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Choosing a Tour in Turkey’s Cappadocia Region

Joining a tour is a better option than looking around the valley on your own, which can be a hit-and-miss experience; tours are a foolproof way to visit all the sites within a short period of time. There is a wide variety of activities and destinations around the region, so you can pick a tour based on your preferences. Most tour companies sell similar itineraries, which include site visits as well as activities like cooking classes and belly dance courses.

The most popular activities are horseback treks (from €40, 2 hours); Jeep tours of the valleys (from €65); ATV adventures (from €35, 2 hours); Turkish Nights with belly dancers and folkloric dancing (€40-50, with or without dinner); Whirling Dervish evening shows at Saruhan or Dervish House (€25) and the wildly popular sunrise hot-air balloon flights (€175-250, discount for cash).

Rocky hills jut up out of the grassy landscape.
Beautiful Ihlara Valley in Capadoccia. Photo © jahmaica/123rf.

There are three standard full-day tours (from €50, 9:30am-5:30pm) sold by most travel agencies in town. Essentially, operators combine forces to sell seats on 16-seater minivans with one English-speaking guide as the host. When one minivan sells out, they work to fill another. Best taken during summer and highly recommended, the Green Tour transports you from a panoramic look out near Göreme to the underground city of Derinkuyu before hiking in the lush green Ihlara Valley, with lunch by the valley’s stream in Belisırma village. The day south of Göreme concludes by visiting rock-carved Selime Monastery, where local operators will boast that Star Wars was filmed; it wasn’t—the scenes were filmed in similar terrain in Tunisia. Typically the final stop is a view of the Pigeon Valley and visit to a labyrinthine onyx shop, which can be a nuisance for those who aren’t excited about shopping.

The Red Tour covers locations north of Göreme, including the Göreme Open-Air Museum, Çavuşin church, Avanos, and the mushroom rock formations of Paşabağları, Devrent Valley, and Ürgüp. A pottery-making stop is usually thrown in to promote local commerce.

The rock-cut landscape of the Goreme Open Air Museum.
The Göreme Open Air Museum. Photo © Göran Domeij/123rf.

Taking you off the normal tourist trail, the Blue Tour usually features the churches, villages, and landscape around Mustafapaşa and Soğanlı Valley. Itineraries differ slightly, and other alternative tours are available as companies try to offer something unique, but you can be sure the tour will have less than 15 people. If you don’t want to make shopping stops on tour, there are agencies that avoid doing this.

Turkish Heritage Travel (Yavuz Sk. 1, Göreme, 0384/271-2687) is one outfit that avoids shopping stops on their tours. As one of Cappadocia’s tour specialists, they offer a wide range of custom, recreational, or outdoors tours, all led by highly experienced multilingual guides who are locals with endless knowledge of the area’s lesser-known attractions. Check out their comprehensive range of tours, activities, and prices on the website.

Yama Tours (Müze Cd. 2, Göreme, 0384/271-2508) is conveniently located in the heart of Göreme. In addition to the typical Green (South Cappadocia), Red (North Cappadocia), and Blue (Soğanlı Tour) Tours, Yama also offers a day tour to Hacıbektaş, where the Sufi mystic Hacı Bektaş Veli is honored with a tomb and a museum. From Göreme, Yama makes it possible to venture to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Hattuşaş (1 day) or Mount Nemrut (3 nights). The Mount Nemrut tour includes a tour of the city of Şanlıurfa, birthplace of the prophet Abraham.


Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Istanbul & the Turkish Coast.