I cannot rave enough about Cappadocia. Suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite travel destination. Not only is it a dream destination but also because it is one of the easiest travels that we have to prepare for. You can easily organize this trip in a few days.
I feel like the universe just aligned to make sure my fairy tale experience is perfect from beginning (planning) to end. If you are dreaming or considering to go to Cappadocia as borders are slowly opening up again for tourism below is a travel guide that will hopefully help you in your Cappadocia trip.
Pre- Travel Preparations
Check for visa requirement
This is a prerequisite for a third world traveler like me. Check if you need a visa or eligible for an e-visa here. Turkish e-visa is one of the fastest and easiest application I've ever done. The procedure is so easy that when I made a mistake in the date, and have to re-apply for another one in the airport it took me only a few minutes to complete it. Anyway, don't be a dummy like me and double check everything (because it might be fast, but you will have to pay again). Visa fee varies depending on your nationality. For Filipinos it's US $20. Apply for an E- visa online here.
Note that a Turkish e-visa requires a valid passport, a return ticket, hotel reservation, a budget of $50/day for the duration of the stay. You should be a holder of a valid visa or residence permit from any Schengen Countries, USA, UK or Ireland. E-visas are not accepted as supporting documents. If you don't have any of the required visa you will have to go to the Turkish embassy or consulate with a filled-up application form.
Book your Transportation (How to go to Cappadocia)
For most International visitors flight arrivals is either through IST (Istanbul Airport) or SAW (Sabiha Gokcen International Airport) . IST is located at the European Side, while SAW, the smaller airport of the two can be found at the Asian Side. Most budget/low cost airlines is serviced via SAW. Having said that, make sure to check your flight details because if you have a connecting flight you might need to change airports.
From Istanbul there are several modes of transportation to reach Cappadocia. The cheaper option is by bus, that is if you don't mind the 12 hour ride or through a train ride via Kayseri. Otherwise, flying is the most convenient and best way to reach Cappadocia to either via Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) or Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV).
Kayseri have more flights each day as it is the major airport in Cappadocia. Nevsehir is nearer and will get you to Goreme by approximately 20 minutes earlier.
Of the 3 options, I'd personally suggest just flying to Cappadocia. Pegasus and other low cost airlines offers affordable and great deals.
If you are flying from Germany, Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Liege check if your respective airports have direct flight to Kayseri as they do have direct seasonal flights.
If you are coming from Manila, Ph like me, the best option would be to fly via Turkish Airlines. Insofar as my search has taken me, it's the most cost effective most convenient way. It is a direct flight to Istanbul, then from there you will take the domestic connection flight to Kayseri. With this flight you didn't have to switch airports in Istanbul, also this will save you the conundrum of which domestic airport to fly in to Cappadocia. Round trip fare is around US$1000+ or €900+. Longer flights (2+ layover) on non-peak season (especially during September - November) can be less than $800.
Book a CAVE hotel
I personally suggest a cave hotel with a rooftop. Your experience in Cappadocia starts in a cave hotel. Cave hotels have limited number of rooms, and popular ones with great views often sells out faster, so book one as soon as you get your flight details.
We have stayed both in Goreme and Uchisar, and both were fantastic experience. So yes, if you don’t mind moving hotels, I’d suggest doing this too, both places offer different vibes and are both worth experiencing. But if I have to be truly honest and have to only pick one, I’d chose to stay in Goreme. For one, it's close to everything – to town center, the restaurants, stores etc and it is where the balloons are normally launched so it is so much closer.
If you are on a tight budget, there are hostels with prices that can be as low as €10 (on lean season), a standard cave room can start at €30 (expect this to double during peak season). Popular ones run at €60 - 80 on lean season (€100+ or more during peak season. ) Luxury Hotels ranges from €220 on lean season to €500+ during peak season.
The hotel in Goreme where we stayed cost €110/night, it was worth every penny! So if you are able to afford that, go for it because the experience and value for money is so much more than the cost.
Also, go for a hotel with free breakfast and don't skip it. In all the places we have been, the breakfast in Cappadocia is the one we truly enjoyed the most. Mornings here are adventure filled and a full stomach can fuel you for an adventurous morning.
Reserve your hot air balloon ride
If you are bent on riding the hot air balloon as soon as you know your travel dates make the reservation online. A few days prior to our trip, I tried booking online and everything was sold out already. If you are in the same predicament as we are, try your luck with having the hotel make an arrangement for you… but there is no guarantee there.
There are several hot air balloon companies here. Check online for reviews and make sure to ride a reputable company. I cannot vouch for any other except for the one we use which is De Luxe Company... very experienced and courteous staff. It was a seamless, magical balloon experience.
