Not only famous for its overwhelming and magnificent mosques, Turkey is also blessed with breathtaking, spectacular natural landscapes. Among the most famous tourist destinations in Turkey must mention to Cappadocia – a land with a scene like straight out from fairy tales. If you love history and love to explore, then Cappadocia in Nevsehir province in central Turkey, 290 km from the capital Ankara is one of the interesting destinations for you. This is a famous natural wonder of Turkey that has been recognized by UNESCO as a world natural heritage since 1985. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Cappadocia for the first-time? Let’s check out our Cappadocia travel blog (Cappadocia blog) with the fullest Cappadocia travel guide (Cappadocia guide, Cappadocia tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Under the brilliant sunset covering the sky of the Cappadocia valley, the hot air balloons with vivid and brilliant colors flying under the sky, making visitors feel like they get lost in a wonderland. Indeed!! It’s not too ostentatious when visitors fondly called Cappadocia is a fairy valley. With thousands of stone pillars (bizarre forms of stone) like chimneys in fairy tales, this place is also known as the “mushroom valley”. Relying on the favor of nature, the people of central Cappadocia have carved and sculptured rocks, caves, mountains into houses, monasteries and churches…
Cappadocia travel guide: Overview of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is located in the central region of the Anatolia peninsula (also known as Asia Minor), in the Nevsehir province in central Turkey. Cappadocia is far from 2 big cities: Istanbul 756 km and Izmir 800 km and 290 km from the capital of Ankara.
About over 50 million years ago, the whole area of Cappadocia was just fissures and craters. Soft rock mountains have formed on that lava bed. After millions of years, thanks to the exogenous effects such as flood water, wind, and rain that make large erosion… have created extremely unique rocky mountains with bizarre stone columns.
Cappadocia is formed from sedimentary rocks and volcanic rocks. Under the influence of external conditions and time, the rock layer gradually eroded and produced unique shapes, sometimes mushrooms, sometimes camels. It is this that has created a fairy scene that is only possible in fairy tales in Cappadocia.
For more details, you can refer to the following Cappadocia tourist map (I have marked attractions, hotels and restaurants):
Cappadocia travel guide: The meaning of the name Cappadocia
The name of Cappadocia has absolutely nothing related with the above-mentioned geological factor, but rather means “the land of beautiful horses”. Since ancient times, when maritime trading was not yet developed, Cappadocia was an important transit point on the legendary of Silk Road.
When the merchants stopped here, they took advantage of trading and choosing horses. And only in Cappadocia there were the best horse breeds that can withstand the “storm and wind” for the long journey over thousands of kilometers to China. The name Cappadocia began to be widely used from then on.
Some interesting facts about Cappadocia:
- Cappadocia once was part of the Roman Empire in the past.
- An estimated 600 churches have been found inside the caves (and this number will increase as there are many more caves yet to be discovered).
Cappadocia travel blog: When should you visit Cappadocia?
According to my Cappadocia travel experience, you should visit here in spring (April – June) or autumn (September – November). These are the 2 best weather periods to both enjoy the beauty of Cappadocia and participate in exploration activities.
Avoid going to Cappadocia in the summer because the temperature at that time can reach 40 degrees Celsius. And because it is a valley, the real feeling will be much more suffocating.
In winter, when snow falls, the whole Cappadocia valley will be like a fairyland. However, if you come in this time, trekking and hot air ballooning activities will be limited.
Cappadocia travel guide: How to get to and getting around Cappadocia?
There are two ways to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia, one is by night bus, the other by plane. I do not recommend you to take the night bus because it takes time (10 – 12 hours) and is not much cheaper (from 60 – 120 TL / one-way). So, we decided to flying. Partly because this is a fairly safe and economical option, and partly because flying to Cappadocia takes exactly 75 minutes, so much faster than taking the bus.
NOTE: To fly to Cappadocia, you can choose to land at Nevsehir or Kayseri airport. But it is more convenient to fly to Nevsehir airport and from Kayseri airport to Goreme town (Central Cappadocia) takes more than 1 hour.
There are 2 airlines operating this Istanbul – Kayseri route: Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines. The price of the two airlines is not much different, but the better and cheaper one is still Turkish Airlines. We took the flight at a good time, so the price was a bit higher (160 TL / round trip). If you willing to fly late at night, it only costs about 98 TL.
Getting from Kayseri Airport to hotel (& vice versa)
You can take the airport shuttle bus or book the hotel transfer service where you will stay. Most tourists often directly book the transfer service of their hotel because the price is very affordable at €10/way with pick-up and drop-off service. If you work hard to deal a little, you will get a little discount, sometimes without pay money. We bought the Balloon Tour + Green Tour + Red Tour of the hotel, so we were offered a free one-way airport shuttle, which helped a lot.
