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top five guide: cappadocia, turkey

Updated: Oct 5, 2023


Unique Geological Formations at Sunset in Cappadocia Turkey

I was hopeful but skeptical when planning our trip to Cappadocia, a region in central Turkey a short flight away from Istanbul. This fairytale-like place had been plastered all over my Instagram feed for years, and it was clearly an influencer's playground. I saw so many photos of over-the-top breakfast spreads, magical-looking sunrises, and (puzzlingly) women running towards hovering hot air balloons in elaborate gowns (really...why is this a thing?).


While the photos were captivating, they also gave me the sense that this place might be over-hyped and over-romanticized. Thank goodness that did not deter us from visiting, because while you will certainly run into the do-it-for-the-gram-type setups, that is just a small piece of what Cappadocia has to offer. Simply put, this region is otherworldly, bucket-list-worthy magic: no gown required.


here are my top five tips for a trip to CAPPADOCIA:


Girl Enjoying Coffee During Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight in Cappadocia Turkey Cave Hotel Terrace Antique Terrace Suites

1: where to stay & how long

It is important to know Cappadocia isn’t a town, but in fact a region. There are a few towns you can stay in, but Göreme has the most hotels and tourist infrastructure. There you will find dozens of cave hotels, which offer a unique experience and most cost less than $100/night. I recommend staying in a cave hotel with a terrace, which is optimal to view the famous sunrise balloon flights. We stayed at Antique Terrace Suites (pictured) and loved it! I recommend spending a minimum of three mornings here: one to see balloons from the ground, one to ride in the balloons, and a flex day in case inclement weather interrupts plans.


Love Valley Hot Air Balloons Sunrise Cappadocia Turkey

2: the balloons

Cappadocia is famous for hot air balloons that fly at sunrise every day of the year (weather permitting). It is awe-inspiring to watch them float overheard in the mornings. You might be wondering if paying to actually ride in one is worth it. IT IS. To me, it would be sacrilege to travel all the way here and NOT experience floating over the picturesque valleys and fairy chimneys. Our hotel helped us book our ride the day before for $180 per person, which included transport, a one hour ride with 12 others in the basket, and a champagne toast at the end. It was one of the most memorable and surreal experiences of my life.


Sunset ATV Tour Cappadocia Turkey

3: sunset ATV ride


The balloon ride provides a stunning birds-eye view of the geological formations in Love, Pigeon, and Rose Valleys, but you shouldn't stop there: traversing these valleys from the ground provides an entirely different and equally thrilling experience. You could do so by foot, but my preference is cover more ground by taking a sunset ATV tour. Hundreds of people take these tours daily, which make stops at archaeological sites before ending in a surreal Mad Max-style meetup where you and about 150 other friends grab a drink, find a spot on the dusty rock, and watch the sun drop.


Open Air Museum Goreme Cappadocia Turkey

4: open air museum


Cappadocia is famous for more than hot air balloons and geological wonders. In fact, there are an incredible amount of archeological sites in this region, such as ancient cave dwellings and underground cities that date back hundreds or even thousands of years. Within walking distance from Göreme, a visit to the Open Air Museum gives you the opportunity to explore and learn the history of fascinating cave monastery dwellings that date back to the Middle Ages.



Mozaik Restaurant Wine Hummus Goreme Cappadocia Turkey

5: eats


Cappadocia isn't necessarily known as a culinary region, but you will no doubt be hungry and in need of hearty nourishment after all the adventurous outdoor activities here. For classic Turkish kebap, grab a casual meal at Kebap Dunyasii. For dinner, we loved the Indian food at Namaste India (we went twice!). To enjoy local wine, bites, and generally good vibes, spend a late afternoon on the patio at Mozaik Restaurant (pictured).





You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Explore an underground city. All the hype around the balloons in Cappadocia led us astray about how much MORE there is to do here beyond the balloons. With only three nights in town, we ran out of time quickly. There is not just one, but two underground cities to explore here: Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.


Have a great trip! Feel free to leave a comment with your own favorites. You can also find these recommendations (and more!) in map format by following me on the Out of Office app.



Cappadocia Turkey Travel Guide Pinterest Cover TrippingMillennial

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