When we first arrived in Cappadocia, it didn’t feel like we were stepping out of a bus. It felt more like we were getting off a spaceship.
It was the oddest-looking landscape I had ever seen with its mushroom-capped fairy chimneys and cities carved in stone. Cave dwelling has a long history in Cappadocia so people have likened its landscape to the Flintstones but to me, it felt more like the surface of the moon, completely alien and not of this earth.
One of the things that surprised me the most about Turkey was its geographic diversity. Natural or man-made, there is so much to marvel at from its calcium travertines in Pamukkale to the minaret-filled skyline of Istanbul. But for me, Cappadocia topped them all. It’s beauty, as you’ll soon see, is out of this world.
And if you think it looks stunning from the ground, wait till you see it from the skies.
VISIT CAPPADOCIA QUICK LINKS
This travel guide to Cappadocia is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.
Top-rated hotels in Göreme, the most convenient area to stay for first-time visitors to Cappadocia.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride: Cappadocia: Hot Air Balloon Flight
- Red Tour: North Cappadocia with Göreme Open-Air Museum
- Green Tour: Full-Day Small Group Cappadocia Green Tour
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GUIDE TABLE OF CONTENTS
CAPPADOCIA TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
Because of the current global situation, Cappadocia travel guidelines have been changing very frequently. Our friends at Booking.com created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.
Before doing any serious planning, be sure to check Booking.com for information on travel restrictions to Turkey. If you do decide to visit Cappadocia, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN E-VISA TO TURKEY
This was one of the easiest visa applications I’ve ever had to go through. The entire process is done online so if you’re eligible, then your application can be approved instantly. Just print the e-visa and you’re good to go.
CAPPADOCIA AT A GLANCE
Cappadocia is an area in Central Anatolia best known for its unique moon-like landscape. Called fairy chimneys, the strange rock formations that the region is known for were formed through the millennia by intense volcanic activity and erosion.
They’re comprised of two types of rock – a harder outer basalt and a softer inner volcanic tufa rock. Sculpted by the elements over thousands of years, the tufa erodes at a faster rate, creating these alien-looking spires with dark mushroom-like caps.
For centuries, people have utilized the region’s soft volcanic rock to carve houses, cave churches, and monasteries, even underground cities going hundreds of feet deep.
From what I understand, some people still live in these cave dwellings today though most of them are now used for tourism. They’re marketed as cave hotels and are a popular choice of accommodation for tourists.
Because of the region’s unique landscape, one of the most popular things you can do here is to ride a hot air balloon. Early in the morning, just before sunrise, you’ll often find hundreds of colorful balloons dotting the sky.
Spectacular from the ground or from the air, it’s an unforgettable experience and a must-do in Cappadocia.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CAPPADOCIA
Spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-November) are the best times to visit Cappadocia. It isn’t peak season and the weather is moderate. Summer (June-August) can get pretty hot — up to 32°C/90°F — and it’s the busiest time of the year with tourists flocking in from the southern coast. Prices are at their peak during that time. Winter (December-February) can become bitingly cold with temperatures dropping down to -6°C/21°F.
We went in early November and it was already starting to get pretty cold, so I can only imagine what it must be like in January or February. If you don’t mind cold weather though, then winter may be an interesting time to go. I saw pictures and Cappadocia looks stunning blanketed in snow.
MAR-MAY: This is the ideal time to visit Cappadocia for the reasons outlined above. The weather is ideal and the crowds aren’t as heavy as they are during the summer peak season.
JUNE-AUG: This is the busiest time of the year in Cappadocia so pricing for accommodations and activities may be at their highest.
SEPT-NOV: Like Spring, Autumn is a great time to visit Cappadocia. The weather is similar and crowds are thinner. We we there in November and it was already getting pretty cold, so September or October may be better.
DEC-FEB: This is the coldest and slowest time of the year in Cappadocia. Winters can be frigid but if you can brave it, then it’s a beautiful time of the year to go. Accommodations and activities may also be cheapest around this time.
Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Cappadocia
To help you better understand the weather in Cappadocia, I’ve created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are highlighted in orange.
TRAVELING TO CAPPADOCIA
There are many ways to get to Cappadocia depending on where you are. To simplify, let’s assume you’ll be coming from the major tourist destinations of Istanbul, Selçuk, or Pamukkale, and interested only in direct flights or bus routes.
It takes about 1 hr and 15 mins to fly to Cappadocia from Istanbul. Cappadocia has two airports — Nevsehir Kapadokya (NAV) and Kayseri Erkilet (ASR).
There are direct flights daily from Istanbul – Istanbul (IST) or Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) – to either airport. Nevsehir is closer to the main towns of Göreme and Urgup but Kayseri is the larger airport.
If you’ve already booked a hotel, then you may want to ask them if they offer airport transfers. If not, then there are many agencies that offer shared shuttle bus transfers from either airport such as Argeus and Heritage.
If you’d rather book a private transfer, then you can do so through Get Your Guide.
Several companies run nightly buses from Istanbul to Cappadocia, including Metro Turizm and Nevşehir Seyahat. This is the cheapest way to go but it’s also the longest, around 10 hours so it’s best done as an overnight trip.
With that said, Turkish long-haul buses are among the most comfortable we’ve ever been on. We went on a 10-hr bus ride from Pamukkale to Cappadocia and we didn’t mind the distance at all.
There are direct flights from Izmir to Kayseri but none to Nevsehir. You can prearrange for a shuttle bus transfer from Kasyeri to your hotel via Argeus or Heritage, or book a private transfer with Get Your Guide.
As far as I know, only the Kamil Koç company offers direct bus routes to Nevsehir from Izmir. The trip takes about 12 hrs 30 mins.
As far as I know, there are no direct flights that will take you from Denizli to Cappadocia. You’ll need to fly to Istanbul first so it’s best you go by overnight bus.
This is what we did. From Pamukkale, you can take a minibus to Denizli’s otogar (bus station) then take a long-haul bus from there to Cappadocia.
As advised, a direct bus ride from Denizli to Cappadocia takes about 10 hours so it’s best done as an overnight trip. Several bus lines service the Denizli-Cappadocia route, like Suha Turizm, Metro Turizm, Kamil Koç, Nevsehir Seyahat, and Öz Elbistan.
You can purchase your tickets online or at the station itself. If you’ll be traveling during peak season, then I suggest reserving your tickets beforehand.
WHERE TO EXCHANGE CURRENCY
The unit of currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TL).
Based on my research, the only true currency exchange offices in Cappadocia are in Nevşehir. There are none in the popular tourist towns of Göreme, Ürgüp, or Uçhisar.
The only bank outside of Nevşehir is Denizbank in Göreme. Other than that, I’ve read that jewelry shops can exchange your currency as well though you’ll need to be familiar with the day’s exchange rate.
If you’d rather not carry too much foreign currency with you, then a better alternative might be to withdraw TL from an ATM. The rates are competitive.
Be sure to let your bank know that you intend to use your ATM card abroad, as it may need to be activated for overseas use. That’s what I do before every trip. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.
NOTE: Some ATM machines may give you the option of proceeding “with or without conversion”. Always choose WITHOUT conversion because proceeding with conversion allows the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at highly unfavorable exchange rates.
BEST AREAS TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA
The Cappadocia region is comprised of multiple cities and towns, though the majority of travelers stay in Göreme, Ürgüp, Uçhisar, Ortahisar, and Avanos. So far, we’ve only stayed in Göreme, but I’ll write a brief description of the other areas so you have a basic idea of what to expect.
I’ve created the color-coded map below to help you understand where all these recommended areas are. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)
RED – Göreme
BLUE – Ürgüp
PURPLE – Uçhisar
ORANGE – Ortahisar
GREEN – Avanos
Göreme is considered the hub for tourism in Cappadocia. There you’ll find Cappadocia’s main bus station as well as numerous restaurants, travel agencies, and hotels of varying price ranges to suit every budget.
