Typically promoted internationally as a spring or (for those who don’t mind sweating) summer time adventure, the breath-taking Cappadoccia region of central Turkey remains popular through the winter, especially with domestic tourists and those from far climes where snow is rarely, if ever seen.
A friend and I had been persuaded by some Turkish friends that it’s a great time to visit the region if you don’t mind wrapping up warm, and prepare for potential schedule changes for your balloon ride (yes, that bit is essential for any trip to Cappadoccia) due to highly changeable weather conditions. So we took the plunge and booked 6 days to see in 2022.
Neither of us had ever been, so a few lessons were learned along the way with how to get there, where to stay, where to sightsee and hike, and of course where to fill your head with the local wines and party like a local, albeit during quiet Covid times!
Where to stay
It can be confusing to the newcomer looking at a map that Cappadoccia refers to the national park region rather than a specific place, so the best route there isn’t immediately obvious, neither the best place to stay.
Contemporary intel will have you thinking Goreme is “the” place to stay, and to a degree, that rings true when you’re there. It’s where you’ll find most of the spots where you can book the ubiquitous hot-air balloon trip, ATV, buggy, horse or camel ride, alongside a plethora of day tours, ‘Turkish nights’ (set dinners in caves with dancing and the rest), and all-important ancient cave-city visits (one such site, Goreme Open Air Museum, is walkable from the centre).
Urgup was actually the favourite in earlier times, and offers a fine spread of restaurants, wineries (Turasan is the big one here) and a few interesting bars; pretty bustling even at this time of year. Uchisar, with its showpiece ancient castle holding court front and centre, has a slightly more discerning vibe, with its arty cafes, laid-back dining options, and given its natural setting, sweeping panoramas across the valleys from anywhere you sit. The castle itself is magical; carved out of a single column of rock and dating back nigh on two thousand years, a climb to the top presents you with a truly commanding view of the whole area.
Kocadag is the famous winery here, and they have both a production facility and tasting showroom. Head here for a cheese plate, more views and to sample some earthy whites and heady reds, some of which have been known to win awards in France.
These great locations aside, we booked a cave hotel in Ortahisar, also boasting an interesting rock fortress and impressive scenes; although this village I’d recommend to those seeking a quiet evening after those long, adventurous days.
What to do
And what about those days? As you’re aware, Cappadoccia boasts all manner of activities and something for everyone. I’d say first and foremost, book the ballooning! Build your trip around that, as it is a must, and the very best way to soak in Cappadoccia’s otherworldly magic.
The trail-hiking is also spectacular. While there are dozens of options, we opted for Pigeon Valley. Where you wind through a dazzle of naughty-shaped rock (well, you be the judge!) formations, and its pretty level-friendly, takes you from Uchisar to Goreme, and a tea house or two along the way. Love Valley was our other option, and the landscape varied dramatically again; rolling marshmallow-like basalt to start, then vast arrays of more finger-like structures down-valley, camel and horse riders passing us along the way (a great option if you’re not much of a walker!).
Devrent Valley, perhaps one of the best known with its bizarre rock formations, is a good one for those who don’t want to walk much but still revel in the madness of the scenery. It’s also on the open-top bus route, has a great view point with tea and fresh juices and the rest; although we managed to work it in as the end of a more adventurous “off the beaten path” hike, starting at Zelve open-air museum. The ancient cave settlement there at Zelve by the way – don’t’ miss that! Hundreds, if not thousands of dwellings, monasteries, wineries and churches carved out of the orangey-hued rock faces; just something else!
The ancient side of things confronts you everywhere in Cappadoccia, and another settlement not to miss is the better-excavated example of hundreds such underground cities in the area, Derinyuku. Endless passageways, dining chambers, secret stone doors, even more churches and living quarters that seem to go on forever; like something out of Star Wars.
For those wanting to stay above ground and slightly more petrol-heady, there are a whole host of folks offering everything from bright-pink open top Cadillac tours, through to your more expected ATVs, 4×4 and mini off road buggies to play with.
What to eat and drink
Don’t forget to finish your days with some of that local wine I’ve raved about, famous in the region, and the ubiquitous Testi kebab (stew served out of pottery, ceremoniously cracked open tableside). Chef Restaurant in Goreme is fantastic; great grilled kebabs, delicious home-style desserts, and lovely funny waiters!
Get to Cappadoccia from either Kayseri or Nevshehir (closer, but less regular connections) airports, and getting around once there is most convenient by taxi (£5-10 per trip in most cases , wherever you’re going), although lots of cheaper shuttle options on the more regular routes between places.
Feeling inspired to experience Cappadocia for yourself? Check out our Turkey tours offers!