Complete Derinkuyu Travel Guide: The Lost Underground City

Complete Derinkuyu Travel Guide: The Lost Underground City

Complete Derinkuyu Travel Guide: The Lost Underground City

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Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city hand-carved into the soft volcanic rock, understood to be inhabited from the Bronze Age. It was rediscovered in 1963 by a Cappadocia homeowner who was doing house renovations and stumbled upon a room and tunnels. Can you imagine that?! 

How astonishing that a city was hand-chiselled from the rock below ground way way back before any modern technologies?! Like, incomprehensible in my book.

Anyway, evidently, I was excited to explore Derinkuyu: officially the largest underground city in Turkey. And, yes, that does mean that there is more than one! It is understood that there are 200 underground ‘cities’ in Turkey, many of which link together through miles of tunnels.

In this Derinkuyu travel guide, we will answer all the questions that we had before visiting, in the hope that it will help you all out too!

derinkuyu travel guide

Where is Derinkuyu?

Derinkuyu is located in Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey, about a thirty minute bus ride from Goreme or Nevsehir. Find out about more things to do in Cappadocia here. And if you fancy hiking through otherworldly landscapes and abandoned cave churches, take a look at our hiking route with Maps.me pins through Red Valley and Rose Valley.

cappadocia, derinkuyu travel guide

How to visit Derinkuyu from Goreme

Goreme to Derinkuyu

You’ll need to take two buses to get there, but it’s pretty quick and easy. Go to the bus station in the centre of Goreme to get to the bus to Nevsehir. It leaves every thirty minutes. When you get on the bus, tell the driver that you want to go to Derinkuyu.

When the bus reaches the city centre, the driver will point to where you need to go for the next bus: you’ll basically cross the road to get a bus going in the opoosite direction.

The minibus will have Derinkuyu written on it, so you can’t really miss it. If you’re not sure, ask the guy who runs the kebab shop at the bus stop. He was helping everyone with the buses, and even managed to hunt down ‘the captain’ as he worded it (meaning the bus driver) for us.

The bus to Derinkuyu takes about 25 minutes. It will drop you at Derinkuyu bus station which is a two minute walk away from the underground city entrance.

Derinkuyu to Goreme

The buses back to Nevsehir leave Derinkuyu every thirty minutes, so wander back to the bus station and catch the bus to Nevsehir city centre.

When you get out at Nevsehir, stay on the same side of the road this time and wait for the next shuttle bus to stop.

Before getting on double check if it will stop at Goreme by asking the driver. The bus that we got back wasn’t meant to stop at Goreme, but it made a stop there for us anyway.

The buses for each leg are really regular and the drivers are really flexible with where they can stop. Everyone is also really helpful in directing to the correct bus, so don’t be hesitant to ask.

It was a really straight forward journey both ways and we only had to wait 5/10 minutes in between buses.

All buses only accept cash payment on board.

Tickets for Derinkuyu

Tickets cost 300 TL as of 2024. There is next to no signage or information inside, so if you want more explanation, it would be best to arrange a guide. We didn’t have a guide, but had done a load of research beforehand so we had a better idea of what to expect. Derinkuyu entrance is included in the Turkey Museums Pass.

Is there a marked route through the city?

Yes! It’s not easy to get lost in Derinkuyu. There are red arrows which show you the route through the city, and there are blue arrows that show you the quickest way to the exit. However, I would recommend that you don’t just stick to following the red arrows. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore that are not indicated with the red arrows. Even venturing off to these, you’ll end up coming back to the main route to go any further. My point being, even if you stray from the red arrows, you won’t get lost.

Is it claustrophobic?

I thought that the majority of it was quite spacious and open. Yes, there are some passageways that are particularly narrow with very low ceilings. I (at 5’6’’) had to fold myself in half to get through some of them and Chris (at 6’1’’ and ¾) struggled.

As a self-proclaimed catastrophiser, I had to really compose myself to venture underground. In my head, this entire city could collapse at any time and no one would ever find me because it’s all undergound!

Crazy, I know. But, in all seriousness, I felt fine. There are plenty of ventilation shafts, so it doesn’t get too stuffy. There are signs pointing you to the route through the city, but also to the exit. So, should you need to step out, you know where to go. As long as you visit at a relatively quiet time, it should be fine.

Quietest times to visit

We visited in November and it was relatively quiet. We also made sure that we got there for about midday. From what I had read about the organised tours of Cappadocia, they visit Derinkuyu in the morning or afternoon, and stop for lunch. So we went during the time that any tours would be on their way to lunch/eating lunch. 

Funny Story

Before we scanned our tickets to go in, I asked the guy manning the barrier if there were ‘lots’ of people down there at the moment.

