There is so much to do in Göreme and the surrounding areas. By basing in Göreme you can do day trips to all the sites. We only hit a fraction of the places and will definitely go back again (and again).
The highlight of Cappadocia are all the interesting rock formations, underground cities, cave churches, and hiking trails. It is a very outside focused trip and works best for those with decent walking abilities as much of it is rocky and uneven terrain or involves climbing, steps, or stooping down.
Our kids were 6.5 and almost 4 when we went and they did great. They loved rock scrambling and finding all the cool formations. DD6 had her camera and loved taking pictures. They were really impressed by the hot air balloons we saw in the mornings and enjoyed the playground near our Bed and Breakfast.
We arrived midday on Day 1 and checked into our room at Vineyard Cave Hotel. It came highly recommended by our friends and we loved it, and the manager Osman. Our friend, K, got a basic Queen room and we got a Queen suite, which had a second room with a twin bed. We set up the floor pillows with bedding to make a second bed for our 3 year old.
The location was great–just a short walk down a hill to a playground and all the shops and restaurants. Breakfast was massive and filling, they provided unlimited water and juice in your room during the day (and you could get coffee or tea from their restaurant all day for free), and my kids LOVED Osman. He was great with them and very helpful giving us tips and info. He also arranged a driver and car for us the last day to take us out chasing hot air balloons.
We were starving by the time we checked in and headed down the hill to the main road to find a place for lunch. There were many restaurant choices. We ate at Cappadocian Cuisine, which had indoor and outdoor seating. We sat outdoors. They have a regular menu and a set 3 course meal (soup, salad, main). The 3 adults each ordered the “pot” which was a type of stew with meat inside a clay pot that they had to hit to open. You eat it with rice. The soup we got was really good too! The kids got some chicken.
Then we went back up to our car and drove to Devrent (Imaginary Valley), which was about a 15 min drive away. Our original plan was to do Devrent and then Zelve Open Air Museum. But in the winter they all shut down at 5 pm. Plus Zelve and the Fairy Chimneys are a joint ticket, so we really needed to do them on the same day.
Devrent was very cool. Minimal parking and it was pretty full when we got there. We had to park along the edge of the (pretty busy) road and walk down to where we could cross into Devrent. Definitely hold kids’ hands for that! There were a lot of tour buses, but one thing we’ve learned about tour buses (especially those that have a lot of older tourists) is that they don’t tend to walk too far into the sites as they are either on a tight time limit or have limited walking abilities.
So after crossing the street into the main part of Devrent, we quickly lost the tourists and could explore. Devrent is free entry and you could have wandered pretty far as there aren’t really boundaries. I’d definitely spend more time there next time.
Devrent (and much of the Cappadocia area) is full of large rock formations that look like towers, chimneys, and other-worldly creations. Three mountains in the area were active volcanoes in early geologic periods (10 million years ago and onward). The lava formed a layer of tufa, which varied in thickness and hardness and included ash, clay, sandstone, basalt, and more. Larger volcanoes formed plateaus and smaller volcanoes modified their shapes. Rivers and lakes eroded this stone over time. Areas with softer stone eroded quickly, while harder stone did not erode. Wind and floodwaters continued to erode and shape the countryside and we ended up with the interesting colors (from different types of rock), layers, and shapes that we have today.
Cappadocia also has a long history of settlements and people. Caves have evidence of Prehistoric cultures, including cups, tools, and pots from the Chalcolithic Period (5500-3000 BC). Moving forward to the Historic Periods, they found evidence from Pro-Hittite and Assyrian Trade Colonies (3000BC-1750 BC), Hittites (1750-700 BC), Persian Period and the Kingdom of Cappadocia (585-332 BC), Roman Period (17-395 AD), Byzantine Period (397-1071 AD), Seljuk Period (1071-1299), and the Ottoman Period.
After visiting Devrent, we attempted to do Zelve Open Air Museum, but it was closing soon. So we decided to go back into Göreme and explore. We ended up walking out of town SouthWest on Uzun Dere Cd and taking a path through the woods toward Güvercinlik (Pigeon) Valley. There is a pretty obvious sign and path at the dead end of the road. We didn’t go all the way to the valley (we don’t think!) but the walk in the woods was nice and we saw some interesting formations.
We returned back to our hotel and stopped at the playground on the way. For dinner, we went to Keyif and ate inside. Our food was delicious. I got a hot cheesy casserole type dish with various meat and vegetables inside. Yum!
Lodging: Vineyard Cave Hotel. Located here and website here. In Nov 2019, the basic queen room was 150 Euro for 2 nights (75/night) and the 2 room suite with a queen bed and a twin bed was 170 Euro for 2 nights (85/night). This included breakfast and unlimited coffee, tea, water, and juice. Has parking. Note: The way GoogleMaps had us come to the hotel (from the north and headed straight south on tiny roads was impossible. Roads deadended and became driveways. Instead, take the route pictured below for main roads.
Drive from Ankara: Very easy! Good roads and easy directions. 3.5 hours drive from south Ankara.
Do I Need a Car? People definitely do fly in and then do an airport transfer to Goreme. But to get around to all the sites you need to drive or take a taxi. Having your own car is definitely the way to go, whether you rent one or already own it. Within Goreme, it is all walkable.
Food and Drink: Lots of options for eating! We’d just wander and pick a spot that looked yummy. We ate at Cappadocian Cuisine and Keyif the first day and would go back to both. All the tourist spots had little cafes for snacks and drinks.
Devrent: Location is here
Kid Tips: My 6 year old loved having her camera to take pictures. My 3 year old really wanted one too (note: he now has a kid one to make future trips easier!).
It is a lot of scrambling and uneven surfaces. My kids did fine with this. But if your kid is not yet a stable walker, they’ll need to be in a carrier. Walking around town is stroller friendly, the nature sites are not.
We went to this playground in town many times. Has swings, picnic table, slide, see saw, and various exercise equipment (which was my kids’ favorite part).
Turkish people love kids. Most of the sites are outside and so typical kid noisiness and running about is not a problem! The manager at Vineyard Cave Hotel adored our kids and they still talk about him.