How To Get From Istanbul To Cappadocia: Flights, Bus, Car And Tours
If you are planning a journey to Istanbul, or if you’re already there, what may add to your exciting, unforgettable experiences in Turkey is a trip from Istanbul to Cappadocia. This historical area is not only set apart by the astonishing landscapes, but it also lets you see how the Christian Church started out in its earliest centuries.
Cappadocia amazes with its unique nature, its mysterious underground towns and caves, crags and valleys, this is where you’ll find the sacred memories of the Christian culture and history.
We will tell you all about how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul and what’s certainly worth seeing there in this article.
- 1 Istanbul to Cappadocia by air
- 2 Istanbul to Cappadocia by bus
- 3 From Istanbul to Cappadocia by car
- 4 Travel to Cappadocia: What time of year to choose for this?
- 5 Cappadocia: where to stay?
- 6 What to see in Cappadocia
- 7 Top 3 best Cappadocia places and attractions
- 8 Prices in Cappadocia for 2020
- 9 Cappadocia Tours
Istanbul to Cappadocia by air
The center of Cappadocia (Kapadokya) is Göreme, it takes approximately 20 minutes to get there from town Nevşehir, and an hour from town Caesarea (Kayseri). A flight will take you an hour and 25 minutes. Keep in mind how long it takes you to get to Göreme when planning out your trip.
The following airlines can fly you to Göreme:
Turkish Airlines only fly to Cappadocia from the New Istanbul Airport, that is located further away from the historical centre of Istanbul, so just keep in mind how long it takes you to get there.
The flight cost when flying Istanbul-Caesarea (Kayseri) in autumn 2019 is about 160 lire one way and 300 lire with return tickets. However, the prices depend on numerous conditions (including departure time) and change daily.
They only fly from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport to the airport in Caesarea (Kayseri) when flying to Cappadocia. The ticket price both ways in autumn 2019 is 300 lire. Also, Anadolu Jet belongs to Turkish Airlines, so it may be a joined flight.
Pegasus Airlines fly from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Cappadocia, the price both ways in autumn 2019 is 290 lire. Pegasus is a low cost carrier, you will be purchasing food and drinks on-board if you get hungry. Booking specific places and some other options will also have a fee.
Choose your comfortable time, ticket cost, and which city you’re flying to when travelling to Göreme, you can also book a taxi or a transfer when going to/from Göreme.
Istanbul to Cappadocia by bus
Buses are a very popular when travelling there, overall they make for a comfortable way of travelling across Turkey.
You can take a bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia, they travel both at night and at day.
These buses go from Istanbul to Caesarea a few times a day. The ticket cost one way for the Istanbul-Caesarea route is 90 lire, and 80 lire going back. You can also take a bus from the Bayrampaşa bus station in Istanbul straight to Göreme.
Istanbul-Nevsehir (Nevşehir) buses depart at 8:00 and 22:00, ticket cost is 90 lire and 80 lire going back.
To book a ticket online, go to the website https://www.metroturizm.com.tr and choose your language in the top right corner. Then you can search for your intended route.
Kamil Koç buses
Kamil Koç is a large company all across Turkey, and offer a rather high standard of service.
They depart from Istanbul to Nevsehir (Nevşehir) three times a day, at 5:00, 20:00 and 23:00. The ticket price one way is 85 lire, and 85 lire for the return. The departure times from Istanbul to Caesarea are 00:15, 10:00, 11:30, 15:00, 18:00 and 20:30. The ticket price is 90 lire in both directions.
You can buy a ticket on their website, but unfortunately it is only in turkish. That means that you will have to translate the page or ask someone to help.
Nevsehir Seyahat Buses
A trip with this company is the least comfortable compared to the rest (crowded, makes more stops and rides longer). The bus goes to Nevsehir.
For the spring of 2019, the cost of a one-way ticket is 80 lire. The bus leaves Istanbul at 20:30 and 20:45. Travel time 12 hours. The bus leaves from Nevsehir to Istanbul at 20:00. In the summer, due to the tourist season, time and prices may vary.
You can buy a ticket online at http://nevsehirlilerseyahat.com.tr/.