In all fairness to Cappadocia, as the hot air balloon is symbolic of the area, over a 100 balloons takes flight everyday from 20 companies, with more than 20 years of experience somehow you will feel at ease with the expertise of pilots and staff.
Price range from €100 -220 euro depending on the company, capacity, season (peak vs. lean), duration of the flight, and inclusion of the ride. Check out my hot-air balloon experience here.
Arrange with your hotel for airport transfer.
Most hotel offer this service to and fro the airport. Some offers this service for free others will charge you around €10. While there are other transportation options I would definitely suggest to make an arrangement with your hotel because I think this is the most reliable, affordable and convenient way to go to your hotel. While we experienced a slight mishap.. a flat tire in the middle of the road, they are very quick to resolve it. So fast, you won't even have time to complain. So while things will not go 100% unhampered these people are problem solvers, they are in the tourism industry for so long, they know how to resolve a problem as soon as it arise.
Other options include a private transfer, airport shuttle (requires reservation) taking a bus or a cab. For your reference below is the taxi rate from Kayseri.
Check the weather and pack appropriately.
There are 4 seasons in Cappadocia: winter (November to March), spring (April - June), summer (July - August), fall (September - October). Of course you should pack to dress accordingly. In May early mornings can start chilly then as the day progress the temperature goes up, and the sun can get really strong. So I suggest layering up while slathering yourself with sunblock during the day, bring a light cardigan/sweater or shawl/wrap and sunnies for the blinding sun. Don’t forget those beautiful dresses! Don’t worry nobody will look at you weird, ladies go there with the intention of taking photographs (for wedding/engagement shoots, instagram or just personal use) and so they are not afraid to dress up. But if you are not into dresses, that's cool as well. Dress however you want to. You do YOU, and that's the most important thing while respecting others choice of apparel. Be sure to have a comfortable footwear if you intend to walk a lot like us.
How to get around Cappadocia
If you are into walking/hiking then Cappadocia is perfect for you. Nearby attractions are easily walkable also some areas you can only explore on foot.
There are of course, places that are a bit far and would require transportation,for this you have various options. There are cabs around, you can easily see them in the center or ask your hotel to call one for you. If you have an international driver's license then the best option for you is to rent a car or scooter. The car rental in Cappadocia is really affordable costing 130TL to 180 TL or €17 to €24 for a full day use.
You can also hire a chauffeured car but of course this is more costly. Some hotels also offers free shuttle to some places like Uchisar or Avanos. Check what your hotel offers. They also have a public bus, though i have not tried it. Then lastly, there are tours you can take.
There are 3 recommended "color coded" tours. We did not book any of it. The reason I really wanted to go to Cappadocia was the Hot Air Balloons, as for the rest we are just going to wing it. In all honesty, hubs and I are not big fans of group tours, we like to be able to explore at our own pace at our own terms. We love solitude to put it mildly (hubs will very candidly say he hates crowd.)
On the other hand, I do get the convenience of taking a tour! You get to cover a lot of places in a relatively short span of time. You are not constantly trying to second guess yourself if you are in the right path or not. And as I have taken tours as well, I know that it can be a fun beautiful chaos reminiscent of the excursions in middle school that I so loved.
In gist this all comes down on your preference or the type of traveler you are. There is no right, wrong or better way of doing it, only a matter of choice. So the right or better way, is always what you prefer.
For places we have been exploring on our own, check here. Otherwise, I have outlined what is included in the Red, Blue and Blue Tour. I cannot however make a review as I have not taken part in any, although I can guarantee that these are all beautiful places as I have seen them either in photos or in person.
Red Tours: Uchisar Castle, Love Valley, Open Air Museum, Pottery Workshop, Devrent Valley, Cavusin Rum Village, Pasabag Valley
Green Tours: Red Valley, Underground City, Guvercinlik Valley, Goreme Panorama, Ortahisar Rum Village, Kaledibi Monastery, Onyx Museum
Blue Tours: Urgup Fairy Chimney, Old Greek Village, Underground City, Soganli Valley, Ancient City, Keslik Monastery
Turkish Lira is the main currency, although euro is also widely accepted (not advisable though as it can cost you more with conversion). As of May 30,2020, 1 TL = €.13 /$.15 / 7.40 php. Cards are accepted but not in all establishment, so it's best to have cash and small change. If you are unable to exchange Lira from your country bring some euro instead, (not for spending but as a back up... i always travel with some cash, because I've had some unfortunate card incidents) . Then when you reach Istanbul withdraw from an ATM in the airport (not outside). You could also exchange money, but as we all know airport doesn't have a very good exchange rate.
There is an ATM both in Goreme and Uchisar which we have used several times and we have thankfully not encountered any untoward incident. But again err on the side caution - use your cards as payment only on reputable establishments, avoid using the ATM when its dark or somebody is lurking behind you.
