Cappadocia is one of the destinations which became incredibly popular thanks to Instagram. The photos with the colorful hot air balloons are a must-have for any travel blogger, photographer or just a traveler who finds inspiration on the social media. I always feel a bit suspicious about this kind of places, expecting the crowds of tourists and overpriced restaurants, but my curiosity usually prevails the reason and pushes me to see everything by my own eyes…
Together with my friend Lidia we visited Cappadocia at the end of this summer, after spending a week on the Greek islands. This short trip left contradictory impressions which were in a good part caused by our travel organization. We had a vague idea about Cappadocia before arriving there – in fact, our knowledge was limited by Instagram posts and a few Wikipedia articles. We didn’t prepare our trip seriously enough and made several mistakes which affected our picture of Cappadocia. In this article I’d love to share with you some precious advice (based on my own experience) to help you making the best of your Cappadocia trip.
- Add a few days
After seeing hundreds of identical photos from Cappadocia you might think that it consists only of Sultan Cave Suits (the most instagrammable hotel in Cappadocia) and a path between the fairy chimneys (large, cone-like rocks). In fact Cappadocia is much more than this! This a LARGE valley where several villages and natural parks are situated. There’re many places to visit, and you have to walk a lot if you want to see many things. And the problem is that if you come to Cappadocia in summer, the weather is hot, so you in the hottest hours of the day you will be more inclined to find refuge in the coffee shops rather than walking in the sun… To sum up, better to add some extra days to your trip than rushing around and feeling exhausted at the end of the day.
We stayed in Cappadocia just two nights (arrived very late and left early in the morning, so actually we had just a bit more than 24 hours there) and it was definitely not enough!
2. Book the flights in advance
No matter from where you come, the principle is the same: there’re no direct flights to Cappadocia. You have to fly to Istanbul and take a plane to one of two Cappadocia airports – Nesvehir or Kayseri. The escale in Istanbul can be just one hour but if you buy the tickets at the last moment (which was our case) you probably won’t have lots of choice and will have to accept four or five hours escale. It’s an enormous waste of time and very tiring, especially taking into consideration that both airports are at least one hour away from the villages where the hotels are situated (we took a taxi and it costed us around 40 euros one way).
We bought the tickets two weeks before the trip and were overwhelmed by the prices! Other options, such as renting a car or taking a bus / train from Istanbul were considered by us and declined because they mean even bigger waste of time and are even more exhausting (a night in the bus or a 10-hours drive on the Turkish roads don’t sound like fun).
So try to plan your trip much in advance and pick the best tickets: short escale in Istanbul and arrival to Cappadocia in the afternoon, so that you can have a good rest after flight and make the best of the next day.
3. Go for a hot air balloon ride
This advice may seem trivial, since the hot air balloon ride became Cappadocia‘s visit card. Anyway we didn’t do it for two reasons: first, the balloons fly only in the morning – and we had to choose between taking the photos of the balloons from one of the view points or going for a ride and staying in the basket. Second reason was the price. After paying a fortune for the plane tickets, we weren’t willing to add 150 euros per person (price of the ride) and decided to watch the balloons from the terrace of a hotel. Well, to be honest we were a bit disappointed… The famous sunrise view of the valley with hundreds of the hot air balloons over it looked beautiful – but not exceptional : the balloons were quite far away and only a few of them approached enough to take a decent photo. I think it would be more interesting to be in the basket of one of the balloons, fly among of them and see the valley from the air.
This is one of the examples when the photos from Instagram exaggerate the beauty of the place. There’s no mystery: all the photographers (including me) edit their photos and can make almost any spot look more attractive than it actually is, but in case of Cappadocia the gap between the photos of the balloons in the air and reality is huge…
4. Don’t stick to the balloons and explore the valley
Even if Cappadocia is particularly famous for its hot air balloons, this region has many other things to discover. Take your time to prepare the trip and read a few articles about Cappadocia before going there – you will be fascinated by the long history and uniqueness of this area. Göreme open-air museum is included into the World Heritage List by UNESCO and deserves a half-day visit during which you will see the incredible rock-cut churches. The Rose Valley offers fantastic views of the fairy chimneys (I especially recommend Crazy Ali’s panoramic café, a perfect place to watch the sunset while drinking Turkish tea). Zelve open-air museum is a ghost cave town… To sum up, refer to point 1 of this list and don’t miss the most interesting sights of Cappadocia sacrifing it to the hot air balloons.
5. Take comfy shoes and sport clothes
The last tip is directly related to the previous one: don’t forget a pair of hiking shoes and comfortable clothes. This point concerns especially the girls like my friend Lidia and myself who always remember to bring a beautiful dress for sunrise photos but forgets sneackers. The ground in Cappadocia is dusty and you have to walk a lot if you want to visit interesting spots, so be ready to kill your shoes on the roads of this region – and also kill your feet if the shoes aren’t comfortable. Girls, no shoecide – bring sneackers!
I should admit that we didn’t think about all these nuances before going to Cappadocia and it definitely made an impact on our stay there. We felt exhausted when we took a return flight after 24 hours in Cappadocia… We had impression to see only a “facade” of this region and since this area is so hardly acessible, we knew we would probably never come back. The photos taken during this trip are truly magical but my most important advice is to do NOT going to Cappadocia just for the photos. Even if it’s such an “Instagrammable” place, Cappadocia is much more than a beautiful picture – explore it instead of just visiting.