110 meters deep, which appeared thousands of years ago. Today, the Melendiz River runs through a gorge surrounded by dense vegetation. The distance from Göreme to the Ihlara Valley is almost 80 km.

There is no route with minibuses in this direction, so you need to organize most of the way on your own. The options are the same: taxi, car rental, bike, bicycle. Or you can take advantage of the offer of the tourist fraternity settled in Goreme. In any case, this question remained open for me, since I did not have enough time to visit this valley.

How long does it take to visit Cappadocia?

Let's remember when planning an independent trip to Cappadocia that the ubiquitous minibuses are not always available and far from everywhere, and they do not run every five minutes. So if you're not planning on renting a car and want to go for a walk at least a couple of times, which I highly recommend, make a realistic travel plan.

And so, we do not rent a car, with two or three walks. Taking into account the movement of minibuses and the extended standard plan of visits, we will not be able to physically do everything in three days. I think that in this case 5-6 days is the optimal solution.

It should also be taken into account that it is important not to rush to bypass as many objects as possible. It is important to stop in time and take the time to admire this unique lunar landscape, and not just check off the next items on the list of must-see attractions.

Renting a car will definitely make getting around easier and save a lot of time, then three days might be enough. Bicycling is also not a bad option. Wherever I have walked, the roads have been very wide and mostly empty, so I think a bike would be just right.

On this trip, I probably missed my trekking boots the most. They could definitely ease all my walking movements. I had running shoes, I didn’t prepare for difficult transitions, but if you are planning long walks, pack trekking boots in a travel bag - they will come in handy.

Oh, and there's definitely no room for fancy sandals or trendy flip-flops here.

What about hot air ballooning?

Someone may ask about flying in the famous hot air balloons. This is indeed one of the main non-historical sights of modern Cappadocia, which I have not touched. I didn't forget the balls.

Early in the morning, many colorful balloons dot the sky of ancient Cappadocia

I just postponed this event until the next time, due to its minimum cost of 165 euros. I no longer counted on this. In addition, it was necessary to get up before sunrise and be ready to leave by 5 am, waiting for a tour minivan. That was the second reason why I gave up on this really attractive idea.

However, if you have a desire to fly in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia, in Göreme, you will find a travel agency on almost every corner where you can buy such a trip.

On this, perhaps, I will finish my story about an independent visit to Cappadocia. I will be glad if it will help someone. And if you have any questions related to the trip to Lunar Land, write them in the comments, I will try to answer.

One Comment

  1. Thank you, but there is a small update - the entrance ticket to the Göreme Open Air Museum currently (from February 2021, I think) already costs 75 TL (Turkish liras), and the so-called Dark Church costs an additional 25 TL. You can buy a 3-day card (value 190 TL) and then you will have access to other paid attractions.

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