He looked at me confused and told me not to worry, there are no ‘lost’ people down there. Lots and lost, very similar sounding.

My question was a very normal question, the question he thought I asked made me sound like I was unhinged!

And how did I respond?

I said, ‘Thank you very much’, which just confirmed to him that I had in fact asked the question that he thought I had (even though I hadn’t).

Tell me you’re an awkward Brit without telling me you’re an awkward Brit!

How long does it take to explore the underground city?

We spent about an hour, exploring every narrow path we could find. Off the main path, you’ll likely need to switch on the torch on your phone to be able to see. I’m sure you would get through it all a lot quicker if you only followed the red arrow route. Only 10% of the city is open to the public.

How large is Turkey’s largest underground city?

Derinkuyu was large enough to house 20,000 people plus livestock, so pretty big! The city had eighteen levels and was 85 metres deep in to the ground.

History of Derinkuyu

In use since the Bronze Age, Derinkuyu was expanded by Greek-speaking Christians during Roman times into a city with multiple levels. The city was used to house and protect the persecuted Christians in the Arab-Byzantine wars, Mongolian invasions, from the Ottoman rulers, and continued to be used to shelter the Greek Cappadocians into the 20th century. In 1923, Turkey deported the Christian population to Greece, leaving the underground city abandoned and unknown. In 1963, Derinkuyu was rediscovered, and opened to the public in 1969.

How did the population remain undetected and protected in the city?

The city housed up to 20,000 people. Mind-blowing, right?! There were dwellings, schools, churches, wine and oil presses, areas for livestock, ventilation shafts and wells. They would only cook once per month at night so as not to give away their whereabouts to the enemy with smoke from the fires. Water was gathered from the deep wells cut into the rock, which is what gave the city its name: Derinkuyu means ‘deep well’ in Turkish. The underground city was equipped with everything required to sustain life underground.

Heavy circular stone doors were used in case of enemy penetration into the city. The doors could close off entire levels of the city to keep people safe on the other levels. The narrow entryways and corridors meant that intruders could only enter in single file and so could be killed one by one. The city has many concealed exits so that people could flee if the city was discovered.

Derinkuyu or Kaymakli?

This is the question. We only visited Derinkuyu, however, I researched before to help make the decision.

  • Derinkuyu is the largest underground city, while Kaymakli is the widest.
  • Derinkuyu has wider passageways, while Kaymakli is more adventurous with smaller passageways.
  • Derinkuyu is visited as part of the popular organised ‘green tour’, but Kaymakli sees the most visitors.
  • Derinkuyu only has one passage to the bottom level, meaning that you have to wait for others to come down before you can go up. Kaymakli has several.
  • Entrance fees are the same for both.
  • Derinkuyu is a little further away, but for both, you catch the bus from the same location in Nevsehir city centre as mentioned above for Derinkuyu. One bus will say Derinkuyu on the side, the other will say Kaymakli. The buses that go to Derinkuyu, drive past Kaymakli, but do not stop there.

For me, the deciding factors were Derinkuyu being the largest, having wider passageways, and receiving less visitors. I was uncertain about how claustrophobic it would be, so less people and less narrow were the winning factors for me.

Have you been to Derinkuyu? Or are you planning a trip this way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions!

Thanks for reading.

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How to Get + Use the Istanbul Transport Card | Istanbulkart

How to Get + Use the Istanbul Transport Card | Istanbulkart

How to Get + Use the Istanbul Transport Card | Istanbulkart

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Istanbul is a very-well connected city. It has buses, trams, ferries, and a metro that can easily get you almost anywhere in the city. Istanbul is also huge and is separated into sections by the Bosphorus Strait, meaning that it is not easily walkable. Visiting Istanbul, you will no doubt need to use public transport on several occasions, and for this, you will need an Istanbul transport card known as the Istanbulkart.

When we arrived into Istanbul after getting a night bus from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, we had to buy our Istanbul transport card while we were half asleep, and it would have been so much easier if we had known all the ins and outs beforehand. So, we have put together a handy guide with all the information that we would have liked to have had about the Istanbulkart.

Where You Can Use the Istanbulkart

Almost all public transport around Istanbul accepts the Istanbulkart – trams, trains, buses, metro, ferries etc. Tap your card at the turnstiles or onboard devices depending on the transport you are taking.

Where to Get an Istanbulkart

Find machines at major transport hubs such as the airports, main bus stations or train stations. There are also machines dotted around the city in metro stations, tram stations etc. where you will be able to buy the card. The most common machines are yellow with Biletmatik written on the front. There are also larger blue machines that will dispense an Istanbulkart.

