Cappadocia, Turkey, feels like stepping into a magical realm, with fairy chimneys dotting its valleys and visitors drifting above in hot air balloons. People even live in ornately carved caves, and you can stay in one during your visit.
It’s easy to arrive in Cappadocia unprepared, though. So, read on for tips that’ll leave other Cappadocia-goers envious of your foresight.
25 Essential Tips for Visiting Cappadocia, Turkey
Winging a trip to Cappadocia, Turkey, can go heart-wrenchingly wrong. Following the tips here will increase your chances of a smoother and more fulfilling visit.
1. Stay In Göreme
Göreme is a charming town that’s the base for tourism in the Cappadocia region. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with tourists flocking there because of its unique rock carvings created by erosion.
Cave hotels are the most popular accommodation style in Göreme. Options exist for most budgets, from cave hostels to luxury cave hotel rooms.
2. Göreme Doesn’t Have an Airport
Nevşehir is the closest airport to Göreme. It’s the most popular airport for tourists to fly into, and you can hire a taxi or hop on a shuttle bus for the 40-minute drive into town.
The other airport option is Kayseri Erkilet. It sits a little under 50 miles from Göreme, requiring an approximately 1-hour scenic ride.
3. Plan for the Weather
June, July, and August are the ideal months for taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. Fewer weather-related cancellations happen then, as rain and strong wind isn’t as common.
December to February is the coldest time in Göreme. However, if you travel during those months, you might get lucky and see snow-capped fairy chimneys during your Cappadocia hot air balloon ride.
4. Almost All Hotels Have Balloon Views
If you’re staying in Göreme, nearly every accommodation offers an area to view the hot air balloons at sunrise. But not all views are equal. Some, such as the Cappadocia Cave Suites, are the best cave hotels for large balloon-viewing balconies.
The bottom line is that if you want to see hot air balloons from your accommodation in Cappadocia, Turkey, staying in Göreme is a must.
5. Prices Are Cheapest in the Winter
Although there’s a higher chance of weather-related hot air balloon flight cancellations in the winter, you’ll be able to snag a cheaper balloon tour. And that’s a big deal, considering these tours start at over $100.
October to April is the best time for lower hot air balloon prices. Not only that, but your accommodation and any other tours you may book will also be less expensive.
6. Stay for a Minimum of Two Nights
Regardless of the time of year you travel, weather-induced hot air balloon cancellations happen in Cappadocia. For this reason, booking at least two nights in Göreme is crucial.
That way, if you can’t take your balloon tour on your first morning there, you’ll have a second chance the following day.
7. Verify Refund Policies
All legitimate tour companies in Cappadocia offer the option to reschedule canceled balloon rides for free. Most also provide a full refund if rescheduling isn’t conducive to your travel plans.
So, before booking your tour, be sure to ask about the agency’s refund policy. It’s also wise to request it in writing.
8. Schedule Tours Around Your Hot Air Balloon Ride
Hot air ballooning around Göreme is the focal point for most visitors to Cappadocia. So, when booking other day trips in the area, verify if the tour company is flexible with allowing you to change your tour to work around your new balloon ride date, should a cancellation happen.
Likewise, have a flexible mindset with any independent explorations you want to do. The balloon tours have an early start time, so you may want to adjust your plan to get an earlier night’s sleep for a rescheduled ride.
9. Sold Out Hot Air Balloon Rides Happen
You might not find availability if you travel to Cappadocia, Turkey, during the summer and want to book your hot air balloon tour in person.
The reason boils down to safety regulations, as tour agencies aren’t allowed to fly unlimited balloons to fill the tourism demand. For this reason, it’s vital to book your tour in advance.
10. Bartering Is Expected
Whether you want to buy a hand-woven rug or you travel during the low tourist season and prefer to book a hot air balloon ride in person, be sure to barter.
Bartering feels unnatural to most people traveling from western countries. But this practice has been around since 6,000 BC, and locals will intentionally give you a high price, expecting you to haggle it.
11. Put a Turkish Friend to Work
Getting a lower price for goods and tours in Cappadocia isn’t hard. However, most foreign tourists pay a premium compared to Turks. And when you’re dealing with a cost as high as hot air balloon rides, the discretion feels all the more pronounced.
So, if you have a Turkish friend willing to help you out, you’ll likely be able to secure lower prices than if you go at it on your own.
12. Find the Early Bird Within You
Morning brings the sunrise over Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys and—crucially for hot air balloons—the least amount of wind. For this reason, the hot air balloon tours start before dawn.
June marks the earliest sunrises in Cappadocia, at around 5:15 am. That means your tour may pick you up around 3:00 am. In contrast, the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 8:00 am in December, giving you some extra shut-eye.
13. Not All Hot Air Balloon Rides Are Equal
The average hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia lasts one hour. Some run as long as two hours, but you’ll pay a premium for spending such a long time in the air.
Certain hot air balloon companies cater to the luxury-seeking traveler, while others to the budget-conscious. Size matters, too; the number of people in a hot air balloon basket varies according to how much you’re willing to pay.
14. Don’t Buy a Ticket on the Street
If you’re traveling around Turkey before arriving in Cappadocia, be cautious of anyone on the street who wants to sell you a hot air balloon ride. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
Scammers are especially prevalent on the streets of Istanbul, offering a seemingly unbeatable price in exchange for what you’d later learn is a fake ticket. That said, if you’re in Cappadocia, Turkey, and are trying to book a last-minute hot air balloon ride, it’s okay to chat with vendors on the street as long as they take you to their office to pay for the reservation.
