I bet any traveler has a huge bucket list with places to see in this life. As a matter of fact, traveler or not, we all should have one list like this. Mine has 100 places and activities, but it is constantly upgrading. From the beginning though, Cappadocia and a hot air balloon flight were on the list. And I finally managed to cross this one off and, at the same time, I fell in love with the amazing scenery of Cappadocia.
It all started with an afternoon short flight from Istanbul – Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kayseri Airport. After one hour, we arrived in the fairytale land. I will tell you all about the flights, transportation and hotels at the end.
From the moment we entered Goreme, which is the main town of the area, I fell in love. The scenery is hard to put into words, but you can check the photos and you will totally understand what I am saying. Our journey began with a beautiful sunset on the way to our hotel and, by the time we arrived there, it was already dark.
“Fairy chimney” rock formations, entirely sculpted by erosion offered us a spectacular welcome. A glass of red wine on the terrace and we were ready to go to bed and prepare for some amazing days exploring this bucket list destination.
- HOW TO ARRIVE
Cappadocia is located in the middle of Turkey, around 700 km from Istanbul. That being said the easiest and comfortable way to reach this area is by plane from Istanbul.
Cappadocia has two main airports: Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) with several flights per day from Istanbul. Turkish Airlines has direct daily flights from Ataturk Airport to both airports while Pegasus Airlines has direct low cost flights from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kayseri Airport. The flight lasts around 1 hour – 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) is situated 70 km from Goreme, but there are airport shuttles for 30 TL (around 7 Eur). The ride lasts around one hour.
Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) is situated 40 km away from Goreme and the ride lasts around 40 minutes and costs 25 TL (around 6 Eur).
!Tip: If you book tours for the main tourist activities, it is usual to get free airport transfers. I will give you all the details later.
2. WHERE TO STAY
Cappadocia has a long list of good hotels and guest houses to choose from and the best news is that you can find prices for any budget. But for a bucket list experience, I definitely recommend choosing a cave room hotel. After all, you are not going every day to Cappadocia. You may find beautiful cave rooms for as low as 17 Eur/night.
I chose Artemis Cave Suites Hotel in Goreme and they took care of everything. And by that, I mean we literally just had to relax and enjoy the ride. From airport transfers to the hot air balloon ride and the sunset ATV experience, everything was covered by them and they also offered one of the best prices available. Reza, the hotel manager, was extremely thoughtful and friendly with all the guests.
The best part was the huge cave suite that also offered us one of the best views of the area. As a plus, if you get up early in the morning, you can see the balloons right from the balcony while sipping a cup of coffee. Isn’t that the perfect way to wake up?
Two more hotels caught my attention while visiting Cappadocia: Sultan Cave Suites Hotel and Mithra Cave Hotel, both offering stunning views. You should take a look at them as well.
If you are looking for a pool with a view, Doors of Cappadocia Hotel is the one for you and you may find rooms for as low as 60 Eur/night.
!Tip: Be sure to book in advance for the best prices, but also because Cappadocia has gain a lot of attention lately and you do not want to find your favorite hotel sold out.
- HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY
Hmm, this is a hard question and it depends on what kind of traveler are you: if you just wander around the world and your job doesn’t limit you, Cappadocia can be the perfect way to relax and escape the bustling cities. Even though the place has attracted lots of tourists lately, you still find here the peace and calm you are looking for.
I chose to stay three nights and they were enough to visit the most important places and go for the balloon ride. But the bad part was that we were not able to just sit back, relax and enjoy this breathtaking scenery. You will be amazed by the beauty of this place so one more day would have been just perfect as we were always on the run.
- WHAT TO SEE & DO
Firstly, as a piece of advice, if you only have a couple of days to explore this amazingly beautiful area, go for the organized tours offered by the local tourism companies. They have good prices and they help you cross off the list more attractions in a shorter time. As a plus, you get all the info from a guide because this place is also full of history.