How to Get an Istanbulkart

The Istanbulkart is anonymous, so the HES code that was required during COVID times is no longer. Go to one of the machines, change the language to English, and select the Istanbulkart. It is red and may be named ‘anonymous’ if not showing as ‘Istanbulkart’.

Select how much money you want to add to your card. Feed the amount you want to add on to the card, plus the price of the card into the machine. Some machines at larger transport hubs such as Esenler bus station will accept card transactions with a small fee.

FYI the machines have a pretty aggressive countdown timer. We were timed out on at least three occasions while trying to work out how much money to put on to the card.

How Much to Add on to the Istanbulkart

I would advise against adding a large amount in one hit. If you don’t use it up, it’s not a straight forward procedure to get the money back. Otherwise, you would have to sell it on to another traveller.

When we were in Istanbul in October 22, one tap cost 6.67 TL, this appears to have now increased to 17.7 TL as of Jan 24! The most up to date fees are available here.

Even though this seems like a huge increase, the value of the lira has dropped.

As of Jan 24, £1 = 38 TL.

In Oct 22, £1 = 21 TL ish.

17.7 TL in Jan 24 works out to be about 46p. So you are still getting huge value for money!

If you were to, say, get a bus and then a ferry straight after, the second tap will be discounted. If you then used another form of public transport, you would get a further discounted rate. However, this only appeared to work for us about 60% of the time so don’t bank on it.

How to Top Up the Istanbulkart

You can easily top up the card at any yellow or blue machine around the city. These are available at most transport stops.

Change the language to English. Place your card on the reader and wait til the machine recognises it. Add the cash into the machine. Wait for the machine to register the note and it will add it to your card.

Most machines only accept cash for top ups, but machines at major transport hubs may also accept card payment for a small fee.

How Many People Can Use One Istanbulkart?

The Istanbulkart can be used by up to five different people. So if you are travelling in a group of five or less, buy one card only. At the turnstile, one person will tap the card for each person to go through before going through themselves. The discounted rate for doing multiple journeys back to back will only apply to one person’s tap, not all five.

E.g. Five people go from Esenler to Ulubatli by metro paying 9.9 TL per person on one Istanbulkart. Then these five people travel from Ulubatli to Fener by bus on the same Istanbulkart. One person will tap at a discounted rate, while the other four people will tap through at 9.9TL still.

How to Check Your Card Balance

There is an option at the yellow and blue machines to show the balance on your card. Otherwise, when you tap through the turnstiles, it will show you how much you are being charged and what is left on the card. There is also an app, but I have heard negative reviews so we didn’t use this.

What the Different Tap Sounds Mean

When you tap through a turnstile or tap onboard, there will either be regular sound, an ‘alert-type’ sound or a ‘you don’t have enough money on your card’ rejected sound. If you get the alert sound, don’t panic, it’s just the machine warning you that you are getting low on funds. Only if you have the rejected sound and a red screen, will you not be allowed to get on the transport.

The Different Types of Istanbulkart

There are several Istanbulkarts. The red one is for non-residents, so us tourists and travellers. The blue and yellow cards are personalised cards for locals.

istanbul transport card, istanbulkart

Looking for things to do in Istanbul once you have your Istanbulkart up and running? Read about our top things to do in Istanbul here.

Have you travelled Istanbul with the Istanbulkart? Or are you planning on heading out to Istanbul?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions.

Thanks for reading!

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The Ultimate Red and Rose Valley Hike (With Maps.me Pins)

The Ultimate Red and Rose Valley Hike (With Maps.me Pins)

The Ultimate Red and Rose Valley Hike (With Maps.me Pins)

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Cappadocia is full of abandoned churches and houses carved in to the bizarre-shaped formations of soft volcanic tuff. Rose Valley in particular, has some really spectacular cave churches where you can still find staircases, decorated pillars and ancient artwork. Scramble your way up to the entrance, and marvel at the intricate interior decoration.

Red Valley has tight hand-carved tunnels and isolated tea houses. So combine the two, follow this Red and Rose Valley hike and you’ll experience something really special!

red and rose valley hike, rose valley view

We spent the best part of a day hiking this route, and the ancient abandoned buildings that we stumbled upon were breath-taking. There is some up and down and some scrambling required to get into a few churches, but generally, this route really isn’t too taxing.

Looking for more info on Cappadocia? Take a look here.

Fancy giving it a go? Find the route and our favourite cave churches, tunnels and tea houses below.

Top Tips

Number 1: Download Maps.me on to your phone and also download the map of Cappadocia so that you can refer to it offline, and mark the pins mentioned in the post.

Number 2: There are no entrance fees to any of the valleys so you can wander to your heart’s content.

red valley hike

red and rose valley hike

In Red Valley

Continue straight past the church and take the next main route to the left. Pin this spot to take you there. This is Red Valley. The landscape changes, the valley gets very narrow and there are a lot of plants.

