Let’s say you are planning a trip to Turkey. What if you have time for just one place? Then, you are about to give a tough decision: whether you should visit Istanbul or Cappadocia? It is worth seeing these two destinations in Turkey since they all offer a lot, but it can be quite hard when you have to decide between them.
While Istanbul is a major metropolis with more than 20 million inhabitants, one of the world’s largest cities, Cappadocia is a series of rock-cut small towns in one of the world’s most geologically interesting places. They are like two different worlds, but with only an hour and a half of flight. So if you are trying to choose between Istanbul and Cappadocia and you can’t do both, here’s our guide on how to choose between Istanbul and Cappadocia.
Advantages of Visiting Istanbul Over Cappadocia
Known by many names such as “Magnificent City”, “City of Emperors” and “Roman Capital” throughout its magnificent history, Istanbul is one of the most important touristic centers of Europe. Istanbul is a perfect university city with its diverse population, colorful arts community, and wide public transportation network. Turkey is a country that has a nation renowned for its hospitality and the people of Istanbul embracing you will make you feel comfortable at home.
Istanbul, which takes its roots from the depths of history, today appears as a brand new, modern, and dynamic city. Alongside the ancient minarets and Byzantine walls, glittering shopping malls, skyscrapers, and residences stretch; The narrow cobblestone streets are adorned with bars and nightclubs that play the latest music and showcase the latest trends. With a population of over 13.8 million, spread over two continents, change never ends in this city.
Istanbul is also a financial and industrial city that produces 25% of the gross national product and plays an important role in both regional trade and cross-border relations. Turkey’s import and export gateway of the city realizes 43% of imports and 50% of the country’s total exports. Being the 34th largest economy in the world, Istanbul has also proven to be a real “business city” by hosting the 35 richest people in the world.
Istanbul is undoubtedly one of the most important cities in the world. It is possible to find Anatolia in Istanbul, as well as Europe. Of course, in this case, the fact that Istanbul consists of two continents is also effective, but it has a structure consisting of a combination of every culture in real terms. It is possible to discover all the cultural differences in Istanbul with your trip. One of the most important situations to come to Istanbul is its historical beauties. Since Istanbul is home to many long-established states, it has various historical areas.
Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, and Blue Mosque, Galata Tower, and Maiden’s Tower, which are among the Ottoman palaces, are must-see places. Istanbul is a city that smells of history. It is possible to find a historical area everywhere. There is no other city anywhere else in the world that joins two different continents. Istanbul’s combination of this reminds many people to reunite two lovers. It is possible to travel between continents with bridges in Istanbul. It hosts a very interesting image. It is possible to discover its original beauty on both sides.
There are many seaside districts in Istanbul. It is a country that attracts everyone’s attention with its sea. It is also possible to take an intercontinental tour in the sea of Istanbul. By taking a Bosphorus tour, it is possible to pass under bridges and to pass in front of various historical palaces. It is possible to see the palaces, mansions and historical schools designed in a beautiful way, with a Bosphorus tour. Undoubtedly, baths, which still keep the Ottoman culture alive, are one of the main situations that attract the attention of local and foreign tourists. In addition to the cleansing culture, massage culture is also observed in the baths.
What Makes Istanbul Unique Compared to Cappadocia
It is also possible to experience a pleasant Turkish bath in Istanbul. This pleasure can be reached by visiting various baths built by Haseki Sultans. Another possibility is the bazaars. The Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar are ideal places to find products suitable for Istanbul culture. It is possible to find products in every field such as food, beverage, clothing, and jewelry. The fact that Istanbul consists of two continents has led to the discovery of various activities here. At certain times of the year, intercontinental swimming and bridge running competitions are held. It will be very enjoyable to coincide with these races. People do both fun and sports together. It is a big reason to come to Istanbul. Because this pleasure is not experienced anywhere else in the world.
