Things to Do in Magical Cappadocia – First Timers’ Guide

Sunrise hot air balloon rides Cappadocia Turkey

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Picture this – pretty hot air balloons floating above whimsical fairy chimneys to the backdrop of a pastel sunrise. This dreamy landscape is located in Turkey, and this guide shares the very best things to do in Cappadocia. It also includes essential travel information, the lowdown on reality versus expectation, and an honest review of the popular Sultan Caves Suites hotel.

You may also find our round-up of the top cave hotels useful.

What to Do in Cappadocia

Take A Hot Air Balloon Ride

This Cappadocia tour was my first time in a hot air balloon, and the ride exceeded my expectations!

The experience started at 4:50 am with a very rushed breakfast.

Then, after a quick bus ride, we were at the flight point, where a handful of balloons were gearing up to take flight.

The noise of the flame is intimidating but very exciting!

Floating in the air is one of the most serene things I’ve done; it’s seriously peaceful amongst the fairy chimneys.

The only noise is the quiet chat from customers, the pilot’s stories, and the skoosh of the flame.

A bit of teamwork is required to land.

Be prepared to go down on your hunches and pull a little, but you are rewarded with a champagne treat!

Expect to be back at your hotel at around 8:30. 

Hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia at sunrise

Not all hot air balloon rides are created equal, so be careful when choosing a company.

Prices vary, too!

Expect anything from €200 and up, although I have seen discounts of 50% on GetYourGuide during low season.

The price is usually related to the number of people in the hot air balloon basket—the smaller the basket, the more expensive the ride (2-28 people).

We opted for a 16-person basket, but only three people were in each basket slot.

For comfort reasons, I wouldn’t go any bigger than this.

The length of the ride also impacts the cost.

You can choose between 60 and 90 minutes.

For my first experience, 60 minutes was enough.

Please see below for more details on other aspects social media doesn’t tell you about Cappadocia balloons.

Hikes in Cappadocia

Hiking in Cappadocia

Cappadocia has lovely hikes.

We took an afternoon walk from Pigeon Valley to White Valley, ending at Love Valley.

It took around 3.5 hours.

Download the app and set up the Göreme map before you leave an area with WiFi.

There are a few coffee/tea stops along the way, with local men asking if you would like some tea and asking where you are from.

I love the Turkish banter!

Quick side story: One of the Turkish men who owns a shop in Göreme was ecstatic that we were visiting from the UK.

He said they have mainly had visits from the skinny South Americans and not the ‘round’ Brits.

We asked if he was calling us chubby, and he said yes. We laughed!

Pigeon carvings on sticks at Pigeon Valley Cappadocia in Turkey

Love Valley 

Love Valley is where you will giggle at the rocks that are very pleased to see you.

The phallic-looking rocks caused by a volcanic eruption stand proud, surrounded by trees in the deep valley.

It gets cool down there, which is pleasant in the afternoon sun.

If you are in Cappadocia for three days, add watching the hot air balloon over Love Valley to your itinerary!

Phallic rocks of Love Valley Hike Cappadocia

ATV Rides in Cappadocia 

If hiking isn’t your thing, why not take a two-hour quad ride through Sword, Love, and Rose Valley, a super popular tour in Cappadocia?

This activity also takes you off-road to Cavusin Old Greek Village.

You can choose from a variety of times throughout the day.

If riding in summer, remember sunscreen and a hat. 

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never taken a quad bike tour before because the guides go over safety instructions.

As always, make sure you have travel insurance. We use True Traveller, while others like World Nomads.

You can read our comparison guide here.

Relax at the Turkish Baths 

Katpatuka Camur Maharasi Baths in Göreme will literally take your breath away as you walk through the door because it is hot!

The baths have a four-step process.

Step one involves small fish munching the dead skin off your toes.

Step two is bathing in 37-40 degrees water.

Step three is a fun mud bath

Finally, a private shower.

Warning: This is your only chance to shower before changing, so rinse your swimsuit, too.

Lockers, towels, flip-flops, and hairnets are provided.