If it’s your first time in Cappadocia, then Göreme is definitely the most convenient place to stay. It’s also walking distance to Göreme Open Air Museum which is the most visited attraction in Cappadocia.
We stayed at a quaint B&B called Natureland Cave Hotel. For just USD 40 a night, we got to stay in a cave room carved from the area’s soft volcanic tufa rock. In my opinion, cave rooms are quintessential to the Cappadocia experience so if it’s your first time here, then staying in one is a must. Check out these top-rated hotels in Göreme:
Ürgüp is similar to Göreme in terms of accommodations and services, plus it’s considered the region’s heart of wine production so it’s a great place for dining out.
From what I understand, it’s a slightly more upmarket version of Göreme with nicer hotels and better restaurants, so people looking for more sophisticated options may want to stay here. Check out these top-rated hotels in Ürgüp:
Uçhisar is known for its rock castle which is the highest viewing point in Central Cappadocia. The area offers the best views of Cappadocia and is home to many luxury hotels, inns, and rental villas.
It’s a quiet area with a good albeit smaller selection of restaurants. If you’re a luxury traveler, then this is probably where you’ll want to stay. Check out these top-rated hotels in Uçhisar.
Ortahisar is a sleepy town that hasn’t been as commercialized as the previous three areas. There aren’t as many restaurants or hotels here so that may appeal to travelers looking for the most authentic Cappadocia experience.
If you enjoy hiking, I read that there are plenty of good hikes you can do from town. Public transportation isn’t as accessible here so it’s probably best to stay in Ortahisar only if you have a rental car. Check out these top-rated hotels in Ortahisar:
Check Booking.com to find more accommodations in Ortahisar.
Avanos is a town that sits by the banks of the Red River. The Red River is the source of the clay used to produce the town’s famous pottery. There are no fairy chimneys or cave hotels in Avanos but if you’re a fan of pottery, then you may want to stay here.
There are plenty of shops and restaurants in Avanos. It’s best to have a rental car, but if you don’t have one, then there are buses from Avanos that can take you to Göreme every hour and to Ürgüp every two hours. Check out these top-rated hotels in Avanos:
Check Booking.com to find more accommodations in Avanos.
You can also book hotels and homestays in Cappadocia using the handy map below.
THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
1. Ride a Hot Air Balloon
Without a doubt, riding a hot air balloon over this alien landscape is the most epic thing you can do in Cappadocia. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and there are few better places in the world to do it than here.
It isn’t cheap but sometimes you just need to forget about the money. This is one of those times. Check out my post on riding a hot air balloon over Cappadocia for more pictures and information.
Flight Duration: Over 1 hr
Cost: Starts at around 140 Euros
2. Visit Cappadocia’s Highlights on the Red Tour
In my opinion, the Red Tour is one of the best things you can do in Cappadocia outside of the hot air balloon ride. It’s a great introduction to the area and takes you to the most striking spots in northern Cappadocia. If you were to do just one tour (other than the hot air balloon), then I suggest doing this one.
You can check out my post on the Cappadocia Red Tour for more pictures and information, but here’s a quick rundown of all the stops you’ll be making on this tour:
Uçhisar Castle: Rock castle offering the best panoramic views of Cappadocia.
Love Valley: Valley with erotically shaped fairy chimneys.
Göreme Open Air Museum: Vast monastic complex and Cappadocia’s most popular attraction.
Three Beauties: Most famous fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.
Devrent Valley: Lunar landscape with animal-shaped rocks.
Chez Galip: Studio of master potter Chez Galip.
Paşabağ Valley: Landscape with some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.
Cavusin Cave Village: Ancient village built into the region’s soft volcanic rock.