It is possible to find the proverbial kitchen in every corner of Turkey in Istanbul. People who want to discover delicious and different flavors can taste these cuisines. The kitchen is a big reason to come to Istanbul. There are many delicious foods such as Turkish coffee, Turkish breakfast, baklavas, kebabs, doner kebabs, home cooking, lahmacun, Turkish yogurt, ravioli that every tourist will love. Istanbul is a city that never gets tired. It can have an energetic environment every night. Places such as Taksim, Beyoğlu, Asmalımescit, Karaköy are very energetic at night. It is one of the must-visit places for interested parties.
There are many shopping centers in Istanbul. In these shopping centers, it is possible to shop as well as to eat. In addition, various activities are held in these shopping centers. There are many artistic activities and shows in these shopping centers. People who are interested in art, shopping, and new designs can visit shopping malls in both Europe and Asia for a short discovery.
Istanbul is Turkey’s cultural treasures, a place where you can discover the traces of different cultures and civilizations at every step. While the traces of Ottoman, Byzantine, and Rome welcome visitors in the Historic Peninsula, the most important museums of our country are also located in Istanbul. Symbol structures such as Hagia Sophia Museum, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, Galata Tower, and Maiden’s Tower reflect the memory of the city. Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Istanbul Airport and an important part of our country, airline passenger traffic alone meets with Turkey’s Istanbul Airport have direct flights from around the globe.
Due to the high number of flights throughout the year and the flights of alternative airlines, it is easier to find a suitable flight ticket for Istanbul. You can easily plan your Istanbul trip with a one-way flight ticket in the range of $ 50-100 and take the first step to discover this magical city. When asked nightlife of Istanbul in Turkey, one of the first places that come to mind. Especially in İstiklal Caddesi, Şişli, Nişantaşı, and Kadıköy regions, there are popular nightclubs, bars, and entertainment venues in Istanbul. In entertainment venues where life continues for 24 hours, you can keep up with the dynamic tempo of Istanbul and experience different venues until morning.
It is possible to find something suitable for every budget and every taste in Istanbul, which lives 24 hours a day. The food culture that makes Istanbul an attractive city for foreign visitors is also reflected in street flavors. From kokoreç to wet hamburger, from doner to cold cuts, from mussels to hamburgers, you can fill your stomach with pleasure at any time. In Istanbul, which has dozens of alternatives for families with children, there are great fun places to go with children, from Vialand to Miniatürk, from Toy Museum to Aquarium. There are many options Istanbul offers to spend full time with your child.
What Can You Do in Istanbul That You Cannot Do in Cappadocia?
- Panoramic Istanbul View: Galata Tower
Climbing up the Galata Tower, one of Istanbul’s popular historical and touristic attractions, and watching a magnificent panoramic city view is one of the must-do things in this fascinating city. Built in the 1300s, the tower overlooks Sultanahmet and the Bosphorus. When you get to the top of the tower, you can easily choose many important buildings in the city. When you come to Galata Tower, you can have dinner in the restaurant section that opens at 20:00 in the evening.
- Witness the Living Space of the Sultans: Topkapı Palace
Topkapı Palace, one of the fascinating palaces of Istanbul, which is also famous for its palaces, is located next to Gulhane Park in Fatih district. Gülhane Park used to serve as the outer garden of Topkapı Palace and the park was opened to the public during the Republic period. Topkapı Palace, a work of the 15th century, was the place where sultans and their families lived during the Ottoman period. You can visit the palace, built by Mimar Sinan, Sarkis Balyan, Davut Ağa, and Acem Ali, between 09:00 and 17:00, except Tuesdays. Topkapı Palace is also known for its collection of historical artifacts, which include knowledge of important religions and are claimed to belong to some prophets. While visiting Topkapi Palace, you have to pay an additional fee to visit the harem section. In this chapter; The sultan’s private rooms, family and concubines are living spaces.
- From the Byzantine Period to the Present: Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia, whose history goes back to the 6th century, was built as a church in the Byzantine period. The building, which was converted into a mosque after the conquest of Istanbul, is today one of the most popular museums in the city. Visiting Hagia Sophia, which has a long and deep-rooted history, is one of the most popular things to do in Istanbul. You should definitely see the magnificent view of the Sultanahmet Mosque from its flamboyant exterior, its enchanting interior, the Christian mosaics on its walls, and the windows on the second floor.