Getting around Cappadocia
The capital of Cappadocia, Goreme which is quite small town, so you can walk around. As for tourist destinations that are quite far apart without public transport, you will have to rent a car with a driver.
You can book a car directly with the hotel (after booking service, the hotel will message you via email or WhatsApp).
Cappadocia travel guide: Where to stay?
Tourists often choose to stay in Goreme town because this is the main capital of Cappadocia, so it gathers many places to eat and drink, convenient for taking tours and also near the hot air balloon launch site. Most of the hotels in Cappadocia are built inside caves, but what is worth the money in each hotel is the balcony area. Because only a hotel with a balcony with a beautiful view can create photos of a lifetime.
The hotel that famous bloggers often stay at is the Sultan Cave Suites (Agoda.com or Booking.com), which located on a high hill with a large balcony with a beautiful morning view of hot air balloons. But the hotel does not have a 4-person room and the price is a bit high, so if you have a good budget, please consider to stay. We stayed in the Goreme Palace Cave Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com) which also have a virtual living balcony, and it also offer a 4-person room at affordable price that is exactly what we want.
However, not every hotel with a balcony with a nice view can take pictures of the sky filled with hot air balloons. Because wanting to take photos like bloggers did on Instagram depends on the weather and wind direction. When we went to the hotel balcony to take some photos, but because the hot air balloons kept flying to the side, we couldn’t take any pictures.
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Aydinli Cave Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Millstone Cave Suites (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Mithra Cave Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Kelebek Special Cave Hotel (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
- Argos In Cappadocia (Agoda.com or Booking.com)
Cappadocia travel blog: Where to go, what to do?
Kaymakli Underground City
Cappadocia’s underground cities were first created during the Hittite Bronze Age but they were most famous during the early Byzantine period (6th and 7th centuries) when Catholics chose to live underground to evaded the Arabs and Persian invaders. Kaymakli is Cappadocia’s largest underground city with a labyrinthine system and rooms connected by tunnels that can extend up to eight floors. Exploring the underground city of Kaymakli will be one of your great experiences when traveling to Turkey, when you come here you will feel the raw and mysterious beauty of this thousand-year-old city.
In the olden days pigeons were used as tools to deliver mail, and their waste was used as fertilizer. For the convenience of livestock, people have carved rocks and built nests for thousands of pigeons.
Today, the number of pigeons is not as much as before, but their “nest” is still preserved by local people. And that is also the origin of the name of this famous tourist destination “Pigeon Valley”.
At first, I did not understand why this place was called the Valley of Love, it turned out that there was a reason.
If you imagine, you will see that the stones here are shaped like the “reproductive organ of men”. But anyway, when the hot air balloon flew over this area, I felt like watching a sci-fi movie.
A small, ancient village where two famous traditional trades are still kept: carpet weaving and ancient ceramics. Shops selling colorful ceramics line the cobbled riverside streets or narrow streets.
Uchisar Castle is a large rock structure that rises high above the terrain. Different from the original thought of a castle, Uchisar has a special shape like a giant anthill, with small black holes. That shape is created from hundreds of small holes that are rooms inside the light rock texture.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu is a city built underground, extending to a depth of 60m. The first caves were formed from the 8th – 7th centuries BC and fully developed in the Byzantine period. Form a shelter and protect the locals from Arab attacks. This underground city is large enough to house up to 20,000 people along with their necessities (such as churches, shops, livestock, and public baths).
This area reminds me of Cu Chi tunnels, but the scale is much larger. And you should take the tour to understand more about the meaning of each area in the city. The most obnoxious point in this area is that when tourists go from the outside in or go from the inside, there will be a “choir” inviting to buy souvenirs.
Goreme Open Air Museum
The Goreme Open Air Museum is an ancient monastery built inside stone caves. Inside the caves, there are still exquisite frescos dating from more than 1000 years ago in pretty good condition. Note a bit that inside the cave is not allow to film and take pictures.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is home to a number of churches that medieval Christian monks carved into rock and where you can learn about the Eastern Roman people who created those unique pictures.
Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley)
Unlike other areas in Cappadocia, the Dervent valley has never been inhabited. The stones here are not honed by humans but have natural unique shapes.
You can find rocks with all unique shapes, maybe a camel or maybe a dolphin. That’s why Dervent Valley is also known by another name, Imagination Valley.
Cappadocia travel guide: Overview of tours in Cappadocia
There are many places to visit in Cappadocia, but they are very far apart. So for the most convenience, you can buy a tour at the hotel (The hotels here are linked with travel agents). Tours will include shuttle bus, guide, tickets to attractions, water and lunch for guests. The tours are quite strict, the guide always accompany you and they only allow you to take pictures and wandering around within 30 minutes. Made us rush to rush, fortunately we were able to take some nice photos. If you want to be proactive, you can rent a car with a private shuttle driver. The price is also quite reasonable.
