In the spring of 2015 I was living in Spain. My sister was living in New York and we had never taken a trip together. We decided for her to come to Madrid and then we would head to Anatolia…the ancient name for the country of Turkey. In deciding how to spend our week in Istanbul (we could have spent it all there- see a later post for that run down) we narrowed it down to spending a few days in either Pamukkale (Central-West Turkey area with mountains and salt pools) or Cappadocia (the region in central Turkey with amazing rock formations).
Waffling on the decision we eventually decided to go to Thessaloniki, Greece…to knock another country off the list for both of us (a story for another day because the greatest meal I have ever had in my life as in Thessaloniki and I later drove five hours across Greece with a buddy just because of this food). As I texted my sister while in Turkey on this most recent trip, we made the right move because both Pamukkale and Cappadocia are incredible and choosing between them would have been tough.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
Let’s start with where I stayed, Diadem Hostel in Gӧreme. I got the recommendation from a girl at Bayrams Hostel in Olympos because it “has the vibes.” She could not have been more correct. Upon booking, the owner, Luftiye, sent me an email asking if I needed a transfer from the airport. This was critical because a taxi would have been $50 and I paid the driver $6. They give you a full Turkish breakfast and every staff member knows your name while happily catering to your needs: advice about hiking trails, restaurants (her husband works at the local Wood Fire BBQ Restaurant, pretty tasty and affordable), and balloon rides.
Is a Balloon Ride in Cappadocia Worth The Money?
Speaking of which, and I really buried the lead here, the main thing to do in Cappadocia is to take a sunrise hot air balloon ride. The advice I received, from the same random girl above, was to wake up on your first morning in Cappadocia at 6 AM and go watch the balloons inflate and then rise. I met up with some people and paid $1 to enter the park right above town and we watched the balloons on a freezing cold October morning.
After speaking with some folks on the hilltop who had gone up in the balloons previously, they said that it was between $200-220 to do so and the views were better from the ground. I therefore decided to save my money (and play golf a few days later in Bodrum). I suggest taking the same course of action: watch the balloons first, take your instagram pictures, and then decide if it’s worth the money. You’re packed into the big basket with 25 other people and have to shift around in order to see the views.
Hiking in Cappadocia
The final thing to do in Cappadocia is hike. Every shop has a sign for either the Green or Red Tours. Named for the valleys that surround the towns, these tours bring you into an underground city, monastery, a cafe that sits on a river, and a few other smaller stops. They cost around $60 and will occupy most of your day. You can visit most of these places either by hiking or bus; the intra-city buses in Turkey cost $1 at most. The monastery is definitely worth seeing, see the photo below. I coupled that with a hike through the valley, where I got lost for a few hours.
All told, Cappadocia is an incredible place. Its beauty is beyond words and if you have only a few weeks to tour around Turkey this is undoubtedly a place to hit. It was as far east as I made it in Turkey and I heard 0 bad reviews from fellow travelers, unlike the slightly more divisive Pamukkale.
"Harvey Falcon" is the the senior adventure corespondant for Ski Bum Van Life. From Europe to Asia to South America and beyond Harvey offers an exciting take on adventure travel. Read all his stories here.