Most hotels will provide a shuttle.

Evil Eyed Tree Cappadocia

Göreme Open Air Museum

Culture hunters may want to visit one of the most popular Cappadocia activities, the open-air museum, to see the fresco wall paintings inside the rocks.

This open-air museum was one of Turkey’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

During summer, the area is busy with bus tours.

On the way, check out the Nazar boncuğu/evil eye tree, laden with beautiful blue-eyed pendants, and the strange plastic bag tree.

  • Get there: 15-minute walk from Göreme town
  • Note: photography is not allowed inside the caves 

Kaymakli Cappadocia Underground City 

Over 100 tunnels make up an underground city in Cappadocia.

Visitors can walk through the stables, a church, a kitchen, and a wine cellar at Derinkuyu Underground City.

Open air museum Cappadocia

Dine in a Cave

Topdeck was recommended by hotel staff; it’s the place to eat!

Like most restaurants in Turkey, the food is plentiful, and the service is cheery.

We had meat, salad, and rice with bread on the table for mains.

Naturally, we polished it down with baklava and ice cream.

Customers can choose to sit at a table or on the floor.

Tip: There are only ten tables, so book ahead or arrive early

Stay in One of the Cappadocia Cave Hotels

Hot air balloons and fairy chimneys are not this town’s only dreamy features; staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia is another.

Many hotels are carved into caves, but the most famous one is Sultan Caves Suites.

The brainchild of a businessman with a very clever marketing strategy, Sultan Caves Suites is the most sought-after stay.

We booked one night to experience a cave hotel, planning to wake up for sunrise to see the hot air balloons float above the terrace.

Cave Room Cappadocia, Bed, Sultan Cave Suites

My first impressions were positive.

The staff is super friendly and accommodating.

They offered us Turkish coffee on arrival and a ride to the open-air museum in the afternoon.

The terrace lives up to its reputation; the views are as stunning as social media and YouTube portray.

A bar serves wine, beer with a small markup from town bars, and shisha.

The cave rooms are large.

Some rooms have windows, whereas others don’t, which may be an issue if you are claustrophobic.

The WiFi was patchy but strong enough to send messages home and upload images to social media.

Bloggers, I was on a digital detox so can’t comment on the strength for work, step away from the laptop and enjoy the terrace!

The electrical current running through the hotel is slower than at home, so phones and electronics take longer to charge.

Breakfast in Turkey is a big deal!

Sultan Caves Suites’ breakfast buffet is extensive—expect meats, cheese, fruit, salad, eggs, bread, French toast, pancakes, and bananas.

This delightful buffet is served downstairs, not on the terrace like social media would lead you to believe; the image below is just a staging site for photography!

Dreaming of a cave hotel stay? Here is our hotel guide.

Sultan Caves Suites Cappadocia Turkey

Wake Up For Sunrise Photography

If you plan to stay overnight in a cave hotel, set an alarm for sunrise to take advantage of seeing the hot air balloon tours take flight.

Here are some photography tips:

If you’re staying at Sultan Cave Suite, expect the terrace to be busy.

Snap your shots, then head to other parts of the hotel to find unique scenes.

There is a valley over the road from the hotel where the balloons ride nearby.

The balloons kick around for over an hour, so you have plenty of opportunity to capture them in the changing light.

Hot air balloon flying over Cappadocia

Invest in a camera with an app.

I recommend a camera with a remote option, like the Canon M50 US / UK.

Or set up the camera function on an Apple Watch if you have one; that way, you can take photos remotely with your camera on a tripod or balancing on a wall.

Be nice!

Offer to take someone’s shot, and they’ll most likely do the same for you.

Suntan Cave Suites Terrace sunrise

Catch a Sunset in Cappadocia

The region is not just about sunrises!

As the sun sets, the masses flock to Sunset Point at the top of the hill.

Another recommended spot is the top of Love Valley.

Since this is an evening activity, you won’t see any balloons in the sky, and if you have your hot air balloon tour the next day, it’s maybe time to head to bed in preparation for an early rise!

