Cappadocia is one of the most magical regions I have ever traveled to. When I booked my trip to Cappadocia, I didn’t know much about it aside from the bucket list sunrise hot air balloon ride that you’ve likely seen all over Instagram. I obviously had that on my itinerary, but began to question how I was going to spend the remainder of the five days I would be in Cappadocia. By the end of those five days, I wished I had given myself more time. Between the natural beauty, historic past, and beautiful culture of Cappadocia, it is truly one of the world’s premier travel destinations.
Even as a budget backpacker, Cappadocia is a must-visit destination. Despite what all those influencers in long flowy dresses had me believe, Cappadocia was actually great for backpackers and solo travelers. Although yes, be prepared to feel single af when you’re surrounded by lovey-dovey couples and honeymooners.
Cappadocia is budget-friendly and offers an abundance of hiking, cultural experiences, and other epic adventures. Whether you want to explore Cappadocia from the skies, or cruise the landscapes on an ATV or horseback, or delve underground into ancient cities, you’ll always be busy. There’s a reason why Cappadocia is currently one of the world’s hottest destinations. Get your booty over here sooner rather than later.
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How To Get To Cappadocia
Cappadocia is serviced by two airports, Kayseri and Nevsehir. The prices to fly into each one are comparable from Istanbul. While you can also take a bus or drive to Cappadocia, I’d recommend flying as it is cheap and much faster. From Istanbul, flights can be as low as $40 roundtrip if you’re only traveling with a carry-on. Turkish Airlines and Pegasus are the two main airlines that service the Cappadocia region.
From the airport, you can either take a taxi or catch a shuttle bus to your hotel in Cappadocia. A taxi will be around 35 euros, depending on where you’re going. A shuttle cost me 8 euros. Your hotel might also be able to arrange airport pickup and drop off for you. The shuttles back to the airport often run based on flight times. My flight from Kayseri departed at 9:30 AM, so there was a shuttle route that picked me up from my hotel at around 6:30 AM. Kayseri is about an hour to an hour and a half away from Goreme. Nevsehir is the smaller airport, but a little bit closer than Kayseri.
Oh, and before you go, make sure to have good travel insurance handy. I use SafetyWing to keep me covered throughout my travels for as low as $40 a month.
Where To Stay in Cappadocia
Cappadocia isn’t a specific city, but a region filled with many towns and villages. The largest city is Kayseri, followed by Nevsehir. I don’t recommend staying in either of these. For travelers, the most common and central place to stay is the town of Goreme. Uchisar and Ugrup are two other towns with plenty of accommodation options. These towns, particularly Goreme, are developing quickly, as Cappadocia continues to grow in popularity. My tour guide told me that ten years ago, there were about 25 hotels in Cappadocia. Now, there are over 300. Despite being an increasingly popular travel destination, Cappadocia remains a very affordable place to visit.
As a backpacker, Goreme is likely where you’ll end up staying. It is the only part of Cappadocia that has hostels and shared dorms. Dorms can be as cheap as $6 USD per night, and privates can be as low as $15-20 USD per night. I had a collaboration with Seki Cave Hotel during my stay in Cappadocia, so I didn’t go to any of the hostels. However, I did meet other solo travelers and heard rave reviews about the hospitality and the owners of Diadem Hostel in Goreme.
If you feel like spending a little more and staying in a hotel, though, I can’t recommend Seki Cave Hotel enough. It was in a smaller, more local village called Cavusin. Staying there made my experience in Cappadocia monumentally better. It never felt overcrowded or touristy. Being such a small village with fewer travelers, I was able to get to know some of the locals and shop owners better than I would had I been one of thousands of tourists. It was also within walking distance to so many great hikes and natural attractions.
How To Get Around Cappadocia
The best way to get around Cappadocia would be to rent a car. If you want to travel at your own pace and see as much as possible, then renting a car will make your experience in Cappadocia a lot better. I wasn’t able to rent a car, so I had to do the typical tour routes with a tour agency. If you want to the freedom of exploring Cappadocia on your own time without the hassle of being responsible for a car, you can also hire a private driver. The prices are pretty reasonable, especially if you’re able to split the cost with a few friends.
There is also public transportation in Cappadocia. Since I stayed in Cavusin, I was about 3 kilometers away from the main town of Goreme. This route was serviced by a bus that went from Avanos to Ugrup, two other larger towns in Cappadocia. It costs about a euro if you’re on the entire route, or about half if you’re just doing a shorter route. Cavusin to Goreme cost about 50 cents and took 10 minutes at most.