Our Goreme experience is opposite of that in Istanbul where we have been a few times times and avoided at all cost using cards either in ATM or as form of payment (outside of the airport) as we have friends who were victims of Card Fraud.
Cappadocia gives off the impression of being an expensive destination. It is not! On the contrary, I'd like to think that it is one of the cheapest destination in Europe considering what it offers. Also, if I compare it to two of my other favorite destination, Banff and Santorini, Cappadocia is certainly the most affordable. Of course, its not as cheap as South East Asia. But restaurant food, car rental, are all very affordable. Even the hot air balloon is one of the cheapest (if not the cheapest) in the world.
Turkish is the official language, but English is widely spoken. Bring a smile to locals by learning this few Turkish Phrases.
Merhaba = Hello
Gunaydin = Good Morning
Tessekur Ederim = Thank you.
Gorusurus = Good Bye
Evet = Yes
Hayir = No
Wifi & Electrical Current
Free Wifi is available in all restaurants and hotel we've been in Cappadocia. Turkey uses 220 Voltz AC, 50 Hz with the round prong plug. So bring a plug adaptor, or better yet invest in a universal AC adaptor if you are a frequent traveler.
Where to EAT
Cappadocia spoiled us with great food at really affordable prices. Worth mentioning is that there is ample amount of vegan/vegetarian options in all the restaurants we have been too. They are also generous with complimentary home made bread and dips. Below are the restaurants where we dined.
Address: Aydınlı Orta Mah., Cami Sok., No:18 Göreme Kasabası, 50180 Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Traditional Turkish Cuisine
Of all the restaurants we've dined in Cappadocia this is my favorite! As such we have dined here several times during our 5 days stay. I am a person of habit, so if I like something I will keep ordering it... so each time I'd order here the halumi salad and eggplant dip! Hubs surely love their lentil soup. Although we came here for food, its a plus that it has a beautifully decorated exterior and interior.
Organic Cave Kitchen
Address: Isali Mah, Ali Cavus Sk. no. 12 50180 Goreme
Great view from this restaurant. This is where i tried my first pottery kebab. My favorite from the dishes we had is the dessert chocolate souffle. A bit disappointed that they didn't have olives.
Dibek Traditional Home Cook
Address: Belediye Cad. Hakkı Paşa Meydanı, Cami Sk. No:1, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir,
This is another highly recommended favorite of mine. Too bad we dined here towards the end of our stay in Goreme, so we are unable to come back. Its very cozy and have a charming interior.
My absolute favorite is the dessert, Tel Kadayif. If you want to go for something really traditional and feeling adventurous, try the Manti (homemade ravioli pasta with youghurt and tomato sauce. Their testi kebab (pottery kebab) must be really special because its not readily available and requires a reservation.
Viewpoint Cafe Restaurant
Address: Orto Mah. Cami Sok No.6 Goreme
This restaurant is highly recommended for its view, and I'm going to give them that - Great View. Unfortunately, i cannot give the same commendation for the food. I have the tried the pottery kebab in several restaurants here, and this is my least favorite. Hubs food falls flat too. Do come for the view though, it will not disappoint!
Lil'a Restaurant by Mueum Hotel
Address: Tekelli, Eski, Goreme No.2
Great view, great food but a lot more pricier and fancier than all the other restaurants we've been in Cappadocia.
Address: Muze Cd. No:1 50180 Goreme
A well loved restaurant in Goreme center, and understably so, they have the friendliest, and most engaging staff. Delicious tradition Turkish cuisine, priced reasonably well. I highly recommend this.
Address: Yukari, Yukari Mahalle Park sokak Fatih Caddesi, Pazar yeri Meydani no.7 50240 Uchisar
If you are craving for Italian food, then i definitely suggest this charming restaurant in Uchisar.
What I LOVE about Cappadocia
Everything of course!!! From the surreal spectacular scenery, the hot air balloons, the food, the culture are all constant and given why this place is truly special.
But truly worth mentioning and why this place got my utmost respect is how stressless everything is. No hecklers, no hard sellers, no "hard & long" staring. They are used to tourist, and from my experience they never try to annoy or take advantage of us. As the area is developed around tourism, they have facilities and services catering to tourist for us to have that vacation of a lifetime. But unlike other touristy place they never hard sell anything. Throughout our stay, we have enjoyed walking around, with 0 annoyance, very little disruption. They will offer you something once, and once you say, thank you, maybe later or even just a polite greeting, they will backdown. Though we have not experienced any untoward incident, of course, i would always advice to always proceed with due prudence.
Leaving this place will make you sad because a fairytale is about to end, but will leave you smiling for days of the beautiful memories you have made in this beautiful place.