Slow Travel

Cappadocia – for underground cities, cave churches & sunrise hot-air balloon rides

Take to the skies, explore underground cities and sleep in cave, all in one weekend. 

Written by Bradt Travel Guides


Luckily for you, May is one of the better times to visit Cappadocia – a strange fairytale landscape of peculiar rock formations offering ample opportunities for hiking or riding as well as UNESCO-listed sightseeing and the chance to sleep in a cave.

The downside is accessibility: there are no direct flights to this part of Turkey from the UK so you will need to get a connecting flight from Istanbul (why not extend your trip with a few days there…) meaning a long weekend here is a bit of a schlep. But it’s well worth it for a rather unusual weekend pursuit.

Cappadocia Eastern Turkey by NikoNomad, Shutterstock© NikoNomad, Shutterstock 

We suggest basing yourself in Göreme – now an open-air museum, it is the most visited place in all Cappadocia, and the undisputed highpoint, thanks to the quality of its cave churches and their internal frescoes. Allow a good two hours to walk round its nine churches, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and accessible on foot from the centre of town. During your stay here, be sure to book a table at Dibek and order your slow-cooked testi kepap (pottery kebab) 24 hours in advance.

For those with a head for heights, organise a sunrise hot-air balloon ride with one of the many tour operators situated along the village’s main street. If you’d rather keep your feet firmly on the ground, make the effort to get up for sunrise, wrap up warm and head out to watch the hot-air balloons drift slowly across the village and the surrounding valleys – a remarkable sight.

Hot air balloons Goreme Cappadocia Turkey by Anna MooresA hot-air balloon ride at sunrise is something not to be missed © Anna Moores

You can now start to explore further afield: we recommend Üçhisar (Three Fortresses) – a village cut into the region’s tallest fairy chimney. Climb to the top for wonderful views of the surrounding landscapes. Perhaps then head to the Zelve Valley to explore on foot the troglodyte dwellings dug out of three pretty valleys. Pick up locally made pottery at Avanos and wander along the river before stopping for a break at Mado Asmaaltı – a modern café on the banks of the river.

Kaymakli Eastern Turkey by Ozgur Guvenc, ShutterstockA view of the underground city of Kaymakli © Ozgur Guvenc, Shutterstock

Don’t miss the underground cities of Özkonak, Kaymaklı  or Derinkuyu – elaborate networks of tunnels, stairways and chambers hollowed out of the rock, never so low that you cannot stand up, but rarely spacious and certainly not for the claustrophobic. Or, if you tire of the crowds head for the 16km-long Ihlara Gorge for superb hiking opportunities.

What an adventure! Are you hooked? Make sure you take our Eastern Turkey guide with you:

Eastern Turkey the Bradt Guide by Bradt Travel Guides

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