After a very memorable hot air balloon ride in the early morning, the next order of business is to explore the rest of what Cappadocia, Turkey offers. There are a lot of tours to choose from as well as a multitude of tour companies that offer them. We ended up choosing Cappadocia Green Tour and this is what you can expect from the tour!
Cappadocia Green Tour Information
Departure and Finish: Starts between 0925-0945H from your hotel and finishes around 1700-1800H
Included: Transportation, Professional English tour guide, Lunch (drinks not included), Entrance tickets
- Underground City (usually Derinkuyu)
- Selime Cathedral
- Ihlara Canyon
- Pigeon Valley
- Onyx Art Factory
- Goreme Panorama
Tour cost: 35 euros per person (as of 2019)
Cappadocia Day Tour
We were on the road before the clock hit 10 in the morning. During the introductions, our guide told us that we will be driving approximately 200 kilometers around Cappadocia. And that because it’s winter, we have to finish before it gets dark.
During summer, they can keep the tour until 7 pm but since we went during winter, days are shorter and sunset takes place earlier.
Our group was 15 pax in total. The designated tour guide spoke good English with only a little bit of accent. So we did not have a hard time understanding him. He always made sure to tell us information about the place before we leave the van and then gives us free time before we board the van again to get to the next place.
Cappadocia is the name of the region located in Central Anatolia, Turkey and it consists of five provinces – Kayseri, Aksaray, Nevşehir, Kırşehir, and Niğde.
Mt Erciyes in Kayseri and Mt Hasan in Aksaray are the two volcanoes in the region, which covered Cappadocia in volcanic ash when it erupted millions of years ago. The ash hardened into soft rocks which can be carved easily, which were then turned into underground cities and cave churches years later. The hardening of these volcanic ash coupled with erosion brought about by Mother Nature is the one responsible for the unique landscape that the historical region is famous for.
Katpatuka was the earlier name of Cappadocia more than two thousand years ago, meaning the land of beautiful horses. Katpatuka, later on, evolved to Kapadokya/Cappadocia.
Kaymakli Underground City
In Cappadocia, there are more than 36 underground cities but only 10 are allowed to be visited by tourists. Kaymakli is said to be the most impressive of the underground cities in the region.
During the 4th century BC, Christians used the underground cities to hide from Romans to avoid religious persecution. They also used it as a refuge during the Byzantine Era.
But since the Seljuk Turks were tolerant of Christianity, the underground cities were forgotten until it was again discovered during the 1950s. By then, it was neglected for centuries.
Temperature drops very low in Cappadocia during winter, but in the underground city, the temperature stays the same during winter and summer.
It is said that around 2000 to 3000 people were living at the same time inside this underground city, along with their livestock. Kaymakli has 5 levels and the deepest is 35 meters below ground but nowadays, only 10 to 15% of the structure is allowed to be visited.
We started exploring the labyrinthine city through the first level where the stables are. We were also able to see the living rooms and storage rooms where you can hardly see any semblance of separation. It is really a wonder how the families back then were able to preserve their privacy.
To get to the other rooms and levels, we had to go through tunnels which are like shortcuts. Sometimes, these tunnels can get small that you have to hunch as you get to the other side. Definitely not a good idea for claustrophobes.
To light up the area, they used Linseed oil as oil lamps because it produces less smoke and less smell. Remnants of it were found in the grooves along the walls.
And because it really was a functioning city back then, there was also a church as well as a winery and even a communal kitchen.
To keep out the enemies, they carved a circular stone door that can only be opened from the inside. They roll it into place during times of emergency.
It made me curious how they are able to breathe down there with all that stale air, so I asked our tour guide. Turns out, the underground dwellers thought of this too and they have a ventilation system that connects with outside air. A narrow vertical shaft in the wall that goes through all the levels. Amazing, isn’t it?
Selime is the biggest and oldest monastery in Cappadocia, dating back to the 8th and 9th century.
During the Byzantine era, it was a significant religious center for Christians. The first non-secret mass in Cappadocia was conducted here.
