Things to know before traveling to Cappadocia

I’ve been visiting Cappadocia regularly for 16 years, and have explored every corner of this endlessly fascinating region of Türkiye. 

On my first trip here I nearly made a big mistake: Faruk (the owner of the guesthouse I was staying in) had bought some fresh fish and he suggested we barbecue them for dinner. I had planned to go to a restaurant that evening and was on the verge of saying “no” before I realised, I could go to the restaurant anytime. This opportunity, to enjoy a relaxed evening with Faruk, would come along only once so I accepted his kind invitation. I learned two things that day: that Turkish hospitality is not to be missed, and… barbecued fish from a Cappadocian river is absolutely delicious. 

Here are some more insider tips I’ve learned to help you get the most from your visit to Cappadocia. 

Timing is everything when it comes to hot-air balloon trips: plan for potential setbacks © Ayhan Altun / Getty Images

Allow up to a week for your trip to Cappadocia

Although you can cover the highlights of Cappadocia in a day or two, you’ll get far more out of your visit if you take things slower. There are so many valleys of bizarre rock formations to hike in, and such a wealth of ancient cave churches containing beautiful frescoes, that you can easily occupy yourself for a week – or even more.

Book your hot-air balloon flight for your second day in Cappadocia

One of Cappadocia’s most iconic experiences is taking a hot-air balloon flight over the fairy chimneys and admiring the surreal landscape from the air. It’s easy to arrange a balloon trip once you’re in Cappadocia. It’s best to book one to take place on your second day: flights are subject to cancellation if weather conditions aren’t right, and although all companies will reschedule your trip for the following day, that’s no good if it is your last day in the region. 

You can even book your balloon flight in advance before you arrive in Cappadocia, a good idea in the high season to ensure you manage to get a place in the basket. Once booked, be ready for a 4am wakeup call. If heading skywards is not for you, you can still enjoy the beautiful scene at sunrise as a huge swathe of balloons rise above the valley.

Choose the before-sunrise balloon flight option

There are two rounds of balloon take-offs in Cappadocia – one before sunrise, and one after. While those extra minutes in bed might seem appealing, the flights that take off after sunrise have a higher chance of cancellation due to changes in the weather as the day goes on. You’d also miss out on the chance to see one of the most memorable sunrises of a lifetime!  

The landscape of  Cappadocia and its horizon filled with hot air balloons is one of the most iconic sights in Turkey
It’s worth spending more for a quality cave hotel in Cappadocia © Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images

Stay in a cave hotel

There are few places in the world where staying in a cave is so luxurious. People have lived in caves in the Cappadocia region for centuries, and while visiting the beautifully decorated cave churches of the Byzantines gives you some insight, there’s nothing quite like turning out your light in a room carved deep into the local rock. Most cave hotels are gorgeous, with elegant carved rock and attractive or antique furniture, meaning that bedding down underground is an unexpected treat. Do your research though: some of the cheaper cave hotels can be dark and dank – which doesn’t make for a luxurious getaway.

Pick your season to suit your itinerary

There are advantages to visiting Cappadocia at virtually any time of year: it’s warm and not too crowded in spring and autumn, while summer is generally the best season for balloon trips, and the region can be beautiful in the snowy winter. That being said, it’s worth considering exactly what you want from your trip: hiking in the winter can be difficult if there’s been a heavy snowfall, while it can get rather hot and sticky in summer. Remember that Cappadocia is a very popular domestic tourist destination, so if you’re visiting on public holidays (such as New Year), you’ll find that the hotspots like Göreme can get very busy.

Always be courteous

Turks place high value on courtesy: you’ll probably be greeted with big smiles and genuine welcomes wherever you go. Handshakes are the norm between people of all genders when first meeting. It’s important – even if disagreeing with somebody – to keep interactions light and friendly. If you think you’ve been overcharged in a restaurant, for example, don’t get angry. Instead, calmly point out where you think the error is, and this will most likely result in a quick discussion allowing everyone to resolve the situation without losing face.

Be cautious talking politics in Türkiye

Politics in Türkiye can be divisive. Although feeling doesn’t tend to run as high in Cappadocia as it does elsewhere, you should still be careful when discussing current affairs. Remember that insulting Türkiye, or the Turkish president, is illegal and can result in jail sentences.

Red Wine glasses on Red valley background in Cappadocia. Nevsehir Province.
Enjoy the local wine in Cappadocia but be aware, overindulgence is frowned upon © iStockphoto / Getty Images

Don’t drink too much in public

Although Türkiye is a predominantly Islamic country, there’s no prohibition on alcohol, and you’ll find it’s freely available in Cappadocia, with local wine on the menu in most restaurants and plenty of welcoming bars in which you can while the night away. Even so, it’s not the done thing to be publicly inebriated, so although there’s no issue with being merry, make sure you moderate your drinking.

Is Cappadocia in an earthquake risk area?

Especially after 2023’s devastating earthquake in southern Türkiye, tourists often want to know if they are at risk of quakes in Cappadocia. The answer is that most of Türkiye is subject to earthquakes, and it’s clear just from looking at its bizarre landscape that Cappadocia has experienced some exciting geological upheaval in its time, but currently it does not tend to suffer major seismic events. There’s a remote chance you might feel a small tremor, but you’d be very unlucky to get caught up in a major earthquake.

It’s best to avoid the tap water

The tap water in Cappadocia is technically safe to drink, but it doesn’t taste great, and most locals only use it for cooking or making çay (tea). Consider bringing a portable water filter, so you can purify the tap water and drink it, and avoid contributing to the disposable plastics issue. If you do buy bottled water, you can recycle the empty bottles: recycling bins aren’t common, but there are a few around Göreme, and at airports.

Tips for keeping safe

Cappadocia doesn’t have many major safety concerns to worry about: pickpocketing isn’t common and you aren’t likely to be mugged, although there are a few scams to look out for. If out in a bar, it’s worth being on your guard against potential drink spiking, but this isn’t a frequent problem in Cappadocia. The worst thing that is likely to happen on a night out is a spot of overcharging.

Safety concerns are more likely to crop up around some of the activities you may want to do in Cappadocia. If hiking in less-frequented areas, it’s a good idea to let somebody know where you’re going before you go. And if you’re taking a hot-air balloon flight, ATV buggy ride, or going horse riding, choose the operator carefully and make sure you’re covered by insurance. For more hair-raising activities, it’s not worth cutting corners to save a few pennies.

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