- One of the Most Beautiful Views of Istanbul: Maiden’s Tower
Located in Salacak district of Üsküdar, the Maiden’s Tower is a tower built in the early 12th century and has been the subject of many legends. Located in the middle of the Bosphorus, this small Byzantine tower is a place you can visit today to witness one of the most beautiful views of Istanbul. You can also dine in the restaurant and cafe section on the second floor of the tower.
- Visit Magnificent Architectural Buildings: Dolmabahçe Palace
There are many palaces that you can see on your Istanbul trip. Dolmabahçe Palace is one of these palaces. Located in the Kabataş district of Beşiktaş district, the palace was built in the 19th century. Dolmabahçe Palace, located on the opposite shore of the Salacak district of Üsküdar; It is a fine example of Ottoman, Neoclassical, and Baroque architecture. Built by Garabet Amira Balyan and Evanis Kalfa, the palace is famous for its starry interior. Especially the ceiling filled with gold and crystal is worth seeing.
- The Shopping Crowd: İstiklal Street
İstiklal Street is one of the most central places in Istanbul. Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most popular destinations for local and foreign tourists, is crowded at all hours of the day but has a quieter atmosphere in the early hours of the day. When you come to Istiklal Street, where many local and foreign clothing stores, accessories, shoes, jewelry, bags, and many other shops and shops are located, you can enjoy a pleasant shopping experience after a small discovery tour.
- With Golden Mosaic Frames: Kariye Museum
This 1000-year-old building was formerly a part of a monastery outside the city walls of Istanbul, and today is a beautiful museum that reflects Byzantine architect. Kariye Museum, which is an old Greek Orthodox Church, is located in the Edirnekapı district in Karagümrük district. The most striking part of the Kariye Museum is its ceiling. Its gold-framed mosaics cover the entire ceiling and are one of the must-see sections in the museum.
- Indistinguishable Fragrances: Spice Bazaar
Another important market in Istanbul is the Spice Bazaar. It is impossible not to come here and not love. Home to beautiful, colorful, and magnificent scents, the Spice Bazaar is the ideal place to find an edible gift for your loved ones on your Istanbul trip. After exploring its beautiful interior, you can also explore the exterior on the west side. In this section, you can reach many different flavors such as olives, local cheeses, vegetables, and Turkish coffee.
- Explore the Past History Step by Step: The Archaeological Museum
Archeology museums of Istanbul are located in the area used as the outer garden of Topkapı Palace. Therefore, it is very close to many must-see places in Istanbul. The long and storied history of this fascinating city and the reign of the world’s great empires make these museums an important treasure, especially for history buffs. The Old East Museum, the Archeology Museum, and the Museum of Islamic Art are side by side and contain numerous objects related to both world culture and history.
Advantages of Visiting Cappadocia Over Istanbul
Cappadocia, which has hosted countless civilizations for millions of years, has survived to this day and has been home to legendary fairy chimneys, has a perfect location in the very center of Anatolia in Nevşehir. It is not even sincere not to admire the extinguished volcanic lava in this place where historical formations turn into a pleasure. Cappadocia needs among Turkey’s most valuable natural beauty with unparalleled geological structure as well as a mysterious story.
Cappadocia, the name of the world that turns fire and water into a legend, where lava creates a miracle, was formed by the formation of a soft layer on the surface of the lava that erupted from Erciyes Mountain, Hasan Mountain, and Güllü Mountain 60 million ago and this layer was formed by the erosion of rain and wind over time. Cappadocia, which is a fairy tale world that amazes everyone today, has turned into a true legend with its historical ruins, beauties, and stories offered by nature. If you say why should I go to Cappadocia with the values it preserves behind its calm, clear, and fragile appearance, here is the answer.
