Göreme Bed

Where to Stay in Göreme (Turkey)

Of the nineteen countries I recently visited, none stood as a bigger surprise to me than Turkey. With mainstream media and social stereotyping abounding, I never heard a complimentary word said about anything Turkish, kebabs excepted of course.

But thankfully, from my experience I can say that the Turkish people are as warm and welcoming a people as I've experienced anywhere in the world, perhaps even more so. I found myself so overwhelmed at their helpful nature that I vowed to return one day to give Turkey the time it deserved. It's certainly not every country that will do that to you.

Goreme Turkish Bed

In the Cappadocia region of Turkey – known more widely as Central Anatolia – lies a small town called Göreme (pronounced Guh-reh-meh). The curious thing to note about the region of Cappadocia in which Göreme sits is the unusual geological appearance of the landscape. All around, the region is brimming with unusual sandstone rock formations affectionately known as fairy chimneys. These otherworldly, monolithic structures are scattered across the sandy plains and Arizona-like valleys in seemingly infinite forms. Some have even been carved out to make unique cave-like homes, many of which have now been adapted into hostels, and it's this feature which remains the major draw to the area for tourists.

During the time when Paganism made its way across these lands, the ancient Christians in the Cappadocian region found themselves literally forced underground. The people living here built great underground cities and undetectable dwellings inside the sandstone formations above ground to escape religious persecution. Houses were also built at ground level but each one possessed a secret passage which led downwards to connect with the incredible subterranean life beneath them during times of incursion. The name 'fairy chimney' was spawned when traders, who plied this route through Cappadocia, saw the lights emanating from carved windows up high in the cone-shaped structures and believed them to be the homes of glowing fairies. In hindsight, they were a little off, and it makes me wonder what they were smoking at the time.

As a backpacker, you're afforded many choices on where to stay in Göreme. The small town has guesthouses, pensions, hostels and hotels around every corner. I never really got the impression that Göreme was too commercial because the few luxuries and cafés only serve as a small distraction from the greater wild beauty of the surrounding landscape. The structural style of many of the town's buildings also blends in well with the overall sandstone colour of the region, consequently the town retains an air of authenticity. But don't spend all your time in the town itself. If you fail to get out there amongst the fairy chimneys and valleys, you've missed out on a treat.

Goreme Turkish Motorbike

If you're ok on two wheels, a dirt bike is the ultimate way to hit the trails. You'll find yourself more or less alone within a landscape that could quite easily belong to another planet; uniqueness is Cappadocia's speciality, something that backpackers worldwide yearn for.

Among the many choices in Göreme, the friendly Anatolia Cave Pension stood out in excellence for one main reason: a glorious fairy chimney room. It was the best, most interesting room around at a very reasonable price, even better if you have a travel companion to share the cost with you. Now, many other pensions have fairy chimney or cave rooms, that comes with the territory. But the reality is that some have funky cave smells, and some just don't capture the spirit of these unusual dwellings anywhere near as well as this little gem. Bottom line: don't come to Cappadocia and stay in a standard room, it's just not cricket. You have to find the oddest, most kooky room around.

Entrants must stoop their head as they walk across the threshold due to the low-slung door frame; it's just about perfect if you're around the 4ft. mark. As you step fully inside you find yourself encased in what can only be described as a kind of renovated hobbit's lair. There's not a straight wall in sight, tight spaces abound, Turkish rugs run along the crooked floor and patterned textiles adorn the roughly-clawed walls. Inside there's a modern bathroom, and a single bed in the main room. In front, a couple of carved steps lead to a tiny arched entrance and into a cosy double bedroom. If you had any more than two people staying in this tiny enclosure, you'd be falling over each other with just about every step. But that's the magic of it, that somehow it takes a usually annoying lack of space and makes it such a novel feature that you want to barricade yourself in and start a little hobbit family with the cosiness of it all; it's really something very special.

Turkish Food

Bekir, the owner, will greet you with a broad smile and go on to recommend all the good places to eat and which tours to take part in. For a cosy afternoon meal, Nazar Börek – a tiny outdoor food hut on the main street – stands as a decent choice. Inside the small tent-like structure there are three tables and a carpeted floor seating area set around a low table. Göreme is a small town of only 2,500 and those people seem happy to be living here, you'll find the proprietor of this place to be particularly chirpy; I'd recommend the sosyete böreği, a kind of special pastry. And speaking of pastry, don't leave Turkey without trying the baklava – a thick filo pastry dessert topped with chopped nuts and sweet syrup or honey.

Turkish hospitality is full of humility and warmth, coupled with the terrific landscape in Cappadocia which beckons you to explore, Göreme is a must-see destination for those with a spirit of adventure and who seek something unique and interesting from their travels.