Guide to Experience Fairytale Moments in Cappadocia in Turkey
Cappadocia is a wonderful region in central Turkey, just an hour flight from the capital, Istanbul. It has become extremely popular in the past years, due to magical pictures and videos of hot air balloons floating over an ancient city that can be found all over Instagram. Cappadocia has a lot to offer: fairytale scenery, amazing hikes, incredible rock formations, impressive historic sites and magical balloons rising everyday for sunrise. We must admit that we flew to Cappadocia with big expectations. And indeed, we were blown away! We had no idea this place was going be that incredible. In this guide, we will show you the most important places and things to see in Cappadocia. Read this guide to plan your fairytale getaway in Cappadocia!
A Guide to the 13 Best things to do in Cappadocia
1. Watch hundreds balloon fly over Göreme
This is definitely one of the most amazing and recognisable things to do in Cappadocia, and probably what lead you to this guide. Every day at sunrise hundreds of hot air balloons fly over the town and the nearby areas. They even come very close to the buildings and hotel rooftops. Watching this show from a beautiful rooftop is a must while visiting Göreme.
↬ Note : When choosing a hotel, make sure they have a beautiful rooftop. Access to those terraces is reserved to hotel guests only. It’s worth to pay more even for 1 night to see this magical show ??
2. Visit Zelve Open Air Museum and Fairy Chimneys
Zelve Open Air Museum is an incredible ancient city that held one of the largest community in Cappadocia. It’s located apx 7 km from Göreme and less popular than Göreme Open Air Museum due to it’s relative distance (it requires a taxi ride to get there). You will walk around ancient houses carved into mountains, gigantic caves, and churches set in an amazing landscape.
↬ TIP : After visiting Zelve Open Air Museum get a ride to Fairy Chimneys site, located just 1 km away.
3. Fly a hot air balloon at sunrise
One of the main reasons why people visit Cappadocia is to experience a ride in a hot air balloon. The balloons take of every day (unless the weather conditions don’t allow it) at sunrise and even in the winter. Being in the air, watching the world wake up and the sunrise over this astonishing landscape, flying over an ancient city is a remarkable experience. Read our guide linked below to found out everything about this unique experience in Cappadocia
↬ TIP : Make sure to book in advance!
4. Wander around Göreme
Göreme Open-Air Museum is an essential stop while visiting Cappadocia. This site is one of Turkey’s Unesco World Heritage sites with ancient cave churches and impressive biblical frescoes. Getting there is pretty easy, as its a 15 min walk from the centre of the town. As it’s the most popular spot in Cappadocia, we can only guide you to visit either early or late in the afternoon to skip the crowds.
5. Watch sunset over Red Valley
Red Valley is the most beautiful sunset spot in Cappadocia. The incredible rock formations catch the colours of setting sun, turning deep red. The view is nothing less but a magical show of nature. You can get there via a hiking trail or arrive by car just for sunset. Either way, it’s a place that cannot be missed while visiting Cappadocia.
6. Hike Red & Rose Valley for the most marvellous views in Cappadocia
Red and Rose Valley are the highlight of hiking trails in Cappadocia. Both trails connect and make a loop passing through unique area with sharp sandstone hilltops that have pink and red shade. Even if you are not a fan of this activity, we encourage you to complete those two trails. It’s a memorable experience and the views along the way make it so worth it.
↬ TIP : Signs leading to Red & Rose Valley trails are VERY miss leading. Make sure to read our article for the correct itinerary to this hike. (or you’d get lost.. like us ??♂️??♀️)
7. Pigeon Valley and Uchisar
Pigeon Valley is an easy and beautiful trail leading from Göreme to the stunning Uchisar city through an impressive valley. The hike is only about 2 km long (unless you choose the longer 4km route) and rises only slightly at one point towards the end.
The trail finishes in Uchisar, second most popular town in Cappadocia. The biggest attraction there is the Uchisar castle, that can be climbed all the way up to the top. It’s the highest point in the region and offers fantastic views of the area.
↬ TIP : Hike Pigeon Valley in the morning, arriving to Uchisar for lunch at lovely Millocal Restaurant.
8. Hike from Uchisar Castle to Love Valley
The hike from Uchisar to the Love Valley can be done after visiting the beautiful town of Uchisar. Spend your midday in its charming streets, enjoy the tranquil ambiance and some of the best hotels and restaurants. And after going up in Uchisar Castle, set right in the middle of the hill, to admire the views of the region, head back down and make your way to Love Valley. The hike takes about 1.5 H and is easy. The only tricky part is finding the right way down at the beginning of the trail. Make sure to read our detailed post to guide your steps through this beautiful trail of Cappadocia!
