The Fairytale World of Cappadocia; Your Complete 3-day Itinerary Travel Guide.
Updated: Feb 23, 2021
I find myself once more, daydreaming about traveling amidst a pandemic. I say once more because I, not too long ago, fantasized about an underground city that captured my full attention; It was love at first sight! As I was browsing on different apps, searching for what to watch next, a documentary on the history channel caught my eye. It spoke about a city that had suffered multiple volcano eruptions, resulting in an unreal looking landscape, and exhibited an underground cave system, where people would live in hiding through numerous layers of existence. What fascinated me the most was the resourcefulness and beauty derived from such tragic moments. Cappadocia has seen extreme violence from nature and humankind, yet I believe it is one of the most beautiful places I have had the opportunity of visiting. I want to invite you to travel with me through this post and explore the magical sunrise on a hot air balloon overlooking scenery that will make you go "WOW."
Cappadocia, located in Central Turkey and meaning "Land of beautiful horses" in Persian, is known for Its unique rock formations, picturesque hot air ballooning, and underground city.
Whether you're wooed here by the hiking potential, the history, or the bragging rights of becoming a modern troglodyte for a night, it's the lunarscape panoramas that you'll remember. - Lonely Planet
I'll keep this brief since this is a travel guide. However, I encourage you to learn some of the culture and norms of every place you visit. It will change the way you travel and experience a country; believe me! Here's what you must know about Cappadocia: The Cappadocia region was formed over 60 million years ago by erosion of soft layers of lava and ash from nearby volcanoes that were later re-shaped slightly by high winds over time. Therefore, the land formation of caves, valleys, and fairy chimneys is all-natural made. People carved houses and churches inside these chimneys. Human settlement in the Cappadocia region dates back to the Paleolithic era. Cappadocia became a center for education and a melting pot of people with different cultures and religious beliefs. It was an intersecting point for trading since it's near the Black Sea and at one point became a dangerous place to live since foreigners were killing locals to steal their land. As a result and for survival, Cappadocian created a secret underground city to be safe against invaders' attacks. However, they did not live inside these caves full time, only when under attack. Cappadocia is best known for potatoes, fruits, and wine. Thirsty for more knowledge? Read this article <3
Best time to visit Turkey, Cappadocia-
The best time to visit Turkey, in general, is in either Spring (April-June) or Fall (Sept- Mid-Nov). Summers tend to be too hot and winters too cold. Tip: April is tulip season in Turkey, and it's a beautiful time to visit, especially in Istanbul, where tulips surround central locations in full bloom. April makes for spectacular scenery; Here's a complete travel guide to Istanbul if planning to visit.
How to get to Cappadocia--
Fly: A flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia will cost you between $24-$120, with a length of about 2hr 30m. I recommend flying if your time in Turkey is limited; this is the fastest way of getting there. You will be flying from Kayseri to Nevşehir Airport.
Local Transportation: From Istanbul, you can take a bus to Gebze, then a train to Konya, and a bus to Göreme. This trip's price will be between $15-$30, with a total travel time of about 12hrs.
OverNight Bus: You can take a direct overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia. This trip will cost you between $40-$60 with a total travel time of about 13hrs.
Rent a Car: Self-driving time is about 8hr 30 min covering a total of about 460 miles.
Once you've decided your mode of transportation, check out this Turkey road trip planner site. Their info is up to date, and they make trip planning easy.
Where to Stay; Hotels in Cappadocia--
Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful places in the world. What makes Cappadocia a bucket list destination; is its underground city beyond the scenic hot air balloon rides. Staying at a cave hotel is an unforgettable experience; some rooms even offer wine on tap!
Here are the best places to stay in Cappadocia, Turkey, according to budget:
Museum Hotel - Luxury Cave Hotel, a night here can range from $280-700. This boutique hotel's layout is absolutely stunning, with 30 rooms and suites restored from ruins, caves, and ancient houses. Pssst find here the suite with wine on tap; you're welcome!
Ottoman Cave Suites is your budget-friendly option, with a night ranging from $85-200. At this bohemian-inspired cave hotel, you still get epic views of a sky filled with hundreds of hot air balloons at sunrise, creating a fairytale and magical stay that won't break the bank.
Transportation within Cappadocia--
You can find Ubers in Istanbul but not in Cappadocia. Most hotels offer daily tours to major attractions. You can also rent a bike, car, or scooter. Taking the local bus is also an option, although this can delay your plans-- I would avoid it if you have less than 2-days. You can furthermore hire a private car/ taxi.
How long should you stay in Cappadocia?
A day trip or even one full day in Cappadocia is not enough in my opinion. I would highly recommend spending 3-4 days, especially if planning to do hot air ballooning in Cappadocia. Despite balloon flights in Cappadocia taking place daily, it's all depending on the weather, so it's always a 50/50 chance; If it's too windy, balloons won't fly that day. It would be a shame traveling so far and then missing the opportunity, so allow time to be there, plus there's so much to see and do! You won't get bored, promise!
Safety in Cappadocia--
We found Turkey, in general, to be very safe for traveling, even as a solo female traveler. It's recommended to be more mindful and not keep valuables in your pockets in high traffic areas/cities, such as Istanbul. We always felt safe while walking around, even during night time. From our experience, we found Cappadocia to be a very safe destination, filled with friendly, hospitable people.
Dress Code in Cappadocia, Turkey--
Casual wear is perfect for Cappadocia. Women-- you only need to wear a headscarf and cover your shoulders when entering a mosque. Wear loose-fit clothing below the knee in length: no shorts, no hats, no yoga leggings-- jeans are ok!
