I got so many requests for a Cappadocia Travel Guide – so here it is!
The fairytale landscapes of Cappadocia have been on my bucket list for such a long time – the unique rock formations, which are the result of a volcano eruption several thousand years ago, are simply breathtaking. And of course I also wanted to see the hot air balloons rising over Cappadocia in the morning.
THE ARRIVAL AND HOW TO GET AROUND
In April we finally took our flight from Frankfurt to Istanbul from where we took another flight to Kayseri – the closest airport to Göreme.
We arrived in the late afternoon and drove another 45 mins to the hotel with our rental car.
Renting a car is one thing I can highly recommend during a trip to Cappadocia – you will be way more flexible with it and don’t have to participate at any tours with a ton of other people. Most of the important spots are only some minutes away from Göreme. While booking the car online we made sure to get a Jeep cause some roads are only accessible for off road vehicles.
The scenery in Cappadocia
ARE THERE ALWAYS BALLOONS FLYING OVER CAPPADOCIA?
The answer is NO! During our trip we’ve seen the Balloons only ONE morning – even so we had several clear sunrises. They only get up in the air when it’s clear and not windy. Of course the chance to see them is higher if you travel in spring or summer – but even when we’ve been there in the middle of April we got only lucky this one morning. We met some girls which stayed 3 days and haven’t seen a single Balloon!
WHICH IS THE BEST PLACE TO WATCH THE BALLOONS OVER GÖREME?
We spend the first three nights at the Sultan Cave Suites. It’s one of the hotels which offers an amazing view over Göreme which is breathtaking while watching the balloons during sunrise. They prepare the carpets, pillows and even a little table with a fake „breakfast“ to create the famous shot Since it’s one of the most famous places, you won’t be alone. There are around 10-20 other tourists which all wait to shoot. But since the place is only accessible for hotel guests it’s not extremely crowded.
The Museum Hotel is located on a hill outside of Göreme and offers an incredible view over the whole valley with the balloons over it!
I also planned to visit the launching zone but since we only got to see the balloons during on morning of our trip we didn’t made it If you would like to go there simply ask one of the companies where they will be launching the next morning. They always choose other locations depending on the weather conditions.
The Sultan Cave Suites
The Museum Hotel
To explore all the unique valleys and places in Cappadocia you either have to book a tour or have your own rental car – which I already mentioned is the better option.
The tours usually start around 10 am so all the famous spots get really crowded during the noon till the early afternoon – around 3pm it starts to get quiet.
We started our first day in Uchisar – which is only a 5 minutes drive from Göreme. The Uchisar castle is the highest point in Cappadocia and an impressive landmark which offers an amazing view over the valleys.
The entry is only 9 TL (1,40 EUR) and you can walk up the stairs of the castle. It’s no manmade building – like all structures in the area its a natural rock. People back in the days carved caves and steps into the soft stone to live here or for storage.
When we came here around 11.30 am there were a few other people but you could still enjoy the wonderful view.
Next we drove around 25 mins South to Kaymakli to visit the underground caves. There are several of these underground tunnel systems in the region but the one in Kaymakli is the largest! It’s a labyrinth of several caves which are connected via small tunnels and steps which lead into different levels. The tunnel system is so huge that a whole village which sheep could live here. There are living rooms, wineries, chapels, a kitchen and everything people needed for their daily life while being safe from enemies.
The Red Valley
Back in Göreme and after a nap (we were a bit tired after getting up for sunrise) we decided to visit Red Valley for sunset. It’s a famous spot during the evening cause the setting sun turns the soft red formations into a sea of fire. You can either enjoy a glass of wine in one of the huts or climb around to find the perfect spot for a picture.
The second sunrise was really beautiful with a clear sky. But we had NO balloons because of the wind. It was still a nice memory with an incredible view.
Imagination Valley / Devrent Valley
After enjoying our breakfast we started the second day with visiting the Imagination Valley (Devrent Valley).
It’s one of the spots where tour busses stop, but the groups usually just make a quick stop for a photo. But I can highly recommend you to stay a little longer and to explore the bizarre rock formations. The valley has its name since some of the rocks look like animals or other figures if you use a little fantasy 🙂 You can climb around everywhere and get to see some impressive views. But be careful! The material of the stones is quite soft and the loose rocks and sand make the ground a bit slippery.
Göreme Open Air Museum
On the way back we made a stop at the most famous sight in Göreme: the Open Air Museum. The entry is 45 TL (6,80 EUR) and it’s an area with several chapels which got carved into the rocks. This place is always full of tourists since everyone wants to see it. But if you go around 12am/1pm there will be less people cause most of the tours make a lunch break during this time.
A little secret spot:
If you drive down the street from the Open Air Museum back to Göreme you will see a rock which looks like a huge window on the right side of the street. Just across from the bus parking lot. It makes a beautiful frame for a picture with the markable rock formations behind it.
In the late afternoon we drove to the Monks Valley. The benefit for this time of the day is the soft light and less people. If you wanna take a picture from the most famous spot without anyone else, this will be the only time of the day you get the chance for it. The reason why it’s so famous is that the oldest church of Cappadocia is located in the valley. The shape is absolutely unique and famous among photographers.
