Hot air balloons floating up in the changing morning sky, strange volcanic formations that shape an entire dusty, fairytale-esque landscape, delicious food, magic carpets and affordable, beautiful home decor…With so much to see and do in the magical place that is Cappadocia, you have to visit. When I went there, it completely transported me to another world, made me feel like I wasn’t just in another country, but another planet entirely.
Because it’s such a beautiful place, a tourist’s dream, the locals in Cappadocia have made everything tourist-friendly. They’ve made beautiful hotels with terraces so you can wake up in the morning and see the hot air balloons as they rise up into the sky. They’ve also made hotels, restaurants, and houses out of the fairy chimneys, strange volcanic rock formations that have been shaped over time by water and wind.
Cappadocia is popular among honeymooners, photographers, and content creators looking for the perfect photo opp. It’s a very tourist-friendly place that’s safe, transports you with its beauty, has an interesting history, really great food, and insane home decor shopping opportunities. It’s a great place to spend a few days and get some awesome photos, relax, and have a great time.
The best way to get to Cappadocia is by taking an hour-ish long flight out from Istanbul to the Nevşehir-Kapadokya Airport NEV, and then taking a thirty minute bus ride to Cappadocia from the airport. So if you’re already visiting Istanbul, it’s a perfect opportunity to have a little getaway to Cappadocia. You can also fly out to Kayseri’s Erkilet Airport (ASR), where the bus ride is a little longer, an hour–but worth it of course if you find a cheaper flight to that airport.
When to go:
The best time of the year to visit Cappadocia is during the fall and spring. In the summer, it can get really, really hot. Plus, it’s more likely to be packed with tourists traveling during those popular tourist months.
Göreme is the most popular town to go to when visiting Cappadocia. Because of this, this is one of the best places to get in as many Cappadocia-related activities as possible, because it’s designed for visitors. These are some of the best things to do in Göreme.
Hot air balloon rides at sunrise
Just because Cappadocia is famous for the hot air balloon rides, that doesn’t mean that you’ll end up going on one! Depending on when you’re visiting, they don’t go up every day. These balloons could literally get cancelled last minute due to wind–which means you might not find out until 4am, which can as you can imagine, be a real bummer.
You need to figure out how much it matters to you to end up on a hot air balloon. Then, you need to prioritize whether you’d rather have a hot air balloon ride or see it from a distance, because, chances are, you may only have a chance at one shot, literally. I woke up at 4am for a week straight–and they never flew! So we of course extended our stay, and finally they did. Another reason why never want to book any of your travel too far in advance and go with the flow. You never know where the wind will take you, or not take you.
There are so many photographs of hot air balloons rising that it’s easy to think that they go up every morning and even just all the time, as I did. But that isn’t true at all–we spoke to a photographer who does a lot of engagement shoots. He explained that after many of his shoots, he has to photoshop the balloons in later. A real Instagram vs. Reality
If you want to take pictures of the balloons going up, keep in mind that the best views are actually standing and not from a hotel. If you want to go on a balloon ride, make sure you pick the right tour for your purposes. According to Goreme.com, some of these options include a standard 1-hour tour, a 1.5-hour tour that has slightly smaller baskets that include 6-12 people in them, and a 1.5-hour VIP tour that fits just 2 people and the pilot.
Göreme Open Air Museum
If you love history and ancient art, then definitely check out the Göreme Open Air Museum. Preserved by UNESCO, this is a complex with churches and monasteries that have been dug into the old, ancient rocks. Many of these extraordinary structures are over a millennia old, and many of the original paintings in them still have their original stunning colors. It’s a mind-blowing experience, and I’d definitely recommend going. If you want some historical context, go on a tour. Those can be a bit pricey, though, so you can always do a tour of your own. Check out what works best for you in this comparison of the different tours (included self-guided) available. Don’t forget to stop by the evil eye tree, too!
The history of this area is amazing, too. The cave city you’ll be visiting was actually constructed by Christians back in the 11th Century, so that they could protect their way of life and religion.
No visit to Cappadocia is complete with a visit to the fairy chimneys. These beautiful natural formations are sure to make you feel like you’re walking through a strange, new, alien world.
These fairy chimneys are not actually made of stone–they’re made of solidified ash. This geological process that began millions of years ago is the result of this solidified ash (called ‘tuff’) being shaped over time by wind and water into the magical, strange shapes that we see today. The first people to live here were the Hittites, an ancient civilization. Then, when the Christians began hiding there during the Roman period, they started creating homes and churches that eventually became underground cities. So not only is there tons of beauty in the fairy chimneys, but incredible history to learn about, too.
Love Valley is an area where there are some more amazing geological rock structures. Why the name ‘Love Valley’? Because these structures are shaped like penises, and it’s so surreal to walk among them. I felt like I was in the middle of Candy Land or something. I definitely recommend hiking up to the top, and you’ll have an amazing view from there. There’s also a famous Instagram swing and a spot for coffee there, so you can relax after the hike and get in some awesome pics.