From Istanbul to Cappadocia by car
Those who are used to traveling in a rented car can find options on the websites: Rent a car/araç kiralama. Upon arrival, you will need to find the right company at the airport and sign a lease. But in fact, it’s easier to get there by bus and then rent a car in Cappadocia. You can also rent other types of transport: quad, bicycle or moped.
Do not forget to check the availability of insurance. If there is damage to the car, they must be captured using a photo or video and shown to the lessor.
The cost of gasoline in Turkey at the beginning of 2020 is 7,04 liras per liter, diesel fuel costs 6,6 per liter. Just in case, take a paper map, because in a mountainous area the navigator will not work everywhere. You will also need cash so that there are no problems with gas stations and small shops.
It is worth noting that at the moment there is no way to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia by Turkish State Railways. This is due to the fact that the Haidarpasa Train Station has not been working for a long time. At the moment, this station is a historical site of the Istanbul Asian side.
Thus, the best way to travel from Istanbul to Cappadocia is by plane or bus.
Travel to Cappadocia: What time of year to choose for this?
Cappadocia is beautiful at any time of the year. Here, a transport network operates year-round. Museum complexes and underground cities are always open. You can even go up in a balloon. To understand all the charm of this place, just relax on one of the cozy terraces, admiring the rocky landscapes and eating the local delicacy (meat in a pot).
Please note that by the standards of Turkey, Cappadocia has a rather cool climate. Gusty winds often blow here, it is cold in the caves and underground cities, so do not forget to take warm clothes on the trip. Even in the summertime, it is advisable to have a sweater with you, which will warm you on cool nights.
Summer in Cappadocia
At this time, you can swim in the outdoor pools. It is quite hot in the sun, especially in the city, as there are few trees, but a lot of stone. In the valleys and mountains it is much cooler, many objects are located underground or in caves. Usually the highest temperatures are recorded in August. In the daytime, it can be up to plus 28 degrees Celsius, and up to plus 17 degrees at night. Therefore, by day it is better to take tours of the cool caves and dungeons, and at night to walk around Cappadocia. During this period, the terrain is illuminated by a soft electric light coming from the caves. Impressions are fabulous!
Fall in Cappadocia
The autumn symbols of Cappadocia are balloons and sparkling, aromatic wine. The air temperature is very comfortable. In September and October it is still quite warm. The average daily temperature is about plus 24 degrees Celsius. But in the evening, night and morning it’s quite cold (in late October the temperature drops to minus 5 degrees Celsius). There are no prolonged rains at this time. Autumn is the time of the ripening of the famous Cappadocian wine. Be sure to go on a tour of the vineyards to personally see the harvesting.
Spring in Cappadocia
During these months you will see many flowers and greenery here. This is a traditional time for various music festivals.
In May, you can visit the unique Balloon Fest. At this event, you can not only admire the huge balls soaring into the sky, but also enjoy the local culinary delights.
Sport fans will be able to attend extreme sports competitions. Music lovers can go to concerts and musical performances, which take place mainly in caves.
Spring is the time of the traditional pilgrimage to Cappadocia by the Patriarch Bartholomew, who comes here every year and holds Easter services in one of the local Orthodox shrines. The exact dates of his arrival can be found on special religious sites.
Winter in Cappadocia
Winter Cappadocia is a snow-covered cliffs and melodically howling wind. It’s nice that there are not many tourists here at this time. For lovers of extreme sports in Kayseri there is a modern ski resort. Although such infrastructure is new for this area, the prices are quite affordable.
Most hotels are located inside caves. Large hotels are equipped with central heating. But in small hotels, heaters, air conditioners or radiators are most often used. This often happens in apart-hotels and hostels. So check all the information in advance.
In the winter season, here, as in all other seasons, there is a lot of entertainment. Only balloon flights can be delayed due to bad weather. For this reason, order this service immediately upon arrival in Cappadocia.
Be sure to bring warm clothes with you: here is often a lot of snow (literally knee-deep).
The average temperature here in winter does not exceed minus 2 degrees Celsius (at night). There were cases when the thermometer column dropped to minus 20 degrees. But this does not happen often.
Cappadocia: where to stay?
Cappadocia is as tourist-friendly as the rest of tourism-oriented places in Turkey, there you can find both premium, expensive hotels and cost-effective, comfortable hostels.
