42.0057° N, 13.2548° E
Cappadocia has been one of the most magical places I have ever visited – by now you have probably seen it on social media to come to this page! I loved it so much I’d love to share everything I experienced from this city.
Once a refuge, the beautiful Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia – created by half volcanic rock 30 million years ago and half by human hands – now attract tourists to fly directly over this beautiful UNESCO Heritage. Hotels have made a living by putting these beautifully shaped caves into rooms for us to stay in and shade from the heat, as during summer time Turkey gets incredibly hot.
I’ve noticed a lot of you actually get put off by too much content, and a photo shows a thousand words. This blog post is more a general idea of Cappadocia and what we did in 5 days. If you want to go more into detail about the hotels we stayed in please check my page on where to stay in Cappadocia. Another beautiful UNESCO Heritage site in Turkey I’d highly recommend in Turkey is Pamukkale, a cotton candy hot thermal spa on a mountain, another UNESCO Heritage which we visited during the same trip that a I highly recommend you visit!
To start, I’m sure you came to this page knowing that this beautiful place sets off hundred of hot air balloons. How regularly? Supposedly every single day in the year, provided the weather permits. However, I’ve found from talking to others that they do cancel the balloons much more than expected so my top tip is DO NOT STAY FOR ONLY ONE SUNRISE otherwise the chance of being disappointed by no balloons is VERY likely. We went for 5 days and the balloons were canceled for two, and cancelled half way for another. My knowledge is that wind speeds over 10MPH will cancel, even on a beautiful sunny day, never-mind storm and rain etc. I’ve also read that the best time of months to go are between April til September, due to the weather. In winter there are chances of snow, storm and rain which will increase the change to cancel the sky full of balloons moment!
CHECKING FOR BALLOON STATUS
Sometimes balloons may be delayed or cancelled. A very useful website to check the status of Hot Air balloons on the day is HERE.
- The GREEN flag is what you need to indicate that the balloons WILL be happening that morning and RED is cannot be flown (due to weather conditions); YELLOW is standby BUT there are chances of turning green – be patient because it did for us! Keep pressing refresh at 5am and be ready to leave any minute, it updates every 20 minutes! – yes it was a hit and miss 🙁
- The website updates in the morning and every 20 minutes throughout the flying duration – checking the night before did not work for us as it can change throughout the night.
- The first day when we had no knowledge about this website we woke up at 4am and waited til 7am with other people in our hotel rooftop (Harman Suites Hotel), all to realise balloons were cancelled completely for that morning. So checking on this website above really helps you save your time and sleep! We also experienced balloon cancelling taking off after 6am because the green flag changed to red flag midway that morning – there are usually two sessions during sunrise.
Please note this blog post is based on going in July 2018.
The nearest airport to Cappadocia is Kayseri Erkilet Airport or Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport, which usually requires a 1 h 15 flight from Istanbul as they are both small domestic airports. We went from Kayseri Airport, and reading that many shuttle buses are hassle to organise airport pick-ups, we decided to rent a car and drive from Kayseri to Cappadocia ourselves.
For our 7 days in Turkey, our itinerary was as followed:
- Istanbul (IST) to Pamukkale (Denizli)
- Pamukkale to Istanbul
- Istanbul to Cappadocia (Kayseri)
- Cappadocia (Kayseri) to Istanbul
There are no direct flights between Pamukkale and Cappadocia, and whilst you transit at Istanbul if you havn’t been before I’d suggest staying at least a night there to visit some iconic landmarks in this beautiful city!
Click here to see my blog post on Pamukkale!
WHAT TO PACK
Cappadocia is situated on a high, dry plateau of Turkey. The weather during the ‘good balloon flying months’ (April until September) are very hot and high in UV rays, this is a list of items I recommend to people to pack on top of what you would pack already:
- Some form of HAT or SCARF to cover the head and shoulders is VITAL if you don’t want a burnt forehead or shoulders, and sunglasses are very necessary to protect the eyes and if you don’t want to squint the whole trip
- Sunscreen – again if you don’t to return home bright red and peeling
- The roads are VERY sandy/dusty and broken. I wouldn’t advise wearing stilettos at any point except from inside the hotel. White trainers turn yellow from their sandstone dust. We found it very hard to buy sandals or flip-flops in Cappadocia since it’s not wise to wear them on their super sandy dusty roads. I lived in my converse, for the grip on sand and since they survive well on desert conditions.
