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A Wonderland in the heart of Turkey: Cappadocia’s best experiences when the sun goes down

If you think Cappadocia is breathtaking during the day, just wait until the sun sets. This unique region of Turkey transforms into a wonderland of twinkling lights, illuminated cave dwellings, and star-filled skies that will leave you speechless. In this blog post, we’ll explore the best experiences to have in Cappadocia after dark, from savoring traditional Turkish cuisine to watching the hot air balloons float above the stunning landscape. So, grab your camera, put on some warm clothes, and let’s discover What to do in Cappadocia under the moonlight.

Take a balloon ride to admire the sunrise

What to do in Cappadocia: Take a balloon tour during the sunrise

Although it’s technically cheating since it happens during sunrise instead of sunset, we couldn’t leave one of the most magical activities off our list. Flying over the breathtaking landscapes of Cappadocia and its famous fairy chimneys is an experience that everyone should have, even though it can be more challenging than it seems.

Typically, the balloon company will pick you up at your hotel around 4:00am and take you to their office for a traditional Turkish breakfast before driving you to the takeoff spot. This is where things get interesting, to the point that there are even takeoff watching parties for those who can’t get a spot in the balloons.

Whether or not you fly will depend primarily on the weather, as even if it seems like the weather is great and there’s only a light breeze, balloons won’t take off if the wind speed is over 10 km/hour. It’s important to keep this in mind when booking your tour.

Here are some tips for the activity:

  • Book the tour for the first day of your stay so that if you can’t fly that day, your reservation will automatically pass to the next available day (unless it’s high season and all the spots are full).
  • For the best views, try to secure a corner spot in the basket.
  • Bring some light jacket or scarf if you’re flying during summer, and heavy clothes if flying on winter, as the temperature drops significantly when going up.

There are many companies to choose from, but it’s advisable to ask your hotel for recommendations since they often have agreements with reputable companies. Be aware that prices can double or triple during high season due to high demand. We learned this the hard way on our first trip to Goreme, where we couldn’t justify paying 250-300€ per person for the balloon ride. So far, we’ve attempted to fly in a balloon in Cappadocia three times, but we haven’t been able to do it yet. Fortunately, we always booked hotels with rooftop terraces to admire them!

What to do in Cappadocia: Take a balloon tour during the sunrise
What to do in Cappadocia: Take a balloon tour during the sunrise

What to do in Cappadocia: Take a balloon tour during the sunrise

Discover the valleys on a sunset horse ride

What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding
What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding

When it comes to exploring Cappadocia, there are few experiences more exhilarating than a horse riding tour. With its stunning landscapes and rich cultural heritage, this region is known as «The land of the beautiful horses,» and there’s no better way to see it than on horseback.

What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding

One of the highlights of this tour is riding through the red and rose valleys, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of towering rock formations and otherworldly landscapes. As you make your way through these stunning valleys, you’ll have the chance to visit several amazing churches with beautiful frescoes, including the Church of Aziz Agentangeus, a hidden gem that many visitors miss.

What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding

You’ll also take a small break in the stunning Star Box Café, which is nestled in the heart of the Rose Valley. Here, you can relax and enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice while taking in the amazing views of the surrounding scenery.

Overall, a horse riding tour is the perfect way to experience the magic of Cappadocia. Whether you’re a seasoned rider or a novice, this tour offers something for everyone. While there are multiple companies running this tour, we recommend inquiring at your hotel. They may provide a better rate than booking independently. The price for this tour was 20€ by the time we did it (Price may have gone up in the last year tho)

What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding
What to do in Cappadocia: Horseback riding

If you’re feeling even more adventurous, there are companies that offer moonlight tours in the area. You’ll ride horseback in the middle of the night, with only the light of the moon to guide you. This is an amazing experience that allows you to see the landscape in a completely different light. During the tour, you’ll also take a small break around a campfire, where you can enjoy some hot Çay (tea) or wine and take in the peacefulness of the surroundings.

Take stunning pictures from Göreme’s viewpoint

If you’re searching for the perfect spot to take amazing photos for your Instagram, be sure to check out Göreme’s Viewpoint (also known as Göreme Sunrise Point on Google Maps, not to mistake with Viewpoint Café). This picturesque location offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and It’s also perfect for watching hot air balloons take off at sunrise. As the balloons fill with air and lift off the ground, the colors and shapes make for an incredible sight against the backdrop of the colorful sky. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you won’t want to miss. Located less than a kilometer away from Göreme downtown, the viewpoint is easily accessible. There is a small entrance fee of 5TL, but it is definitely worth it for the stunning views you’ll enjoy. Additionally, there’s a small bar that offers the perfect opportunity to sip hot wine or a soft drink while taking in the views.

What to do in Cappadocia: Stunning views of Göreme and Uchisar Castle
What to do in Cappadocia: Stunning views of Göreme and Uchisar Castle

What to do in Cappadocia: Stunning views of the red valley
What to do in Cappadocia: Stunning views of the red valley

What to do in Cappadocia: Stunning views of Göreme and Uchisar Castle

Don’t forget to get there early to get the best spots to place your camera!

Treat yourself to a cozy dinner in an charming cave restaurant

After going on a horseback riding tour or hiking up to Göreme’s viewpoint, it’s no wonder you’ll be feeling hungry. Luckily, there’s nothing quite like a hearty meal to recharge your batteries and prepare you for the next adventure. And where better to enjoy a delicious dinner than one of the many cave restaurants in the area?