There are 4 main tour routes (each tour will be marked with its own color Red, Green, Blue, Yellow) and Hot air balloon tour. The tours prices are very cheap from only 100TL (20€) which including all services (shuttle bus, tour guide, entrance tickets to attractions, water and lunch for guests).
But in short, I still recommend you to buy a tour, because the guide will tell you a lot of useful information about the tourist attractions, feeling like going to join an extra-curricular class. The “teachers” (we call the tour guides in a funny way) joked that before the end of the tour, they would check where we went for the day, if we could not answer, we could not return.
- Taking a tour will have to go to souvenir shops which is very time consuming.
- You can buy a tour through a travel agency or through your own hotel.
- Tour price can be paid in € or TL. You should consider which one is more valuable, then choose. We bought the tour in Euro because the price was 20 TL cheaper per tour.
And below I will also review in detail about the 3 most recommended tours in Cappadocia: Green Tour, Red Tour and Hot air balloon tour.
Hot Air Balloon Tour – A must-try experience in Cappdocia
A hot air balloon tour will include hotel room pick up service (staff knocks on the door and pick you up), breakfast, champagne after landing and a certificate after the tour.
At first, we didn’t know and we thought the hot air balloon operated all day, we could go whenever we wanted, but it turned out that it was only available at dawn (I asked a hotel staff, he answered like that).
Many of you wonder whether should book a hot air balloon tour because the cost is VERY HIGH. But in my opinion, this is the most memorable experience when traveling to Cappadocia. I really have never seen such a beautiful sunrise, the whole sky is full of hot air balloons, like watching a sci-fi movie.
- Duration: 1 – 1:30 hours
- Price: 100 – 200 euros
- Operators: Royal Ballons, Rainbow Ballons, Butterfly Ballons, Turkey Ballons, Sultan Ballons, …
Green Tour – The most recommended tour
Green Tour is the most recommended tour on TripAdvisor, because of going to the best spots in Cappadocia. Among the attractions, I like Derinkuyu Underground City the most, because I understand a lot more about the history and living habits of the ancient Cappadocia residents.
The most regret is the Pigeon Valley, so beautiful but it not include in the tour, instead we must visit a gem shop opposite.
- Duration: 8 hours
- The tour will go to the following spots: Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley hike, Selime Monastery, Pigeon Valley, Göreme Panorama.
- Price: 120 TL
Red Tour – The popular tour inCappadocia
Red Tour will take you visit the main tourist attractions in Cappadocia, with a rather short tour duration, only 6 hours from 9:30AM to 3PM. So the feeling is not satisfied like Green Tour.
But one more boring thing is that the tour only allows to enter to visit the Goreme Open Air Museum while with other places you only just stand from afar to look at.
- Duration: 6 hours
- The tour will go to the following spots: Uçhisar Panorama, Goreme Open Air Museum, Love Valley, Pasabag (Monk’s Valley), Devrent (Imagination Valley), Cavusin.
- Price: 120 TL
Cappadocia travel blog: Before you go
- Should wear a bohemian style will be very suitable for the landscape as well as the architecture in Cappadocia. And you must choose a comfortable pair of sports shoes (you will have to “climb” when visiting some tourist attractions in Cappadocia).
- The people of Cappadocia in particular and Turkey in general are extremely friendly and hospitable.Before coming to Cappadocia, I had seen many photos on Instagram and admired the beauty of this place. And when I got there, I was even more impressed. If possible, look forward to returning to Cappadocia in the near future.
- It is recommended to stay in Cappadocia for at least 2 nights to be able to hunt for a beautiful hot air balloon scene from early in the morning (we stayed for 3 nights but it was too windy, so all 4 mornings I couldn’t take photos of the hot air balloon).
- You should book at least 1 night at a hotel with a nice view: Mithra Cave hotel or Sultan Cave Suites (book in advance). The remaining day is spent to experiencing hot air ballooning.
- It is recommended to rent a self-drive car from Kayseri airport (the rental and gas prices in Turkey are extremely cheap), so you can experience more remote spots of Cappadocia such as: the Pasabag valley; Devrent Imagination valley; Red valley (with Ali cafe to watch the beautiful sunset).
- Should experience camel riding tour (you can book a tour at your hotel).
- Don’t forget to take “virtual living” photos with the beautiful rugs (carpets) here: Galeri Ikman carpet shop. You should book an appointment in advance if you want to take pictures with a drone or pay about 10 euros for 15 minutes of self-photography.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Cappadocia you can refer to
- Hot Air Balloon Flight in Cappadocia
- Cappadocia Devrent Valley Tour
- Blue Tour Cappadocia
- Green Tour with Trekking in Ihlara Valley
- Historical Cappadocia Red Tour