9. Love Valley at sunset or sunrise
If you ask a local in Göreme for the best sunset spot, they all will direct you to Love Valley. The setting sun gives a beautiful glow to the rock formations below and the gigantic red mountain afar. We found Red Valley sunset spot way more impressive, but nevertheless it’s a wonderful place to watch the sunset from. There is a cute cafe and even instagramable swing on the side for those wanting to get a memorable picture.
Love Valley is also a location from where most of the hot air balloons take off in the morning. Arriving here for sunrise is a fantastic experience. You don’t need to book the balloon ride for it. Just grab a taxi from Göreme at dawn and arrive to Love Valley right before the first rays of sun pick out from behind the mountains.
10. Meskendir Valley trail
The Meskendir Valley trail is a beautiful & super easy trail starting outside of Göreme. There are two ways of doing this hike: walking a straight line all the way to Cavusin, or connecting it to one marvellous hiking experience with Rose and Red Valley trails. Those 3 combined make the best hike in Cappadocia. Ultimately, it will take around 5H to complete the three trails or 1.5 to 2h for Meskendir alone.
11. Sleep in a cave hotel
Cappadocia is a region in Turkey where cities have been carved in the mountains. Zelve Open Air Museum, the largest community is the area, was inhabited until 1950’s (!!). Today, many houses are still constructed in the rocks. Staying in a cave hotel is a special thrill while visiting Cappadocia. Rooms are carved directly in the mountains, with only a door and small window to let some day light in.
↬ Note : Most of hotels in Göreme use word ‘cave’ in their name, even if they are not actual cave hotels. Make sure to look closely at the pictures, not to be disappointed if the hotel you arrive to is actually a normal building.
12. Climb Lovers Hill for sunrise and sunset views of Göreme.
Göreme is by far the most popular town in Cappadocia. Hundreds balloons fly over the center every morning. One of the best spots to see that show (another one being the rooftop of your hotel) is Lovers Hill. This place is located on top of Göreme, just 10 min walking up from the centre. It overlooks the whole town and nearby valleys.
Lovers Hill is also a very popular spot to watch the sunset as it doesn’t require a taxi/ride to other sunset locations like Rose and Red Valley sunset spots or Love Valley. All you have to do is walk up few alleys from the centre of Göreme.
↬ Note : There is a 3 TRY charge for sunset. We didn’t visit for sunrise, but you can assume that it’s the same.
13. Visit Cavusin town, castle and valley
Cavusin is a small town located just 3km from Göreme. It is not too popular with tourists that lean towards bigger Göreme or impressive Uchisar. Cavisun, however, is a great stop on your way back from Zelve Open air Museum or Fairy Chimneys. The main attraction here is the castle that has been carved in the mountain. The site has collapsed in many parts, but it’s still possible to climb all the way to the top. The view from there are truly spectacular, especially on a clear day.
The valley located just at the end of Cavusin, right next to the church is a great spot for hikers.
↬ Note : During the time of our visit, the Cavusin Church was closed for renovation. Check with your hotel before visiting if it has been reopened.
We actually hiked through the whole valley all the way from the Fairy Chimneys. There wasn’t really a path, but we pointed the gps in the right direction and just went for it. To find out more about this fun day
Getting to Cappadocia
There are two airports in Cappadocia: Kayseri, located around 1h drive from Göreme; and Nevsehir which just a 30 min drive to Göreme. Both airports operate multiple flights per day from Istanbul. There are 2 companies flying from there : Turkish Airline and Pegasus.
The flight from Istanbul to Kayseri or Nevsehir takes apx 1H and plane tickets are very cheap: starting already at 20 EUR (one way) with check in luggage included.
There are some international flight arriving to Kayseri directly. Check scyscanner.com for best flight deals.
From the airport
From the airport, the best way is to take a shuttle van. Ask your hotel to make a reservation for you. A driver will wait for you at the airport holding a board with your name on it and will guide you through Cappadocia to your destination. You will board a van that fits up to 12 people. The costs is apx 45 TRY per person (7 EUR), but can be more expensive (around 65 TRY, 10 EUR each) if you take shuttle during late or early morning hours. It takes around 1H to reach Göreme from Kayseri airport.
