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Turkey

Istanbul to Cappadocia – What to See and Do

Turkey is a big and varied country and is great if you want to travel from one part to another.  One of my favourite multi-location trips is to travel from Istanbul to Cappadocia.  It is the perfect trip from the metropolitan hub that is Turkey’s largest city to the beautiful landscape of central Anatolia.  If you want to plan a trip along this route, here are my tips on what to see and do.

Things to see and do in Istanbul

Istanbul has some serious history behind it.  First it was Byzantium, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire then it became Constantinople, named for one of the most famous of the Roman emperors.  During this time, it became the capital of Turkey and the economic and cultural heart of the country.  In the 1920s, the capital was moved to Ankara and the name Istanbul was given to the city.

Hagia Sophia, one of the must see locations in Istanbul

Istanbul sits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean and was once part of the Silk Road.  It is the hub of rail networks between Europe and the Middle East and the only sea route into the Black Sea from the Mediterranean.  All this means it is a thriving, modern city with loads to see and do.

Where to Stay in Istanbul

There are no shortage of places to stay in Istanbul, even in the city centre.  The Pera Palace is one of the top rated hotels in the city and is less than two miles from the city centre.  Known as the ‘Pearl of Istanbul’ it has 115 rooms and its own restaurant and bar.

The Titanic Port Bakirkoy is a little further out of the city and is near the Capacity Shopping Centre.  Ideal for shopping and exploring the city, it even has its own spa.  It has 189 bedrooms and its own restaurant as well as a pool bar!

Hagia Sophia

You can’t go to Istanbul without seeing Hagia Sophia in my opinion.  This former Greek Orthodox Christian patriarchal cathedral later became an imperial mosque under Ottoman rule and is now a museum.  The oldest part of the building dates from 537AD and it is most famous for its stunning dome.  It is classed as one of the most important Byzantine structures ever built and a tour around it is definitely top my list any time I visit the city.

Topkapi  Palace

Topkapi Palace is also known as the Seraglio and is the largest museum in Istanbul.  The palace was built in the 15th century when it was the headquarters of the Ottoman sultans.  It is a great example of Ottoman architecture and was made into a museum in the 1920s when the Ottoman Empire came to an end.  Not all of the hundreds of rooms in the palace are open to the public but the ones that are include the imperial harem and the treasury where the Spoonmaker’s Diamond and other treasures are displayed.

Walking tours

Walking tours are a brilliant way to see the best highlights of a city in a short time and the layout of Istanbul makes this a great idea.  Look for tours that include Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Hippodrome as well as the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar to enjoy the best of the city.

Travelling from Istanbul to Cappadocia

When it comes to travelling from Istanbul to Cappadocia, there are a few different options, depending on what you prefer.

  • Plane

The quickest option is to fly and if you purchase your ticket ahead of time, this can be relatively inexpensive.  The trick is to have a local travel agent make the booking for you as prices increase when you are outside the country.

You can fly from either Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and land at Nevşehir-Kapadokya Airport(NEV) and Kayseri’s Erkilet Airport (ASR) with either Turkish Airlines or Pegasus Air.

  • Train

There are high speed trains that connect Istanbul with Ankara and Konya.  From Konya you can then either use a bus or rent a car to reach Cappadocia in around four hours.

  • Night bus

If time isn’t a worry but costs are, then a night bus might be the best option.  It takes 10-12 hours, but you can sleep through most of it.  Aim to leave from Harem Bus Terminal as this cuts about an hour off the trip.

  • Drive

It is a long drive from Istanbul to Cappadocia – around 8 hours without any stops.  But you can do it if you want – the E-80 expressway leads to the E-90 highway and then the ancient Silk Road, now the D300 to Nevşehir.

Things to see and do in Cappadocia

Cappadocia is the historic region of Central Anatolia that is now split into several modern provinces.  The Cappadocians were a distinct people as far back as Ancient Greek times when they occupied an area from Mount Taurus to the Black Sea. 

It is a fascinating area with volcanic mountains and fairy chimneys, tall thin spires of rock also known as earth pyramids.  The main place to stay is Göreme while Nevşehir is a little less ‘touristy’.  Here are a few ideas of the best things to see and do when you stay in the area.

Istanbul to Cappadocia - image of the fairy chimneys and mountains the area is famous for
Fairy chimneys and mountains!

Where to stay

If you plan to stay in Göreme for the Cappadocia part of the trip, then the Göreme Kaya Hotel is a four star close to Uchisar Castle.  It has 55 rooms, an indoor pool and sauna and is within the national park. 

Take a balloon ride

Because the countryside is so varied and interesting, one of the best ways to see Cappadocia is from the air and that’s why balloon rides are popular.  You can grab a tour that will take you up in a balloon to see the best of the landscape and take some amazing photos while you are there.

Hiking around Cappadocia

All those hills and mountains also make it a brilliant place to do some hiking.  One popular trek is from Pigeon Valley through White Valley and ending in Love Valley which takes around 3-4 hours.  There are even some coffee stops along the way!

Derinkuyu Underground City

Another popular thing to see in the area is the Derinkuyu Underground City.  This fascinating city is built over 80 metres underground on a number of levels and could originally serve as home for over 20,000 people.  You can take tours of it also combine it with visiting some of the local attractions such as the Ihlara Valley.

Göreme Open-Air Museum

The Göreme Open-Air Museum is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is a must-see part of visiting Cappadocia.  Dating from the 17th century, it is a pilgrimage site with rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries just 1km from the centre of Göreme.  When you visit, you can also include seeing Tokali Kilise, one of the largest and best churches in the town with its underground chapel and restored frescoes.

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