Tour Duration: Around 7-8 hrs
Cost: Around 35 Euros
3. Discover Cappadocia on the Green Tour
Arguably the second most popular tour in Cappadocua after the Red, the Green Tour will take you to a slew of interesting sites in southern Cappadocia.
Highlights include an underground city that goes 300 ft below the surface of the earth and a picturesque hike through a valley honeycombed with rock-cut dwellings and churches.
You can check out my post on the Cappadocia Green Tour for more pictures and information, but here’s a quick rundown of all the stops you’ll be making on this tour:
Göreme Panorama: Area offering fantastic panoramic views of the landscape.
Derinkuyu Underground City: Ancient multi-level underground city.
Selime Monastery: Rock-cut monastery and the largest religious structure in Cappadocia.
Ihlara Valley: Picturesque valley famous for hiking.
Pigeon Valley: Long and beautiful valley with interesting rock formations.
You can book the Green Tour through Get Your Guide – Option 1 | Option 2 | Option 3. Like the Red Tour, stops may vary slightly between providers so be sure to check all details before booking a tour.
Tour Duration: Around 7-8 hrs
Cost: Around 40 Euros
4. Explore Cappadocia’s Moonscape on Horseback
Cappadocia in Turkish means “land of the beautiful horses”, so what better way to explore this alien landscape than on horseback?
We did this on a whim the day we arrived in Cappadocia and it turned out to be one of our fondest memories in Turkey. Check out my post on exploring the landscape of Cappadocia on horseback for more pictures and information.
You can book a Cappadocia horseback riding experience through Get Your Guide.
Activity Duration: Around 2-3 hrs
Cost: Around 40 Euros
5. Explore Cappadocia on an ATV
If horseback riding isn’t your thing, then you may want to go on an ATV ride instead. We didn’t do this but cruising around on ATVs is another popular activity in Cappadocia.
6. Get a Taste of Turkish Culture & Dance during Turkish Night
Accompanied by live music over dinner and free-flowing wine, you’ll be treated to folk dances from different parts of Turkey, including a whirling dervish ceremony and a belly dance. Did I mention there’s free-flowing wine? Check out my post on Turkish Night in Cappadocia for more pictures and information.
Activity Duration: Around 2-3 hrs
Cost: Around 35 Euros
TURKISH FOOD GUIDE
Turkish food is awesome. It’s one of our favorite cuisines so far because of its diversity. Everywhere we went, it seemed there was something interesting and unique to discover. For suggestions on what to eat, check out my post on 27 delicious things to eat and drink in Turkey.
WHERE TO EAT IN GOREME
1. Nazar Börek Cafe
A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee, Nazar Börek Cafe is a gem of a restaurant that serves traditional Turkish dishes like börek, gözleme, and böregi. Börek, from which the restaurant gets its name, refers to a family of filled filo (or yufka) pastries popular in Ottoman cuisine.
Pictured below is the potato börek. It had a soft moist texture reminiscent of Spanish tortilla de patata, but in pastry form. It was delicious and one of my favorite things to eat in Turkey.
Nazar Börek is located along Müze Cad, not too far from Cappadocia Voyager Balloons.
2. Omurca Art Cave Cafe
Another TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee, Omurca Art Cave Cafe is a charming little place that’s owned by artist and craftsman Harun. Not only did Harun decorate the place and build all the furniture himself, but he cooks all the food as well.
Omurca Art Cave Cafe is a great place to just kick back and relax while enjoying a home-cooked meal with glasses of house-made wine. Pictured below is a plate of güvec, which is a type of casserole made with pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, aubergine, potato, and spices. Yum!
Coffeedocia is a great place to have breakfast, especially if you’re arriving in Göreme by overnight bus. Located just off the otogar (bus station), we randomly walked into this place with our luggage in tow when it was still too early to check in at our hotel.
Breakfast was wonderful and the Segafredo coffee was good. They have a full menu as well with a wide selection of desserts.
