Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most classic travel spots, famous for its balloon flights and desert landscapes. Located in the geographic heart of Turkey, specifically in the Göreme Valley, the region is surrounded by volcanic caves and houses built in natural stone (some of which are still inhabited).
One could easily spend weeks in Cappadocia, not only visiting the numerous incredible sites and activities but also experiencing the local rhythm and lifestyle. In this post, I’ll share the 8 most awesome things to do in Cappadocia, based on my experience.
In addition, I’ll also share tips on how to get there, where to stay, and the best months for a trip to Cappadocia.
1.) Arriving to Cappadocia
First of all, Cappadocia itself is an ancient district, located in central Anatolia, Turkey, and composed of several towns. The main one (and most visited) is Göreme, but other towns include Ürgüp, Selime, Ihlara Valley, Guzelyurt, Uçhisar, etc.
Göreme is usually the choice of preference for short term visitors, due to being strategically positioned in the middle of the valley and with proper touristic infrastructure.
There are 2 main ways to arriving in Göreme:
a.) Flight to the airports of Kayseri or Nevşehir (available from Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir);
b.) Road, both via Car or Bus
Flights from Istanbul tend to be very price friendly, with roundtrip 1:15h flights averaging from USD 80 – USD 200.
From both airports, you’ll need to either rent a car (which is my recommendation) or using one of the available shuttle services such as Cappadocia Shuttle Services. One way tickets from the airport to Göreme cost around USD 15 and takes around 1h30.
2.) Best time to Visit Cappadocia
In general terms, Cappadocia is a region with distinct 4 seasons, but usually dry and able to fly balloons for around 330 days per year (if that’s your concern). That being said, any time of the year would be proper for visiting it, with the most notable months being:
A.) March – October: April and May would be the perfect timing, with chill weather and proper wind for flying. This period is more adequate for Air Balloon flights, where warm and dry weathers are a daily thing. Trekking, hikes and other outdoor activities can get overwhelming, specially during the summer peaks, between July-August.
B.) November – February: During this period, you could experience rainy nights, snowy mornings and sunny afternoons altogether in the same day. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to experience a snow-covered Cappadocia. Balloon flights are also possible, although flights are usually more impacted by weather uncertainty, with real cancelling possibilities at times.
3.) Top 8 most awesome things to do in Cappadocia
Love Valley Hike and Rose Valley (Hike and Sunset)
If you are staying in Göreme, the car ride to the Love Valley will take around 10-15 minutes (or 15-20 minutes from Uchisar). The roads are usually in good conditions, although a relevant part of it is composed of ground roads – the drive, though, will provide you beautiful sights and pleasant surroundings.
It is also located close to Rose Valley (10 minutes car drive), making it a double whammy activity, where you can visit one, and prepare for sunset time in the other.
The scenic views are composed of cylindric shaped rocks (or maybe even penis shaped) similar to huge stalagmites coming out of the ground, with lots of photogenic spots and many activities around it.
In both Valleys you’ll find quadricycle rides, lots of walking options (even some hikes), panoramic cliffs and picnic improvised spots.
Try planning yourself for being in one of the valleys (preferably Love Valley) by sunset time! You won’t regret!
Sunrise on a Hot Air Balloon
One thing for sure – flying 3.000 meters above the ground, inside a 4 square meters box, with extremely hot air expelling right next to your head: that alone would be a unique experience. Add to the equation a beautiful volcanic mountains scenario and an unique sunrise, and perhaps some good company, and you have the hot air balloon experience.
This activity quickly became a global must for lots of travellers. There are several companies offering the service, which can be booked within days of anticipation, or one night prior to the flight.
One important detail: due to weather limitations, all flights happen in the morning, usually separated in 2 windows of time (one at 6am and the other around 9am). The flight usually last around 2 hours, can or cannot include a post flight breakfast and the prices range from USD 150 – USD 300, depending on the time of the year. You can book it in person, while in Cappadocia, or via Viator, GetYourGuide or Airbnb Experiences.
It can look a bit pricey, but think of the unique opportunity you’re given when you’re there!
The flights usually start from a departing area just outside Göreme, and the companies will most likely pick you up at your hotel, and drive you back in the end. Although considered safe, I’d orient some research about the company you’re about to purchase the activity, looking for customer feedbacks and references across the Web.
Uchisar Castle (Uçhisar Kalesi)
For those who are looking for higher panoramic views, but don’t want to fly on the balloons, the Uchisar Castle is a good alternative (of course, not 3km above the ground, though)!
The castle is located in Göreme’s neighbouring city of Uçhisar, and a 15 min car ride is enough to get you there. Uçhisar is a picturesque little town with less than 5.000 inhabitants, with good restaurant and cafe options for those who want to feel a taste of the Anatolian cuisine.
When in the castle, the surrounding area is composed of several old stone-built houses, from older periods in the Anatolian lands! The scenario is unique, photogenic and inviting for walks around the stone formations.
The entrance fee will cost you less than USD 2, and the castle is also stone-build, with many compartments and rooms throughout its structure, and stone stairways leading you to the top of it. The panoramic view is epic, to say the least, and will give you 360 sights from Uchisar and other pieces of the Goreme Valley.