A traditional dinner in a cave restaurant is an experience like no other. The unique atmosphere and the mouthwatering local cuisine are a feast for the senses. As you settle down at your table, surrounded by the ancient rock formations, you’ll be transported back in time. The ambience is warm and inviting, perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a fun night out with friends.

One of the local specialties that you must try is the Testi Kebab, a delicious meat dish slow-cooked in a clay pot. The pot is sealed with bread dough and then baked, creating a spectacular presentation when it is brought to the table. Manti is another traditional dish that you might want to try. These are small dumplings filled with minced meat, spices, and herbs, and served with a tomato sauce and yogurt. Both dishes are simply mouthwatering!

To complete your culinary experience, don’t forget to sample some of the excellent wines produced in the region. Turasan and Kocabag are two of the most popular varieties, with a rich and complex flavor that pairs perfectly with the local cuisine.

If you’re looking for a restaurant recommendation, look no further than Dibek. This charming establishment has a fantastic reputation for its traditional and romantic atmosphere and exquisite homemade food. The staff is friendly and welcoming, and the service is impeccable. If you plan to visit, make sure you book your table in advance, especially if you’re planning on trying the Testi Kebab, since it’s only prepared upon request. They also have a rooftop if you just want to have some drinks.

 

Take a nighttime stroll through downtown Göreme

And once your stomach is full, we suggest taking a relaxing walk through the center of Göreme, where you’ll be greeted by the soft glow of lanterns and fairy lights that line the streets.

If you’re looking to avoid crowds during your shopping excursions, consider hitting up the local shops during the evening hours. Many of them stay open late, offering a quieter and more peaceful experience.

Unwind and take in the mesmerizing views of the illuminated landscape from one of the many rooftop bars in town. Sipping on a drink while surrounded by the magic lights is a perfect way to end your day in Cappadocia.

How to get to Cappadocia

Both AnadoluJet and the low-cost airline Pegasus offer a wide variety of flights to the two main airports in Cappadocia: Kayseri and Nevşehir.

Kayseri airport is located 70km away from Goreme. To get there, you can either arrange a transfer with your hotel, which will cost around 10-15€ per person, or you can use FlixBus. However, if you choose the latter option, you’ll need to take a taxi to the central station first, since the bus doesn’t leave directly from the airport. The bus ticket costs 3,50€ and the journey takes approximately 1 hour.

Nevşehir airport is located 40km from Goreme. As with Kayseri airport, the options are a transfer or a bus. However, in this case, buses do leave directly from the airport. The price of the ticket varies between 20 and 30 TL depending on the company, with Nevşehir Seyahat and Goreme Turizm being the two main ones. The journey takes around 35-40 minutes.

The price of flights is around 25€ and 50€, depending on how far in advance you book them. We always use Skyscanner to track flight prices and buy them when they’re cheaper.

Another option is to take a bus from Istanbul to the cities of Nevsehir or Goreme. The journey takes approximately 10 hours, and there are several companies such as FlixBus or Metro Turizm. Prices range from 20$ to 30$. There are also overnight buses if you want to save on accommodation costs. You can also take a bus if you are coming from the south (Antalya).

Where to stay in Göreme, Cappadocia

If it’s your first time around, Göreme without any doubt. The hotel offer is enormous, with options for all tastes and budgets. I must say that, in general, even the most basic hotels are great, most of them located in the typical cave houses of the area. They are usually small and have a very friendly and familiar atmosphere.

We have stayed at:

  • Terra Cave Hotel (2021), really cozy and with a beautiful terrace for breakfast (which is very good) and very warming staff. We paid 63€ per night for a standard double room with breakfast included.
  • View Cave Hotel (2021), a rather basic hotel but super affordable and sufficient if you’re looking for a private room. We paid 17€ per night for a standard double room with breakfast included.
  • Taskonak Hotel (2019) We paid 35€ per night for a double room with breakfast included. During the pandemic they closed for renovations, and as far as I know the new fares are rather high (Around 96€ atm).

Where to eat in Göreme, Cappadocia

When visiting Cappadocia, one thing you can’t miss is the delicious local cuisine. The region’s unique landscape and history have influenced its culinary traditions, resulting in a diverse and flavorful cuisine. Some must-try dishes include testi kebab, a stew cooked in a clay pot, and manti, Turkish dumplings served with yogurt and garlic sauce. Some of my all time favorite restaurants and cafés in Göreme are:

  • Turkish Ravioli: as its name suggests, the specialty dish here is manti.
  • Dibek: the best testi kebab in Goreme and one of the most stunning restaurants we have ever been to!
  • Can-Can cafe: a really familiar and budget-friendly restaurant. Their home made food is just delicious and the family that hosts the restaurant is great.
  • Pasha Cafe: a very atmospheric spot to enjoy a drink.
  • OZE coffee shop: perfect for tasting a good espresso or other specialties.
  • Mydonose cafe: a great terrace with reasonable prices and beautiful views.
  • Viewpoint cafe: another terrace with stunning views. Although it is also a restaurant, we only had drinks there.

 

Cappadocia is a destination that truly comes to life after the sun sets. With so many incredible experiences to choose from, you’re sure to find something that will leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in this breathtaking region of Turkey. So pack your bags, come and experience the magic of Cappadocia at night!

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