Göreme is widely considered to be the centre of Cappadocia, famous because of its vast national park and a huge museum complex out in the open. The majority of travellers prefer to stay in this area, but there are other towns nearby like Uchisar (Uçhisar), Avanos, Ürgüp, Çаvuşin and Nevsehir (Nevşehir).
If this is your first time in Cappadocia, you should probably find a hotel in Göreme. From here, you are able to comfortably reach all the historic locations. As well as the parks and museums listed above, you may want to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum and the valleys and ancient forts in Uchisar (Uçhisar).
We previously stayed in Göreme, there are plenty of hotels and cafes here, as well as the Sunset Point observation deck located 7-8 minutes away.
Göreme is an attractive town because of how the mountain caps greet the visitors right outside their hotel’s door. There are open terraces in pretty much every hotel, that open up towards the beautiful mountainous landscapes.
For those who enjoy anything unconventional and exotic, you can rent a room in a ‘cave hotel’, that still has all the civilised goods, these hotels typically have the word ‘Cave’ in their name. Also, in Göreme there are lots of hotels with open-air pools, they are especially popular during the swimming season (end of spring to the beginning of autumn).
Pay attention! Because most hotels in Göreme are at least partially inside a mountain, it is rather typical for rooms to have no windows and low ceilings. For those who need windows for a reason (usually a single small window), you should look for a hotel that does not have ‘Cave’ in the name.
Ürgüpis famous for its vast number of attractions and places, that include the Chatalkaya (Çatalkaya) valley with its amazing mushroom-like mountains and the Temenni Tepesi (“Hill of Wishes”), all located in the heart of the city. The last one bears a large number of small and big caves and caverns inside, that are nowadays used for more purposeful applications. These include garages, storage facilities and other specialised premisses. In Ürgüp you’ll also find ancient shrines, old and new mosques, inactive Orthodox churches and a modest monument built in the name of the vintagers. By the way, it looks somewhat like the Russian “Worker and Kolkhoz Woman” monument.
The Uchisar Castle is widely considered to be the symbol of Uchisar, standing 60 meters tall it’s also called the castle-mountain. The carved-out dovecotes are present in the local mountains still, some of them to this day occupied with birds. There is also a small church with missing frescoes, however it does not function to this day. The mountains also preserved the famous Uchisar houses, nowadays recognised as museums.
This modest town is located 30 minutes away by foot from Göreme, where you can find a huge mountain full of houses. Unfortunately most of the inhabitants have long left the area, possibly due to the frequent rockfall. This is why the visitors are advised to keep distance from crags and difficult places, and there are plenty of safe paths and walkways for the tourists. For example, one of the routes leads to the Saint John the Baptist’s (Vaftizci Yahya) church, whose frescoes have been preserved in rather good condition.
What to see in Cappadocia
Simply walking in an unknown direction will wield you a huge lot of impressions. Cappadocia is a true nature’s wonder with an incomprehensible amount of mountains, volcanoes, valleys, caves and caverns. Those who want to submerge themselves in the old christian way of life must visit the local underground towns.
- Ihlara valley (Ihlara Vadisi)
- Derinkuyu Underground city (Derinkuyu Yeraltı Şehri)
- Ozkonak Underground city (Özkonak Yeraltı Şehri)
- Kaymakli Underground city (Kaymaklı Yeraltı Şehri)
- Goreme Open Air Museum (Göreme Açıkhava Müzesi)
- Nevsehir Museum (Nevşehir Müzesi)
- Hajibektash Museum (Hacıbektaş Müzesi)
- Dark Church (Göreme Karanlık Kilise)
- Chavushin Church (Çavuşin Örenyeri)
- Zelve-Pashabag Monastery (Zelve-Paşabağlar Örenyeri)
The Museum Pass Cappadocia card
In Cappadocia you can also purchase a museum card — the Museum Pass Cappadocia, which lets you visit the following places and attractions.
The Cappadocia museum card costs 130 lire. It lasts for three days after purchase.