Exactly 60 million years ago, with the rise of the Taurus Mountains and the compression of the Anatolian Plateau in the north, Erciyes, Hasandağı, and Göllüdağ, which was between the two, spewed lava into the region and the ashes formed a soft tuff layer. Cones formed from hard basalt rock that emerged from the erosion of rain and wind for millions of years, created natural formations that we call ‘Fairy Chimneys’ today. Awe-inspiring cultural values emerge from every hidden corner of Cappadocia, which has millions of years of historical and cultural accumulation under the influence of the Hittites, Ancient Greeks, Byzantium, Seljuks, and the Ottoman Empire. Surrounded by Christian and Muslim inscriptions, churches, and mosques, there are centuries-old cultural accumulations in every corner of Cappadocia.
There are cultural riches in the invisible part of Cappadocia as well as the visible part. Underground cities of 150-200 are spread over an area of 25,000 km². Most of the underground cities were formed by the deep carving of soft volcanic tuffs. The techniques used for the cities built underground are still unknown. Underground cities in the region such as Derinkuyu, Özkonak, and Kaymaklı attract the attention of visitors.
There are many ways to enjoy the breathtaking surreal scenery of Cappadocia. One of them is to watch the region from a bird’s eye view. It is necessary to enjoy watching the skyline of Cappadocia, which comes to mind when it comes to balloon tours. The balloon tour, which starts with the sunrise, offers an unforgettable experience. Many boutique hotels in the Cappadocia Region were built on the originally carved cliffs. You embark on a journey through time in the fairy-tale ambiance of the hotels, which decorate the interiors of old neighborhoods and houses without spoiling the original.
What Makes Cappadocia Unique Compared to Istanbul
The pleasure of Cappadocia’s calm and unhurried life becomes even more attractive in the terraces and pools overlooking the beauty of Cappadocia. The mystical atmosphere of the boutique hotels in Cappadocia is also worth seeing. The massage rooms, pool, and jacuzzis built in historical carved rock rooms, while relaxing your body and soul, also impress with its historical ambiance. In the 3rd century, the priests made the region a lively center of religious thought and life, and in the 4th century, Cappadocia began to be known as the hometown of three great saints.
Among these three saints, Basil, the Bishop of Kayseri, did not prefer a pious life and established small settlements away from villages and towns, which can be called spiritual shelters of the societies. It marks the region where the education system focused on spirituality, which is open to visitors today as Göreme Open Air Museum, was initiated. Tokalı Church, Monastery of Nuns and Priests, St. Basil’s Chapel, Elmalı Church, St. Barbara Chapel, and Yılanlı (St. Onuphrius) Church are at the top of the list of must-see places.
Caftans, handcrafted rugs, and earthenware jugs adorned with local traces are some of Cappadocia’s cultural treasures. Custom made jugs and rugs that you can only find in Cappadocia attract the attention of foreign tourists, especially. The concerts held on the carved rocks, which are described as a natural miracle and have wonderful acoustics, also reveal the artistic side of Cappadocia. Turkish nights are organized in Cappadocia, which hosts guests from all over the world, telling the history and culture of the region.
You will find the best examples of Turkish cuisine, which is curious among the world cuisines, in Cappadocia. Many flavors are waiting for you, from Çelti kebab to jug kebab, from pumpkin seeds to locally grown vineyards. Region-specific wine varieties can be considered as the reward of Cappadocia travel. You will see the breathtaking Taurus Mountains with its silhouette, experience an adventure on the earth track, and see Cappadocia’s fascinating fairy chimneys, cave houses, and rock churches. Sometimes you will be trekking through difficult paths and sometimes you can discover landscapes that no one has noticed yet.
What Can You Do in Cappadocia That You Cannot Do in Istanbul?
- Getting Lost in History
With the glory and tunnels of Kadı Castle in Ürgüp, while carrying the traces of the Christian community that used to live here and hid their religion freely, people are almost fascinated by the history of buildings such as Taşkın Pasha Mosque, St. Theodore Church, and Pink Valley. It is incredibly enjoyable to get lost in history for hours at the Ürgüp Museum, which opens the veils of mystery by giving a lot of information about the past. In Zelve Valley, you can witness the different formations of fairy chimneys and giant hats, especially you can see the Three Beauties closely, you can see the remains of the oldest lives in Çavuşin Village, and even touch them. You can meet the Uçhisar Castle from the ancient times of Rome, and you can listen to what has happened since Roman times. If you have time, do not miss the opportunity to see the legendary Ihlara Valley, which is half an hour away from Nevşehir.
