If you have an Instagram account, you’ve almost certainly seen dreamy photos of the hot air balloons, cave hotels, or crazy rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey. I remember the first time I saw a photo of the hot air balloons dancing above the rooftops at sunrise in Cappadocia. From that moment on, I knew Cappadocia was a place I needed to see in my life.
In the last few years, Instagram has gone absolutely crazy for Cappadocia. I was worried that after seeing all the incredible photos online, my expectations for Cappadocia would be way too high. However, Cappadocia turned out to be one of my favorite places in Turkey and one of the most memorable travel experiences I’ve had. Cappadocia is a truly unique location and deserves a spot on your travel bucket list, if it isn’t on there already!
Keep reading for more info on:
- How to get to Cappadocia
- The best time to visit Cappadocia (and when to see the hot air balloons!)
- The coolest hotels in Cappadocia, including the cave hotel I stayed at
- What to pack for Cappadocia
- Safety info and advice
- Cappadocia’s best restaurants and cafes
- Best tours and activities in Cappadocia (and which ones aren’t worth it)
- And, of course, the best spots to take pictures in Cappadocia!
If you’re traveling to Istanbul, be sure to also check out my Istanbul, Turkey Travel Guide and 5-Day Itinerary!
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How to Get to Cappadocia:
First things first: where even is Cappadocia and how do you get there? Cappadocia is a historical region located in Central Anatolia, Turkey and is a short plane ride away from Istanbul. There are no international flights to Cappadocia, so you’ll have to fly into another Turkish city first, most likely Istanbul. If you’re traveling to Cappadocia, it’s definitely worth spending a few days in Istanbul as well—you can check out my Istanbul travel guide and itinerary for more info.
There are two nearby airports you can fly into to get to Cappadocia: Nevşehir Airport (NAV) and Kayseri Airport (ASR). Nevşehir is located about 40 minutes from the town of Göreme (where we stayed) and Kayseri is about 60 minutes from Göreme. Although Nevşehir is slightly closer, Kayseri has more flights per day. Go for whichever option fits best into your itinerary.
Airlines that fly to Cappadocia include Turkish Air (and subsidiary AnadoluJet) and Pegasus Air. We flew AnadoluJet from Istanbul to Nevşehir, which took about an hour and 10 minutes. Even though it was a short flight, they gave us small sandwiches and coffee/tea, which was nice.
From Nevşehir Airport, we took a shared shuttle van to our hotel in Göreme. You can arrange the shuttle in advance through your hotel, which is what we did, or directly through the company Helios. The transfer was 40 TL each ($6.65 USD at the current exchange rate). It took about an hour and a half from the time we landed to arrive at our hotel.
When to Visit Cappadocia:
Although you can visit Cappadocia all year round, if you really want to experience the hot air balloons, your best bet is to visit in the summer. The hot air balloons do fly all year, but will be cancelled due to bad weather or high winds. The weather for flying hot air balloons is best in July and August—the balloons are statistically most likely to fly in these months. However, the hot air balloons do still get cancelled some days in July and August, so I highly recommend visiting for at least 3 nights if you don’t want to leave Cappadocia without experiencing the balloons. I only spent 2 nights in Cappadocia and almost missed out on the hot air balloons!
We visited Cappadocia in mid-August, and although it was hot, I found that the dry heat didn’t bother me too much. Staying in a cave hotel was a great way to stay cool! Keep in mind that summer is also the busiest time to visit Cappadocia (and thus more expensive), so make sure to book your hotel in advance!
Where to Stay in Cappadocia:
Cappadocia is home to some of the most unique hotels in the world! In particular, Cappadocia is famous for its cave hotels carved into the natural “fairy chimney” formations. Many hotels also have stunning rooftop setups to watch the hot air balloons in the morning. We stayed in the town of Göreme and loved that we were walking distance to lots of restaurants and activities. However, there are many other towns in Cappadocia that you can stay in, including Uçhisar and Ürgüp.
We chose to stay at Ottoman Cave Suites which I would definitely recommend! We actually ended up staying in the “King Suite” because I waited too long to book and it was the last room left. The room was inside an enormous cave and had a giant round bed and jacuzzi. For sure the most unique hotel room I’ve ever stayed in! Ottoman’s included breakfast buffet was also awesome, and the staff were very kind. For the record, Ottoman Cave Suites didn’t sponsor me in any way, I just had a great experience there!
Image courtesy of Ottoman Cave Suites
Ottoman Cave Suites puts together a lovely setup on the roof for watching the hot air balloons, including Turkish carpets and pillows, a beautiful breakfast spread for photos, a giant metal horse, and even a model hot air balloon you can stand in. Because Ottoman Cave Suites is a small hotel, there were very few other people on the rooftop to watch the hot air balloons at sunrise. In fact, at some points we were the only ones there, which really added to the magic of the experience. This was a huge plus, as I’ve heard at other Cappadocia hotels people actually line up to take pictures on the roof!