The route again, splits in two. If you’re feeling adventurous, turn left at the fork. This takes you up a dodgy looking metal staircase and into a hand-carved tunnel.

Pin this point and head over there. This is a beautiful little spot where you can stop for a tea or coffee and use the toilet. There is also a very small church with intricate painting. When we were there, it was locked, but I managed to get a photo through the gate. Head upwards to here at this pin. There are views that go on for miles from here over Red Valley and Rose Valley.

red valley hike
rose and red valley hike

Into Rose Valley

Go back down into the valley, but off to the right this time. Go towards this pin which takes you to another viewpoint over the valley before you head down into Rose Valley. And this is where the abandoned churches really are spectacular!

The first one you should pin is the Columned Church here. Cross the bridge to get inside and go up the staircase. The architecture is outrageous! Tall columns and an arched ceiling has been cut into the rock. Explore the room tucked round to the right and look up. The ceiling has such detailing, it really is spectacular.

Absolutely one of my favourite churches we saw; I was shocked. But there’s much more to come and dare I say it, it gets better.

bridge to abandoned church, red and rose valley hike
Columned Church, red and rose valley hike

Two More Rose Valley Churches

Pin this point and follow the route this way to the cave pigeon loft and cave beehive. There are signs to warn you about the bees, and the it is a little back from the path, so it’s fine (just don’t go poking around in the beehive!).

After the beehive, take a right and head on over to Hacli Church here. At the base of the church is a little cafe which is a lovely little place to stop for a break. Once you’re rehydrated, head up the stairs and inside the church. The artwork is in such phenomenal condition!

Hacli church artowrk, red and rose valley hike

Head over to this pin to take you the right way. The other route is marked as a ‘difficult pass without ropes’. If that’s your bag, go for it; it’s not my bag. Then walk towards this pin. This abandoned church requires a bit of effort and grippy shoes to scramble up to the entrance, but it is so so worth it.

Once inside, there are three different areas you can explore. One appears to be full of dovecotes, the central part has huge and intricate crosses carved into the ceiling and the area closest to the entrance has strikingly colourful artwork all over the walls and ceilings. How is the artwork still in such great condition?!

This was our last stop before heading back to Goreme. Walk back towards the main road and follow the signs back into town.

Facilities Along the Hike

We did this day hike at the beginning of November; the weather was perfect for hiking. If you’re looking into doing this during the warmer months, be aware that you are completely exposed to the sun for the vast majority of the hike. There are a couple of spots where you could get a drink and a snack, and use the loo. I would recommend you bring a packed lunch for this hike.

Have you been to Red Valley or Rose Valley? Or maybe you’ve given our hiking route suggestion a go?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions.

Thanks for reading!

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The Ultimate Guide to the Full Turkish Breakfast (plus the best places to eat!)

The Ultimate Guide to the Full Turkish Breakfast (plus the best places to eat!)

The Ultimate Guide to the Full Turkish Breakfast (plus the best places to eat!)

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The full Turkish breakfast spread is honestly one of our top reasons for loving Turkey. I would fly back to Istanbul or Van, in particular, just to eat their phenomenal breakfasts. 

Different regions of the country have different takes on the individual dishes that make up a Turkish breakfast. The beginnings of this breakfast tradition seems to be traced back to Van in the very east of the country, home to a huge Kurdish population and close to the border with Iran.

Since the popularity of the Van breakfast has increased, more restaurants have opened up in other areas of the country, notably Istanbul.

full turkish breakfast

A full Turkish breakfast spread, called serpme kahvaltı in Turkish, is a way to bring people together, socialise and enjoy life at a slow pace. It is a common occurrence at the weekends when people have more time than during the week.

People get together and enjoy a leisurely breakfast over a few hours, tucking into the huge variety of small dishes (usually at least fifteen!) and sipping tea (cay). 

The word ‘kahvaltı’ literally means ‘before coffee’ in Turkish. The breakfast is accompanied with plenty of cay, and then can be finished off with a thick and dark Turkish coffee.

It’s a traditional, cultural and wholesome activity, and I really feel that you haven’t properly experienced Turkey until you have had yourself a proper serpme kahvaltı. 

Loosen your belt, you are in for an absolute treat.

The Main Elements of a Full Turkish Breakfast Spread

Cay

Cay (pronounced chai) is Turkish black tea that is served with all breakfast spreads. If you go to the right places, you might even get unlimited cay. But make sure you check before you order more cay.

