Turkey’s most famous region, Cappadocia, lies in central Anatolia, halfway between Ankara and the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its spectacular landscape, with thousands of fairy chimneys spread all over the valleys and mountains, cave churches and underground cities, it is a prime tourist destination popular all year round. Though we are talking about a large area, there is only one relatively big city: Nevşehir. Due to its size and the wide range of cave hotels, it is very important to choose well where to stay in Cappadocia. By doing so, you’ll be able to avoid the crowds and fully enjoy this beautiful region.
How to Get to Cappadocia
Cappadocia is easily accessible. Getting there from Ankara or Istanbul by plane is fast and cheap. Plane tickets can be so affordable that travelling by bus literally makes no sense. There are two airports. An hour from the main area, Kayseri Airport is the largest, while Nevşehir Airport with fewer flights is conveniently located near the main cities. You can fly to Kayseri from many domestic and several international destinations. Nevşehir Airport serves flights only from Istanbul, Ankara, and Antalya. You can also travel by train to Kayseri. From Ankara, there are three daily trains, and the journey lasts a little over 6 hours. There is also one daily train from Adana, and it takes less than 6 hours. Eitan wants to say that it does make sense to travel by bus due to environmental reasons. He went by bus for the first time from Istanbul in 2004. He never did it again, though.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
The center point and the best place to stay in Cappadocia, is the Göreme National Park. Most hotels are in three towns, Ürgüp, Göreme, and Uçhisar. You can book daily excursions to all interesting locations from any of these three towns, just ask around. Ürgüp is the largest town, serviced by many local and regional buses. Most of the massive tourism facilities are here. Göreme is centrally located, with good travel infrastructure. Most cave hotels and guesthouses are here. Uçhisar is the smallest, with relatively limited public transport. It is located on the cliff overlooking Göreme and the valley around it. All three are beautiful towns, with delicious Anatolian food, shops, coffee houses and activities.
Göreme is the epicenter of the Göreme National Park. Although historically known as Korama, local authorities changed its name for practical reasons. The town is literally next to several interesting attractions. Thus, you can walk or bike between them. With a wide variety of cave hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops, Goreme’s infrastructure is amongst the best in Capadoccia. The whole place is a perfect symbiosis of nature and architecture. Several hills surround Goreme, and there are cave hotels for all tastes and budgets. Gorgeous views are everywhere, and you can enjoy them from different angles.
Cave hotels in Göreme
We’ve been to Cappadocia several times, and we keep staying in Göreme at the wonderful Caravanserai Cave Hotel. It’s one of the best cave hotels in Cappadocia. Located close to the center of lovely town, it blends perfectly with the landscape. Most of their rooms are in a cave, and there is a large open-air terrace with fabulous views. If you are looking for something different, check out the Aren Cave Hotel and Art Gallery. Besides tastefully designed rooms and views, they also host an art gallery. If you like lavish green gardens, then your place is the Roc of Cappadocia. Their rooms are nice, and the garden overlooks the valley.
Uçhisar is some 4 kilometers southwest of Goreme, within the national park. Unlike Göreme that sits on the valley, Uçhisar is perched high on a rock. The most interesting area is the old town close to the cliff. You will find three castles here, including the imposing Uçhisar Castle. The views from the quirky castle are unforgettable. The rest of the town is modern and not especially interesting. Many package tours stop here, giving the town a bit of a touristy feel. The good thing is that the famous Pigeon Valley is just a step away, and you can walk to it.
Cave Hotels in Uçhisar
Hotels in Uçhisar are slightly more expensive. Since there are fewer options than in Göreme, it might feel a bit more exclusive. A nice hotel close to the Castle is the Caldera Cave Hotel. They have large rooms and a grand terrace with views of the castle and the chimneys. If you are looking for something a bit more upscale, stay at the Petra Inn Cappadocia. Their rooms are spacious, and there is a nice terrace with views. For luxury queens, we recommend the gorgeous Taskonaklar. Most of their rooms have balconies overlooking the landscape, and some even a bathtub. Isn’t that nice?
Home to almost 20 000 inhabitants, Ürgüp is the largest city in Göreme National Park. In fact, it is the only real city. It is located some 8 kilometers east of Göreme in a flat monotonous terrain. Nevertheless, its city center is nice with several rock formations and cave houses. You will find the Old Town in the center. Its centerpiece is the Temeeni Hill with the Tomb of Aslan Gazi. Though it might offer the best shopping facilities, Ürgüp lacks the charm of both Göreme and Uçhisar. On a positive side, you can walk to the beautiful Three Graces Fairy Chimneys.
Cave Hotels in Ürgüp
The area around Ürgüp is where groups stay, so this is where the big hotels are. That said, the old town area is home to some of the best cave hotels in Cappadocia. Located right next to the old town, the Kemerhan Cave Suites is a perfect place to get some rest. Most rooms are inside a cave and there is a nice garden. If you want to splurge a little, stay at the lovely Dere Suites Cappadocia. They offer elegant spacious rooms and some of the nicest views in Ürgüp. If you are into historical architecture, stay at the cool Aya Kapadokya. This 19th century house features cave rooms, arched rooms, a chapel, and two wineries!