Toiletries – to my findings, hotels do not provide the daily necessities of the following within every hotel we stayed at in Turkey:
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Body lotion – COULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH the climate is very dry like a desert, I was flaking from the dryness (I never usually bring any when travelling!)
Of course if you want to bring your own shampoo, conditioners and shavers you don’t need those reminded by me 🙂
REMEMBER to apply for a Turkish Visa if you are not holding a Turkish passport, you can do this online for $20USD here.
WHERE TO STAY
Cappadocia is made of 5 main towns, but the three most photogenic ones that you must visit are – Goreme, Uchisar and Avanos. Generally Uchisar and Goreme are the ones you will see all over Instagram, and Avanos is the bigger city where you will get petrol and more restaurant and supermarket options outside of the more touristy areas, if you are driving.
Goreme is the most popular town people stay at, you will have most of the main well known hotels with rooftops to watch the balloons from here – such as Sultan Cave Suites, Harman Cave Hotel(photo below) and Local Cave House .
Uchisar is the quieter town where Museum Hotel – my favourite hotel (photo below) and the highest point in Cappadocia – Uchisar Castle are located. The balloon launch sites set off mainly between these two towns, if you have more than one night in Cappadocia and don’t mind the traveling (it was easy for us since we had a car to move the luggage) I would strongly recommend staying on both sides to get a different perspective of this beautiful fairy chimney filled dreamland!
Full blog post here on which hotels to stay
RENTING A CAR
I asked @themerriedlife for tips before I went to Cappadocia and I found this tip very helpful – rent a car if you can drive! I didn’t require an International License with my UK Driving license and I rented with Europcar, and I also heard many shuttles didn’t show up at the airport for pick-up. Since the drive was over an hour long, how expensive would a taxi have been?
To me the heat was almost unbearable 35 degrees celsius anytime between 11am to 4pm – when we went in JULY, I can’t imagine walking up and down mountains around Cappadocian under those temperatures – which we did see people doing. But apart from dodging the sun and heat half the day, chasing the hot air balloons during sunrise was a very one-in-a-lifetime thing to do!! You can decide where you want to go at any time, such as a balloon launch site to see the hot air balloons up really close, or simply going to more than one place to watch the balloons in one morning – then another place to watch sunset at night. Have I convinced you yet?
Tip: the nearest petrol station and carwash are all in Avanos!
WHERE TO GO and when
Our daily routines pretty much consisted of:
- 4.30am wake for watching sunrise and the balloons and chasing them until about 7am
- 8am breakfast at the hotel – we have not yet found any hotels serve breakfast before sunrise and balloons
- Between breakfast and midday we will go to one of the spots below whilst its still not too hot
- Midday being the hottest time of day we would need somewhere cool to chill so it’s usually a choice between a restaurant or napping back at the hotel, or both
- 5.30pm head back out to eat an early dinner – one of our favourite restaurants to eat and shisha I’d HIGHLY RECOMMEND is ONE WAY CAFE in the high street of Goreme – you can’t really miss it. More than just food, there are bean bags as chairs, live football, shisha and alchoholic drinks here.
- 6.30-7pm find the perfect spot for sunset to shoot at, watch sunset and sleep. Repeat.
Red Valley/ Rose Valley (For sunset)
My personal favourite for watching sunset. Here you will see people taking wedding photos, proposing, and chilling at the bar by the edge of a cliff. I wouldn’t say it’s too busy here, since Rose/Red Valley is only accessible by car, very little people are going to walk here from the city. The inside of the valley is accessible by hiking or car also. We got confused because this valley has two names, and it’s simply one name from one side of the valley and another the other.
Many people climb up higher or find a more private spot so bring good walking shoes if you do! The roads are very sandy and broken!