It was also used as a fortress and military base during which, trenches and fortifications were made on the premises. Especially during the Seljuk period, it was where they defended themselves against the Mongols, only to be cheated in the end.
The frescoes that can be seen inside the cathedral dates back to the 10th and 11th century, some of which depicts scenes like Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Baptism among many others.
Star Restaurant Pansion and Camping
- Lentil soup
Like the rest of the region, Ihlara Valley was borne from the volcanic eruptions of Mount Hasan during the Geological Era. Melendiz River runs through the middle of the 14-kilometer Ihlara Valley which ends in Selime Cathedral.
We went through an entrance then down a set of stairs to get to the valley. From there, we walked all the way through the point where our van was waiting for us. The snow was melting so most of the parts were muddy and slippery.
There are hundreds of churches carved in the valley because it was used as a hermitage by priests and monks after the 4th century. Like the other churches in Cappadocia, you would also find frescoes inside the churches here, which were instrumental in educating about Christianity.
You can also find shelters and graves carved into the rocks of the valley.
Next stop was the Onyx Factory where we were able to see the color changing gemstone, Zultanite, which can only be found in the Anatolian mountains of Turkey. There is also only one mine producing this naturally precious gemstone.
In between Goreme and Uchisar, this beautiful valley filled with man-made pigeon houses was our penultimate stop. Carved into the soft tuff are countless dovecotes because pigeons are important in the history of Cappadocia. They were used for food and fertilizer aside from being pets and messengers.
At the horizon, you will see Mount Erciyes standing tall with its snow-capped peak. Visitors can trek solo or guided and there is no entrance fee.
From there, you can also see the magnificent Uchisar Castle.
As the sky was turning into a show of pastel colors, preparing for the main event we know to be as sunset, we rushed to stop by this viewpoint on the way back to Goreme.
On the left side is a lone tree filled with evil eye talismans like the one in Pigeon Valley. Present as well are a few cafe and shops near the entrance but it was already closed when we got there.
The seats facing the unique and out of this world terrain is definitely popular for photos.
Can I do this on my own?
While I usually love exploring on my own, I realized that it’s quite not as easy in Cappadocia. For one, the public transport is very limited and since I don’t drive, renting a car is not an option. The tourist attractions I want to see are spread out in different areas of the province. With only a day or two to spare, joining a tour group is really the best option, in terms of time and budget.
How to book Cappadocia Green Tour?
We booked our tour from Gorgeous Tour Travel Agency via our hotel, Artemis Cave Suites. You can do the same as we did or you can go with
Other Cappadocia Tours
If the underground city is not your thing and you want to be more up close and personal with fairy chimneys, then choose the RED TOUR.
If you want to get a feel of local living and see the Greek influences in Cappadocia, then take the BLUE TOUR.
Here are the other tours you can choose:
Other activities in Cappadocia include:
- Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Horseback Riding
- Quad Safari
How to get here: Istanbul to Cappadocia
By Flight: There are two airports that you can choose from Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) and Kayseri Erkilet International Airport (ASR). There are daily flights to both airports from Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport or Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
Airlines flying to NAV – Turkish Airlines, Anadolu Jet (operated by Turkish Airlines), or Pegasus Airlines
Airlines flying to ASR – Atlas Global, Turkish Airlines, Anadolu Jet, or Pegasus Airlines
We took a flight from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) to Nevsehir via Anadolu Jet. The flight takes more than one hour.
From both airports, you can take a shuttle to your hotel. Best to ask your hotel to arrange or pre-book it for you.
By Bus: If you’re fond of long bus rides, you can take an overnight bus (around 10 – 12 hours) from Istanbul. There are three bus lines taking this route.
Cappadocia Hotels: Where to stay
When in Cappadocia, I highly recommend that you stay in a cave hotel just like we did. There are various options to choose from depending on your budget and which area you want to be located in.
What do you think of Cappadocia? Is it on your bucket list?
Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid for the tour with my own money and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.