Earth : Europe : Turkey : Central Anatolia : Cappadocia : Göreme
Goreme (Göreme, pronounced guh-reh-meh, uh like er in "her") is a town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. The town is centered in the middle of a internationally popular region that is best known for its natural rock formations, often called "fairy chimneys".
Several bus companies (Nevsehirliler, Metro, Goreme Tourism, Suha and Göreme Cappadocia) have day-time and overnight buses that run directly from Göreme to Istanbul (or directly from Nevshehir, 20 minutes down the road). You can catch a bus from Istanbul by catching a ferry to the Harem ferry port. Make sure you book a couple of days in advance in peak times as buses book out. There are connections to Konya (3½ hours), Denizli (10 hours), Pamukkale (10 hours), Selçuk (12 hours), Kusadasi (12 hours), Marmaris (13 hours), Bodrum (13 hours), Alanya (9 hours), Çıralı (10 hours), Canakkale (17 hours), Kayseri, Trabzon, Van.
If you book your ticket directly to Göreme, make sure that the bus (or a smaller van associated with the bus company) will drop you off at the Göreme bus station (otogar) even if the bus ticket says Goreme. It is a common occurrence for a bus company to sell you a ticket that says Göreme but then drop you off somewhere in Nevshehir, sometimes at a tour office, and hope that the folks at the tour office will help you get to the Goreme bus station.
There are numerous buses from Göreme to other parts of Turkey. The cheapest fare quoted to Istanbul as of July 2010 was 50 TL direct from Sultanahmet (Old City), Istanbul by Suha Company with reclining seats and tv-sets at the back of every seat, though this required changing buses at Nevsehir and arriving at Göreme by shuttle most of the times.
The nearest airports to Goreme are in Kayseri or Nevsehir. To Kayseri Airport, Turkish Airlines as well as Onur Air or Pegasus have several flights a day from Istanbul. SunExpress is another low-cost option.
Outside the airport are only taxis (cost 12 TL to the main bus station, otogar) and arranged shuttle buses, no dolmuş. The stop for city buses is a bit down the road following the airport exit. The Kayseri otogar is far from the airport. From otogar, there are very limited direct lines to Göreme (10 TL), but more frequent lines to Avanos, where you can transfer to a local bus for the remaining 9km to Göreme; the station is unmarked and the ride costs 2.5 TL.
If you have a hotel transfer option, take it: it is much more convenient.
The town of Goreme is very, very small, and you can walk to the tiny center within minutes from any part of town. Available for rent are mountain bikes, scooters, motorcycles and all terrain quads. There is regular bus service to Nevşehir (every half hour as of Oct. 2008), and from there to regional destinations including the underground cities at Kaymaklı and and Derinkuyu. Goreme is very, very small and there is not much to do. Dolmus (minibus) service runs approx. every hour to nearby larger towns like Avanos and every two hours to Urgup. However, the last dolmus services to all towns, including Nevsehir, are in the late afternoon, and you will need to check the schedule in advance to avoid getting stuck.
While the valleys are close to Goreme, it is best to rent a car or take a tour to see the major sights, such as the underground city and the best fairy chimneys, as they are located far away from town and are difficult to reach by public transportation (with the exception of the underground cities, which are easily reached by bus (dolmus)).
There are many, many travel agencies in Goreme, all of which offer the same one day packages that includes a stop at one of the underground cities, a walk through the ancient churches decorated with frescoes, and finally a stop at a carpet/pottery/oynx shop. Avoid buying at the shops, however, as you pay 2-3 times higher through commissions.
Most of the main attractions in Cappadocia (the underground cities, Pasabagi (Monks' Valley), Devrent (camel rock), Ihlara gorge, and Soganli Valley) are within driving distance (but not walking distance) from Goreme. Uchisar castle and the Goreme Open Air Museum are within walking distance. Cars are available for rent in the airports or in the town, and there is little traffic on the two lane roads, so driving is very easy and not stressful. There are also many, many travel agencies in town which run the same tour to the sights and to shopping points.
For a cheaper option take the 15 min. scenic minibus ride to the nearby city of Nevsehir where you can get the same service in a non-tourist place for as low as 25 TL. Just get off at the main intersection in Nevsehir and ask around for "Hamam".
Pottery - Avanos, 10 km away, has been a pottery center for centuries. Many stores will sell pottery in Goreme, and you may end up at a pottery workshop at the end of a tour, but for the best prices, head into Avanos and wander around the back streets. Compare the prices and quality, and if you are worried about it surviving shipping/your backpack, ask them to stand on it to test the strength (vases, jugs, and larger objects should take their weight). While the quality in touristy shops is often high, you will be paying 2-3 times what you otherwise would.