The Best Things To Do in Cappadocia
Cappadocia boasts a wide variety of things to do. Seriously, I had no idea just how much range Cappadocia had. Whether you want to immerse yourself in nature, history, or hop on a hot air balloon, horse, or ATV, Cappadocia has something for you. Here are some of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise
I was worried that this was going to be one of those things that was extremely overhyped. But wow, let me tell ya. I shed multiple tears during this magical journey. Those first rays of sunlight on my skin at 1000 meters above the ground were unforgettable. It was an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. For my first ever hot air balloon ride, I can’t imagine having done it in a more beautiful place than Cappadocia. It really drives home just how beautiful and otherworldly the landscapes of Cappadocia are. The moment the sun started peeking out from behind Turkey’s second-tallest mountain in the distance will forever be etched in my memories.
The silhouettes of the balloons and the jagged cracks of Cappadocia’s valleys down below as the first light of day started hitting them for the first time, it was just surreal. For the price of just under $100, booking a sunrise hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia is definitely worth treating yourself to. The rides typically last a little over an hour. You’ll get picked up from your accommodation and taken to where you’ll be taking off. The balloons fill up with air and when they’re ready, you jump in. Typically, they’ll try to squeeze between 20-28 people in one hot air balloon. Honestly, I was in my own magical world so I didn’t even notice there were other people up there with me. It was that cool.
Catch the Sunrise and Hot Air Balloons From Your Terrace
After the magic of the hot air balloon ride, I started getting up at sunrise just to watch them from the ground. It is seriously so cool, like something straight out of a movie. If you’ve gotta stick to a budget or are scared of heights, it’s almost as magical to see them from the ground as it is from the air. Well, maybe I’m just saying that to make you feel better. Basically, if you have the $100 or so to shell out on the hot air balloon ride, do it. If you’d rather not, it is still amazing to see them at sunrise from the ground or from your hotel’s terrace. Pictured above is the epic view from Seki Cave Hotel’s rooftop.
Go Hiking Around Cavusin
The village of Cavusin was my home base. It is super small, so there isn’t much to do in the town itself. However, by staying in Cavusin, you are in the heart of Cappadocia’s natural beauty. I would often just go walking towards anything that seemed worthwhile, and it never disappointed. From fairy chimneys to cave dwellings, there is plenty to fill your time within a five minute walk from the town center. I couldn’t tell you what any of these hikes or attractions were called, but just follow the trails and wander aimlessly. You’ll have these stunning landscapes all to yourself.
Kaymakli Underground City
Kaymakli Underground City is one of the most mind-blowing places you can visit in Cappadocia. This city dates back thousands of years, with some estimates ranging as far back as 1800 BC. Kaymakli is one of the most impressive underground cities in the Cappadocia region. It was used by many civilizations as a hideout against invading forces. The ancient city has dozens of rooms, from kitchens to stables and everything else you’d need to survive underground for a few days. It blows my mind that places like this exist. If you’re in Cappadocia, you can’t miss Kaymakli. It is pretty damn impressive.
Just a few minutes down the road from Goreme, you’ll find the town of Uchisar. It’s impossible to miss. There is a towering rock formation that you can see from pretty much anywhere in the central part of Cappadocia. You can climb up to the top for a stunning view of the epic landscapes. However, the best view is from down below. It looks like an alien village out of a video game where dwarves or fairies live. There are plenty of these fairy chimneys throughout Cappadocia, but Uchisar is one of the most impressive.
There is a lot of hiking to be done in Cappadocia but most will be dry and arid desert landscapes. Ihlara Valley gives you a vastly different landscape than the scenery you’ve likely grown accustomed to. Flanked by towering canyons with a river running through it, Ihlara is lush, green, and filled with vegetation. Although further away from Goreme, it is worth the drive if you’re looking for a good hike.
You can spend hours hiking through the valley and make a full day out of it. Hiking through Ihlara Valley is nice because there are cafes and restaurants throughout the valley. You can hike for a few kilometers, stop for a drink on the river, walk some more, and then have a meal to reward yourself. The scenery is beautiful and the trail is well-shaded. Even on hot days, hiking in Ihlara Valley is a great activity.
Selime Monastery is one of the coolest places you’ll visit in Cappadocia. It was one of my last stops, and you’d think I’d be bored of mountains and cave churches and all that. Selime is in a league of its own, though. It’ll take about an hour or so to explore the abandoned monastery to its fullest. The remnants of churches, cathedrals, monasteries, wineries, and other structures built into the cave can still be seen today. It’s pretty impressive to walk through, and looking at it from down below just looks like it came straight of another planet.
These are where you’ll find some of Cappadocia’s most famous fairy chimneys. Fairy chimneys are the general term for the pointy rock formations all over Cappadocia region and Monk Valley has them in abundance.
