Cappadocia, Turkey has long held the #1 spot on my travel bucket list. I thought of it as some far off destination, a mere figment of the imagination with magical sights like fairy chimneys and sunrise hot air balloons. A place that I might visit before I die.
Since returning from Cappadocia last month, I’m here to tell you that, YES – Cappadocia is just as beautiful as you imagine it to be. And NO – it should not remain a mere pipe dream. The truth is that Cappadocia is fairly easy to travel to and, once you’re there, you will be endlessly entertained with all that this region has to offer.
dress: Fortunate One
Here are some things you should know before traveling to the area:
How to pronounce “Cappadocia”: I will fully admit that, prior to arriving to Turkey, I was pronouncing it “Cap-a-dotsh-ee-a.” I was corrected in the literal first hour of being in the country, when a man in Istanbul kindly told me that Cappadocia is actually pronounced with a hard “K” sound – “Cap-a-dok-ya.” Cappadocia in Turkish is actually Kapadokya.
How to get to Cappadocia: In order to get to Cappadocia, you have to fly into Kayseri (Erkilet International Airport) from Istanbul. The flight is only about 45 minutes, and both Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines offer super cheap flights (under $100). Prior to your arrival in Kayseri, ask your hotel for a shuttle from the airport, so that when you land, you’ll have someone waiting for you. The ride from Kayseri to Cappadocia is about 30 minutes, but could take up to an hour depending on how many stops the shuttle needs to make along the way. If you’re taking a shuttle back to the airport for your return, keep this in mind and leave a little bit of extra time to get to the airport!
Göreme vs. Cappadocia: Cappadocia is the entire region, but Göreme is the place you’ve probably seen in pictures – of all the winding roads and fairy chimneys.
How long to stay in Cappadocia: After staying in Cappadocia for just two nights/three days, I can say without a doubt that the perfect amount of time to stay in Cappadocia is three or four full days. This gives you enough time to explore the entire area and fit all of the best activities in. Also, if you can swing it, visit during the week. Hotels and airfare will be cheaper, and you’ll have less people in your hot air balloon basket.
Once you get to Cappadocia, here’s what to do:
Take a hot air balloon ride
You can’t visit Cappadocia without going up in a hot air balloon at sunrise! It is such a magical experience floating up with 50-100 other balloons at dusk and rising up into the sky as the sun paints beautiful colors across the horizon.
With a quick Google search, you will learn that there are literally endless hot air balloon companies, but I recommend booking a flight with Butterfly Balloons. They not only give you a pre-flight breakfast of fruit, Turkish pastries and coffee, but reward you at the end of your flight with champagne and a flight certificate. The staff members are all so kind and hilarious, and give you a morning you’ll remember forever.
(Note: As someone who is paralyzing afraid of heights, the experience is a bit scary for the first 10-15 minutes, but the ride is so smooth and the views so breathtaking that any fear of heights will quickly subside).
Watch the hot air balloons
In addition to actually riding in a balloon, carve out time in your schedule to watch the hot air balloons from the ground. You can do this from virtually anywhere in Cappadocia, but the absolute best view of the balloons is from Sultan Cave Suites.
Though Sultan Cave Suites is an amazing hotel to stay at, you don’t need to be a guest to visit the Suites’ famous rooftop. Just show up about 30 minutes before sunrise and be prepared for an amazing show. Mehmet, the hotel owner, decked the rooftop area out with numerous Turkish rugs and homeware. The staff even prepares a full breakfast every morning to make those Instagram photos look even more incredible 😉
Red Valley, Pigeon Valley, Love Valley, Rose Valley… Underground museums, fairy chimneys and cave churches…
The landscape of Cappadocia is so incredibly expansive and varied, and hiking is the single best way to explore it all. If you’d like to explore the area yourself, this map will help:
If you choose to go the tour route, I recommend booking with New Göreme.
Riding on horseback through the valleys is another unforgettable way to explore Cappadocia’s unique landscape. I recommend booking with The Dalton Brothers. The company offers short 2 to 4 hour-long rides, full-day rides and even 5 or 6-day rides through the Taurus Mountain for those looking for an extended camping adventure.
Wander around town
As I mentioned above, Göreme is the central town in Cappadocia. Be sure to spend at least half a day wandering around the streets, shopping for Turkish rugs & lamps.
Enjoy traditional Turkish cuisine
Turkish food is delicious. Like, “gain 5 pounds in 3 days” delicious. Here are the best spots in Cappadocia to indulge:
Lil’a: Fine-dining spot located inside The Museum Hotel
Muti: Ottamon and Turkish cuisine
Ziggy Cafe: Traditional Turkish cuisine with spectacular views
Seten: Anatolian cuisine with a wine cave cellar and cooking classes
Visit the evil eye trees
There are two evil eye trees in Cappadocia. Simply ask your hotel to call you a taxi and take you to them both (or if you just want to see one, ask for the bigger one)! Be sure to tie one of the evil eyes on the tree.
Stay in a cave hotel
When in Cappadocia, you stay in a cave hotel – a hotel that is built into the landscape of Cappadocia. You live as the locals do! It’s one of the absolute highlights of visiting the area because you will not have a comparable experience anywhere else in the world.
The Museum Hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey
These are my favorite hotel options for each price range:
Have you visited Cappadocia or are you dreaming of it? What activity would you love the most?
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