If Göreme was located close to a major population center in Europe, it would be totally overrun with visitors every day of the year. But fortunately, the town is quite remote, so its stunning beauty and easy lifestyle are preserved only for those willing to go out of their way to get there.
Turkey is known for its huge and dynamic former capital of Istanbul, plus its emerging Mediterranean and Aegean beach resorts, and it’s also known for its ancient cave cities. Göreme is at the heart of the cave area of Cappadocia, and it’s the main backpacker hub for the region, but it also has a wide variety of hotels and resorts that offer great value in any price range.
The vibe in Göreme
The first thing most people notice when they arrive in the city is that the famous caves and “fairy chimney” rock formations are woven directly into the center of town. In most places you’d expect these stunning features to be preserved behind gates in some sort of national park setting, but here many hotels have cave rooms that nearly any guest can afford.
It’s honestly one of the most stunning places in the world, partly due to the novelty of having restaurants and bars mixed directly in with this ancient scenery. Christians evidently carved most of the caves out of the soft rocks about 1,000 years ago, in some cases as hiding places from invaders, while in other cases the caves serve as churches with decorative frescoes still visible.
The fact that they formed the heart of the city 1,000 years ago seems to be why current residents are allowed to carry on living among them. All the buildings in the city are kept low-rise and are painted in colors that compliment their immediate surroundings, so it’s a setting that’s as beautiful as that of Venice, Italy, while it’s nearly as touristy as well.
The main part of town is small enough that you could walk from one end to the other in 15 minutes or so, and in the process you’ll see countless formations along the way that are impossible not to photograph if the lighting is decent. During the peak summer season, from June through August, things can get quite crowded and temperatures can get very steamy, but otherwise this is a very low-key town where you can stroll for hours without being hassled by souvenir merchants unless you are examining their goods.
Prices in Göreme
One of the best features of this city is that things tend to be cheap across the board, in spite of its popularity. Hotels start at around US$15 per night for a single room, and about US$20 for a double, with a hearty breakfast included. You can find accommodation ranging from cheaper dorm beds up through deluxe 4-star hotels with cave rooms and all the luxuries, always at prices that are very cheap for the Europe area.
While a bottle of Efes beer will cost around US$5 in most bars and restaurants in Istanbul, in Goreme the going rate is around US$3. One odd thing is that Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s more celebrated wine areas, and there seems to be some sort of law prohibiting wines from elsewhere into the area, so prices for wine are fairly high, starting at around US$14 per bottle, which is double what you’ll pay in Istandbul or Antalya.
The city center is filled with restaurants that serve Turkish favorites as well as standard Continental cuisine, with prices typically ranging from US$5 to US$10 for a full meal, or double that if you choose one of the fancier places. However, if you want a filling lunch or even dinner for less you can get a large chicken doner kebap for around US$3.
The most common tour is called the “Green Tour” which runs from 9:30am until around 6:30pm and includes stops in an underground city and many amazing view spots around Cappadocia, and costs around US$40 per person including a big lunch. All the admission fees for the things you see, plus the price of the lunch, add up to around US$40 anyway, so taking the tour really does offer great value.