Fairy Chimney Valley
Cappadocia’s famous Fairy Chimneys are the left over of harder elements of volcanic thick ash after their solidifying and erosion. During the Roman invasion, inhabitants took advantage to build upon this nature and what can be seen left behind are the signs of past homes and kitchens.
This attraction is open free to public 24 hours a day so the only times you will find it empty during peak seasons is around 7am or 8pm (sunrise and sunset – it also changes colour every sunset). We came a three times like trial and error because the first time it was sooooo packed with tours and people and impossible to get any form photo, the second time with a camel during sunset hours (little people), and another at 7am when we were nearby at the balloon launch site but then the balloons were cancelled (no one at all)!
You can choose to ride a camel or take a camel tour through the Fairy Chimneys by renting with the camel owner at the front of the attraction.
Uchisar Castle and Pidgeon Valley
If you stay in Uchisar, this valley is worth having a look at. The name as states comes from many pigeon holes carved inside this valley stretching across from Goreme to Uchisar. However, hiking this valley is very slippery and it gets a bit repetitive in my opinion. The good thing is you can get a good shot of the Uchisar Castle which is located at the highest point in Cappadocia. (photo below)
Goreme Viewpoint (For sunset)
For sure, this spot has the best view overlooking Goreme. It is walking distance from most of the hotels in Goreme, hence making it a super busy tourist spot during sunset hours. It directly faces the sunset, helium balloons are also sold here along with many other tourist traps you can empty your wallet on.
Love Valley (during balloons)
Love Valley shows a more untouched natural history of Cappadocia formed by the volcanic erosion. You can hike the valley from Uchisar but I’d recommend doing it during colder seasons since it takes about 6 hours!
We didn’t have time to go here for balloons but it’s right next to the launch site and by the time we discovered here for sunrise it was too late to get this beautiful shot, hope you manage to!
TIP: there is nothing really here to see during sunset, I didn’t understand why they do ATV sunset tours here because the sunset is facing the other side to this valley.
Galerie Ikman – Aladdin’s Carpet shop
Iklan Carpet shop is the largest and the first carpet shop in Cappadocia, but they have now changed it to a tourist trap where you need to haggle for a price to take a photo here. Depending on your race (apparently), the lady before me said she was charged 100USD for a photo here – she spoke poor Eenglish, but I was only charged 20TL which is about 5 USD for 5 minutes (which was plenty).
The location is very inaccurate and confusing on Google Maps, as typing in ‘Ikman carpet shop’ does not actually give you the correct location of this shop. The shop is located on the main high street in Goreme, joining the streets Iceridere Sk. and Eminbey Sk. You can also type in the coordinates of 38.642242, 34.829211 on Google Maps.
When you exit the carpet shop, you will see some lantern shops, hitting 2 birds 1 stone!
This hotel is one of most photogenic hotels in Cappadocia (or that I’ve ever been to – not sponsored!), and it is super photogenic from every angle. Whether you are shooting sunrise balloon shots or sunset shots, the hotel has views of both, on a quiet hill in Uchisar. Unfortunately it’s within hotel grounds so book your room if you want to experience this beautiful hotel!
I have a more details review of this hotel on the Cappadocia Hotel page.
Balloon Launch Sites
There are many places to watch the balloons across Goreme and Uchisar, but if you want to see one close up (or ride one) a balloon launch site will be very beautiful! One of the launch sites we went to are right next to the Fairy Chimneys (photo below). You can also chase the balloons with a car to watch them land.
About Hot Air Balloon Rides
The price is around 180 Euros per person, and I’ve heard that you should always book the larger well known companies rather lower cost companies or through your hotel for safety – there have been accidents in the past . Sometimes balloons may be canceled and the balloon company should provide you the service the next possible day of flying if you are still in Cappadocia. You can check the status of balloons each morning in Cappadocia HERE.
Disclaimer: We were full paying guests at all hotels mentioned on this page in Cappadocia. All opinions, photos and written content belong to Heidi Leung and Heideexyz.com© 2018 All Rights Reserved.
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