I am not a guided tours kind of person, but here it felt like the best option for the three days we had to see everything. As a plus, we did not have to worry about a thing. Free pick up and drop off to our hotel, lunch and drinks included. We just had to enjoy the ride. When we booked our hotel, Reza, the manager, gave us all the information by email and we chose what we wanted to there and he arranged everything for us.
- Hot air balloon flight
As everyone can already imagine, at the top of the list, we have the balloon ride. More than 90% of the tourists visiting Cappadocia are drawn here by this amazing experience, myself included.
The prices vary from company to company. According to your choice, the price starts from 110 EUR/person to 200 EUR/person depending on the duration of the flight, the basket size etc.
I will give you the offer I received from my hotel:
–Standard Flight 60 minutes – 16 pax to 24 pax in one basket – 110 EUR cash
-King Flight 90 minutes – 12 pax to 16 pax in one basket – 200 EUR cash
I will give you all the details about this amazing experience in my next travel blog because there are many things you should know before taking your first balloon ride.
- Green Tour (9am – 5pm) – it covers South Cappadocia and it includes:
– Goreme Panaroma – so you can see the beauty of the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys from above – definitely a good way to start you day;
– Derinkuyu Underground City – the deepest underground city in Cappadocia where Christians were actually living many decades ago in order to protect themselves;
– Ihlara Valley – being in the middle of the nature is always a good idea, especially if we are talking about a 16 km long gorge cut into volcanic rock in the southern part of Cappadocia;
– Selime Monastery – the biggest rock-cut monastery of Cappadocia with a cathedral sized church;
– Pigeon Valley – where you can see thousands of pigeon houses carved into the rock;
– Onyx Demonstration – Cappadocia has the onyx mines where the highest quality onyx is found.
The Green Tour is the longest tour that you can take in Cappadocia, it costs 120TL/person and it includes lunch, free pick up and drop off to your hotel, transportation, tickets to attractions.
- Red Tour – it covers North Cappadocia and it includes:
– Uchisar Panaroma
– Göreme Open Air Museum
– Cavusin Village
– Avanos traditional handicrafts demonstration
– Pasabag – Monks Valley
– Devrent valley
– Urgup Fairy Chimneys
The Red Tour costs 100TL/person and it includes lunch, free pick up and drop off to your hotel, transportation, tickets to attractions. We did not managed to do this tour, but if you have time, I recommend not missing it. You can find out more here:
- Sunset ATV
Riding an ATV is not really my thing, but there are places that are perfect for this. For example, I chose an ATV ride many years ago in the desert in Egypt and that was a great adventure. I also recommend it in Cappadocia because it allows you to see so many beautiful places and also end up in a beautiful sunset spot.
The ride lasts around 2 hours and it costs 120 TL for 2 persons with a big ATV or 90 TL for 1 person with a regular one.
This was a great option for us because we skipped the Red tour and there were places that we saw on this tour instead like the Cavusin Village, Red and Love Valleys.
- Turkish night
I would not say I was really impressed with this activity but when I go places I like to interact with local people, get to know their history and culture and make new friends around the world. This is the reason why we chose to also do this in our last night. You can watch like nine or ten traditional Turkish dances while enjoying a traditional dinner: appetizers, main course where you can choose between lamb, veal and vegetables with side dish and drinks. As a plus, free pick up and drop off to your hotel. The price is around 100 TL/person.
But the part of the dinner was making new friends: a really nice family from India, New Delhi: Rameek, the husband, Surabhi, the wife, and their smallest child. We loved their company and we still keep in touch. Maybe someday we will meet again around the world 🙂
- Other great activities to do while in Cappadocia:
– Wine tasting and shopping in Ürgüp
– Pottery in Avanos
– Shopping for carpets in any of the towns
– Drink some Turkish tea
!Tip: If you plan on doing more than one activity, you might sign in for a bargain. They also offer promotion packages and I recommend choosing the one that suits you more. As a plus, you get free airport transfers:
Package 1: Red Tour + Green Tour + Hot Air Balloons 60 minutes: 179EUR/person (two ways airport transfer included)
Package 2: Green Tour + Hot Air Balloons 60 mints: 140EUR/person (two ways airport transfer included)
Packaged 3: Green tour + Turkish Night + Hot Air Balloons 60 mints: 170EUR/person (two ways airport transfer included)
- WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
The food is amazing everywhere you go in Turkey, especially if you are a meat lover. They have chicken, lamb, veal perfectly cooked as only they know. As you already know, pork is forbidden in their religion. In Goreme you can find lots of restaurants and I bet neither one will disappoint you.
