After an introduction to Turkey in Istanbul, it was time to take a bus to Cappadocia. I was quite excited to leave the capital after hearing about Cappadocia’s treasures repeatedly! We also stayed in one of Cappadocia’s oldest original cave hotels, Esbelli Evi.
Istanbul to Cappadocia
Most blogs on the internet suggested taking a flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia, but we found that the bus was a better option as the airports in Cappadocia weren’t near Urgup or Goreme. Kayseri and Nevsehir airports are 1 hour from Cappadocia. Shuttles to Cappadocia run from these locations. Further research showed that the shuttles were quite expensive and cost about 30-35 TL (Turkish Lira) per person.
The distance between Istanbul and Cappadocia is about 750 km and takes about 12-14 hours by bus. Since we had never taken a bus in Turkey before, we weren’t sure how / where / when. Over time, after asking the locals, we realized that it was best to take a night bus from Kamil Koç and that the tickets were priced at around 130 TL. We somehow made the tram to a nearby Kamil Koç office and decided to pre-book an evening bus ticket the next day.
We took a direct bus from Istanbul Esenler Otogar to Urgup Otogar and paid 125 TL for it after requesting an Indirim (discount). The bus left on time at 5 p.m. and was supposed to take us to Urgup at 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. It turned out to be a great decision as the bus was very comfortable, had WiFi, butler service for tea / coffee / snacks / water and charging stations. The sunset colors and tones of the sunrise were beautiful as seen from the windows when we reached Urgup; and one or two stray hot air balloons!
It was cold and windy when the bus dropped us off in Ürgüp Otogar. Esbelli Evi was barely 1.3 km away and the taxi drivers reported 30 TL for it. We decided to walk and were happily surprised to walk on cobbled streets shortly after we left the main street. The way to Esbelli Evi was wonderful in itself; Fall colors dominated the area. A purple hue of red creepers grew in almost every outer wall of the historic district in which Esbelli Evi was located.
We entered Esbelli Evi and the owner Suha was there to greet us personally. The staff showed us our suite when we got our first glimpse of the raw beauty of this cave hotel in Cappadocia. There was a beautiful seat outside the room and the room itself was huge. To complement the environment, the soft, warm lights were very soothing. The weather was already pretty cold in November and we were happy to notice modern, but aesthetically pleasing heaters in the room.
We felt like little children; Explore the nooks and crannies of this cave paradise and wonder if we’d come across a hidden treasure! The owner, Suha and staff are always on hand to help you with all your needs without being intrusive. exactly how you could feel at home 🙂 We were led into the color ribbon cave suite with natural ribbons in the rocks. Esbelli Evi is really something special in the sense that there are all modern amenities in a luxurious setting, but the house keeps an authentic feel.
Esbelli Evi is one of the first cave hotels in Cappadocia to restore the original cave houses and turn them into a luxury hotel. On a tour of Esbelli Evi, Suha Ersoz (the owner) told us that he had spent seven years restoring the abandoned cave dwellings to make Esbelli Evi what it is. “Evi” means “home” in Turkish. It seems perfect that Esbelli Evi is more of a home than a hotel and the slogan is “A Cozy Cave Inn”. It is incredible to know that some parts of Esbelli Evi date from the 3rd century.
Some notable highlights at Esbelli Evi:
- Antique brass beds and stone interiors in every room. No two rooms are similar, although the Esbelli Evi has 9 suites and 4 cave rooms. Each room is artistically decorated with kilims (Turkish hand-woven carpets) on the wooden floors and has a kitchenette with a fine selection of teas and coffee.
- Each suite has its own garden and cozy living room. Esbelli Evi undoubtedly feels more like a home than a hotel.
- The family suite: perfect for families with small children. For an authentic cave experience with natural and original cave ceilings! An example of the originality of Esbelli Evi is the fact that one of the bedrooms was once used for pressing grapes when almost every house in Cappadocia made its own wine!
- There is also a reading room with an eclectic collection of books and CDs, and a living room with beautiful carpets and antique Ottoman design hangings. There are also mountain bikes and washing machines for guests. A unique feature is the Honesty Drink Bar, which is full of tea, coffee, beer and wine.
- Esbelli Evi is on an ascent, a short walk from the Urgup-Goreme road. The stay at Esbelli Evi is so unforgettable that we wondered once or twice whether we should actually visit sights in Cappadocia! I’m not really someone who praises a stay experience, but Esbelli Evi has become an integral part of our time in Cappadocia.
- Some suites have their own street entrance, while others have a private garden terrace. There are sprawling open-air sit-outs that offer great views of the Cappadocian countryside, while cozy corners in Esbelli Evi allow for relaxing romantic afternoons where you can enjoy wine among the vines.
- The honeymoon cave suite has a fitting name. with four interconnected cave rooms, including a hallway and a cave closet, a private garden terrace.