15. Göreme Lookout Point Is Ideal for Sightseeing
Not everyone who visits Cappadocia wants to take a hot air balloon ride. Whether or not you’re among them, the Göreme lookout point is an absolute must to watch the balloons drifting over the valley.
You’ll still need to get up early. However, going to the Göreme viewpoint doesn’t require as early of a wakeup call as taking a tour, and seeing the hot air balloons is worth it.
16. There’s Hope if You Drop Your Phone
During your balloon ride, you’ll be a few thousand feet in the air. And naturally, you’ll want to snap lots of pictures. But what happens if you drop your phone as you reach out of the basket to take a selfie?
As it turns out, the tour agency might be able to retrieve it for you, thanks to the balloon’s GPS tracking system. Just be sure to equip your phone with a military-grade case!
17. Pack a Sweater
The temperatures in Cappadocia drop into the mid-20s for lows in the winter. But its early morning summer temperatures aren’t tank top worthy, with the lows struggling to reach 60°F.
If 60-degree weather sounds comfy to you, consider this: You’ll be thousands of feet in the air during your hot air balloon ride, and the sun will barely heat up the air by the time you land. So, regardless of when you visit Cappadocia, bring warm clothes for your balloon tour.
18. Respect the Fairy Chimneys
The spirling mushroom-like fairy chimneys in Cappadocia look like they came straight from a childhood storybook. But these ash and basalt pillars started forming millions of years ago from soft volcanic rock.
Erosion formed them into the jaw-dropping masterpieces that we get to enjoy today. However, the fairy chimnies are fragile, so it’s crucial not to touch or carve anything into them.
19. Don’t Miss Love Valley
It’s safe to bring kids to Love Valley, but an adult’s eye can deduce how it got its name; the fairy chimneys have an uncanny appearance of a well-endowed male.
The sheer size of the fairy chimneys in Love Valley is enough to humble men, with many structures reaching 100 feet. You don’t need to allot tons of time in this part of Cappadocia, Turkey, but it’ll undoubtedly be a visit you’ll remember.
20. Try Manti
Cappadocia is a great place to explore Turkey’s delicious cuisine. Among its food, manti is a regional favorite.
Manti is a small dumpling containing lamb or beef stuffing and a topping with three sauces. The garlic yogurt, brown butter, and tomato sauces create such a unique combination of flavors that you must taste them yourself.
21. Look for the Camel at Devrent Valley
A visit to Devrent Valley will make you wonder if you landed on the moon. Devrent has rock formations that deviate from the typical fairy chimney shape, giving it the nickname “Imagination Valley” because of people’s creative takes on how the rock formations look.
One of the most notorious formations at Devrent Valley is the camel. But you can also explore the valley looking for other rocky shapes, including a snake, seal, and dolphin.
22. Feed the Pigeons at Pigeon Valley
Pigeons used to play a crucial role in ancient Cappadocia, as they were a source of food for locals and fertilizers for crops. Nowadays, you can visit the place where Turks once carved homes for pigeons in the rocks and where hundreds of pigeons continue to live.
There’s a beautiful viewing area over Pigeon Valley, and you can purchase food for the birds. You can also hike into the valley following some well-laid-out trails.
23. Get Your Heart Rate up Hiking Rose and Red Valley
The trailhead for Rose and Red Valley sits a short distance from downtown Göreme. These valleys offer an excellent opportunity to connect with nature during the two to three-hour journey.
Do your best to time your hike so that you arrive at Red Valley to watch the sunset. Alternatively, those not interested in hiking can drive directly to the sunset viewpoint.
24. Don’t Forget About Göreme
With so many things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey, it’s easy to overlook dedicating time to exploring Göreme. Despite the town’s small size, there’s no shortage of cute shops and restaurants.
It’s also rewarding to get lost exploring Göreme’s sidestreets. You’ll be able to get a taste of local life and admire the Turks’ skill for living among—and within—rocky cave structures. Also, don’t miss the chance to explore the Göreme Open Air Museum.
25. driPamukkale Is a Great Logistical Fit
Pamukkale is another UNESCO site that’s on many travelers’ bucket lists. The good news is that you can easily add a trip to Pamukkale before or after your Cappadocia visit.
Taking a night bus is the most popular way to travel. It’s faster than flying, given that there aren’t direct flights between Cappadocia and Pamukkale. Alternatively, you can rent a car and drive, saving you about two hours.
FAQs About Cappadocia, Turkey
Below are the answers to common questions that people have about visiting Cappadocia.
What Is Cappadocia Famous For?
Cappadocia is famous for offering hot air balloon rides over a valley of fairy chimney rock formations. It’s become an Instagram hot spot and is especially popular in the summer.
Is Cappadocia Worth Visiting?
Cappadocia is very much worth visiting. The quaint town of Göreme is an excellent base for hot air balloon rides, trying local cuisine, and finding handmade souvenirs. It’s also a central location for day trips and hikes.
How Safe Is Cappadocia, Turkey?
The U.S. Department of State classifies Turkey as a level two out of four for safety. So, while it’s wise to exercise increased caution in any unfamiliar destination, you can expect to have a safe and enjoyable time in Cappadocia.
Is Cappadocia, Turkey, in Asia?
Cappadocia is on the Asia side of Turkey. The Bosporus Straight marks where the European and Asia sides of Turkey divide. Since Cappadocia is significantly east of the Bosporus Straight, it’s undeniably part of the Asian continent.
Cappadocia Is Waiting for You
Whether you want to take a 2-hour luxury hot air balloon ride or hike every valley crevice, there’s no shortage of things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey. So, pull out that calendar and book your trip.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.