Made from black tea leaves, cay is a Turkish institution and is drunk by Turks all day every day. Maybe add a cube of sugar to your dainty tulip-shaped glass of the amber liquid. Without cay, it’s not breakfast.

stacked teapots, full turkish breakfast
cay, full turkish breakfast

Bread

Turks know how to do bread; whether it be a flatbread, a sesame seed topped bagel called simit or a regular loaf, you’ll need plenty of this to mop up the juices and use as a vehicle to carry all of what’s to come.

Eggs

This is likely to be the only hot element of the breakfast. This can come in several different forms – fried, omelette, scrambled, boiled – but our favourite is the classic menemen. Menemen is a Turkish scrambled egg with peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic and spices mixed in.

Some breakfasts serve the eggs with sucuk which is a spiced sausage, so if you are vegetarian, specify beforehand and opt for a menemen or just the egg without the sausage.

menemen, full turkish breakfast

Cheeses

You’ll find at least three different types of cheese usually. Very often a string cheese (dil peyniri) which is mild in flavour, and then whatever the local specialities are.

Acuka

This is punchy paste made of red peppers, chilli, herbs, salt and walnuts. Spread a small amount on some bread with some of the cheese.

Olives

Black and green olives are always served. Sometimes they have been marinated in herbs and spices to really give them a kick.

Za’atar and Olive Oil

A small pot of za’atar is served alongside a small pot of oil. Dip your bread into the oil and then into the za’atar spice mix of sumac and toasted sesame seeds.

Tomato and Cucumber

This keeps things light and fresh. They are often topped with salt and herbs to really bring the flavours out.

Bal-kaymak

Bal-kaymak is a rich clotted cream that is served with honey. This was my absolute favourite part of the spread. It is so indulgent, creamy, rich, sweet and sticky. Spread on to a piece of bread of fried dough (pisi).

bal-kaymak, full turkish breakfast

Jams

The jams that we received in our breakfast spreads were always very different to those we have back home in the UK. They are generally very sticky and contain a lot of whole fruit. You’ll usually have a selection of three. Our favourites were fig, apricot and cherry.

Extra Elements of the Full Turkish Breakfast Spread

Sigara Borek

Filo pastry is wrapped around a stretchy cheese and deep fried, leaving a crunchy exterior and a gooey centre. These are great dipped in acuka (spicy red pepper paste).

Tahini Molasses

Rich and creamy sesame seed paste is mixed with a grape molasses to sweeten it up.

Pisi

Pisi is a fried dough that is a perfect match with the bal-kaymak (honey and clotted cream) or a fruit jam.

Nutella and Nut Butters

Nutella and nut butters add a sweet and creamy richness. Again, a great combination with the pisi fried dough. We received a hazelnut paste on a couple of occasions that tasted just like the creamy part inside a Kinder Bueno.

Regional Variations

Gaziantep/Syrian influence

We had a homemade breakfast spread made by our AirBnB host in Gaziantep who is Syrian. He made aubergine spreads, moutabel and a thick aubergine and garlic paste; and a herby and spicy yoghurt dip.

We finished off the breakfast with a pistachio coffee instead of a Turkish coffee as Gaziantep is the home of the tastiest pistachios!

Van

We received two dishes that we couldn’t even distinguish either by looking or tasting them so had to ask for clarification. Murtuga is egg and flour fried in oil, and Kavut is a halva that is more liquid and quite sandy in texture. These two are very specific to this region and I would put them in the ‘acquired taste’ category. We weren’t 100% sold on them.

However, Van cheeses are beautiful and so distinctive as they are packed full of strong tasting local herbs. You will have otlu peynir which is a softer cheese full of herbs and then a crumbly feta textured cheese which is really punchy.

Our Favourite Spots for Full Turkish Breakfast Spreads

Matbah-ı Van in Van

Fresh bread made on site by a couple of women baking in the restaurant, honey on the comb with a beautifully rich clotted cream, four different types of cheeses with herbs running through, menemen and fried eggs, whole fruit jams and cay served in traditional stacked teapots (which was unlimited), as well as all the other elements.

Phenomenal food, authentic and beautiful setting. Take me back!

Velvet Cafe in Balat in Istanbul

Definitely the classiest place we had a Turkish spread. The restaurant has a vintage feel about it with old telephones and vases, and tables decorated with lace doilies.

Expect nut butters, jams, acuka, flavoured butters, hot peppers with cheese, tahini molasses, fried dough and plenty more.

Bumba Breakfast Club in Alaçatı 

This place is dangerous. It’s an ‘eat as much as you possibly can’ type place, so there are unlimited refills of everything. Along with all the other elements, this place serves mini pancakes and other savoury spreads also.