As described, Coffeedocia is right next to Göreme’s otogar. It’s an ideal place to enjoy a meal if you’re coming or going by bus.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN CAPPADOCIA
I’ve created the map below to help you visualize where everything is. Click on the link for an interactive version of the map. All of the places recommended in this guide are pinned on this map.
HOW TO GET AROUND IN CAPPADOCIA
Personally, I prefer exploring on our own so we try not to go on guided tours. But in Cappadocia, I felt it was necessary. Attractions are spread out over large distances so unless you have a rental car, it’s tough to go from one place to the next.
Derinkuyu underground city and Ihlara Valley, for example, are over an hour away from Göreme. Public transportation in the form of minibuses does exist between towns, but not all attractions are within the towns themselves. On top of that, you’ll need to wait around for the minibuses which only adds to the travel time.
For these reasons, I suggest going on guided tours. The Red and Green Tours will take you to all the major spots in Cappadocia. Entrance fees are already included, as is lunch, and you don’t have to worry about missing any attractions. We booked our tours with Bridge of the World and I found their prices to be reasonable.
If there are enough people in your group to split the cost, then an alternative would be to rent a car. Many travelers do. You’ll need to pay a minimum of 100TL per day to rent the cheapest M/T car.
Most rental cars in Turkey have M/T so expect to pay a lot more for A/T. I can’t drive stick so this wasn’t feasible for us, plus I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of having to seek out places on our own and potentially getting lost.
But if you’re comfortable with the prospect of driving, then this would be a good option. It will give you the most freedom. You can rent a car in Cappadocia through Rentalcars.com.
HOW MANY DAYS TO STAY / CAPPADOCIA ITINERARY
A minimum of two full days, no less. If you do both the Red and Green Tours, then you’ll see pretty much all the major sights in Cappadocia. Each tour takes a full day which is why I’m suggesting a stay of no less than two.
If you plan on taking a hot air balloon ride, then you can do it on either of those days. It starts bright and early at around 5:30AM, and they’ll have you back at your hotel in time for your tours.
If I were you, I’d throw in an extra day just to take it easy and do some exploring on your own. Cappadocia is captivating and one of the most interesting landscapes I’ve ever seen. It’s fun to just walk around and soak in the atmosphere.
Maybe you can go horseback riding, cruise around on ATVs, or do some independent hiking. It’s a magical place so you’re bound to enjoy every minute of your stay there.
Here’s a sample 2-day Cappadocia itinerary to help you plan your trip. The Red and Green Tours cover everything so there isn’t much to it.
• Hot Air Balloon Ride
• Red Tour
• Green Tour
• Turkish Night
BUDGET / SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
The national currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira but Euros and US Dollars are widely accepted as well. However, it isn’t advisable to pay Euro or USD for things priced in TL because more often than not, you won’t be given a good exchange rate. As a rule of thumb, always pay for things in the currency in which it’s priced.
Naturally, how much money to bring depends on which activities and tours you’d like to do. Assuming you’ll be staying for three nights (ie two full days), going on both the Red and Green Tours, riding a hot air balloon, and sharing a hotel room with one other person, then a budget of 300 Euros each for the entire two days should cover everything. This takes into account your hotel room, tour and activity costs, meals, and pocket wifi rental.
I know 300 Euros sounds like a lot for two days, but half of that goes to the hot air balloon ride so if you don’t plan on doing it, then you’ll be spending much less.
If you’ve never ridden one though, then I strongly urge you to just go for it. There’s no better place in the world to do it than here in Cappadocia. It’s something to scratch off your bucket list and you may wind up regretting it if you don’t.
This depends on many factors like hotel preference and number of travel companions. We booked a room at Natureland Cave Hotel for about USD 40 a night.