Things you should know before traveling to Cappadocia:
Local Currency in Cappadocia: Turkish Lira; 1USD = 7.41 Turkish Lira ( as of Jan. 2021)
Paying with multiple cards at a restaurant in Cappadocia, and Turkey in general is not common, so try to avoid it if traveling as a group.
Alcoholic Beverages are not sold at most restaurants Turkey being mostly of the Muslim religion. However, most hotels will have a bar and or minibar as part of room service. If you want a local dining experience, try ordering tea with your meal instead :)
Refusing tea is looked upon as rude. Most shops and establishments will welcome you with a tea offering; this is normal-- you can accept with no obligation of buying.
Smoking is common in Turkey, if sitting outside a restaurant or café, be ready to be surrounded by smokers.
Avoid too much PDA when traveling with your partner. Holding hands is ok.
Follow the dress code, especially when entering religious sites.
Tipping in Cappadocia, Turkey is between 5%-10% depending on service.
Cappadocia is not a very expensive destination to travel to, except for it's most famous hot air balloon ride that will cost you between $145-200 USD
Tap water is safe to drink in Cappadocia, but most people still prefer drinking bottled water due to taste.
The Best of Cappadocia-- 3-day Itinerary Guide
Day 1-- Travel to / Arrive in Cappadocia.
Day 1 will be a half-day of exploring Cappadocia since it will also be a travel day. You may adjust this Itinerary depending on your time of arrival. If you're self-driving to Cappadocia, there are a couple of on the way stops you can make; If you're flying to Cappadocia, you can add this portion towards the end as additional day trips.
Here are a few stops along the way: Visit the beautiful town of Guzelyurt; tourist-free and well preserved. This village was my favorite stop along the way. Stroll the street, marvel at the history, and take some beautiful postcard-worthy photographs!
Visit a carpet atelier and learn all about Turkish carpet weaving, all done by hand!
Attend a Whirling Dervishes Ceremony in Cappadocia, Turkey.
About the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony--
The Whirling Dervishes are part of the Sufi branch of Islam. The ceremony itself is around 1hr. Even though you can buy tickets and attend more than a performance, this is an actual ritual-- a form of physically active, rapid-spinning, mindful meditation. They arrive with a black cloak that they later remove, representing being spiritually reborn to the truth. In a trance-like manner, they go around each other in perfect unison with one hand facing up (receiving God's blessings), and the other down (delivering those blessings to those watching/participating in the ceremony.) The skill and technique employed to execute the moves are awe-inspiring; I would not be able to last more than 2 min straight! For them, the spinning ceremony is to remember, worship, and connect with God. They wear white to symbolize purity.
-- end of day 1
Day 2-- Full day in Cappadocia
4:30 am-- Wake up and meet your driver to catch the sunrise on a hot air balloon ride.
Balloon flights in Cappadocia take place daily (depending on weather), and the flight time is between 1hr- 1hr 30min. I highly recommend dressing warm as with the altitude, it gets freezing. We went in April, and I was frozen, despite wearing a winter coat and gloves! Even if you're afraid of heights, I still recommend you giving this low-risk activity a try! The views are simply magical, and Cappadocia's landscape is the perfect place to check-off hot air ballooning from your bucket list!
I truly felt I was in another world, surrounded by hundredths of balloons, overlooking an unreal landscape, and time traveling to another era. At one point, we were the highest balloon in the sky and then the lowest.
After landing, It's a tradition to celebrate with champagne. Our pilot @kurtulusyayan is so kick-ass that not only did we land without tilting, but we landed on top of a truck! 👏🏼
9:00 am-- After breakfast, Visit the Open Air Museum in Göreme Valley.
Explore inside the caves and see how houses were carved from inside the rock formations.
See early Christian churches decorated with well-preserved frescoes.
11:30 am -- Learn Pottery from the locals
1 pm-- Break for a quick lunch at Zerdali Café , a local restaurant nearby
2 pm-- Explore the Cappadocia Underground City of Ozkonak, built on the northern slopes of Mt. Idis, and time travel to another world where the old is still preserved.
4 pm-- Visit Pasabag, a.k.a valley of the monks, and marvel at the otherworldly fairy chimneys; they truly are larger than life and epic looking.
6 pm -- Watch the sunset at Pigeon Valley, overlooking a breathtaking landscape
At Pigeon Valley, you can go wine tasting with a selection of local wines from Cappadocia,
go shopping, and end your day with a relaxed al fresco dinner in one of the most beautiful places in the world. With open-air, good local Cappadocian food and lovely people.
-- end of day 2
Day 3-- Relax, Let loose, and Soak all the Beauty in!
6 am-- Wake up and head to the rooftop of your Cappadocia cave hotel for breakfast. It's just as magical riding a hot air balloon and then seeing the sky full of them the day after! The best time to see the hot air balloons flying in the air is from around 5:45 am- 7:30 am
8 am-- After, enjoy the amenities from your hotel. I often treat hotels as places to just sleep at, but this one is special! Take a swim in the pool, book a massage and unwind.
11 am-- Hike by foot. Some locations suitable for hiking in Cappadocia with breathtaking views are the Red Valley, Rose Valley, Pigeon Valley, and Love Valley Trail. If the heat is too intense and you instead pass on a hike, you can book an ATV Safari escorted tour ride that will take you to off-the-beaten-path places. You can choose the tour's length from 2-8 hrs, making this a perfect half-day trip.
7 pm-- Unwind at a traditional Hamam / Turkish Bath House.
-- end of day 3
Thanks for reading, and if you're planning a trip to Cappadocia or just came back, leave a comment below with newfound spots you'd like to share, and help other readers when planning their trip.
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