It only takes 15 minutes to get to Love Valley, and you can go with a driver for around 17 euros, rent a scooter for 80-100 Turkish Lyra a day, or rent an ATV for 35 euros for 2 hours.
Pigeon Valley is another beautiful place to visit in Cappadocia. Just like ‘Love Valley,’ the name of this spot is very important. It’s called ‘Pigeon Valley’ because of the dovecotes carved into the cliffs that were the home of pigeons used as messenger carriers, with their droppings being used as fertilizer (and potentially even for making explosives!).
If you have some extra time, Pigeon Valley is a nice place to visit because it’s another hike that gives you beautiful views. There’s also amazing pottery in the store up to the top. When I went, I spent the day at Museum Hotel, which I totally recommend to any digital nomad.
It can be a little pricey to stay at the Museum Hotel, and it books up really fast – but you can also just come here for the day ($40) and take full advantage of all their amenities, including high speed internet (enough to have a call), heated pool, four terraces, a delicious meal, wine, and of course shisha (hookah)! That’s right–we used that $40 towards our dinner, shisha, and a bottle of wine- all while getting a full work day in.
The home decor shopping in Cappadocia is incredible. The first place you need to visit is the rug store, Sultan Carpets. You can literally get lost in here, and there are tons and tons of endless rooms full of rugs everywhere. This place is insane. There’s an endless number of rooms with an overwhelming amount of homemade Turkish rugs. They’re layered and draped all over the place, and cheaper than you’ll find anywhere else. All of these rugs are homemade, and they can ship them home for you, which means you don’t need to make any room in your suitcase!
Keep in mind that they’ll try to charge you to take photos in there. They’ll also offer a drone service. But if you buy something, they’ll let you take your own pictures as long as there isn’t a line. If you want to get a shot like I have pictured, just have your friend climb up the stairs like mine did and take the picture from above!
Last but not least, there are some amazing, affordable lamps you can buy. You can find these mosaic lanterns in most parts of the world, but in Turkey, they’re cheaper than anywhere else. Every single one is hand-decorated with colored pieces of cut colored glass and beads. After hours of roaming the store, I decided on a stand up lantern of aquas and purples for $15, and you can get a chandelier of 6 lanterns for $80. At Pier 1, Homegoods, Etsy, and Amazon these are priced for $250+.
I unfortunately didn’t bring a spare empty suitcase, and didn’t want to buy one just for the cause. So if you’re like me, and spend some money on some out of this world shopping while away – find a ZARA and purchase their branded big burlap bag. It turned into my Marry Poppins bag fitting a lamp, rug, 4 porcelain balloons, plates, and um… you get the picture.
So if you see something you must have while traveling- BUY IT! Worry how to get it home later. Even if you technically have no place to put it (like me). Where there’s a will, there’s always a way.
Try the local foods
If you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely want to try some of the local Turkish foods available in Cappadocia.
Some amazing foods you’ll definitely want to try are pottery kebab, Turkish ravioli, and aside, a traditional dessert made from flour, water, and grape molasses. Don’t forget to order a mezze platter as an appetizer, too! And try the local wines, too!
Check out this list from Lonely Planet to learn more about the most popular restaurants in Cappadocia. Whether you’re looking for a candle-lit restaurant in a cave or a rooftop restaurant, you’ll find what you’re looking for!
If you want a stunning view, you have to visit Üchisar. This is the highest-most point in Cappadocia, which means that you’ll be able to see everything from a great vantage point. You’ll even be able to see the faroff Mount Erciyes!
On Üchisar, there’s also the beautiful Üchisar Castle, which has been carved into the rock itself, so there are rooms and passageways that have that same strange otherworldly feeling as other parts of Cappadocia.
If you want to check out another great view, go to Salkim Tepesi, where you can look out over a valley filled with the wind-shaped tuff rock structures.
Visit the Turkish Baths
Turkish Baths are world-famous, and you can have a relaxing soak in Cappadocia! Especially if you’ve just been on a long hike or tour, this is a great way to relax at the end of the day. For just $40 you can go to the Katpatuka Camur Maharasibaths.
Go to Whirling Dervishes ceremony
If you enjoy cultural experiences and dance, then you’ll definitely want to go to a Whirling Dervishes ceremony. By going on a tour like this one, you’ll also get an explanation from a guide about what the ceremony means.
Watch the sunset
Cappadocia isn’t only about taking pictures of the hot air balloon rides at sunrise! Sunsets are totally stunning, too. Visit the Sunset Point in Göreme to get a great view and take some beautiful photographs.
Take a tour
There is so much to see in Cappadocia that it makes sense to go on a tour. A lot of the above listed activities are included in these tours. There are a few different tours to choose from, so read on to decide which one is right for you.
The Red Tour:
On this tour, your itinerary will include the Üchisar Panorama, the Göreme Open Air Museum, Avanos (pottery and rug making demonstrations), lunch, Pasabag Monks Valley, Devrent Valley, and Love Valley.