If you’ll be going on the Red and Green Tours where lunch is already included, then you’ll only need to pay for your dinner, drinks, and snacks. I’d say around 50TL for two days is enough. Budget more if you plan on dining at fancier restaurants.
|POCKET WIFI RENTAL
It depends on the type of device, but renting a mobile router from an established provider like Tep Wireless will cost you around EUR 10 per day.
|TOUR & ACTIVITY FEES
If you go on the Red and Green Tours, as well as the hot air balloon ride, then you’ll be paying around 240 Euros for everything.
At today’s exchange rate, that comes out to about 300 Euros per person for the entire two-day trip. As described, more than half of that goes to tours so you’ll be paying significantly less if you don’t do them. But in my opinion, you’ll be missing out on a lot if you don’t.
CAPPADOCIA TRAVEL TIPS
1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel
I’ve been using this free trip planning app for many years now. It makes trip planning so much easier.
With Sygic Travel, I can pin all the places and restaurants we want to visit on a map, so I can see exactly where they are in relation to one another. I can then group them together by day to come up with an efficient itinerary. Check out my post on the Sygic Travel app for more information.
You can follow the link to check out our Cappadocia itinerary on Sygic Travel. You can also get a download link to our entire 2-week Turkey itinerary in editable Word format from our EAT-ineraries page.
2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device
Having a steady wifi connection is so important these days, especially when traveling. You’ll need it to navigate, do research, and learn how to say “take me to your best kebab” in Turkish. We never go anywhere now without renting a pocket wifi device first.
In Turkey, you can rent one through Tep Wireless. They’re one of the more established portable wifi providers in the market today. Click on the link to rent a device from Tep Wireless. You can have it shipped to your home before your trip, or to your hotel.
3. Try Pottery Kebab at a Restaurant that Requires Advanced Booking
Testi or pottery kebab is a casserole-type dish that’s prepared in a clay pot or jug. It’s an Anatolian specialty and a must-try in Cappadocia.
For the best experience, go to a restaurant that requires advanced booking. Pottery kebab takes hours to prepare so a good restaurant will require you to make a reservation at least three hours in advance. You can ask your hotel for recommendations.
If a restaurant offers pottery kebab on the spot, then it’s highly likely that they pre-make batches earlier in the day and just reheat them when you order. That’s what happened to us so I’m not recommending that restaurant.
4. Rent a Car
As described, attractions in Cappadocia are spread out and not as easily accessible by public transportation, so if you’d like the freedom to explore, then it’s best to rent a car. You can do so through Rentalcars.com.
5. Check for Cappadocia Travel Vouchers
I always go through e-commerce travel platforms before a trip because you never know what interesting deals you might find. For this trip to Turkey, the best sites were Get Your Guide and Viator because they had the biggest selection.
6. Get Travel Insurance
For us, whether or not to get travel insurance depends a lot on where we’re going, how long we’re staying, and what we’ll be doing. If all we’re doing is eating sushi in Japan for a few days, then we may not get it. But if we plan on doing physical things, like horseback riding in Cappadocia, then we’ll definitely purchase a policy.
We get insurance from World Nomads or SafetyWing. They’re reliable travel medical insurance providers often used by many digital nomads. Check out my article on why we buy travel insurance for more information. You can follow the links to get a free quote from World Nomads or SafetyWing.
7. Know When and How Much to Tip
Tipping is accepted in Turkey. For cheaper restaurants, a 5% tip is good. For pricier restaurants, make it 10-15%. You can give TL 2-3 per bag to porters and bellhops.
If you go on any tours, then a total group tip of around TL 20 to the guide and TL 15 to the driver will be appreciated. For taxi rides, you can just round up the fare to a convenient amount – ie TL 23.10 to TL 24.
8. Bring the Right Power Adapter
We loved Cappadocia so much we want to stay there for a few months next time. I’m hardly an expert but I do hope you find this guide useful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from our trip.
If you have any suggestions, then please let us know in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.
Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome time exploring the moonscape of Cappadocia!
These are some of the things we brought with us to Cappadocia. If you’d like to see more of our gear, then you’re welcome to have a look inside our backpack. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)
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