Dan and I first visited Türkiye back in 2010 on a Mediterranean cruise after taking the bar examination in the US. We were super excited for this stop a decade ago, and spent nearly 24 hours in the Istanbul port. We have been meaning to return since, but it didn’t happen until we visited Izmir, Cappadocia and Istanbul over 11 days in July 2023! This articles details what we did in Cappadocia, as well as whether 3 days was enough time in Cappadocia!
Cappadocia, Türkiye is an ancient region (yes, region, not a town/city) in Central Anatolia, Turkey, i.e. right in the middle of the country. The Cappadocia region dates back prior to 499 BC (!) and presently is separated into 5 provinces. Cappadocia is currently super popular as being the magical “balloon town” in Turkey, where hot air balloons literally fly through the towns (well, Göreme specifically) every morning. Cappadocia is also well known for its otherworld looks, including wild rock formations and fairy chimneys.
For planning purposes, prime tourist Cappadocia mainly consists of 3 small towns – Gorëme, Uçhisar and Avanos. These towns are the closest to the main Cappadocia sites, and well suited for tourists. We stayed in Gorëme, which is the largest of these three towns and is home to many hotels, including cave hotels, restaurants, shops and nightlife. Gorëme is also the main town to view the magical hot air balloons most mornings. Uçhisar, apparently popular with the French, is located on a hill top just down the road. Uçhisar is famously home to Uçhisar castle, as well as restaurants, shops and some nightlife. Finally, Avanos felt more like a town, with the Kızılırmak River running through it and numerous local pottery shops. There is a DoubleTree by Hilton in Avanos for those seeking Western accommodation.
What We Did In 3 Days in Cappadocia.
Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise: Cappadocia is most well-known for its sunrise hot air balloon rides. 150 + hot air balloons go up every morning at sunrise in Cappadocia, and we went up in one on our first morning in Cappadocia! Although we had a 3:00 AM wake-up call and the balloon ride was mildly terrifying, the ride was fabulous (though I am not sure I would do it again – I hate heights). This is a must-do in Cappadocia if your budget and nerves allow it. Read my linked article for more specifics.
Watching Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise: If your nerves or budget do not permit a hot air balloon ride for your party, the next best thing is getting up early and watching them fly over Göreme. I did this the two mornings that we did not fly, and I was so happy that I woke up super early. Depending on the weather, the balloons fly riiiight over Göreme. Pro tip – scope out a rooftop in the top of town the day prior and go there to watch the flights. Most places are not strict with security as to who can watch from what rooftop. For example, I unknowingly watched from the neighboring hotel one morning…
Turkish Wine Tour: Probably not what one expects to do in Cappadocia, Turkey, but Turkey makes decent wine right around Cappadocia. We took at guided tour that visited three wineries, Tursan, Gulor and Kocabag, in and around Cappadocia, each of which you could visit on your own. If you are a wine fan, I highly recommend visiting a Cappadocia winery or, at least, ordering a local bottle at dinner.
The Cappadocia Grand Tour: Tour companies offer several color coded tours in and around Cappadocia. The colors pertain to which areas/sites are visited, and the entire set up confused me! We ended up booking a “grand tour,” which lasted an entire day and visited the sites most important to me, including Uçhisar Castle, Pigeon Valley, Dream Valley, Zelve Valley, an underground city and the Gorëme Open Air Museum. I was iffy on taking this tour and honestly almost cancelled it to relax at our hotel, but it turned out to be really interesting. I would highly recommend this tour for those with limited time in Cappadocia.
Shopping: Ah, shopping! Cappadocia has great tourist shopping, from tourist trinkets (or “treasures” as I call them), gorgeous (and expensive) local pottery, real Turkish turquoise and other jewels, to handmade things that you can’t find anywhere else. Aside from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, this was the best foreigner shopping I found in Turkey. Definitely save some tourist shopping for Cappadocia. Most shops we visited took credit card. I also found a few vintage stands in and around town – these were pretty cool, especially if you are into antiques!
Where We Ate in Cappadocia.
We ate all of our meals in Göreme, and almost all of the restaurants in Göreme are touristy. That being said, we found some good food in Göreme. The below are some places we enjoyed, and a picture of the famous “pottery kebab.” We didn’t love this dish and found it over hyped and touristy. Where can I go next time for a good one??
TopDeck Cave Restaurant: Topdeck Cave Restaurant was our “top” restaurant in Cappadocia by far (pun intended, LOL). Topdeck, while certainly catering to tourists, offered great food and a good wine list. We liked it so much that we came back for a second dinner! Read about our dinner at Topdeck Cave Restaurant here! Reservations often necessary (although we made ours 1 day in advance).