The restaurant is home to many tortoises that roam the grounds, so watch where you put your foot!

toroises at Bumba breakfast club, full turkish breakfast
bumba breakfast club, full turkish breakfast

Portafari in Istanbul

I wouldn’t put this one in the traditional category because it comes with chips, but aside from that, this breakfast was beautiful. You’ll get a huge selection of sweet spreads – jams, Nutella, hazelnut spread; as well as sigara borek and unlimited tea alongside the other elements.

Cakmak Kahvaltı Salonu on Breakfast Street in Beşiktaş, Istanbul

Yes, there is a street full of eateries specialising in breakfast. Cakmak was the one we went for. There were less elements than what we were used to, but everything was really tasty and they provide unlimited tea.

Mardin Galatist Kafe & Kahvaltı in Mardin

This place has a phenomenal view over the plains of Ancient Mesopotamia (it’s actually the picture we use for our main image on our home page). The spread included most of the main elements and also came with a cold fried potato dish, creamy vegetable spreads and unlimited tea.

Have you tried a traditional serpme kahvaltı before? Where is your favourite place to eat the traditional breakfast?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions!

Thanks for reading!

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Night Bus from Plovdiv to Istanbul: Everything You Need to Know

Night Bus from Plovdiv to Istanbul: Everything You Need to Know

Night Bus from Plovdiv to Istanbul: Everything You Need to Know

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Getting the night bus from Plovdiv to Istanbul is a really efficient way to travel this route. Go to sleep, wake up at the border, go back to sleep, you’re in Istanbul. Here’s all the information and preparation you might need for taking this bus and crossing the Bulgaria/Turkey border.

Find Accommodation with a Reception Seating Area in Plovdiv

Staying in accommodation with a reception seating area means that you have somewhere to sit before heading to the bus station late at night. Charge your phone, use the toilet, make sure you have your map for Turkey downloaded on Google Maps and Maps.me and your Istanbul accommodation location saved.

Our recommendation would be to stay at Best Rest Guesthouse. It’s a simple guesthouse with a reception seating area, and it is a two-minute walk to Plovdiv International Bus Station.

Ask Around for the Best Price for Your Ticket

Several companies run this route, leaving at different times. The best timing and price that we found was with Huntur. Leaving Plovdiv at 00:30, the bus should arrive into Istanbul at 06:30. The price was 35 BGN or 30 BGN if you’re a student (which of course, we are!). Other companies were charging 45 BGN each, so Huntur was by far the best price.

Bear in mind that they only accept cash and there isn’t an ATM on site, but there is a DSK ATM a five-minute walk away. Also remember to bring your passport, otherwise you will not be issued a ticket.

Return to the Station Twenty Minutes Before the Bus Leaves

The start of this bus journey is not Plovdiv, but it stops at Plovdiv en route to Istanbul. Because of this, the bus won’t just be sat there waiting for passengers to fill it up like it would if Plovdiv was the beginning point.

We always try to get to our transportation twenty minutes before in case of early arrival. Bus companies that have late buses like this will likely have their stand open until their last bus has left, so you can speak to them if you have any questions, the bus is late etc.

Getting on the Bus

Show your ticket and get onto the bus. Your big luggage will be stowed underneath the bus, but smaller bags can be put under your seat or the overhead shelf.

Sit in your assigned seat on your ticket. There is assigned seating for each ticket, but if your bus is anything like ours (only about a third full), everyone will space out once it gets going.

Border Crossing

Kapikule Sinir Kapisi Giseleri is the crossing situated at the point where Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece meet. We arrived at about 02:30.

You have to get off the bus with all of your luggage including the large bags underneath the bus. Carry these across the border through passport control (making sure your visa is in check), and put your luggage through a scanner.

While this is going on, the authorities are checking the bus and it will then drive across the border. Put your bags back on the bus and off you trot.

night bus from Plovdiv to Istanbul

Arrival into Esenler Otogar (bus station)

You should arrive into Esenler Otogar (bus station) between 06:00 and 06:30. The bus station is massive and also pretty far out of the main city centre, so you would likely need to get the metro or a bus to your accommodation. There is metro stop named Otogar which is basically inside the bus station. This is your best bet.

Istanbulkart

To use the public transport in Istanbul, you need to buy and load money onto an Istanbulkart. This can be bought at the Otogar metro station. Full blog post with tips on how to get an Istanbulkart is on its way!

night bus from plovdiv to istanbul

Metro from Otogar to the City Centre

Jump on the red metro line M1a or M1b heading towards Yenikapi. It is worth noting that getting on the M1a line the opposite way will take you to Ataturk Havalimani airport. You can double check bus and metro times using Google Maps. They have a very reliable service throughout Istanbul.

Fancy giving this route a go? Or have you already travelled this way? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions.

Thanks for reading!

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9 Fascinating Things to Do in Cappadocia (and 3 not to bother with!)