Orange and purple suset in Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia Travel Information

What is Cappadocia, and Where is it?

Cappadocia is a small region in Central Anatolia, over 730 km from Turkey’s Istanbul and 285 km from the capital, Ankara.

The main town where visitors stay is Göreme (pronounced Gehr-oh-mie).

Other areas of interest include the less touristy Nevşehir, Uçhisar (the tallest point in Cappadocia), Ürgüp, and Avanos by the Red River.

This historical area of Turkey is home to many beautiful valleys, including Pigeon Valley and White Valley, but that’s not the main attraction; the cave hotels are, and the most sought-after mode of transport thrives in the sky: the hot air balloon!  

Nevsehir Cappadocia

How to Get to Cappadocia

The most efficient way to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul is by plane, minibus, or car hire.

Turkish Airlines offers daily flights to Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV)—one of the smallest airports I’ve flown into, from Istanbul.

Pegasus Air also has flights during peak season.

Note: While Kayseri’s Erkilet Airport (ASR) is the main airport in Cappadocia, the journey to the towns is longer, at around 1 hour.

This makes Nevşehir-Kapadokya the closest airport to Cappadocia and, hence, the most popular.

The minibus journey from the Nevşehir Airport officially takes around 30 minutes to Ürgüp and 40 minutes to Göreme and Avanos, but we were only on the bus for 25 minutes.

You can book the bus through your accommodation.

If you are serious about taking photos in Cappadocia, I recommend hiring a car, which you can do at Cappadocia airport.

This would give you more flexibility for sunrise shots around the valleys.

Getting Around Cappadocia 

There are plenty of taxis in Cappadocia.

Agree on a price before you drive; I was ripped off in Istanbul by 50 Lira.

How Many Days In Cappadocia?

If you plan to go on a hot-air balloon ride, stay at least two nights in case the weather is bad.

If you can stay longer, you’ll have ample time to catch multiple sunrises with the hot air balloons taking flight.

The Best Time to Visit Cappadocia

March/April-May (spring) is recommended to avoid the heat and crowds of summer.

However, the Cappadocia weather dictates if hot air balloons take off.

We had perfect weather during the second week in April; however, balloon tours didn’t go ahead the week before.

September and October are also recommended as autumn/fall months, as they are not as cold as winter.

However, those snowy valleys look fantastic in pictures!

Check the local sunset and sunrise times, too.

What To Pack for Cappadocia 

There is a mix of people with different travel styles in Cappadocia—those visiting to pose in dresses and suits and others who want to see the area.

Pack accordingly!

  • Day outfits
  • Hiking outfit
  • Photography outfits
  • Layers for chilly mornings and nights
  • Poncho/scarves/throws
  • Hats
  • Shades
  • Mobile phone and cables
  • Camera and cables
  • Additional battery 
  • Additional SD card
  • Tripod
  • GoPro with remote
  • GoPro selfie stick
  • A universal plug like Skross US / UK
  • Lots of charged capacitors; we use Anker packs US / UK

Currency and Budget 

Turkey uses the Turkish Lira (TL), although tours are advertised in Euros.

Most hotels, restaurants, and tours in Cappadocia accept credit cards.

There are ATMs in the town, too.

Check out the exchange rate here.

The most significant expense on our trip was the hot-air balloon ride, followed by one night at Sultan Cave Suites.

Those on a budget may want to forego the Turkish bath experience and opt for a cheaper hotel like the Jasmine House, where we stayed the first night.

The owners make a great breakfast! 

Turkish Visa (UK)

UK nationals have to purchase a Turkish visa before entering the country.


It’s always polite to try and speak a little of the local language.

Here are the two essentials, and when in doubt, a big smile goes a long way:

  •  Hello – Merhaba/Selam
  • Thank you -Teşekkür ederim

Girisl means entrance; I kept seeing the word ‘girls’ and wondered why women had to go through a separate area!

Cappadocia Cave Hotels

Aside from the Sultan Caves, there are many other options for accommodation in the area.