Gurme Kebab Restaurant: Located in lower Göreme on the strip with all the bars, restaurants and shops, we found Gurme by way of our tour guide. Gurme is a traditional place serving one of my favorite Turkish dishes, pide. Pide is essentially Turkish pizza, and I ordered mine with minced lamb and cheese. Dan ordered a lamb shish, which he also really enjoyed. I would absolutely return to this restaurant. One note, no alcohol, as is common with many casual Turkish restaurants.
Namaste Indian: While not Turkish, I was a little tired of Turkish when we first arrived in Cappadocia decided on Indian food for a treat after seeing a couple Indian restaurants on the map! We decided on Namaste Indian because it was close to our hotel. Namaste Indian was very good and super inexpensive. Would absolutely return. FYI, No alcohol served.
Kelebek Special Cave Hotel restaurant: Honestly, the breakfast at our hotel was fantastic. Everyone morning included a large buffet and a small hot menu to order. The menemen was my very favorite! While I don’t know if its open to non-hotel guests, the food is great.
After Hours in Cappadocia, Turkey
We spent any and all after house in Göreme where our hotel was located, and, as I understand it, Göreme is really the place for “after hours” in the touristy Cappadocia area. Göreme does have some “clubs” and things of the like, which we did not visit (you’ll see brochures, etc. if this is something you are interested in doing). It also has many hookah bars, in addition to more traditional bars, including wine bars. Here are some of our preferences:
This was Dan and my favorite vice spot in Cappadocia. CappaHookah is actually part of a hotel, and that hotel was right next to ours. The hotel permits non guests to come onto the property and have hookah overlooking Göreme. CappaHookah also serves white wine, but the refrigeration system was down when we visited, so no white wine!
Red Red Wine House: Dan and I came here for hookah and wine. The owner was really nice, and we had a great time drinking wine and Turkish coffee and smoking hookah. Red Red Wine House also serves food, that looked pretty good. Located in the main tourist area. Reservations recommended for dinner.
Where We Stayed In Cappadocia
We stayed at the Kelebek Cave Hotel right at the tip top of Gorëme. We opted for a cave room and while small (since its inside a cave), it was large enough for a few days stay. As you can see below, the room basically consisted of a full bed with a built in day bed that could be used as a bed, sofa or storage, a small fridge, a coffee maker with complimentary coffee, tea, fruit and Turkish delights, a very small desk/vanity, a flat screen TV that didn’t work for us and a tiiiiiiny bathroom with the smallest shower. Again, this was totally fine but others may find it a bit sparse. Aside from cave rooms, Kelebek Cave Hotel had a small pool (which we did not use), fantastic views of Göreme and the hot air balloons, a very good breakfast, a great concierge desk to organize tours and it was clean.
Was 3 Days Enough Time In Cappadocia
On a quick trip, yes, we found 3 days to be enough time. However, we did miss several sites, as well as relaxing at the hotel and using its pool. If I had the time, I could easily spend a week in the area, probably mixing my stay between town towns. I would also point out, again, that the longer one stays in the area, the more likely one is to be able to take part in a hot air balloon ride.
Some Practical Points Regarding Cappadocia
- Cappadocia has two airports: the larger Kayseri one hour away and the tiny Neveshir, about 30 minutes from Göreme. We used both, and both were fine, but definitely don’t arrive at Neveshir early! Its tiiiiiny.
- While the Cappadocia region is rather small and seems easily accessible online, the towns are not walking distance. Tourists will need to drive or take a taxi when transferring between towns not on a tour.
- The towns of Gorëme and Uçhisar are quite hilly and guests may have trouble getting around town.
- Know that the hot air balloons run everyday that the weather permits. So no, seeing them is not guaranteed.
- Cappadocia makes great wine! Try it if you drink alcohol.
- Cave hotels are adorable, but may be difficult to access and the rooms are, well, a cave. Don’t expect first class accommodations (even if you think you paid for it!).
- If you are coming in the summer, ensure a hotel with air conditioning and, if possible, a pool.
- Ubers and taxis easily run between all surrounding airports.
- There are many types of tours in and around Cappadocia, from 4-wheeler tours to horse back riding to antique car photo shoots. Definitely search online if you are looking for something special.
- Cappadocia is not warm year round; it has 4 seasons and is cold in the summer. Pack accordingly!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Royal Balloon: Website in English. Advanced booking highly recommended.
Topdeck Cave Restaurant: Hafız Abdullah Efendi Sk. No 15, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Türkiye. Closed Tuesday. Open Wednesday – Monday for dinner. Reservations recommended. Alcohol served.
Gurme Kebab Restaurant: afferli mahallesi, Müze Cd. no:38, 50180 Göreme/Goreme/Nevşehir, Türkiye. Open daily lunch – dinner. No alcohol.
Namaste Indian Restaurant: Bilal Eroğlu Cd. No:8, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Türkiye. Open daily for lunch and dinner. No alcohol.
Kelebek Special Cave Hotel: Aydınlı Mah, Yavuz Sk. No:1, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Türkiye. Great location at the top of town.