Top 3 best Cappadocia places and attractions
- Göreme Open Air Museum. Here, in the area of 300 m² you will find the famous Valley of Love, lots of churches decorated with clever frescoes, monasteries and underground houses. Entering this open-air museum really feels like being carried away to a different planet. Also know that there is not just one Valley of Love here, but actually two. The first one is located in Göreme, while the second is further towards Uchisar. The last one is also very frequently depicted on postcards. The entry fee to the Göreme Open Air Museum is 54 lire.
- A balloon flight, and meeting the dawn at an elevation. Huge baskets under large domes rise high into the sky to see the dawn. Simply observing the pre-flight preparation is fascinating in and of itself. If you are not planning to take flight in a balloon, you can still observe the sunrise standing on one of the observation decks. The decks have a 360 degree view of the valley and Göreme, the entry fee is about 3 lire. Take our word for it, for the picture of balloons at dawn leaves you with a truly astonishing and unforgettable impression!
- Valley of Love (just like on the postcards). You can walk here from Göreme by foot. The total trip is only about 12 km both ways, here you can find plenty of dovecotes, carved inside of the rocks. The other local attraction are the widely recognised, mushroom-like ‘fairy chimneys’ made of volcanic tuff. You can also visit the Meskendir Valley, the Red Valley (KIZILÇUKUR) and the Pink Valley (GÜLLÜDERE). These places are known for their reddish mountains and old churches.
Cappadocia’s churches and shrines
There are lots of church shrines in Cappadocia. The service is only carried twice a year — on Christmas and Easter, but they are always open for tourists. Keep in mind that there is usually an entry fee for churches with preserved frescoes.
Tokali Kilise is the biggest church in Göreme, located further beyond the Goreme Open Air Museum. However you can visit it with the museum pass. Built up in the X century, the frescoes are preserved to this day depicting Jesus and other Saints.
Dark Church (Karanlık Kilise) — a true masterpiece of the ancient architecture, worth visiting even by those who consider themselves far from religious. There is also a separate 18 lire entry fee.
The church with apples, a very short and narrow underground tunnel leads to the shrine.
St. Barbara church. It is interesting in that the frescoes date back to the era of battling the iconoclasm in Byzantine.
Snake Church (Yılanlı Kilise) whose main attraction are the frescoes from the XI century, one of them depicts St Onuphrius, which is why it is sometimes called after the saint.
Chapel of Saint Basil (XI century). It is remarked because of its pictures of St George and the dragon, painted with ocher and very well-preserved.
Derinkuyu underground city (Derinkuyu Yeraltı Şehri)
This is an ancient underground city, comprising of many levels. It is always cool here, so tourists will definitely need to take some warm clothes with them. Keep in mind that despite the ventilation the air may still be rather stale.
The underground city is preserved to this day. In Derinkuyu you will find everything, from living spaces and houses, to schools, wine stores, workshops, barns, ventilation shafts and lots and lots more. It is known that the city was built by the Christians who have escaped persecution and made themselves comfortable housing inside the rocks.
The Derinkuyu city is actually astonishing! It is a labyrinth of corridors, rooms and halls. At some point there was a long tunnel going from this city to another underground city in Kaymakli (Kaymaklı). Nowadays the tunnel has been closed down due to the safety concerns regarding rockfall, but Kaymakli is still open for visitors.
It’s not recommended to visit these cities for people suffering from claustrophobia.
Goreme Open Air Museum
The main museum complex in Cappadocia is Göreme, it is a part of the Göreme National Park. The church shrines explained above are located in the Goreme Open Air Museum. Also, this museum complex is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The museum complex is a very popular tourist attraction, so in order to skip the queue it’s best to arrive here 30 minutes prior to opening, the complex always opens at 8:00.
Every attraction in Cappadocia is unique in its own right. For example the Ceramic Museum, located in the town Avanos, is inside both manmade and natural caves 15 meters below ground level. The total area of the museum is 500 m².
If you are lucky to come across the beautiful, exotic Cappadocia, here’s what you should definitely do:
- Rent a scooter and feel like an explorer of the local lands: the beauty and uniqueness of Cappadocia’s landscapes are truly breathtaking.
- Book into a tour, from Göreme to the Derinkuyu underground city through the Ihlara canyon. These places are far away from each other but a guide will teach you through them, which is both very interesting and educational to any tourist.