Goreme Open Air Museum
This is one of the cave villages that is within walking distance from Goreme. Well, sort of walking distance. Its easy accessibility makes it a popular destination, and is usually one of the first places travelers visit during their visit to Cappadocia. This open air museum is home to several churches built into the caves. Some of the fresco paintings inside the churches are also pretty well-preserved. The scenery is beautiful here, and for the cheap entry fee, it’s worth checking out.
They say it’s called Love Valley because one of the rock formations resembles two people kissing. However, there are also a lot of phallus-shaped rock formations in the valley, which makes me second guess exactly why it’s called Love Valley. If you like hiking, you can hike through Love Valley. It goes for a few kilometers, and you can start the hike from Cavusin.
I didn’t see any pigeons while I was here. What a rip off. Well, I guess it’s called Pigeon Valley because there are a bunch of pigeon holes carved into the rock formations. But again, I didn’t see any pigeons in those holes. This is a good spot for sunset, giving you amazing views of Pigeon Valley, Goreme town, and Turkey’s second-tallest mountain in the background.
Renting an ATV is a popular way to get around Cappadocia. However, if you want to know where to take your ATV in the first place, a sunset ATV tour might be for you. If you want to experience Cappadocia’s otherworldly geological formations from the ground without the effort of hiking, then hop on an ATV.
Horseback Riding Tour
My tour guide kept telling me that Cappadocia is derived from the Persian phrase “Land of Beautiful Horses”. A quick Wikipedia search told me that was false. However, the etymology stuck for many people, and I’ll admit, it’s catchier than the more scientifically-backed “Lower Lands”. There are wild horses in Cappadocia still, and tame ones, too. You can ride the tame ones on a horseback riding tour.
If you’re a more avid equestrian, you can opt for a private one, too. I met a girl who did a private horseback riding tour with just a guide and said it was the best thing she’s done in a long time. She organized it through the owners at Diadem Hostel, so if you’re staying there, you can chat with them! I’m sure other tour agencies offer it, but I always trust hostel owners more.
There’s a pink salt lake in Cappadocia that I unfortunately did not get to visit. It’s further away from the main tourist towns, and it isn’t really included in many tour offerings. That’s why I’m renting a car next time I come back, because this place looks amazing.
Budget Travel Tips for Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia was a lot more budget-friendly than I expected.
Hostel dorms start at as low as $6 a night, while private rooms can be as low as $20. If you want to stick to a budget, it’s pretty easy to eat cheap as well. Chicken kebabs can be less than $2 if your aim is to just fill yourself up as cheaply as possible. I mean, that’s how I usually approach things.
Public transportation is a negligible cost if you’re looking to hop from town to town. The buses never cost more than 10 lira, or 1 euro. I never took a taxi, but I’m sure they’re not too expensive. Unless it’s too late or too early for the buses to run, you probably won’t have to take a taxi anyway. Shuttle buses to and from the airport can be as low as 8 euros.
I’m not sure what car rental prices are, but I’m sure they’re pretty reasonable. If you’re traveling with friends, I’d recommend renting a car and splitting the costs. The freedom to do whatever you want whenever you want is worth it. If you can’t rent a car, tours aren’t too expensive either. I definitely recommend doing the Green Tour, which is between 30-40 euros per person. It’s super worth it as it takes you pretty far outside the main tourist bits and you see places like Kaymakli Underground City, Selime Monastery, and Ihlara Valley.
Most of the tours are similarly-priced, so pick the ones that match your itinerary. I also did the Red Tour, which was more history-based and less fun. It took you to a lot of places that you could probably easily get to on your own, so the 30-40 euro price isn’t as worth it, in my opinion.
Best Time of Year to Visit Cappadocia
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was how cold Cappadocia gets. I went in late September, and even then, the temperatures would drop to near-freezing at night. If you are dead set on riding a hot air balloon, the best time to visit Cappadocia is in the summer. If the weather permits, the hot air balloons go up at sunrise every day. At peak season, about 160 hot air balloons go up any given day in the summer. You can also get lucky with afternoon hot air balloon rides in the winter, but my pilot told me that they only go up maybe 30 days outside of the summer and shoulder seasons.
If you aren’t too fussed about the hot air balloons, Cappadocia is worth visiting year round. The fairy chimneys and rock formations are even more beautiful in the winter. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong with with deciding to visit Cappadocia. Just know that your experience might be drastically different if you go in the winter rather than in the summer. But hey, por que no los dos? I’d gladly go back to Cappadocia anytime.
This region is truly one of the world’s most magical destinations. Don’t miss out on it.
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