If I were to choose my favorite places to eat in Goreme, I would say Kebapzade Restaurant and Anatolian Kitchen, both offering tasty traditional dishes. You should not leave Cappadocia without trying the pottery kebab (testi kebablar) . If you are not a meat lover, do not worry, they also have a meatless option with lots of vegetables. As you will see in the picture, this dish is served in a traditional clay pot that is sealed with bread dough and left to simmer in its own juices for hours.
When it is ready for serving, the clay pot is cracked right in front of you with a huge knife, looking more like a sword and your perfect dish is ready for you to enjoy! I hope I convinced you that pottery kebab is definitely a must try while in Cappadocia.
For vegetarians, I recommend trying Organic Cave Kitchen, the most popular in the area.
PS: Do not forget to drink some Turkish Tea!
To be honest, we did not need any transportation on our own. You are in Turkey and they take care of everything. If you ask the staff at your hotel to give you a ride, they will sure help you. They are always ready to serve their costumer as good as they can because Turkish people are aware that tourism brings a lot of money in their country.
I must admit that choosing a hotel right in the heart of Goreme helped a lot since we could walk to the restaurants in the evening while enjoying a quick stroll.
Also, every tour you will book, they will provide free pick up from your hotel so you do not have to worry about this matter.
- WHEN TO GO
The weather is a pretty important matter to take into consideration when booking a trip to the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys. Cappadocia has 4 seasons and steppe climate.
Firstly, you must be aware that there are severe differences between day and night even in summer time. Even if you feel like fainting from heat in the middle of the day, you sure need a warm coat when the evening comes. This difference also applies to winter time but the temperatures can drop severely at night.
As a conclusion, both summer and winter season can have severe heat and cold. This is the main reason why I recommend going in spring or autumn months when the difference won’t be so big. Avoid the middle of summer (July and August) and the freezing months (November-March).
For example, I visited this amazing place in the first days of June and the temperature was just perfect. Hot days and chilly nights. Do not forget to take a warm coat with you though for the hot air balloon ride, you will sure need it in the morning.
PS: I forgot to tell you that in winter you have to face snow. A lot of it.
- MONEY AND ATMs
Regarding this matter, you should know that the official coin is Turkish Lira and it is best to have it on you. You can also pay in EUR or dollars, for sure. Turkish people do not say no to nothing, but that will cost you.
You can find ATMs in Goreme if you want to withdraw money directly from your card.
I have to warn you that they prefer cash over credit cards and they even charge you a commission if you choose to pay like that. For example, all the prices I gave you before are for cash only. If you want to pay by card it will be with extra 10 EUR or 10 TL.
- HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED
Well, although we are talking about a bucket list experience, getting to Cappadocia can be quite cheap if you book in advance. Stay tuned and get a good price on flights. The first step is to get from your country to Istanbul. From there you can fly with less than 50 EUR/person for the return ticket. Accommodation, as I said above, is pretty cheap if you compare to Europe.
To sum up: we paid around 480 EUR for 2 persons, which means only 240 EUR/person, price that included flights: Bucharest-Istanbul-Kaysery-Istanbul-Bucharest, 3 nights in Goreme in a cave suite, plus one night in Istanbul. Pretty good for the best time to visit, right?
At this price you have to add up the tours you decide to take and some money for dinners and souvenirs.
Hope this post inspires you and you will soon cross this amazing experience off your bucketlist as well. My next post will be dedicated to the hot air balloon flight si be sure to come back and check it out.
See you soon!
And remember: life is short and the world is wide…
*** All pictures without the Blonde around the World watermark from this travel blog are from Google. All the credit goes to the rightful owners.