I hate to call Cappadocia a side trip. But, to get there from outside of Turkey, you really have to first go through Istanbul. And while it is an amazing spot unlike any other, two days is the right amount of time for a visit that doesn’t involve a lot of outdoor excursions. You can take a tour from Istanbul or easily do it on your own by flying to Nevsehir or Kayseri and renting a car (assuming you can drive a stick shift and are comfortable on steep hills). If not, then you can also arrange an airport transfer.
Cappadocia has a unique landscape and is an ancient region known for its “fairy chimney” rock formations, underground cities and caves. In fact, plan to stay in a cave hotel while visiting the area! The history of Cappadocia goes back over 4000 years to the Hittites. It was one of Paul’s early churches and is mentioned several times in the New Testament.
If you have an extra 2-3 days while in Turkey, this would be my number one recommendation of a second place to stop after Istanbul. Top sights to see and do while there:
- Stay in a cave hotel (they range from one star to luxury five star accommodations)
- Goreme Acikhava Muzesi and /or Zelve Open Air Museum to see the cave churches
- Kaymakli Underground City (largest underground city) and/or Derinkuyu Underground City (deepest underground city)
- Pigeon Valley, Love Valley and Goreme National Park to walk around and see the Fairy Chimneys
- Early Morning Hot Air Balloon Ride – even if you choose not to go on one, wake up early to see the sky filled with balloons
- Arrange to see a Whirling Dervish Show (I almost never go to “cultural” or musical shows while traveling. And yet I have gone to the see the Whirling Dervishes in Cappadocia at least three times.)
- A Caravanserais from the Silk Road (if this is your first time to Central Asia / Middle East and you haven’t seen one before)
Travel Tip: If you travel independently, you can easily pick up a local guide outside of the underground churches. They will be reasonably priced. You can also combine a tour with strangers you meet in line to help split the cost.
Note: When flying from Istanbul, you will most likely be flying out of Sabiha Gökçen International airport. This is on the Asian side of the city and probably not the one you flew into. It is not particularly easy to access but your hotel should be able to arrange transportation. There are also local buses that can get you there.