The Church of St. John during midday …
.. and right before sunset.
Back to the Red Valley
For sunset we drove back to the Red Valley cause we simply loved it the day before 🙂 This time we had to pay 4 TL (0,80 EUR) per person to get to the parking lot cause we came a little earlier than the day before. The guard at the entry leaves around 6.30 pm (for sunset).
Finally balloons! Everyone was super excited to see them rising over Cappadocia this morning. A hotel staff member told me that they haven’t been flying for four days already. It was totally worth the waiting and way more beautiful than I imagined! The balloons started to launch around 6 am – some a little earlier and others later. All together there were 150 Balloons flying till 7.30 am.
After this successful morning and checking out of the hotel we put our suitcase in the rental car and drove to Love Valley. As soon as you see the bizarre rock formations it’s easy to guess what’s the reason for this name. The locals call the rocks mushrooms – but let’s be honest they all look like huge male body parts 😀
During a volcanos eruption, which created the whole area of Cappadocia several thousand years ago, ash fall down and covered the whole area. After being untouched like this for a very long time these special structures were born!
Reaching the Love Valley by car
The official spot is a lookout point from where you have the best view over the valley. If you wanna go to the valley itself you have to walk down around 30 mins per direction OR if you rented a Jeep (or similar) you can reach it by car! Drive down the street from the viewpoint and take a right turn. There you will see the street leading to Love Valley and a sign which says „No Vehicles beyond this point“. The sign is meant for any no 4-wheel drives cause they might get stuck.
Arriving at the little parking lot in the valley we met only a few other tourists. Most of them don’t want to walk all the way down or don’t have the right rental car.
The view from the viewpoint – reach the valley by a 30 mins walk or drive down with the right rental car.
Red Valley View Point
Later we drove to a view point to overlook the Red Valley which was only accessible with the right rental car too! You can find a Quad Rental Station and take a guided tour through the rocks in case you have the wrong car.
A legendary place to stay in Cappadocia –
The Museum Hotel
In the afternoon we drove to our next stop for the night – the Museum Hotel. We absolutely enjoyed the day at this special hotel. Our room has been in a cave and they have a heated pool overlooking Cappadocia! We even had a limitless wine tap in our room – so you can imagine how much we enjoyed the rest of the day. 😀
This morning we had no balloons but still it has been so wonderful to see the sun rising behind the hills. Other than at the Sultan Cave Suites there were no other tourists shooting during this morning. We had the pool all to ourselves 🙂
Cappadocia Salt Lake
After checking out we still had several hours till our flight departure 11pm. We got a tip to check out the Salt Lake of Cappadocia which looks like a huge mirror reflecting the sky. Especially the sunset shots we saw at the internet looked amazing.
So we drove two hours south to reach the lake only to realize that it wasn’t as beautiful as on the pics we saw! This may be because of the grey and cloudy weather this day and also because of the many tourist busses which stopped here. We literally stayed for maybe 5 or 10 mins before we took back the 2,5 hours drive to the airport.
Expectations… (source: havesomecolor.com)
How many days should I plan to see the whole area of Cappadocia?
In my opinion three days are enough to see it all. The area is not huge and you reach all spots in several minutes or maximum 30 mins for the underground city. Even so we are the kind of people which spend a lot of time taking pictures everywhere we go, we still had time to relax during our stay at the Museum Hotel because we’ve seen everything after the third day. Plus the fourth day wasn’t necessary since the drive to the Salt Lake turned out as a major fail 😀
Where can I eat authentic and good food?
The Turkish cuisine is rich and delicious. They have a lot of meat options like Kebab (Chicken, Lamb or Beef) or Moussaka (Baked Aubergine with grounded beef and tomato sauce). But there are also many vegetarian options with aubergine, chick peas and other vegetables.
A famous dish, which is typical for this region, is pottery kebab. For this they put meat and vegetables in a pottery pot and put it in the fire for at least four hours. It gets cooked in its own juice and will be served with rice or bread later.
We found a very nice Restaurant in Göreme where they serve this meal in a authentic way called „Old Cappadocia“
But we had the best Turkish Ravioli at the „Ravioli House“ and it’s a MUST to try them! They are stuffed with beef and onions and served with tomato sauce and yoghurt – soooo delicious!
Our favorite place in Göreme for dinner has been the „inci cave“ restaurant. It’s a small one and owned by a friendly family which serves really great food. I loved the Aubergine Paste, Köfte (some kind of meat balls) or the lemon mustard marinated chicken plus the vegetarian options. The food was so good that we ate here two nights 🙂
dinner at the ‘inci cave’
Hummus is one of our favorite sides
Cappadocia has been magical
I really enjoyed our time in Cappadocia. I can easily understand why it’s on the bucket list of so many people. It’s ideal for a shot trip or also great to connect it with the visit of some other spots in Turkey like Istanbul.
I hope my Cappadocia Travel Guide helped you to find some great spots for your own trip!