You know those beautiful destination lists you see on the internet ALL THE TIME, the Pinterest photos with the description “dreamland,” and the natural places you must see before you die? Well, that place is Cappadocia, or what I like to refer to as “the best place in Turkey.”
I’m sure if you aren’t 95 or haven’t been hiding under a rock for the last 10 years you have at least navigated the internet and come across Cappadocia, whether you knew it or not. The photo usually has hundreds of hot air balloons soaring over unreal rock formations…ahh yes now it is ringing a bell! The place does indeed exist, and Cameron and I were fortunate enough to travel around the area for an entire week! Surprisingly, doing Cappadocia on a budget was extremely easy.
A Travel Guide to Cappadocia
Getting to Cappadocia, Turkey
There are two airports that service Cappadocia: Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV). We took a $30 flight from Istanbul into Nevsehir with Turkish Airlines, which to us was a much better option than a long overnight bus for roughly the same price. NAV was a tiny airport that only has a few flights per day.
Once you exit there are dolmus’s waiting outside to take you where you need to go. There are options to set this up in advance, but we had no problem arriving and telling the drivers that we were going to Goreme. The cost was 10 Turkish lira and took about an hour. You can also take a train or bus to Cappadocia, we chose not to do this in the interest of time. We chose to fly after finding a sick deal on Skyscanner!
Getting Around Cappadocia
Goreme is “the place to be” for tourist in Cappadocia. It is where the balloons can be most easily viewed, has hundreds of guesthouses and restaurants, and is the jumping off point for many day trips. Goreme is completely walkable in 10 minutes and there is one grocery store, although it is very limited. There is a main bus stop smack dab in the middle of Goreme for entry and exit points. The other main towns around Goreme are Uçhisar and Ürgüp. Both can be reached by dolmus, taxi, or an enjoyable hike.
The People of Cappadocia
The “cave people” of Cappadocia are some of the nicest we’ve met in all of Turkey, and truly make Cappadocia the best place in Turkey. Quite regularly locals were inviting us in for tea and to chat. One local man that we met told us that we were free to go into his house (he left it unlocked) while he was at work and take a look around and enjoy ourselves! I know there have been reports in the past about theft and crime in Goreme, but we felt completely safe and at home.
The Food in Cappadocia
Is the same everywhere. Clay pot meals and lentil soup is what the area specializes in and cost about 25 lira for a chicken clay pot, small salad, and lentil soup. After a week here I think I can safely say that I never want clay pot chicken again. We got a brief break from the clay pot meals at Fat Boys Bar, which served a couple traditional western dishes for reasonable prices.
Splurge alert: If you want to live a little more refined then check out Seki Restaurant in Uchisar for a nice glass of wine. A glass of house wine will run you about 20 lira, but the views are incredible and the wine is delicious.
The Coffee in Cappadocia
There are three main coffee shops servicing Goreme. Coffeedocia, Pasha Cafe, and Oze Coffee. We went to Coffeedocia because the name was cute…but it turned out to be extremely overpriced and average coffee. Pasha Cafe has a nice outdoor seating area with a fire, but prices were outrageous even by New York standards. We chose to get our daily caffeine fix and Oze Coffee, right in the center of town and even make specialty lattes for 8 lira.
The Accommodation in Cappadocia
Varies with your budget. There are a few backpacker hostels that are very cost efficient and include breakfast. We spent 3 nights at Stay in Peace Hostel for 20 lira/night. We then moved to a traditional cave hotel and got a basic double room inside a cave for 90 lira/night. Most accommodations in Turkey include a traditional Turkish breakfast. Turkish breakfast in the best place in Turkey? Perfect.
The Cost of Traveling in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is what you make of it. Of course, it can be done extravagantly, but as backpackers, we wanted to do Cappadocia on a budget. I will detail below costs, I must say that we were able to live very comfortably here while staying under our budget of $35 a day, just like many other Europe travel costs.
Breaking down some of the cost and options for activities to do Cappadocia on a budget, and also on the high end. All cost are per person.
|Budget Options||Cost||Luxury Options||Cost|
|Cave Hostel||€ 8||High-End Cave Hotel||€ 100|
|Watch Sunrise Balloons||€ 0||Hot-Air Balloon Tour||€ 120|
|Hiking through Valleys||€ 0||Day Tour through Valleys||€ 30|
|Day Long Mountain Bike||€ 6||ATV Sunset Tour||€ 30|
|Walking into churches||€ 0||Open Air Museum||€ 8|
|Dinner at Restaurant||€ 7||Whirling Dervishes Show||€ 35|
|Lunches from Market||€ 3||Eating out at restaurant||€ 20|
|Church Of St. John The Baptist||€ 0||Underground city of Derinkuyu||€ 8|
How to Travel Cappadocia on a Budget?