SoS Cave, Göreme

SOS Cave overlooks Pigeon Valley and Uçhisar Castle.

Breakfast is served on the seated terrace (tables and chairs).

WiFi is available in public areas.

For a fabulous Cappadocia experience, request a cave hotel room.

Click here to check the best rates and availability.

Harman Cave Hotel, Göreme

Harman Cave Hotel is a larger complex just five minutes walk from town.

Free parking is available, and bikes can be rented from reception.

The Ottoman-style rooms are plush, and feature LED TV.

There is extensive terrace space and a small cushioned area to take your Instagram-worthy pictures.

Click here to check today’s rates and availability.

Kaya Hotel, Göreme

For a more modern twist on the cave hotels of Göreme, check out Kaya Hotel.

The hotel has a terrace (tables and chairs) and a unique indoor swimming pool and spa.

Check here to see today’s rates and availability.

Mithra Cave Hotel, Göreme 

One of the most popular Göreme cave hotels, and rightfully so, Mithra Cave Hotel dominates with its multiple terraces, which have uninterrupted views of the valleys.

Like most cave accommodations in Cappadocia, the rooms are decorated in local textiles.

Unlike all hotels, WiFi is available in the rooms.

An extensive breakfast is served on the terrace, and they also have a decorative breakfast for your Instagram images of Cappadocia.

Book here.

Museum Hotel, Üchisar

The Museum Hotel is one of those accommodations where you could spend a few days without doing anything else—R&R.

It has a swimming pool which is a big appeal.

Check the best rates here.

Rox Cappadocia, Üchisar

Seen the wooden tulip-shaped chair on social media?

Yeah, that’s from Rox Cappadocia.

Another cool option in Üchisar boasts striking views of the valleys and hot air balloons at sunrise. 

Click here for prices.

Helike Inn Cappadocia, Üchisar

Helike Inn has a cute terrace like Sultan Cave Suites and rooms with patio and garden views.

Some rooms have a terrace, too.

Nevsehir rocky terrain in Cappadocia Turkey

Things Social Media Doesn’t Tell You About Cappadocia

I’ve set the scene for why I think Cappadocia is one of the coolest places in the world, and I hope you get the vibe that I like this region in Turkey.

Now, I will dispel some social media fantasies because one of the most frequent comments about I receive Two Scots Abroad is that readers like our honesty.

1. There Are Very Early Rises 

Above, I recommend staying in Cappadocia for three nights so that you can wake up to three sunrises.

Why three sunrises?

Sunrise is the only time to see Cappadocia’s hot air balloons, so your trip involves early nights and bleary-eyed mornings.

One of the three mornings should be spent in a basket doing a magical balloon ride, and the other could be spent taking photos of the balloons in flight.

I recommend spending one morning on a hotel’s sun terrace and the next at a viewing point like Sunrise Point or a valley.

Don’t forget your tripod, remote, or a friend to take photos. 

2. Not All Hot Air Balloons Take Flight

Instagram shows off the balloons in their element but doesn’t explain where, when, and how much.

As mentioned above, the hot air balloon rides take flight at sunrise.

Any balloons you see in the afternoon are practice rides.

Unfortunately, weather dictates whether rides go ahead.

Those who visited the week before me had very little luck, as the wind and rain were against them, and flights were pulled; companies will try to reschedule if this is the case.

The weather also controls the flight path of the hot air balloon ride.

Little wind makes flights more difficult, but too much wind prevents dips into the valleys between the striking fairy chimneys.

Hot air balloon rides vary in price, basket size, and length (60 minutes or 90 minutes).

Some companies offer discounts for booking online or with American Express.

Hotels are also affiliated with some companies; they may offer you a special rate.

Prices increase in April as the season picks up.

3. Choosing a Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Company is Tough 

Don’t be lured in by a cheap ride; your safety is paramount, and you want the experience to be worth the money.

Ask if your prospective company uses English-speaking pilots; you want them to be able to point out what you are seeing and share their charming jokes.

Find out how many years of experience the company’s pilots have; it’s just you, the pilot, the other passengers, and a flame up there!