The Green Tour:
On this tour, which includes a bit more walking than The Red Tour, your itinerary will include the Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley, Selmine Monastery, Pigeon Valley, and Onyx Demonstration (a jewelry shop). Since you’ll be walking a bit more as you explore, make sure you wear the right clothes!
The Viator Tour:
On this tour, you’ll get to visit the Dervent Imagination Valley, the Zelve Open Air Museum, the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys, lunch, Avanos (ceramic workshops), the Göreme Open Air Museum, and Pigeon Valley.
You can also travel around on horseback or on ATVs. If you’re more of an adventurous type, these are great options. If you’re more of a relax and chill type, then I recommend going on a wine tour.
To learn more about other tours available, from multiple day tours to hot air balloon rides, check out this list from Lonely Planet.
Did Cappdoccia make it onto your bucket list?
Cappadocia is an amazing place to visit, with such a rich history and a magical landscape. Even if you aren’t on a honeymoon or an Instagrammer, you should definitely visit! It totally transformed my ideas about what the world can be like geologically, and I was blown away by all the ancient preserved sites. Not to mention the beautiful views, incredible food, and amazing places where I could work and enjoy myself at the same time, in true digital nomad style!
Currency: Turkish Lira 1TRY = $0.15 USD and 0.14 Euro
Languages: Cappadocian Greek (English is widely spoken) in Cappadocia; Turkish, Krumanji, Arabic, and Zazaki in other parts of Turkey
Population: 310,000 in Cappadocia; 82 million in Turkey
Religion: Christianity in Cappadocia; Islam in Turkey
Tipping: waitstaff 5-10%, taxis 0
Getting around: In Cappadocia, you can rent a car or scooter or take local buses; in Turkey, you have lots of options for getting around, including flights, buses, and ferries
Foods to try in Turkey:
- Turkish delight: A soft, sweet treat that basically melts in your mouth–you’ve got to try it! Even if you’ve had it back home, it’s even better here in Turkey. And it comes in tons of flavors, from rose to lemon to cinnamon
- Menemen: If you live for brunch, then you’ll love menemen. It’s a delicious mix of eggs, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes–and it’s bursting with flavors! Enjoy this amazing dish at breakfast
- Manti: This Turkish delicacy is a type of mini stuffed ravioli that’s filled with meat (either beef or lamb) and covered in spices and cream. If you love savory foods, you’ve got to order this for dinner
- Kuzu Tandır: Slow-roasted lamb, served over rice or potatoes and with yogurt on the side; this is another dish for savory food lovers!
- Simit: This may seem like a simple food, resembling a pretzel-meets-a-bagel, but don’t be fooled! Simit is a delicious, hard on the outside, moist on the inside, delicious bread snack toasted and covered in sesame seeds
- Dolma: If you love stuffed peppers, then you’ll definitely want to try dolma–this category of cuisine includes all kinds of stuffed food, including peppers and eggplants stuffed with all kinds of flavored rice, veggies, and spices inside
- Doner: This is the perfect lunchtime bite for when you’re walking around is a lot like a kebab, with thinly sliced meat wrapped in bread, or served with pita bread covered in yogurt and tomato sauce
- Turkish coffee: And of course, you need to try Turkish coffee, which is thick and strong and earthy–if that sounds too bitter for you, just ask for it with sugar!
Turkey, luckily, is not too expensive. However, there will be some tourist-oriented spots, and those will cost a bit more. Backpackers should expect to spend around €30/$32 a day, with a mid-range budget being closer to €50/$55 a day (this includes lodging, meals, alcohol, and tours).
Safety in Turkey depends on where you are. In Cappadocia, you are totally safe! Turkish people themselves are friendly and welcoming, so you have nothing to worry about generally, but because of issues with terrorism, avoiding more crowded areas is smart (especially Ankara). People still go to Istanbul, but check on what the political situation is like if you choose to go there. Like you would in most places, be sure to be vigilant of your belongings when you’re anywhere too touristy!
Lodging in Cappadocia for every type of traveler
Meet other travelers and book a hostel:
Live like a local through airbnb:
- A Spacious Cave House With A Rooftop Terrace
- A Cozy, Majestic Cave House
- A Large, Spacious Stone House With A Terrace
Splurge for luxury living with a hotel:
Where to work
In Istanbul, there are a lot of co-working spaces. Once you’re in Cappadocia, though, which is more tourist-oriented, you can get a lot of work done at hotel terraces. (Don’t try to do it indoors–the thick stone walls make it difficult to have strong wifi!)
When searching for accommodation it appeared as though a lot of places didn’t have wifi, especially inside the rooms. Don’t let this deter you!
Wherever you stay, you will end up spending all your work time on the many terraces, and every hotel has a rooftop terrace, among many others with good wifi, to the point that each day we mostly chose a different place to work each time and checked out the different hotels. They also all offer an amazing brunch!