Otherwise you can take a taxi just outside of the airport. It should costs around 340 TRL (50 EUR) from Kayseri and 195 TRL (30 EUR) from Nevsehir.
If you stay in Göreme, most of the sites are within walking distance. Alternatively, taxis are cheap and a fast mode of transportation. The drivers always switch the meter on, so you don’t have to worry about being scammed.
Taxi to Love Valley sunset spot costs 25 TRL (3,8 EUR), to Zelve Open Air Museum 35 TRL (5,3EUR).
Cappadocia was the first place where we also hitchhiked a lot. People are very friendly and open. We would just hold a hand out while walking towards our destination and the first car would stop to give us a ride. The places are so close to each other, that the ride was never more than just few minutes. The only time it took us longer, was getting back to Göreme from Red Valley Sunset Point. We got a ride from the hill to the main road immediately, but then waited about 15 min for a car to stop. It was understandable as there are many roads leading to different places and lots of cars were not heading in our direction. After waiting for 15 min though, a cool young newly-wed Turkish couple gave us a ride back to Göreme. PS It still took less time than another couple who ordered a taxi and was waiting for the car to arrive.
There are scooters available for rent in many places in Göreme. They are however pretty pricey and costs around 220 TRL (33 EUR) for a full day.
If you plan a day trip from Göreme, you can also rent a car. There are few local companies operating in the town. It costs around 150 TRL (23 EUR) to rent a car for 1 day.
How weird is that a car rental is cheaper than the scooter? ?
Best time to visit
Ideal time to visit Cappadocia is either spring or autumn. From April to June and September-October the weather conditions are great, and the season is not at its peak. The temperatures vary from 8-9 degrees in the night to around 27-28 during the day.
Winter is said to be magical time, however bear in mind that everything is covered in snow and temperatures drop below 0.
Summer experiences differences in the temperature as well. However during the day the heat might become unbearable.
What to take
As the temperatures drop a lot during evenings and mornings, make sure to take a warm coat. A big scarf will be useful also to throw on your shoulders when it’s colder.
You can pack beautiful dresses for your rooftop pictures, but don’t forget to take long pants and warm sweaters for mornings and evenings. Pack few pair of shorts for hike, hat and comfortable shoes.
As for the last one: sandals are really not practical in Cappadocia. The whole area and all the sites are covered in sand and dust. I took 2 pairs of sandals and 1 espadrille and regretted it. They just took space in my suitcase and I couldn’t use them: even in the evenings to go for dinner, as it’s way too cold for sandals at that time. Take a pair of boots and sport shoes instead.
Don’t forget your reusable water bottle.
Where to eat
Food in Cappadocia is very good and perfect for meat lovers. We actually haven’t seen even one fish dish on the menu in any of the restaurants we went to. There are some vegetarian options to choose from, like the speciality of the region Pottery Kebab, which can be served only with vegetables instead of meat. Here’s our guide of the best restaurants in around Göreme and in Cappadocia.
Dibek is one of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in Göreme. They serve local type of food. The speciality Pottery Kebab is worth a try, just remember to ask for it upon reservation (it takes 3h to cook). Requires reservation.
↬ Note : It’s best to reserve a restaurant for dinner in Göreme. Most of the places are fully booked and only few accept walk ins.
Topdeck Cave is a typical Cappadocian restaurant. In the evenings it welcomes customers in cave style restaurants, while during the day, lunch is served on a beautiful rooftop.
The Rooftop Lounge located on the rooftop of Dibek restaurants, The Rooftop Lounge has the same owner and serves great food. We had lunch here and liked it that much that we came back day after for dinner. Try the mixed mezze and apricot chicken ?
Soffy’s Kitchen another cute restaurant serving traditional and international dishes.
Millocal Restaurant beautiful terrace with views over Pidgin Valley and Göreme. Great selection of food and friendly staff
The Plum Restaurant for a fancy night out. Great views and delicious cuisine.
Where to stay
Most people choose a hotel in Göreme for their trip. We think it’s the best option as it’s centrally located, has hot air balloons everyday and its close to most sites and hikes.
Another option would be lovely town Uchisar. It’s relatively smaller than Göreme, however the streets are very cute and the ambience is calm. It’s also a place with many luxurious hotels and some of Cappadocia’s best restaurants.
↬ TIP : When booking a hotel in Cappadocia, look for a beautiful rooftop terrace from which you can view balloons at sunrise.
↬ Find all the hotels in Göreme on booking.com