48 Hours in Cappadocia, Turkey: An American Gay Couple’s Experience

My boyfriend Doug and I spent 2 incredible days in Cappadocia in May 2018. We squeezed it into our 9-day trip that included 2 days of Istanbul (so that I could show him around and introduce him to my family) and 5 days of Lisbon for the Eurovision Song Contest.

A little background on us: I am 34 and my boyfriend Doug is 39. I’ve moved to NYC (and the US) about ten years ago but I was actually born and raised in Turkey.

My first time in Cappadocia was with my family when I was a teen, about 20 years ago and I’ve always wanted to go back.

Cappadocia this time absolutely took our breaths away and as an openly gay couple, we were extremely pleased by the tourism industry professionals in the region, as well as the locals who were very respectful and friendly.

How Gay-friendly is Cappadocia?

Turkey is a huge country, and its home to 80 million people. Although predominantly Muslim, Turkey is a secular country, religious law has zero say. Most people are open minded and they reflect a good blend of Europe, Mediterranean and the Middle East, depending on which region you are in. Also let’s not forget that Turkey is a major tourism hub, 2 of the most visited 10 international cities are the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Antalya, while Turkey itself is always within the Most Visited 10 Countries list. As a result, Cappadocia is one of the most visited areas in the country and people are very welcoming to international tourists. But honestly, before we visited as a gay couple, I didn’t know that the attitudes towards LGBT folks (based on our own experience) was this respectful and relaxed.

Of course I’m biased because I love my home country, but in all honesty, common sense and practicing caution will ensure you have a safe, enjoyable holiday, anywhere in this magnificent country.

About Cappadocia:

A lot people actually are familiar with the region through the Instagram photos of many travel influencers. Cappadocia has long been off the beaten path for the average traveler, but we can safely say that its fame has peaked among the experienced travelers and the adventurers.

Some incredible facts about Cappadocia (Full List – Source)

  • Cappadocia’s landscape was formed by volcanic erosion, creating the iconic fairy chimneys we see today.
  • The name Cappadocia derives from a Persian word which means ‘the land of beautiful horses’ for in ancient times the region was known for its equine offering.
  • There are a number of underground cities in Cappadocia, some connected by a network of tunnels and many are open to visitors.
  • There are as many as 600 churches carved from the soft Cappadocian rock and still display beautiful painted frescoes.
  • The Göreme Open-Air Museum alongside the other rock sites of Cappadocia, it was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
  • Music concerts are often held in the surrounding cave buildings of Cappadocia, including the week-long Cappadocia Music Festival.
  • The region of Cappadocia is a large grape producer and wine-making has a long history here.

Bedrock Cave Hotel
I discovered this place on Orbitz and paid with my Orbitz points. Having an adults-only, authentic cave structure, location and beautiful comments it attracted my attention. They were very helpful with airport transfers and tour planning during the process of booking and after. My correspondence with them was in Turkish and from the beginning I let them know we were a same-sex couple. They did their best to make our journey beautiful and they were awesome helping book the Hot Balloon Tour, City Tour and the Couple’s Massage & Spa Treatment that I will mention a little later. By the way breakfast is included and they offer many vegan options and they have a nice rooftop with views.

Kapadokya Balloons
I would definitely recommend this attraction as the #1 thing to do in the area. We chose “Kapadokya Balloons” among the several options offered by our hotel. These tours, which were normally carried out during the dawn each morning, started late due to the normalization of weather and wind conditions later in the morning. Despite this, we had a great 60 mins in the air. So many photo and video opportunities. At the beginning of the tour there was a free breakfast with a fireplace and a toast with sparkling wine afterwards. Our pilot was very professional and maybe he was extra friendly because I was the only Turkish speaker within the 20 people in the basket. After learning that I was with my boyfriend, he continued being his friendly self. This company has already come to the forefront with being the oldest company in the region, but it has become a favorite after this experience.

