I told you that I was swearing off cities. If you’ve read that post, you’ll know that it would be pretty hypocritical of me to write about The perfect budget weekend in Istanbul. But a weekend off doesn’t have to be spent in a capital, so I intend to keep writing this series, but by suggesting destinations a little bit further from the beaten path and, in my opinion, way more interesting.
Cappadocia in Turkey is still a touristic place, but it’s also a big place, so it doesn’t feel crowded. Most people coming to Cappadocia do so to enjoy the famous hot air balloon rides, which is not a budget activity at all. Although I did choose to spend (more money than ever) for this, I also enjoyed very much the rest of my stay in this beautiful region. It was definitely the highlight of my stay in Turkey, combining wilderness, beautiful landscapes, interesting culture and very friendly people.
Here is how to spend the perfect budget weekend in Göreme, the central town of Cappadocia :
Once you’ve put your bags down, head for the open air museum. I recommend you go as early as possible to avoid the rush of tourists. If you arrive in Göreme late in the morning, wait for lunch time to go, it will guarantee you a more tranquil visit. The entry is 20 TL to see all the churches.
On the way to the open air museum (or back), stop at the pottery store. You can go in and admire the work or take your time outside looking at the horses. Either way, don’t fail to take notice of the very famous wish tree, a tree covered with the eye symbol that you can see all over Turkey (above doors, in cars, everywhere). It’s for good luck, so this tree is the ultimate lucky charm.
For your late lunch, discover traditional Turkish food at Fat Boy, a restaurant in the center, where you’ll find big sit down meals for 15 TL. You can also try out the nargile here for 20 TL, although if you do I would recommend you come back at night. It doesn’t make you high at all, it’s just more appropriate. Also, be prepared to spend at least an hour on that thing, it’s the turkish way and they just go on forever.
With your belly all full, take it slow and enjoy a walk around the city and a talk with the shop owners. If you’re really nice and are hesitating on buying something, they might invite you in for some Turkish Tea. If they do, don’t refuse, it’s really rude.
If you still feel adventurous in the afternoon, go look for the hidden church. All I’m going to tell you is that you should go towards the open air museum and take the road climbing up with the sign “Sakli Kilise” (no, not Khaleesi, be serious for once). Get all the way to the top, walk along the path. Then, when you have the cliff on your right, look for a flight of stairs hugging the cliff.
I don’t want to say too much because the whole point is to find it. I’ll just say this : for your safety, wear good shoes, and also bring a torch. It was closed when I found it, apparently it’s closed most of the time, but you can still see the paintings through the bars if you bring some light. At the little shop before the road that goes up, they told me that most people come back without finding it, so you can imagine how proud I felt that I (Me ! Of all people !) was able to find it !
Around 6 pm, depending on the time of the year, walk to the sunset point (on the right when going towards the open air museum, ask anyone) and watch the colors on the valleys.
After the show, discover the city again by night. There’s a lot of restaurants so there’s live music pretty often. When hungry, follow the dried up canal in the opposite direction. There’s two women sitting on the ground making traditional gozlemes. It’s 10 TL a plate and they’re adorable.
As usual, I encourage you to use Couchsurfing, as staying with locals is the best, cheapest and greenest way to enjoy a city. But if you didn’t find a local to host you, I really liked the Shoestring Cave House, a family run hotel with a dorm bed for 10€ (delicious breakfast included).
It’s up to you if you want to wake up before dawn to see the balloons go up. I didn’t, to be honest, but I’m sure it’s something to see !
After a good breakfast, put on those hiking shoes and go. Walk along the dried up canal towards the open air museum and turn left where there’s some ATMs. Keep going straight past the rental bike shop and you’ll see soon enough a big stone slab indicating the path you’re on. These will take you through the Pigeon Valley all the way to Uçhisar. It’s a one hour walk and pretty easy at that (I saw a family with young kids on the path).
I don’t know if that info is going to be useful, but when I walked this trail there was a broken stone slab right at a fork in the road. The right way is RIGHT. (Want to guess which way I tried first ?)
Ten minutes before Uçhisar, you’ll see a little café and farm lost in the valley. It’s a pretty amazing place run by a really nice man. He showed me pictures of Cappadocia under the snow and all his electronics are run by a solar panel, how awesome is that ? So I definitely encourage you to stop there for some Turkish Tea on the way.
Once you’ve arrived in Uçhisar, keep walking all the way to the top and buy a ticket to the “castle” (6,25 TL, with a student reduction if you have a card). After climbing around a hundred steps, you’ll find yourself on top of the rock formation that dominates all of Cappadocia, and you’ll be able to enjoy a 360° view of this amazing and strange landscape. I’ll even tell you a little secret : they’re seeing the same thing from the balloon.
Take the time to enjoy the view then walk down and discover Uçhisar. It was completely empty when I went there, although I could see from the number of little shops that it can be very touristic. It’s a nice city with cobbled streets and pretty views on the valley. When you’re hungry, go get a traditional pide at Sakir’in Yeri (around 10 TL).
To hike back to Göreme you have two options : to go back the same way you arrived or to hike the Love Valley (you’ll understand the name once you get there). The Love Valley is a little bit longer than the Pigeon Valley but even more easy. Ask in Uçhisar for the start of the trail and it will bring you back next to Gorëme’s open air museum.
And here you go, a perfect budget weekend not in a big city, the first of many ! I hope you’ll enjoy your stay, I still think of Cappadocia as a piece of paradise.
Don’t forget to tell me if you try out one of my perfect budget weekend, I’m always curious !
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