9 Fascinating Things to Do in Cappadocia (and 3 not to bother with!)

9 Fascinating Things to Do in Cappadocia (and 3 not to bother with!)

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Cappadocia has some of the most bizarre and unique, yet breath-taking landscapes, and because of this, hot air ballooning is wildly popular: I’m sure you’ve seen the iconic sunrise photos with the skies teeming with colourful hot air balloons.

While the balloons and sunrise photos really are stunning, there is also so much more to Cappadocia to be explored. Wander the narrow paths of an ancient underground city, hike through valleys with otherworldly rock formations, seek out tea shops in the most obscure locations, climb into abandoned cave churches with ancient yet vibrant artwork, discover historic castles carved out of volcanic rock.

Cappadocia is brimming with mysterious beauty and history; you’ll be standing in awe. It has to be one of our favourite destinations that we have explored thanks to its uniqueness and variety of different attractions. This guide gives you the top things to do in Cappadocia beyond the hot air balloons and typical social media tourism, as well as the things that are really not worth your time or money.

History of Cappadocia and its Cave Structures

Cappadocia was a highly volcanic area millions of years ago. After volcanic eruptions left a layer of ash over the region, it solidified into soft volcanic rock known as tuff. Over time, general weathering and erosion took place and left the region with the bizarre, otherworldly rock formations that attract visitors far and wide.

Originally known as Hatti as far back as the Bronze Age, modern day Cappadocia was the homeland of the Hittite empire. When the Hittite empire dissolved in the 6th century BC, the region was then run by the Roman Empire. The population of Cappadocia were Greek speaking Christians, hence the Orthodox Christian paintings inside the cave churches throughout the region. To avoid persecution during wars and Ottoman rule, underground cities such as Derinkuyu were built to hide and protect the population.

In 1923, Turkey expelled its Christian population to Greece, leaving the underground cities, cave churches and dwellings in fairy chimneys abandoned and unknown.

Where to Base Yourself in Cappadocia

Goreme is the main spot where tourists stay. It is in a great location within walking distance to many valleys, museums and a bus ride away from the underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. There are restaurants, shops, ATMs, a small bus station and tour agencies. Goreme is where we would recommend you stay.

For a more authentic feel, you could base yourself in Uchisar. However, it’s quite a walk away from a lot of the valleys and museums. Uchisar is a really pretty town set up on a hill with a cave castle right at the top. There are restaurants, shops etc. however, when we visited in November, there was very little open and very little going on.

How to Get to Goreme

Cappadocia is the name of a large region in the centre of Turkey, while Goreme is a small town within Cappadocia.

Goreme is serviced by several buses, but if you are unable to find a bus there, take a bus to neraby Nevsehir or Kayseri from which you can easily get a local bus or taxi transfer into Goreme.

Bus journeys to Goreme are long if you’re coming from other major tourists destinations in Turkey. Gaziantep to Nevsehir is a seven hour journey. Istanbul to Goreme can take up to ten hours. Cappadocia is a long old way away in the centre of the country.

If a bus journey isn’t for you (I get it!), there are regular domestic flights to Kayseri airport (ASR). Flights are pretty inexpensive – you can get tickets from about £20 from Istanbul to Kayseri one way – and it’ll be much quicker, about ninety minutes.

Buses we got in and out of Goreme/Nevsehir:

Denizli (near Pamukkale) to Goreme night bus: cost 320 TL and took ten hours, leaving Denizli at 21:30. Bus company is Kamil Koc, known as Flix Bus in other countries.

Goreme to Nevsehir city centre: cost 13 TL and took 20 minutes, buses leave Goreme every 30 minutes. The schedule is on a board at the bus stop, so take a quick look before making your plans. When you get on this bus, let the driver know your final destination and he will show you where to get the connecting bus from. The drivers are really helpful.

Nevsehir city centre to Nevsehir bus station: cost 6 TL and took around 15 minutes. Jump on a local bus #1 or #2 and ask for the otogar (bus station).

Nevsehir city centre to Derinkuyu: cost 30 TL and took 25 minutes, leaving Nevsehir city centre every 30 minutes.