Also, ask if the pilot takes the balloons into the valleys.

One flew above us at Sultan Cave Suites!

Some baskets hold 28 people; the fewer the basket holds, the more expensive the ride. 

Most baskets have compartments.

You don’t want to share one with more than two people, so you can move around to allow each other to get the best shots.

Finally, for the best hot air balloon flight experience, request a slot one flight (flies first), avoiding slot two (flies after slot one).

According to our walking tour guide in Istanbul, 10-15 companies are now regulated by one large one that enjoys a relationship with the government.

When you start researching, it’ll be obvious who the leading players are.

We flew with the Royal Balloon company.

4. Cappadocia is Juxtaposition – Noisy yet Peaceful 

Cappadocia is insanely peaceful from up in the sky.

There’s a beautifully eerie feeling to floating.

This is a stark contrast to Göreme at times.

Dogs bark, the call for prayers fills the air from 5:00, and cave hotel doors creak. 

5. Breakfast is Not Served

Social media coverage of the cave hotels gives you the impression that breakfast is served outdoors on a terrace while balloons float behind you, but in reality, most breakfast is dished out indoors after sunrise.

That table on the terrace of Sultan Cave Suites is a prop for photos!

Cool or cringe?

We surveyed our IG followers via Stories, and most voted for cool.

Those who private messaged me said they would still pose with the non-edible plums.

Note: They are edible; they’ve just been sitting out for a while.

I think it’s a stroke of genius and serves well (boom boom) the type of customers Sultan Caves Suites attracts.

6. Hot Air Balloons Can Bring Out One’s Bad Side

As the sun rises and the hot air balloons float onto the horizon, the beautiful terrace brings out the ugly in some guests.

For some (not all), manners are thrown to the wind as guests in prom dresses hog the purposively placed breakfast table and are mean to their friends for not getting them in the rule of thirds, a genuinely unpleasant conversation I heard.

Staff is on hand to chase away guests not staying at the Suites; a group tried twice!  

Other hotel guests are kind and patient, helping each other get the best shots.

Arch frames the Open air museum in Goreme Cappadocia

Final Thoughts

Taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia has been on my bucket list for a long time now, and I am over the moon that I had the chance to fly in one and take shots of the baskets in the air!

Cappadocia truly is a magical experience, and I highly recommend a trip to ride, hike, and take a mud bath.

I will definitely visit again for a romantic couples’ trip this time!

20 thoughts on “Things to Do in Magical Cappadocia – First Timers’ Guide

  1. JTC says:

    Great post. Still debating between Goreme or the quieter Uchisar.. seems like the hotels are a little more luxurious in Uchisar, but all of the action is in Goreme.

    Can you hire a private car to transfer from one of the airports? Or is it all shared minibuses? thanks in advance

    • Gemma | Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hey Tom. Nice decision to be making, absolutely loved Cappadocia. There’s this private car tour capped at 4 hours which you might be able to discuss airport transfer with. Let me know how you get on and enjoy.

  2. Colin says:

    I think u will find prices have gone up since u wrote your article. The open air museum is now 54 TL and balloon rides 160-240 TL, depending on the number of people riding the balloon. u mentioned u went on a 16 person balloon ride, I believe this is considered a small number and would be well over 200 euros. Maybe prices are at a seasonal high, I’m not sure, but for a full time traveler like myself, it means digging deep, and I’m from Yorkshire????

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      That’s a quick increase, thanks for letting me know. It was April that I did it in if that helps any. Really enjoyed it and would plan to return with Craig this time!

  3. aworldinreview says:

    This was honestly a very refreshing read. Still looking forward to doing Cappadocia one day and its good to have more realistic expectations. Keep it up!


  4. The Evolista says:

    These are really great and helpful tips Gemma. Thanks so much for all the hotel recommendations. I’m a little scared of the morning girls on the patio ????

    xx Jenifer

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Elbows out Jenifer! The staff are very good at spotting them and Cappadocia is honestly such a dream.

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