Earlier this month we spent 2 nights in Göreme for a long weekend and to get out of Ankara for a bit. It’s our second time there, and definitely not our last. Many people call it their “Happy Place” and I would agree with that! There is so much to do and you can easily repeat the views and hiking without getting bored. Plus great food and shopping, so there is something for everyone.
We drove down on a Saturday morning and reached Uçhisar Kalesi (Castle) around 11 am. It was marked as temporarily closed on Google Maps, but I assumed it was never updated from Covid shutdowns. It turns out it is actually closed for renovations. So we were able to walk around the outside, but not go up in it. It’s called a castle but is more of a stone/hill/mountain structure like you see in much of Cappadocia with rooms. Not a classic castle shape.
Uçhisar had a very small parking area near the castle (which was full) and a larger parking lot (empty) down the hill a little bit. The bathroom at Uçhisar Castle was squat only, which greatly bummed DD7 who prefers Western style.
Since the castle didn’t work out, we headed on to Göreme and checked in to our hotel, Hidden Cave Hotel. We stayed at Vineyard Cave Hotel last time, and loved it, but they didn’t have the right type of room available this time. A little hard to truly compare them as one was Pre-Covid, but we did like them both. Vineyard Cave has a much better parking situation as they have their own lot. Hidden Cave has 3 spots, but they were almost always full. Otherwise you are looking for street parking. We managed to find parking not very far from the hotel every time, but I think being off season and with Covid it was easier. I wouldn’t want to try and park in high season. Hidden Cave normally would have more amenities, though many (such as a bar and a lot of the seating options on the various roofs) were closed due to Covid. Hidden Cave is closer to many of the restaurants, but Vineyard Cave wasn’t a bad walk either and was just up a hill from the only playground in the town (small, but a nice option to burn off energy). Both were responsive via Whatsapp and had good sized rooms.
We got a Family Suite at Hidden Cave and were able to check in early (about noon). It wasn’t the specific room we had booked (I think they got us mixed up with the other American family staying there), but it was fine. 1 Queen bed, 2 twin beds, large sofa area. All one room, so a bit tricky for differing bedtimes. Luckily the kids were so tired they both fell asleep before lights even went off, so I could get some things organized or done before my bed. DH found some outside spots to read and relax. We didn’t have cell service in the cave, and never bothered to figure out wifi, so simply used our phones outside. Shower pressure was great and hot water came instantly. One negative compared to Vineyard Cave was that water and other beverages were not included. They had a mini fridge with beverages and a price list (water was twice the price as at the convenient store around the corner). At Vineyard Cave, all bottled juices, waters, and coffee were free and they offered us hot beverages all the time.
After depositing our belongings, we headed to lunch at Cappadocia Pide House, just around the corner. We sat outside and enjoyed a nice meal and some hot wine. I had no idea that Cappadocia did hot wine in the winter as our last visit wasn’t quite winter season yet! We had it several times on our trip and it reminded me of the Munich Christmas Markets every time. If only they did the mug deposit and we could walk around the town with our beverage! Wine was 50 tl/glass ($6.25 currently). They have many different pide choices (flat bread with toppings) and various other dishes. Large serving sizes and good food.
Our first destination was the Three Beauties (Üç Güzeller)–three fairy chimneys very close together. They are just off the road and a popular stop. They are just a photo op, so it doesn’t take long. But it is free and there weren’t many tour buses there, so we stopped. They also offer a nice view of the countryside and its crazy landscape.
We continued on to Devrent (Imaginary Valley) to hike and explore. We went here last time and loved it. It’s a very popular tourist stop and tons of tour buses stop. BUT, they all walk about 50 feet in, take photos, and get back in their cars and buses. So if you are willing to hike in a bit farther (which you should be), then it is a great spot and we were away from all the crowds. It does require scrambling, small amounts of climbing, and decent agility. Not a destination for those with mobility issues.
The fun thing about Devrent is that the rock structures look like all sorts of things. It’s similar to cloud watching and turning the clouds into structures. We had fun turning all the rocks into different objects. We found a princess holding a baby, the OK hand sign, Death Eaters’ hats (from Harry Potter), DD’s hair, and more! We hiked and explored for about an hour and had a great time.
We decided to check out a pottery place next. The town of Avanos, just north of Göreme is best known for its pottery. But we went instead to Hitite Seramic Zelve, south of Avanos and near the Zelve Open Air Museum. Smaller place with fewer tour buses that was recommended by a friend. Easy to get to, and easy street parking. We got a tour of the building and then saw a pottery demonstration. A man on a wheel made a pot and then let each kid try it out! They don’t take home the pots (and the clay gets reused again and again), but it was fun for them to try it out.
Some of their pottery is glow in the dark, which was very cool to see! We ended up buying a wine jug that is Hittite in style and 2 small ceramic cats (which the kids picked out, and we ended up getting for free with the purchase of our expensive wine holder). These wine jugs have a hole in the middle for the pourer’s arm to go through. They were often used to pour the wine for kids. Here is an article about them. These come in a huge range of prices depending on how they were made, so decide ahead of time if authenticity is important or just a fun piece to look at!
We had a bit of time after the pottery shop to wander Göreme and shop a little before an early dinner. Restaurants are open for dining currently, but must close to in-person dining at 7 pm (they can still do take out/delivery after that). This has the awkward (and probably unintended) effect of forcing everyone into a more narrow dinner window. Turks traditionally eat dinner late, but now everyone is eating early!
Prices in Göreme are great. I got 2 pairs of cute hot air balloon socks, 3 mini hand lotions with olive oil, 1 postcard, and a bracelet for DD for a total of 55 tl ($6.80).
For dinner, we ate at Pumpkin, a very popular restaurant that requires reservations. Our hotel did the reservations for us. (You can also Whatsapp +90 542 808 50 50) They have options for a set menu or a la carte (which is a change I gather from their previous only set menu choice). The set menu includes soup, salad, choice of entree, and dessert. Set menu prices ranged from about 130-170 tl ($16-21) depending on the entree you picked.
The waitress we had was so friendly and bubbly! She had good English and was extremely good with the children. While there is not a kid menu, she offered to do half portions of the entree if we wanted. Both our kids were starved and declined the half portions and each finished off the entire adult entree! (DD had a steak and DS had grilled chicken–both with vegetables. DS’ also came with rice and DD stole my rice. Plus bread. They had worked up an appetite hiking!). I also appreciated that when she asked about drinks, she suggested water (it is hard when a waitress asks if they want juice and I have to say no). She also asked if they could bring out the kid meals first as ours would take longer. That worked out great!
DH and I both get Testi Kebabi, which is a classic meal for the region and comes in a clay pot. It is filled with a meat stew dish. They crack open the pot and pour it into a bowl and serve it with rice. The surprise here was that they lit the plate on fire to bring it out! We really enjoy the dish and the whole meal at Pumpkin was great.
Kids ended the night at the dondurma (Turkish ice cream) stand down the road, where the man does crazy tricks with the ice cream. Turkish ice cream is stickier than US ice cream, and allows for some fun food play.
To see my other posts about Göreme and Cappadocia, go here.