- Fly an air balloon at sunrise, these unique sights of Cappadocia will wield you lots of astonishing pictures and unforgettable memories!
- Take a walk down the old streets of Göreme, visit some of the souvenir shops and if you have the opportunity, purchase one of the hand-crafted carpets.
- Study the ancient frescoes, the plentiful decorated walls and halls of shrines and churches carved in the rock. Most of these objects are in fact found in the Goreme Open Air Museum.
- Submerge yourself into the magical atmosphere of the underground cities, search the vast labyrinths full of rooms and corridors, in order to see for yourself how the first christians survived in these buildings many centuries ago, escaping the arabian persecution, seeking protection within these walls.
- Find yourself in the gourmet cuisine by trying out the public cafes and restaurants, or just try out the unrivalled traditional meal — meat and vegetables, sealed in a clay pot (Testi Kebabi).
- Leave at least two hours for a trip to Avanos, which is referred to as the city of pottery for a reason. The local, handcrafted ceramics will leave you with indelible memories.
- It is definitely worth visiting Uchisar in the evening, in order to see the sunset and the remarkable Castle-Mountain. Believe us, the looks there truly are breathtaking!
Cappadocia is a rather quiet place, however we would not recommend walking alone in the middle of the night.
As it is also a mountainous area, we advise not to try yourself out at rock climbing without proper training and equipment, as well as in dangerous places as there is a risk of rockfall. Pay attention when walking too, as a scooter or a motorcycle could pop out of a corner at any time.
One of the main pieces of advice when travelling from Istanbul to Cappadocia by yourself is using local currency, such as lire. Always remember that when paying in dollars or euro the exchange rates will be unfavourable at best, so to avoid exactly that as well as other problems and inconveniences, make sure to exchange the required amount of local currency prior to the trip.
Prices in Cappadocia for 2020
In Goreme and the surrounding districts you can find accommodation from 70 liras per day. However, in the spring-summer season prices will be higher. Therefore, count on the price of 200-300 lire per day (in the summer). Plan your accommodation in advance, because even in spring it is difficult to find rooms for the summer. But as an option, you can consider hostels or apart-hotels.
In the tourist center of Cappadocia, Goreme, you can find many budgetary establishments. Here, the price for a hearty lunch will be about 30-40 lire, and dinner with a glass of wine in a cafe will cost you 100 liras.
From inexpensive and interesting cafes you can visit the following.
Omurca Art Cave Cafe
The cafe is partially located in the cave. A host named Harun will serve and cook delicious food. It is here that you can hearty meal in the home atmosphere for little money.
The cafe owner eagerly communicates with tourists and tries to create a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere.
We especially recommend this place to cat lovers, because the owner has more than 6 of them. Usually cats do not bother guests.
Soup here costs 5 liras, and a serving of köfte (Turkish fried cutlet) costs 25 liras.
This cafe is quite a popular place in Cappadocia. In the evening, as a rule, there are always visitors here, so get ready for a leisurely service.
Inci Cave Cafe
The restaurant located in a cave will surprise you with an unusual authentic atmosphere. Want to enjoy delicious home cooking and homemade wine? Then you need to come here. Lentil soup here costs 5 liras, and snacks from 10 to 30 lire.
Pumpkin Goreme Restaurant and Art Gallery
It is one of the popular restaurants in Goreme. Here is a very interesting interior with many lamps carved from pumpkins. For dinner, you will be offered a set of dishes (different every day). One set consists of appetizers, hot meal, dessert and drinks. Cost 70 lire per person. It has a very friendly atmosphere, polite staff and great food.
If you want a delicious dinner and enjoy the stunning views, then it is worth visiting the premium restaurants. For example, The Plum Restaurant or Seki Restaurant. Dinner with a glass of local wine will cost about 180-190 lire per person. The restaurant’s veranda overlooks Goreme National Park. And from the restaurant you can get right into one of the caves. This place is well-known and is considered one of the best in Cappadocia.
You can find a lot of different tours in Cappadocia: group tours with english speaking guides (other languages available), bus tours, walking tours and excursions. At first you can get to Cappadocia by bus or plane and then you can join one of the tours: One-day guided tour, baloon flight, Red tour or Blue tour and private tours.