Carpets - Goreme and the surrounding area are known as one of the top places to buy carpets in Turkey. Their proximity to well known local weaving villages means the prices are generally cheaper than Istanbul and the atmosphere for purchasing far more relaxed with few if any hassles. For dealers, try Tribal Collections -Nomadic Rugs & Textiles- they get the best reviews.
Inspect carpets carefully before purchasing. Many carpet sellers buy used carpets from Turkish houses and "fix" them to sell to tourists at inflated prices. If you purchase one of these carpets, the price should be much, much lower. If you want a guaranteed new carpet, there are several carpet-weaving centers in Goreme, Avanos and other towns where you can watch the weavers working. (In Goreme, visit Gallery Cappadocia, behind AlaTurka restaurant.)
Don't forget to bargain hard!
Goreme has a wide selection of typical Kebabs and Pide, as well as some unusual 'pottery' dishes that are prepared and served in a clay pot which you can 'break' open. Often the 'pottery kebabs' are precooked earlier in the day so check around to see which restaurants require a 'pottery kebab' booking - it's likely that they will be the places that make the kebab on the spot (they take about an hour to cook). Many of the restaurants change hands on a regular basis, making specific recommendations difficult.
That said, Alaturca, with mains from 15-20 YTL, is considered to be one of the finer dining establishments in central Turkey, but is overpriced for the quality of food and a stiff service that is out of place in an otherwise informal town. Alaturca is on the secondary road that heads towards the open Air Museum.
Simply walking by shops will open invitations for tea.
Tourists looking for a fun night on the town had best stick to the beaches, or stay in nearby Urgup or Avanos. Most bars have been closed down in recent years, and there are only one or two dive bars with scant clientele remaining. There are no discos left in Goreme. The social scene is much livelier in nearby Avanos and especially Urgup, which are larger towns offering discos, bars, cafes, and dining options. However, there is no public transportation to these towns after late afternoon, and taxis are expensive. Speeding, drunk or intoxicated driving, and fatal accidents are common here, so be careful travelling back and forth. Though expensive, it is best to go by taxi.
Göreme has a huge selection of hostels, hotels, and guest houses (around 200). In fact, the center has been overtaken by hotels, travel agencies, carpet shops, souvenir stores, and restaurants, ensuring healthy competition for rates and a short walk to the center (no more than 4 minutes) from wherever you stay. The friendly (and tout-free) accommodation office can help you find something, but you can get better rates walking around and comparing prices yourself (don't forget to bargain!). Upmarket and boutique hotels also exist in Göreme. Many places include breakfast in these prices (as of Mar 2008). As of 2012, prices have become higher - 20 TL is the starting point for dorm beds with breakfast, and doubles run upward of 50 TL.
Many of Göreme's hostels and hotels offer the unusual option of sleeping in a cave. Much of the rock in the area is sandstone (tufa) which is fairly soft, and for centuries rooms (and houses) have been created by cutting directly into the soft rock. Comforts in these 'cave rooms' range from truly cave like to beautiful and tasteful with modern bathrooms. However, be warned that cave rooms are often very humid or even damp, and may not be suitable for those with breathing difficulties such as COPD, asthma, or respiratory infections. Higher quality accommodations will have ventilation systems and windows, which may alleviate the problem to a certain degree.
While Goreme's nightlife scene is nearly extinct, the town can still be very loud during night and day, and many discerning travellers looking for an escape from the noise and the hassling of shop and restaurant owners have begun to stay in the nearby town (4 km) of Cavusin, where many boutique hotels have sprung up in recent years. Many hotels offer free transportation to and from Goreme. Cavusin is located closer to Red Valley, Rose Valley, and Love Valley than Goreme.
Most budget accommodations are located in the same area of town, and thus it is easy to compare prices. Facing the bus station's offices, head to the right and turn left at the road running perpendicular to the main road. Walk past the shops. At Dibek restaurant, before crossing the road bridge, turn right and head uphill. You will see a sign with the names of many hostels and hotels. Don't be afraid to bargain and compare prices.
The extreme summer heat makes hiking highly uncomfortable and occasionally dangerous; dehydration is common in hikers. Women should not go hiking in the valleys alone as there have been a few incidents over the years.
Hotels and homes burn coal for heat, creating a thick black smog in winter which can aggravate respiratory conditions.
It is not recommended to hitch rides with the locals after dark. Drunk (or otherwise intoxicated) driving and speeding are very common, as are fatal accidents, particularly on the roads between Goreme-Avanos and Goreme-Urgup.
There is a high concentration of stray animals here, but they are quite friendly and nothing to be afraid of.