Watch the Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise
This is one of the number one things I wanted to do in Cappadocia, but for some reason, I didn’t do any research on it beforehand. We arrived expecting to be flown high up into the sky, but after we were quoted €100 (off season price) per person for 1 hour of ride time we quickly rethought. I’m sure it would have been lovely, but we can live off €100 for 4-5 days in some places. We simply could not justify this cost, and instead woke up at sunrise and hiked to sunset peak to catch the balloons for free. Which was one of the coolest things I have ever seen.
Go Hiking in Cappadocia
Some of the best hikes in Turkey are right in this area. There are so many valleys to hike through in Cappadocia! We spent most of our days wandering through Rose Valley, Pigeon Valley, Red Valley, and Love Valley. All are incredibly unique and offer great hiking trails. Best of all – it’s free and a workout!
Explore the Churches
The cave churches in Cappadocia are some of the oldest in the world. You can find plenty of them just hiking around the valleys of Goreme. We chose to explore the churches on our own rather than go to the Open-Air Museum. The Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage List and boasts many churches side by side. We were told that the crowds can get extremely bad, so we decided to avoid this and paying the entrance fee.
Master your Mountain Biking
The valleys have great trails set up for mountain biking, and ranging from beginner to advanced. Mountain biking proved to be a great budget friendly option for the day. There are plenty of bike shop rentals around town, just make sure you find a reputable company and always test the bike before hand.
Head to Cavusin
We chose this as an alternative to the underground city of Derinkuyu. Derinkuyu is 35 km south of Goreme and is not convenient to get to without a tour or your own transport. So instead, we chose to bike to Cavusin. A half hour hike from Goreme will bring you to this little town. The town is very small and charming in itself, but it also is the site of the Church of St. John the Baptist on top of a hill. This is the biggest church in Cappadocia and deserves some exploring. (It’s also free to enter and offers stunning views from the top!) Highly recommend!
Goreme National Park
With so many things to do in Cappadocia, boredom won’t be an issue. One of the first things many visitors do upon arrival is to book a tour of Goreme National Park. Chock-full of awe-inspiring rock formations and ruins of ancient cave dwellings, this site will give you invaluable insight into the local culture.
It can be hot and crowded in the summer months, so remember to bring a water bottle and comfy travel shoes. There are descriptive plaques at the sites, so you’ll know what you’re seeing, and there are even restaurants and cafes, though they’re on the pricey side.
Goreme Open Air Museum
The Goreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason. A Cappadocia must-do, the museum is a monastic settlement from the 10th century, and home to a collection of amazing churches crafted from the area’s volcanic rock. Many of the churches sport amazingly detailed and still-vibrant murals on their walls and ceilings, some of which depict biblical stories.
Avanos Pottery and Ceramic Shops
The Avanos pottery and ceramic shops are family-run artisan shops in the town of Avanos, many of which have been in continuous operation for many generations.
A visit to the Devrent Valley will be a nice change from so many wonderful cultural activities. Don’t expect to find ancient churches or cave ruins here; this wonderful spot is home to natural rock formations only.
Resembling the surface of the moon, or perhaps Mars, the landscape is characterized by towering monoliths, many of which look like animals, though you’ll need to use every ounce of your imagination to see the resemblance. There’s even one that looks like the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus, according to local lore.
Book a Turkish Night
What better way to cap a great day off than with a traditional Turkish night. The dancer’s garb and hypnotic moves – not to mention the music, architecture, and aura – will have you checking the calendar in your phone to see if time hasn’t gone a few centuries in reverse. Found in many of the local cave restaurants, the dance shows are another absolute must-do in Cappadocia.
Getting out of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is smack dab in the middle of Turkey. You have two options to get out – fly or bus. We chose to take the night bus to Pamukkale with Suha bus company for 50 lira. The bus ride was 10 hours long and surprisingly wasn’t terrible. If you go with this option just note that all buses drop you off at Denizli, where you will have a free transfer to a smaller caravan to take you directly to Pamukkale.
How Many Days Do You Need in Cappadocia?
That’s really all up to you! We spent a full week in Cappadocia because we were enjoying the hiking so much. However, I would say you could do a lot and get a food feel for the area with 3 days in Cappadocia.
Personally, I could have stayed longer doing more hikes, but if you only want to see the balloons and a few other things 3 days in Cappadocia is suitable.
Plan and Pack for Cappadocia
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Turkey so it’s best not to contribute to the problem of buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about our favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Remember that Turkey uses the Europlug. Make sure you find a good adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.