Since we had arrived fairly early in the morning, it was time for breakfast. Breakfast at Esbelli Evi is served on a roof terrace with a view of the small town of Ürgüp. It is a wonderful selection of freshly squeezed juices, vegetables, seasonal fruits, cheeses, bread and cakes, jams and jams. Eggs can be made to order and I have fond memories of the perfect Turkish coffee at Esbelli Evi. For cold days, there is also warm and cozy seating inside.
Suha comes over to speak personally with each guest and to check if they need help with planning or recommendations.
Introduction to Cappadocia (Pronounced Kapadokya)
The surreal landscape of Cappadocia is the result of a massive volcanic eruption about 30 million years ago. The subsequent natural erosion over thousands of years has led to a landscape of towers, fairy chimneys and caves that is hardly credible. The Cappadocia region is huge with many cities. Among a variety of sights are breathtaking valleys with cave dwellings, churches, historic underground cities and much more.
Cappadocia is a vast geographical area in the middle of Turkey and over 1000 meters high. There is hardly any rainfall in Cappadocia and there are hot, dry summers and bitterly cold, snowy winters. Cappadocia is a year-round travel destination where the different seasons have their own charm to create the experience of a traveler.
The climate in Cappadocia is extreme, but the soil is rich in minerals. A variety of fruits and vegetables are grown here, which are also of good quality. Many grape varieties are grown in Cappadocia, which also have a rich tradition in wine production. Turkish wine is of excellent quality with inexpensive wines (30 TL for a bottle) and Cappadocia has many vineyards and wineries.
Cave churches in Cappadocia are a novel experience – some of these cave churches have original 11th-century frescoes. Nowadays, the peak of Cappadocia is early morning, when hundreds of colorful hot air balloons cover the sky.
Visit to Gorëmë
When we went to Goreme’s main square; We were very surprised (and a little disappointed) that each travel agency advertised the same trips. Green Valley Tour and Red Valley Tour and Hot Air Balloon Rides. These tours took place in buses with fixed plans and large groups; I was never interested in that. The prices for the Green Valley Tour were set at 33 euros per person (euros instead of Turkish lira); which meant it was certain that these groups were full of annoying selfie tourists!
It was possible to rent a taxi for the whole day for the Green Valley tour, which would cost us around 250 TL (without tickets), which was not good value for money. There was also another way to rent a car yourself, which would also cost around 250 TL a day, and the fuel cost was extra! So we decided to just walk, use the different dolmus options and explore Cappadocia.
A basic guide to sightseeing in Cappadocia
Goreme open air museum
Esbelli Evi’s path led us to the main road to Goreme, where the Goreme Open Air Museum is located. A short 10-minute dolmus ride (10 minutes, 4 TL) took us to the overcrowded UNESCO World Heritage Site – Goreme Open Air Museum. It was definitely a surprise as the trip to Turkey was planned with the idea that it was November and off season!
Admission was quite expensive at around 35 TL per person, but it was worth taking a look at the cave churches and monasteries with frescoes, the unique Cappadocian landscape with fairy chimneys. Entry to the frescoes of the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise) requires an additional entry fee of 10 TL per person.
Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley)
The Devrent Valley is just a 10-minute drive from the cities of Urgup and Goreme. It is also called Imagination Valley, where with a little imagination you can discover different forms of animals and figures in the valley. And if you let your creativity run free, it is well known that tourists have also introduced Dophins and Dragons in the Devrent Valley. These shapes are nothing more than fairy chimneys, where the top layer of rock has prevented the erosion of the softer and lower layers, creating unique shapes!
Zelve Open Air Museum
The Zelve Open Air Museum is an open air museum made of valleys and an abandoned cave city. It was home to a large community that lived in the caves until 1952 when it was considered too dangerous to live here as the caves were in danger of collapsing.
In the Zelve Open Air Museum, it is interesting to observe the various abandoned houses and churches and to imagine how people would have lived there. It was exceptional to explore the valleys and come across the old mill to grind grain, an old church and a rock mosque.
Pasabag Valley (Mönchtal)
The Pasabag Valley (pronounced Pashabag) is very close to the Devrent Valley and is also known as the Mönch Valley. It is the ideal place to admire Cappadocia’s iconic fairy chimneys. The name Mönchtal was also given to the Pasabag valley as this was the refuge of the monks when they lived here. The monks’ house was quite unique – they first carved rooms at the bottom of the fairy chimney and then worked their way up. It is said that they descended only once every few days to receive food and drink from their students.
Uchisar Castle is a high point in Cappadocia. The closely connected cave dwellings and pigeon houses of Uchisar Castle are visible from afar.