Breakfast buffet at Ottoman Cave Suites
There are so many interesting hotels in Cappadocia, it would be worth staying at a few different hotels during your visit if you have the time! Here are some more hotels to check out in Cappadocia:
- Sultan Cave Suites – the rooftop is one of the most photographed in Cappadocia
- Koza Cave Hotel – one of the highest hotels in Cappadocia, making it a great spot to watch the balloons
- Local Cave House – one of the few Cappadocia hotels with a pool
- Cappadocia Cave Suites – also has a lovely rooftop
- Mithra Cave Hotel – another great rooftop for watching the balloons
- Museum Hotel – a stunning hotel with a pool
- Rox Cappadocia – has an interesting rooftop setup
What to Pack for Cappadocia:
Although your packing list for Cappadocia will definitely depend on the time of year you visit, there are certain things that will be helpful to pack all year round. I recommend packing good walking shoes for exploring Cappadocia’s rugged terrain—I went for my trusty Converse sneakers.
Especially if you’re visiting other parts of Turkey as well, I recommend packing a light scarf to cover your head while in mosques. Some mosques have scarves that you can borrow, but it’s always good to come prepared. As Cappadocia gets a lot of international tourists, the expectations for how to dress seemed more Western than in Istanbul. However, I still recommend packing some more modest outfits—I wore a lot of flowy maxi dresses and skirts. As it’s quite hot in Cappadocia during August, it was important to pack outfits that allowed maximum airflow. I packed everything in my Herschel carry-on suitcase and used my Herschel backpack as my day bag when touring around.
Here are some suggestions for items to pack for Cappadocia:
Is Cappadocia Safe to Visit?
One of the top questions I have gotten about Cappadocia, and Turkey in general, is whether it is safe to visit. I honestly felt very safe in Cappadocia, but would encourage you to always take the same precautions you would traveling anywhere. The small town of Göreme definitely felt safer than big cities like Istanbul or NYC. Even exploring the winding alleys around Göreme’s fairy chimneys in the evening, I felt totally comfortable.
Many of you have asked me whether Cappadocia would be safe to visit as a solo female traveler. Although I visited Cappadocia with my boyfriend, I do actually think I would have felt comfortable visiting Cappadocia on my own. There are a lot of other international travelers and lots of day tours you can join. I met several women traveling on their own in Cappadocia.
If you’re interested in learning more about traveling as a solo female, check out my post on the top 10 destinations for solo female travelers.
Best Restaurants & Cafes:
I was impressed by the quality of restaurants available in Göreme, all of which were walking distance from Ottoman Cave Suites. Here are a few restaurants and cafes to check out during your trip to Cappadocia:
We had dinner at Pumpkin on our first night in Cappadocia. Like many restaurants in Cappadocia, Pumpkin is located in a cave and has a super cozy atmosphere. They serve a prix fixe menu for 120 TL (~$20 USD) that changes every night. Ours came with lentil soup, salad, vegetarian mezze, a choice of main (we went for lamb), and baklava with ice cream for dessert. The prix fixe also includes soft drinks, but beer and wine are extra. The staff were so sweet and even gave me a cute hot air balloon keychain!
Address: Pumpkin Goreme Restaurant and Art Gallery, Isali Mah. iceri Dere Sok. 7/A Goreme, Goreme 50180, Turkey, +90 542 808 50 50
Dibek was another great restaurant we dined at in Cappadocia. Be sure to reserve in advance if you want to have their famous pottery kebab (which I highly recommend!). We stopped by Dibek on our first night to make a dinner reservation for the following day. Dibek has a super cute interior where you sit on cushions around a table. Our total for dinner came to 395 TL (~$66) for two types of pottery kebab, an appetizer, and two glasses of wine each. There is also a wine bar on the roof with some lovely views—the perfect stop for a pre-dinner drink!
Address: Dibek, Belediye Cad. Hakkı Paşa Meydanı, Cami Sk. No:1, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey, +90 384 271 22 09
A cute spot to grab coffee in Cappadocia is the aptly named Coffeedocia. Coffeedocia has a lovely outdoor patio where you can relax in the shade.
Address: Coffeedocia, Turgut Özal Myd. No:12, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey, +90 384 271 23 49
Topdeck Cave Restaurant
Although we didn’t get the chance to eat at Topdeck because they were booked up, I’ve heard amazing things. Another one worth adding to your list!
Address: Topdeck Cave Restaurant, Hafız Abdullah Efendi Sk. No 15, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey, +90 384 271 24 74
Best Photo Spots & Things to Do (and What to Skip):
Although the hot air balloons may be Cappadocia’s main claim to fame, there are lots of other things to see and do during your trip to Cappadocia. Below I’ll share the activities and tours we did, the most instagrammable photo spots, and the things we would have skipped.
Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise
For me, getting to experience the hot air balloons at sunrise was the main draw of coming to Cappadocia. And let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. It was truly one of the most memorable travel experiences of my life. We woke up at 5am to watch the hot air balloons at sunrise from the rooftop of Ottoman Cave Suites. Make sure you’re out to watch them at least 30 minutes before the sun rises! The balloons got so close to the roof we could almost touch them, it was incredible! As Ottoman Cave Suites is a small hotel, the roof wasn’t crowded at all, and at some points we were the only ones there.
I felt so lucky to have the chance to see the balloons on our last morning in Cappadocia, especially because they were cancelled on our first morning due to rain. As I mentioned above, you should definitely spend at least 3 nights in Cappadocia to increase your chances of getting to see them. It would be so disappointing to go all the way there and not get to experience the balloons!
I absolutely loved the experience of watching the balloons from the roof of our hotel, but if your hotel doesn’t offer a view like this, there are several free viewpoints where you can watch the balloons, such as Sunrise Point near Göreme. I will say, one definite plus of watching the balloons from your hotel is you can crawl right back into bed after the balloons land!
If you’re interested in riding in a hot air balloon, make sure to book at least a month (if not more) in advance! We didn’t look into arranging a hot air balloon ride until we arrived in Cappadocia, which was way too late—they were totally booked up. Keep in mind that the hot air balloon rides are also quite expensive (around $150-250 per person). If you’re traveling on a budget, you can still watch the hot air balloons from your hotel or a viewpoint, which is a magical experience in itself!
With only a short time in Cappadocia, we decided to opt for a tour to maximize efficiency. We arranged through our hotel to book the Red Tour with tour agency New Göreme. It was 250 TL (~$42 USD) each and picked us up from our hotel around 10am. The first stop on the tour was Uçhisar Castle, pictured below. Uçhisar Castle is located at the highest point in Cappadocia and offers some amazing views.
Address: Uçhisar Kalesi, Tekelli, 50240 Uçhisar/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Göreme Open Air Museum
Our next stop was Göreme Open Air Museum, which features several early Christian churches that were carved into the rock. Inside the churches are some incredibly preserved frescoes (photos of these are not allowed). It was a tad crowded, but the history was fascinating!
Address: Göreme Open Air Museum, Karaseki, Unnamed Road, 50180 Göreme, Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Next, we visited a pottery workshop called Hitit Seramik, where we got to watch a pottery demo and shop for souvenirs. I’m not a big souvenir person, but the pottery here was beautifully hand-painted and totally exceeded my expectations.
Address: Hitit Seramik, Karaseki, 50500 Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey
Love Valley & Imagination Valley
After our group lunch with the tour (which was nothing to write home about), we visited Imagination Valley and Love Valley. Although Love Valley (pictured above/left) had some interesting (tacky?) photo ops set up, I preferred exploring Imagination Valley. Imagination Valley gets its name from what you can “imagine” the rock formations look like. The terrain is quite uneven so I recommend wearing sturdy shoes (I regretted wearing sandals).
Pasabagi (Monks Valley) Fairy Chimneys
Pasabagi, also known as Monks Valley, was definitely one of my favorite stops on the tour. Pasabagi features some incredible geological formations. To get to the “insta-famous” photo spot, look for signs for the “Church.” It was pretty crowded when we visited in the afternoon, but if you’re patient (and edit a few people out), you can get a photo like the one below! If you have more time than we did, I would recommend renting a car and visiting Pasabagi in the early morning before the crowds arrive.
Cappadocia has some incredible spots to watch both the sunrise and sunset, including the one pictured below, which on Google Maps is just labeled “sunset view point.” It might look empty in this photo, but trust me, it was extremely crowded. We visited this spot as part of a sunset ATV tour, which cost 250 TL per ATV (we got one to share). I would not recommend this tour. We only went to 2 locations rather than the advertised 4+, drove at a stop/start walking pace the entire time, and almost missed the sunset. The company also had some very questionable safety practices. Instead, I would recommend renting your own ATV and visiting some sunset viewpoints on your own.
Turkish Carpet Shop
Another famous photo spot in Cappadocia is the carpet shop Galerie Ikman. The display of carpets here is incredible! Because so many tourists come here to take photos (often without buying anything), the shopkeeper now charges 50 TL to take photos. The owner helped me take photos and knew all the best angles. If you’re hoping to take photos, I recommend visiting during the morning or late afternoon when the sun isn’t as harsh.
Address: Galerie Ikman, hakkı paşa meydanı. roma kalesi yanı, 50180 Kasabası /merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Although 2 nights in Cappadocia ended up being enough time to do everything we wanted, if I could do it again, I definitely would have spent more time here. Cappadocia is such an interesting place that I would have loved to have had more time to explore! In my opinion, Cappadocia is a truly unique destination with something for everyone. I hope you’ll get the chance to visit!
Thanks for reading!
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