Lovers Hill (Asiklar Tepesi)
Lovers Hill is another sunset point option around Cappadocia, with the convenience of being right next to Göreme’s “city center”. To get there, you could walk from your hotel and “hike” up the short, but steep, road that leads to the cliff side area on top of the small mountain.
The sunset spot, on top of the road, is an energetic placd, with lots of foreigners, locals, some coffee and food options, and views from both the town of Göreme and the Rose Valley.
Some people also walk up the hill early in the morning (6am) in order to catch the sunrise whilst watching the balloons rising up in the sky – Lovers Hill is a very photogenic spot for that matter as well.
Just outside of the town of Uchisar, the Pigeon Valley is a scenic area that points toward the town, where several groups of Pigeons use the place to feed and rest in its trees and mountain walls.
Although there’s a trail between the cities of Goreme and Uchisar, starting right next to the Pigeon Valley, I didn’t have the time to take it, so I’ve limited my Pigeon Valley experience to the valley sights and mountain views.
Anatolian Food – Experiencing the local tastes
Not different from general Turkish Food, the “Cappadocian” cuisine offers a variety of dishes ranging from chicken stews to pottery kebaps (firing pottery Testi Kebabs).
The restaurant inventory around Goreme is amazing, from breakfast, to lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner time – the variety of options and the Turkish spices will entice you to experiment the central Anatolian menus.
A must try dish, though, is the Testi Kebap. Offered on meat, chicken, lamb or vegetables options, it’s almost impossible not to pay attention to the burning pottery outside the restaurants. Prior to serving to the customers, the pottery cap is broken and further served with hot spices, rice and bread dough.
Some of my main restaurant and cafe recommendations are:
-Dibek (a must)
-Cappadocian Cuisine Restaurant
-Cappadocia Pide House
-Omurca Art Cafe
Watching the Balloons from Hotel Rooftops
The Hotel Rooftop balloon photo is, most likely, the hottest and most classic shot and definitely the most shared instagram photo for Cappadocia visitors.
A variety of hotels, restaurants and houses have the privilege of an open area view, aiming towards the balloon departing areas around Goreme. Some of those even go a step further, and provide a majestic setting for the photos, with Turkish carpets and decoration, fruits, tea pots, etc.
During my time in Cappadocia, I’ve stayed in the Caravanserai Inn Hotel, which also has one of those special settings for your rooftop photo watching the Hot Air Balloons spectacle. Remind yourself to wake up early, once the best time to catch the Hot Air Balloons in it’s peak density in the skies would be around 6-7am.
The main spots for such views are:
-Sultan Cave Suites
-Mithra Cave Hotel
-The Museum Hotel
-Caravanserai Inn Hotel
-The Rox Cappadocia
The Cappadocia region is rich in culture, nature, people, food, hospitality, coffee, etc. In terms of activities, the variety is also huge, and some of those might not fit in your agenda, but would still be worth mentioning.
-Open Air Musem
4.) How Long should I stay in Cappadocia?
There’s no one right answer to the question above besides saying “As long as you’d like to be there.”
The classic Cappadocia experience, for the average visitor, goes from 2-5 days, depending on what you’re planning to do. I met a lot of people during my stay, who went to Goreme just for the Hot Air Balloon flight, meaning they’d spend less than 24 hours in town.
I myself spent 7 days, but as I was remotely working from there for at least 7 hours a day, I couldn’t use the whole period to explore the outdoors. But still, working from the hotel restaurants and cafes is a great experience for Digital Nomads, once the internet connection is quite good and you’ll always meet a fellow traveller to catch up with.
If your plan is to take the Balloon flight, plus one or 2 activities, 2 days would be enough. Otherwise, try to anticipate your plans in order to find the best schedule for your trip.
5.) Where to Stay in Cappadocia
If somebody asked me “In which city should I book my hotel in Cappadocia?”, my fast answer would be Goreme. It’s a no brainer, when it comes to short term stays, as the ease to move around, the food options and the “night” bars in the city create the perfect environment for those short visits.
As mentioned earlier in this post, I’ve spent my nights in a hotel named Caravanserai Inn Hotel. The average overnight cost was around USD 30 for a double room, breakfast included (a very good one, by the way). The staff was amazing, the roof view was also pretty good, and in terms of location, it was right there in the middle of Goreme.
No matter what’s your travel style, you’ll always find good options around Goreme, from USD 8 hostels to USD 150 fancy hotels, such as the Sultan Cave.
I could really stamp the Caravanserai as an affordable and good option, but really, it’ll be all about your taste and budget. Websites such as Airbnb, Agoda and Booking would be the best options to chase your preferred place to stay!
6.) Is it really worth it?
Short answer: YES, it is.
Although the travel Hype already found Cappadocia and placed it in one of the “places to be”, with over 4 million visitors in 2019, the place is still a magical destination, specially for outdoor adventurers.
Beautiful landscapes, unique sunsets, amazing food, fairytale rock formations, one of a kind hospitality.
Going to Cappadocia is not only a dream to many people, but the reality is also that it’ll gift you eternal memories and experiences, to be shared for a lifetime. Lots of travellers pass by the region on a daily basis, giving you the opportunity to also meet other people from different cultures and backgrounds, and explore the volcanic mountains in the Goreme Valley.
Have you ever been to Cappadocia? Use the comments to share your experience and entice our traveller friends to embrace this beautiful experience in the heart of Turkey’s Anatolia!