Uchisar Castle is a fascinating fortress and many of its rooms are connected by a network of stairs, passageways and tunnels. Although most of Uchisar Castle is now closed to tourists due to erosion. From the top of the Uchisar, you will be rewarded with a wonderful 360-degree panorama of the surrounding valleys. If it’s clear, it’s also possible to take a look at snow-capped Mount Erciyes in the distance.
Kaymakali Underground City
The ancient underground cave cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are a must to dive deeper into the ancient times of Cappadocia.
Kaymakli is Cappadocia’s widest and largest underground cave city. This underground city was built during the Hittite period and archaeologists believe that up to 3,500 people could have lived in the underground city of Kaymakli at the same time. Only four of the eight floors were opened to the public for tourists and visitors. For people with claustrophobia, Kaymakali is less claustrophobic than Derinkuyu, which makes exploration easier.
Derinkuyu underground city
The underground city of Derinkuyu is not far from the underground city of Kaymakli. There are many other underground cities in Cappadocia. These underground cities were not built as permanent homes, but as a refuge in times of attack or war.
The underground city of Derinkuyu is like a secret accommodation with more than 15,000 ventilation ducts, which also provide fresh air deep underground. Some parts of the underground city are still accessible to store food, wine and belongings. The Derinkuyu underground city has some very narrow corridors where only one person can walk at a time, and it can get very claustrophobic as it is 7-8 floors below the ground.
The Ihlara Valley is a gorge in the Cappadocia region, about 60 to 70 km from Urgup and Goreme. It is a fabulous area for hiking with cave monasteries, a flowing river and churches. The walk through the valley is wonderful.
The Love Valley (Baglidere Valley) is named so that there are large phallic structures in the valley. These huge penis-shaped structures were caused by natural erosion, although they appear to pay homage to male fertility. Entry to the Love Valley in Cappadocia is free and a nice walk through these buildings.
The Pigeon Valley (Guvercinlik Valley) is so named because in this valley many years ago tiny pigeon houses were carved in soft stone. Pigeons were formerly used as message carriers and their droppings as fertilizer sources. In the pigeon valley, tiny holes were carved wherever there was space, so that pigeons can live in this space, as their droppings are used as fertilizer for high-quality fruit.
Red Valley & Rosental
These are named because of the color pattern of the valleys. Red Valley & Rose Valley are best visited in the evenings when the sun turns the valley pink! It is a very popular place for pre-wedding shoots these days.
Ceramics in Avanos
The city of Avanos in Cappadocia has a rich and historical tradition of pottery (since 2000 BC) with red clay from the river as it lies on the banks of the Kizilirmak river. Most of the potters in Avanos have been practicing this art for generations and are family-run!
Experience in Cappadocia
Sunset in Cappadocia
Almost every valley in Cappadocia has special photo spots that tourists visit. It guarantees breathtaking photos in the evening and a sunset with a view of the Red Valley is highly recommended.
Have a wish ready for one of the many wish trees you come across in Cappadocia. It is a Turkish tradition to wish for something on the wish tree!
Walk the streets
Everything about Cappadocia is artistic; From the accommodation options to the cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and the entire color sample of every city! Just go without a destination and experience Cappadocia in the true sense.
Photography at a hot air balloon landing area
While the hot air balloon ride is supposed to be a must even in Cappadocia, it can be quite expensive for most budget-conscious travelers with 150 euros. A good idea would be to visit the hot air balloon landing site and click on beautiful photos of the balloons with the Cappadocian landscape!
Winery in Cappadocia
Fine grape varieties are produced in the Cappadocia region, and there are many wineries in the area surrounding Urgup, Goreme, Uchisar and other cities. We visited the Turasan winery and the Kocabag winery and loved the Emir variety, while Okuzguzu Bogazgere and Kalecik Karasi were my absolute favorites! The costs are quite reasonable from 23 TL per bottle.
Try local food in Cappadocia
While there are delicacies like Lahmaçun, Pide and Baklava, which are native to Turkey but can be found all over the country, the pottery kebab is a dish unique in Cappadocia. Pottery kebab is made by cooking the meat in the pot, and the pot is served and broken in front of the customer to show freshness.
Souvenirs in Cappadocia
Almost every shop in Cappadocia is full of artistic souvenirs and some are quite unique. Go around to watch these shops. The dried fruit shops in Cappadocia also carry very good products. Sometimes you have to haggle to buy things at the right price.
Museum pass for Cappadocia
Although I did not buy the museum pass due to ambiguous information, it makes sense to buy the museum pass in Cappadocia. The Pass to the Cappadocia Museum is valid for three days, costs 130 TL and includes admission to the following attractions: Goreme Open Air Museum, Ihlara Valley, Zelve Open Air Museum, Kaymakli Underground City, Ozkonak Underground City, Derinkuyu Underground City. Overall, this leads to reasonable savings in exploring the sights of Cappadocia.
Note : I was in a collaboration with Esbelli Evi. The experiences, thoughts and words are all mine.
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