Nevsehir bus station to Gaziantep: cost 300 TL and took around seven hours, leaving Nevsehir at 09:00. Bus company is Nevsehir Seyahat.

derinkuyu, things to do in cappadocia
derinkuyu, things to do in cappadocia

Red Valley and Rose Valley Day Hike

Discover Red Valley’s Adventurous Hiking Routes

So-called for the valley rock with a red/terracotta hue, the hiking routes through Red Valley were some of the most varied and intriguing. Find narrow paths, dodgy-looking staircases, and cave tunnels. Red Valley will keep you guessing at every turn.

red valley hike up rusted stairs

Venture into Abandoned Cave Churches in Rose Valley

Another valley named after the rock colour. The pink rock also has some sections of yellow, which was fascinating. Rose Valley is full of breath-taking viewpoints and the most stunning abandoned cave churches full of brightly coloured artwork and mind-blowing structural elements.

rose valley cave churches, things to do in cappadocia
pink and yellow rock of rose valley

Explore Red Valley and Rose Valley together for the ultimate day hike of fascinating hiking trails, stunning viewpoints and abandoned cave church exploration. Read the detailed blog post with Maps.me pins here!

Love Valley, White Valley, Pigeon Valley Day Hike

Be Amazed by the Bizarre Fairy Chimneys of Love Valley

This is the one that you have no doubt seen photos of. Huge phallic-shaped structures (named fairy chimneys), up to 40 metres tall, can be seen throughout the valley. Wander amongst them and/or watch sunset looking over Love Valley.

love valley, things to do in cappadocia

Hike White Valley

The hiking path through White Valley is not on the floor, but up on the white rock that spans this valley from its base to the valley edges. There are less unusual rock formations, but it’s a fascinating hike nonetheless.

white valley, things to do in cappadocia

Wander Guvecinlik Valley AKA Pigeon Valley

This valley gained its name for the large amount of dovecotes found carved into the rock face, a hike through Pigeon Valley is a highlight on any Cappadocia itinerary. Follow the route down into the valley to the most spectacular viewpoint before heading up and over the valley to see it from a different perspective. Make sure you stop for a cup of tea at the most unique tea garden set into the rock face.

pigeon valley

Hike Love Valley, White Valley, explore Uchisar Castle and hike back to Goreme through Pigeon Valley all in one day. Blog post with full detail of the hike and Maps.me pins coming soon!

Uncover Cappadocia’s Best Viewpoint from Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle is right at the top of the town. At the highest point in Cappadocia, this castle can be seen from almost everywhere. Unfortunately, there is little information inside the castle as to its history, but it is still a fascinating structure to explore. Rooms were carved into the soft volcanic tuff and the outside has started to erode away revealing the honeycomb-like structure inside. Venture all the way to the top for truly spectacular views across the valleys. Entrance is 50 TL and is not included on the Museum Pass.

uchisar castle

Wander Swords Valley

Close to Goreme Open Air Museum, Swords Valley is a less visited valley compared to the likes of the big players – love, red, etc. Named Swords Valley because the fairy chimneys here look like sharp swords, you could spend a couple of hours exploring, wandering into abandoned dwellings and churches, many of which have stunning views over the valley.

hidden church in swords valley, cappadocia

Goreme Han Restaurant

We didn’t really rate many of the restaurants in Goreme. They seem to be overpriced and cater to holiday-goers throwing money around. However, the food at Goreme Han is something special. Our friends we met while hiking Kotor in Montenegro recommended the place. Also a vegetarian couple manoeuvring meat-heavy Turkey and the Balkans, we trusted their advice. Ooh, they were right. Try the vegetable pottery and the beans. Served in clay pottery, the food sizzles theatrically at the table. Use hunks of bread to mop up the juices and wash it all down with the endless complimentary tea. Lovely.

Things You Shouldn’t Do

Go on an ATV Tour

Cappadocia is a semi-arid landscape, meaning that a lot of the land is very dry, dusty and sandy. There is nothing worse than walking down the road when a tour of ATVers is coming at you. You won’t be able to breathe for a good while til all the dust and crap that’s been kicked up into the air settles. Also, the ATVs erode the soft volcanic rock meaning that they are causing destruction to the natural landscape. Give it a miss. Don your hiking boots and head out on foot instead.

Pay for the Main Goreme Viewpoint

Sunset Viewpoint (Maps.me links can only be used in the Maps.me app on a mobile device)

What a scam. A guy has set up an official-looking toll booth, and charges every tourist that walks past in the morning before sunset. There are restaurants, cafes and accommodation further up the road, and the path beyond this is not maintained so it’s not even like your fee is going into maintaining the viewpoint. Instead, head up to the viewpoint using this entrance point: There is even free parking!

Visit Goreme Open-Air Museum

We were so disappointed by this museum. There is an entrance fee of 150 TL plus an additional 50 TL for the Black Church which has intricate painting. The museum complex is pretty small, we went around everything within 30 minutes. There were tour group crowds, you had to queue to get into the cave churches, and it really wasn’t half as spectacular as the abandoned churches we found in Rose Valley that had free entry. Skip the official museum and go exploring the valleys for yourself.

Have you been to Cappadocia? Or maybe you have other suggestions to add to the list?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions.

Thanks for reading!

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