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Firin Express:

Firin means “oven” in Turkish and this charming and centrally located place in Goreme, Cappadocia is definitely ones of the more budget-friendly options. The most popular dish in the region, “Testi Kebab” aka Pottery Kebab is also available in vegan version, which was a huge plus since I’m vegan. As part of the tradition, you are asked to break off the lid of the pottery the food is cooked in, using an old fashioned dagger, which was a lot of fun. Our server was a handsome young man from the Kurdish community in the Southeast of the country, and was super-friendly with us, and continued chatting with us throughout the dinner ensuring we were happy with the service.

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Nostalji Restaurant:

This was such a gem! We arrived pretty late, about 30 mins before the closing time, and they went above and beyond to accommodate us. The restaurant apparently has great views during day, but besides that, we loved that it was just a understated, yet elevated Turkish dining experience, without any gimmicks. A ton of vegan mezes Our waitress was wonderful and very attentive.

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Aydinli Cave Hotel & Spa:
Through our hotel, we have arranged a Turkish Bath and Full Body Massage at another hotel’s spa in the area. While organizing this, I stated that we wanted to be a “Couple’s Massage”. These two masseuses spoke in Russian among themselves and were really good at their work, but they seemed a bit confused probably because they were servicing a gay couple for the first time. First, they bathed us with soap in the classic Turkish hamam experiece. After the algae mask in the private room for an hour, side by side, we got a pretty good Full Body Massage. The overall experience was great.

Cappadocia Green Tour:
The hotel offered two tour programs and we chose the Green Tour, since we thought it covered more ground and we only had one full day in town. After the balloon tour, we returned to the hotel after a little rest we were picked up 930am by our tour guide. The 8-hour Green Tour included the following sights: Goreme General Sights, Derinkuyu Underground City (7 levels below the ground), 2-mile walk in the Ihlara Valley, Selime Monastery and the Pigeon Valley. Also included lunches, admission tickets, the guides and transportation. We had about 16 people in our group which included four people from the United States, whereas the rest of Turkey, were from Brazil and several Asian countries. Our tour guide was born and raised in the area, a local lady with a lovely headscarf, also married with two kids. She was very friendly with me and Doug which was a huge plus since we spent 8 hours together!

For those with more time in the area, we’d recommend checking out the other tour option: Red tour: Goreme Open Air Museum, Cavusin, Avanos Pottery production, Pasha Vineyard, Devrent Valley, Urgup Wine Tasting and Urgup Guzeller.

 

Sunrise:
The last day we got up early and walked up a hill to watching the sun rise. In Cappadocia, this is really an experience not to miss. With us, there was a newly married couple in their wedding dress & tux.

This was an incredible way to wrap this 48-hour experience in my home country and it cost $0, so definitely recommend it.

 

On the way back, we flew to Lisbon via Nevşehir. We traveled in the Business class using our miles, and we sat hand in hand during the trip and were very well received by the Turkish Airlines employees. Then I wrote a message to THY Facebook page, we were a gay couple and we were very pleased with the kind service. I got a nice return from their Social Media team.

Finally, in terms of giving ideas, the prices we paid are:

  • Couple’s Massage Package: EUR 50 per person
  • Balloon Tour: EUR 150 per person
  • Hotel: USD 35 per night (Breakfast included)
  • Cappadocia Tour: USD 25 per person
  • Dinner: USD 10 – 20 per person including drinks
  • Airport Transfer: USD 5 – 8 per person
  • Turkish Airlines: From Istanbul to the region, the one hour flight per person, one way was around USD 20.

We spent 48 incredible hours in Cappadocia. Of course, one of us knowing the Turkish language helped us feel secure and confident but we were pleasantly surprised by the friendly experience and the strolls we did around town, hand in hand. Having experience homophobic slurs or verbal attacks in NYC and other US cities, this was definitely refreshing.

 

Cappadocia has great potential, and I believe it’s going to become the next hot destination for LGBT travelers and everyone else!

 

 

2 Comments

  1. These are amazing and helpful reviews and recommendations. Thanks guys. We’re in Göreme with my partner now and going to be attending the green tour tomorrow. We will try your spa and restaurants as well. Thanks again ❤️

    Like

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