This past weekend, I took a trip with 8 of my friends to the Cappadocia region in central Turkey, known for its incredible landscapes and national park. We ended up flying through Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Kayseri, roundtrip, for around 100 USD – the flight was only an hour and a half, so we left Thursday evening and were all settled in our cave hostel by midnight (we stayed in the Nomad Cave Hotel – I highly recommend it for anyone traveling on a budget!)
On Friday, we decided to rent ATV’s and tour the national park in Göreme. The park itself is huge, and I believe the loop of trails that passes through the major valleys and lookout points is nearly 90 km long. We ended up putting 2 people on each ATV for 40 TL per person (just over 20 USD), which included a 4 hour guided tour and fuel. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I’m so glad we got to see the region this way. I have never been in such open space before in my life. The landscape is full of interesting rock formations and cave dwellings. The area was first settled during the Roman Period during a time when Christianity was the dominant religion. The only place I could think to compare Cappadocia’s landscape to would be the American southwest, or the moon.
After our ATV tour and lunch, we decided to wander to some caves we could see off the side of the road. We ended up hiking around the caves and climbing the rocks around the valley until the sun set. We found a cave that must have been a church at one point, because it had the same architectural style and some sort of depictions of Mary and Jesus. This was a great part of our trip – just hiking and enjoying the landscape. We were the only people in the valley so it felt very secluded.
That night, we went for dinner and drinks at a local bar called Fat Boys – it’s really the only bar in Göreme, but it was a nice place for tourists and we had a good time.
On Saturday, we went to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This museum is definitely worth a visit as it was once a settlement and has a lot of cave churches that you can walk inside, but we stayed for less than a half hour and felt that we saw enough. We ended up going back to the valley we had been to the day before and doing some more hiking, again staying to watch the sun set.
It was a great way to wrap up a one-of-a-kind weekend.
Just a couple tips for anyone planning to travel to Cappadocia, specifically Göreme: going during the offseason (before mid-April or May) is smart. We were essentially the only ones staying in our hostel, so it was quite private and a good deal for students traveling on a budget. Also, we felt that shop keepers were more likely to let us bargain with them to get a better price since we were some of the only tourists there. I would highly recommend the ATV tour to anyone traveling to Göreme! It was the best way to visit all the major sites – we would drive through the trails, and then stop to take pictures and hike into some of the caves. For less than 25 USD, the 4 hour tour was completely worth it. As far as the time we spent there, I feel that 2 full days was perfect. One could easily spread out activities over 3 or 4 days, but as students on a budget with classes during the week, it worked out perfectly to just spend 2 busy and exciting days in Cappadocia.