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Villages, valleys and viewpoints: a walk through Cappadocia

With its unique geology and dreamy landscapes, Cappadocia is an other-worldly walking holiday destination. Find out what fellow Explorer Eliza made of our Walking in Cappadocia tour.
Author: Aimee White, who interviewed Eliza
Date Published: 27 June 2024

Cappadocia is famous for its 'fairy chimney' rock formations, ancient underground cities and hot air balloon rides. This semi-arid region of central Turkey is nicknamed the 'Land of Fairytales', but there's plenty more to this special destination than meets the eye.

We caught up with Eliza, who joined our eight-day Walking in Cappadocia tour. Her small group tour covered popular and lesser-known trails, and got hands-on with cultural activities. Read on for more:

Describe Cappadocia in one word?

Enlightening. I went in with the view that Cappadocia would look just like the countless photographs of hot air balloons floating in the sky above the towering fairy chimneys. In reality, we saw this and much, much more.

We explored the ancient Greek village of Mustafapasa, passed apple and grape orchards through the Zemi Valley, wound through the picturesque Cat Valley and took in Byzantine rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries at Uchisar Castle. We learned lots about Cappadocia's history, too; the area was first settled by the Hittites in around 1800 BC.

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What was your favourite walk?

I loved hiking through the Ihlara Valley, which is a 70-80-minute drive from Goreme. We stopped halfway along the drive to visit Kaymakli Underground City, an ancient city once home to some 3,500 people. We explored four of the eight subterranean floors, which get thinner and shorter as you go further down...

Afterwards, it was a further 40-45 minute drive to the Ihlara Valley. The walk was split into two parts: the first 7km passes rock-cut churches and trickling streams, before leading to a local village. This is then followed by another 7km, which was much quieter, and we could spot Mount Hassan in the distance.

Others in the group said that Pigeon Valley was their favourite walk, because it gives you the classic Cappadocia view of the fairy chimneys. It has this name because there are loads of caves for the pigeons here.

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What were your fellow Explorers like?

For most of the group, this was their first Explore trip. Others had travelled with us a few times before. Ages ranged from those in their 20s to 70s, and consisted of solo travellers and pairs. We all got to know each other really well and in our spare time we'd either split off to do our own thing, or we'd stick together. As an Explore staff member, I loved meeting our customers face to face and getting to know everyone better.

Our tour leader was really knowledgeable and friendly throughout. I remember that as we approached the starting point of a walk, he'd share information and facts about the area, and answered any questions with ease.

What was it like getting around the destination?

We stayed in Sobek Stone House, which served as our base for the week. This premium accommodation is located on the outskirts of Goreme and is surrounded by beautiful gardens with views overlooking Cappadocia. If you go to the terrace for sunrise, you'll be rewarded with beautiful views of hot air balloons drifting through the sky.

I liked that we were based in one place, so we didn't have to pack our bags and move on every day. Some of the walks started from the hotel, while for others we were driven to the starting point. Along the way, we might make stop-offs, such as to Kaymakli Underground City. This ancient city was once home to some 3,500 people. Today, you can explore four of the eight subterranean floors, which get thinner and shorter as you go further down...

Did you learn any new skills or try a new activity?

Obviously the walks were the focus of the trip, and most days we'd cover between 12km-15km, walking between 2.5-6 hours a day. A few from our group joined a hot air balloon ride, which is one of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia, as it gives you aerial views of the stunning region below.

We also went wine tasting, joined a Turkish cookery class and took part in a pottery demonstration. This helped us to get beneath the surface of Cappadocia and learn about its rich cultural heritage and traditions.

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What was your most memorable moment?

During our final walk of the trip, as a gentle breeze cooled us from the heat of the sun, a group of horses ran through the Valley of the Churches. We watched in awe; it felt like we were part of a movie. We continued onto a local café and stopped to reflect over our highlights of the week. As we sipped on fresh fruit juices and listened to Turkish coffee being freshly ground in the background, it felt like a brilliant way to round off an unforgettable trip.

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Eliza's top tips on what to pack for Cappadocia

  1. Walking poles. The ground can be quite loose underfoot, especially during some of the descents, so walking poles offer better stability.
  2. Hiking shoes. Wear walking or hiking boots that provide ankle support and good grip.
  3. Swimwear. After a long day spent on your feet, treat yourself to a refreshing dip at the hotel pool.
  4. Reusable bottle. No matter what time of year you're travelling, always bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
  5. Clothing. During Turkey's hotter months, wear lighter layers. During spring and autumn, bring a warmer jacket, and in the winter, pack good quality rainwear. In general, layers are always best.
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