- Balloon Rides and Many More Adventure-filled Activities
When Cappadocia is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is to reach the sky with a balloon and watch the fairy chimneys with a bird’s eye view. Although the most entertaining activity in Cappadocia is known as the balloon tour, it is worth reminding you that you actually have many more options. If you are good with horses, you can join safari tours on horseback, explore Cappadocia with the unmatched friendship the horses offer to you, visit the abundant pottery making sites in Avanos to witness the journey of the pottery from the first production stage to the tables, you can have an extraordinary experience by making your own pots. the actual cross golf game for the first time in Cappadocia in Turkey can participate between April and October.
These games, which are performed for the first time in Cappadocia, offer you different experiences in the game of golf. While getting lost in Goreme’s valleys, you can breathe in the heart of nature with long walks. In addition to walks, you can get lost in the valley roads with ATV tours in the valleys and bring a new breath to your discoveries. ATV tours, which are accompanied by a guide and attract a lot of attention, can be done by one or two people or as a group. You can have moments of both joy and adventure with your group of friends for a few hours. In addition, if you are interested in marbling art, you can have the opportunity to make marbling with your own hands for your loved ones at the Ebru Art Center in Göreme and see various kinds of marbling works of beauty.
- Staying in Hand-Carved Stone Houses
Unlike normal holiday resorts, Cappadocia offers you a unique accommodation experience. Forget all-inclusive hotels, resorts, holiday camps, five-star, ten-star hotels. Get ready for an experience you’ve never experienced before! These structures, which are presented by the structure and geological characteristics of the region, were built by the people who lived here in ancient times and have survived to the present day.
It is an indisputable fact that you will have a very different experience with the atmosphere that surrounds you as soon as you enter these houses built in fairy chimneys and under the ground. You can crown your Cappadocia holiday in the most beautiful way by staying in these cave hotels built into the rocks one by one. Cappadocia cave hotels gain the appreciation of the guests by adding unique decorations as well as unique architectural features.
- Wine Tasting
Winemaking becomes inevitable in this heavenly place where the vineyards are wrapped all over. It is possible to see the wine tasting houses that host countless wine varieties everywhere you go. The wines, which are seen as a blessing that the vineyards offer to Cappadocia, fascinate the tasters. Kocabağ Wine House in Uçhisar continues to maintain the reputation of Cappadocia wines with its long-standing story and Turasan Wine House in Ürgüp with its wide variety of wines. Usually held in September each year, the Grape Harvest Festival Urgup sees a lot of attention from tourists from all over Turkey.
- Exploring Mysterious Underground Cities
Cappadocia, which is an unprecedented place on earth with its vast valleys, fairy chimneys that catch the eye with its unique formations, and natural beauties, is also very famous for its underground cities. Each of the Cappadocia underground cities, which have survived from the times when Anatolia hosted many civilizations, almost carry traces of the past. Each of the mysterious underground cities is worth seeing. You can start your Cappadocia tour with Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu underground cities, which have managed to reach today with the possibilities of the past.
- Tasting Different Flavors
Cappadocia, where you will embrace the Anatolian lands, has many food cultures, especially due to its location. It is possible to find a different alternative for every taste in this place where local dishes turn into a feast. Especially “Testi Kebabı” is incredibly famous in Cappadocia, where food culture is identified with the city. These local delicacies, with dried legumes and red meat, are cooked in pots that are very common in the region. The bean dish made in a pot is very popular.
In particular, we recommend you to taste the rice pudding cooked in a pot. Pottery made in the region also shows itself in the food culture and creates the flavors unique to Cappadocia. The local flavors of Ürgüp, Avanos, and Uçhisar and the fact that each flavor has a separate story makes Cappadocia a place to explore even more. You have the chance to try these delicious flavors in restaurants and small restaurants that you can come across almost in Cappadocia.
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