Cappadocia, The land of whimsical fairy chimneys and peculiar rock formations. Coming to Cappadocia is almost like visiting another planet. The landforms are so unique that it’s hard to believe they really exist until you see them with your own eyes.
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 week, 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.
Here are some things you should know before traveling to the area:
1. 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 one hour, and both Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines offer super cheap flights ( around 50€).
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 one hour.
Also, there is another option, to rent a car, as we did. We took cizgi car and we were very satisfied.
2. 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.
3. How long to stay in Cappadocia: After staying in Cappadocia for just three nights, I can say without a doubt that the perfect amount of time to stay in Cappadocia is five full days. This gives you enough time to explore the entire area and fit all of the best activities. 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.
We booked the flight with Kaya Balloons and It was an amazing experience. We were flying one hour early in the morning. After the flight, we received a flight certificate. The staff members are all so kind and hilarious and give you the morning you’ll remember forever.
Note: If you are someone who is afraid of heights, the experience is a bit scary for the first 10 minutes, but the ride is so smooth and the views so breathtaking that any fear of heights will quickly subside.
2. Watch the hot air balloon
In addition to actually riding in a balloon, try to 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 Henna Hotel. Though Henna Hotel an amazing hotel to stay at, the hotel’s rooftop is like an attraction. Many tourists are coming here to make wonderful photos. Just show up about 30 minutes before sunrise and be prepared for an amazing show. The staff even prepares a full breakfast every morning to make those Instagram photos look even more incredible
3. 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.
4. Enjoy traditional Turkish cuisine
Turkish food is delicious. Like, “gain 5 pounds in 3 days” delicious. You can find more than 50 restaurants but my favorite are Organic in Göreme and Aydede restaurant in Ürgüp.
5. Visit the Evil Eye Trees
There are two evil eye trees in Cappadocia in Pigeon Valley. Be sure to tie one of the evil eyes on the tree and make a wish. I tied 3 evil eyes cause I had three wishes.
6. Stay in 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.
GOREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM
Arguably one of Cappadocia’s most famous attractions, the Göreme Open Air Museum is a complex of medieval painted cave churches carved by Orthodox monks several hundreds of years ago.
There are over 10 cave churches in the Göreme Open Air Museum, many are painted with beautiful and historically important Byzantine murals that date as far back as the 9th century.
As we explored the UNESCO World Heritage Site and its unusual cave churches, we noticed that although the Byzantine frescoes are in remarkably good condition, many of the faces and hands are scratched out.
The photo below is of the exterior of the Dark Church. The carvings are quite extraordinary and reminded us of the lost city of Petra in Jordan, only much smaller (although Cappadocia can certainly compete with Petra on the world wonder stage).
Interesting fact: After the Turkish invasion, the Dark Church was used as a pigeon house until 1950s. It took over 14 years to scrape off all the pigeon droppings! The pigeon droppings helped protect the frescoes, resulting in some of the best preserved in all of Cappadocia.
LOVE VALLEY HIKE
The Love Valley hike is a 1.5 mile hike (one-way), mostly flat with some gentle climbs. This hike takes you through one of the local valleys with the reward of seeing large cone shaped spires at the end of the hike.
Monks Valley, another popular set of caves (there are tons of these in Cappadocia), is located in Pasabag. This makes for a very quick stop.
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Seeing the unique scenery of Cappadocia from the vantage point of a hot air balloon is an unforgettable experience. If you do one thing while in Cappadocia, a hot air balloon ride gets my vote. It may be painful paying the fee, but the memories and photos you will have make it worthwhile.
Your day will start very early. We were picked up at 5 am at our hotel by Kaya Balloon and at 6:30 am we were floating up into the air.
During the flight you will ascend 600 meters into the air (that is REALLY high!!) and then down into Love Valley.
We got so close to the ground that our basket almost brushed the treetops.
WATCH THE SUNSET OVER CAPPADOCIA
Sunset point is located at the start of the Red and Rose Valley. This is the most popular point in Cappadocia to watch the sunset.
If you enjoy a glass of wine, then Cappadocia is a place to to partake of the fruit of the vine. You will find four local wineries who each make a variety of types: Turasan, Kocabağ, Kapadokya, and Şenol. Turasan is the biggest and oldest winery based in Cappadocia with over 25 types of wine.
Their factory is in Urgup, and they offer factory tours (for 40 Turkish Lira) and tasting. Started in 1943 you can find their wine in most stores (that sell alcohol) and restaurants in Cappadocia as well as throughout Turkey.
I liked the most Seneler Chardonnay, It won gold medal on the wine competition.
If you’re in the market for a Turkish rug, head to Sultan Carpet for a wide selection of unique handcrafted pieces. Originating from nomadic villages, these handmade carpets each feature a different style, ranging from Ottoman classics to Roma designs. Alternatively, shop the collection of flatwoven kilims and embroideries. The staff is eager to share information about the products, including who made them, where they came from, the meaning of the designs, so sit for a cup of tea and conversation before making your choice.
I have told you about Henna Konak Hotel and how magical it was staying there for three of our nights spent in Cappadocia, but what I haven’t told you before was how amazing is their old pavilion with this room hundreds of years old. I felt instantly charmed by it and those amazing old and almost washed out paintings on the walls, something I’ve never seen like in that area and those buildings.
Staff were exceptional. Attentive, very friendly and always there with any advice or help you may need. Breakfast is amazing. So much food!! Views from the terrace are perfect to get that instagram worthy pic with the sunrise balloons.
Room was spacious, clean and had all the facilities required for our 4 night stay. I would happily return to this hotel and highly recommend any traveller heading to Cappadocia to consider staying here. (During my stay we had the pleasure of meeting the hotels little cocker spaniel puppy called Latte – she is gorgeous and such a delight!!!)
Have you visited Cappadocia or are you dreaming of it? What activity would you love the most?