Other Great Places to Stay in Cappadocia
There are several villages and towns with decent accommodation options inside the Göreme National Park. Some 3 kilometers north of Göreme, we find the tiny village of Çavuşin. You will find several attractions here, including the famous Fairy Chimneys Valley. The best hotel here is the The Village Cave Hotel.
Just 5 kilometers southeast of Göreme, we find another charming town: Ortahisar. The small town surrounds the Impressive Ortahisar Castle. We recommend staying at the nearby Elika Cave Suites.
Further away from Göreme and some 7 kilometers southeast from Ortahisar, you’ll love the old Greek village of Mustafapaşa. The atmosphere in the whole town is unique, and it’s not overly touristic. Our absolute favorite in Mustafapaşa is the Seraphim Cave Hotel.
If you are thinking of where to stay in Cappadocia to avoid the crowds, think no more and stay in Güzelyurt. This little town is far from the hustle and bustle, yet it’s just a step away from Ihlara Valley and the Derinkuyu Underground City. In Güzelyurt, stay at the Antique Gelveri Cave Hotel.
Best Cappadocia Luxury Hotels
In Cappadocia, most of the luxury hotels are either in Uçhisar or in Ürgüp. Nevertheless, there are a few in Göreme and other cities and towns. The Sultan Cave Suites is probably the fanciest cave hotel in Göreme. This lavish hotel features elegant rooms, a panoramic terrace with views, wine cellars, and a cultural center. In Uçhisar, it’s difficult to choose the nicest hotel since there are plenty of great options. However, what sets Argos in Cappadocia Hotel apart is how its architecture blends perfectly with the landscape. The hotel hosts top design rooms and other facilities. Our clear favorite in Ürgüp is the Sacred House, an outstanding 250-year-old Greek villa, winner of the title Boutique Hotels Design for 2014.
The Best Place to Stay in Cappadocia: Göreme
In our opinion the best place to stay in Cappadocia is Göreme. Both Ürgüp and Uçhisar have a relatively small number of interesting places within walking distance, while Göreme offers plenty. Göreme has an excellent tourist infrastructure, amazing cave hotels, and is served by all possible excursions. Most independent travelers stay here, while other places cater more to package tourism. Its close surroundings are the most dramatic ones: fairy chimneys and wonderful views all around. Finally, there is a great variety of restaurants offering delicious Turkish and international food. Let’s not forget the coffee and tea houses with loads of sweets!
Places to Visit in Cappadocia
Though the exact extension of Cappadocia is not clear, we are talking about a relatively large area peppered with fascinating places to visit. That said, the majority of attractions are in and about the abovementioned Göreme National Park. Within the park, you will find the Göreme and Zelve Open-Air Museums, Uçhisar, Çavuşin and Ortahisar Castles, Red and Rose Valleys, Pasabag Monks Valley, and Devrent Valley. You can visit most of these places on foot or by bike. The other highlights are south of the national park and include two underground cities, Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. The Selime Monastery and the Ihlara Valley are nearby too.
If you arrive in Cappadocia by plane, you must take a shuttle bus from the airport to the town where you’re staying. You can book your ticket here, or ask your hotel to do so to assure a seat on the bus. Once in the area, you can walk and bike to different sites. In Göreme, there are plenty of bike rentals. To travel between different cities, take the local minibus Dolmuş. They leave every hour and connect places like Göreme, Uçhisar, Ürgüp, Çavuşin, and Ortahisar. To reach the underground cities and the Ihlara Valley on a public bus, you have to transfer in Nevşehir, which makes for a long journey. Naturally, you can also take an organized tour, hire a private driver, or drive yourself.
Most agencies and hotels offer three typical excursions: green, red and blue. The Green tour is the longest and most interesting one, including sites like the Pigeon Valley, Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City and Selime Cave Monastery. The Red tour includes places reachable by bike from Göreme, so it’s better to do it on your own. It covers the area north of Göreme, including Pasabag Monks Valley, Devrent Valley, and Göreme Open-Air Museum. The Blue tour is nice if you have more spare time. It takes you to Kaymakli Undergound City, Soganli Valley of Churches, Sobesos Ancient City, and Mustafapaşa Village.
When to Visit Cappadocia
Though you can visit Cappadocia year-round, some months are better than others. The weather in summer can be too hot and dry, and there are just too many tourists, so we recommend avoiding Cappadocia in July and August. April, May, and June, just like September and October are great months to visit. The weather is warm, but not too hot, and there aren’t too many tourists. To us, winter in Cappadocia is one of the best seasons to visit. There are very few tourists, prices are low, and the weather can be more than decent (it rarely gets too cold in Cappadocia). Additionally, if you are lucky, you can enjoy this fairy tale landscape covered with snow. What an outstanding experience!
Why Should You Visit Cappadocia Now
Cappadocia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Tourist numbers are rising sharply and it can be annoyingly crowded in peak season. But due to its size and large number of places of interest you can easily escape the crowds and explore the region on your own. By far the most interesting way is walking or biking, but hiring a hot air balloon is a fun way too (if you can afford it). The authorities haven’t bothered protecting the area, so there is a lot of construction activity going on. It is seriously threatening both nature and architectural heritage. So don’t wait until it’s too late, visit Cappadocia now.