Cappadocia is a bucket list destination. Just the thought of it conjures up images of fantastical scenery, awesome hikes, fairy chimney’s, cave hotels and the world renowned sunrise hot air balloon rides. All of the above make it a top choice for travellers around the globe.
But, can you do Cappadocia on a budget?
It also has a reputation for being an expensive place to visit. 5 star fantasy hotels and hot air balloon rides usually do not come cheap. There is a perception that a once in a lifetime destination or experience often costs and arm and a leg.
It seems sad that backpackers or budget travellers should feel they have to skip a destination, particularly one as amazing as Cappadocia. I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been somewhere so worthwhile visiting. I’ve literally never seen another place like it.
How to experience Cappadocia on a budget
So here are a few tips for you to visit this unbelievable place and not damage your budget.
1) Take the Night Bus
Night busses are wonderful for those of us on a budget. Not only do you get from A to B for a lower cost than other modes of transport, but it also saves you a night of accommodation.
Another plus for night busses in Turkey is they are often just as comfortable as flying. They are practically a luxury mode of transport.
The seats are very comfortable, extra wide and recline to a respectable angle. Each seat is equipped with a personal entertainment set like on an airplane. The downside to this is unless you speak Turkish it is kind of useless, but at least the thought is there.
The bus also provides lots of free refreshments. Not many night busses offer perks like free coffee and ice cream.
Goreme is a great place to stay on a budget since it has the most variety of prices. Night busses run directly from Istanbul to Goreme, they take 9 hours and cost 75 TL ($37).
There are several companies who run busses on this route, we used Metro who have a booking office near Taksim Square in Istanbul. They are very professional, speak amazing english and offer a free shuttle out to the bus station. The distance from Istanbul to Cappadocia is just over 800km, with the full trip taking about 9 hours driving in total.
2) Stay in a Dorm Cave
One of the top ‘to do’s’ in Cappadocia is stay in a Cave Hotel. These are hotels built into the surrounding mountains, that were at one point local dwellings. The rooms are often inside a carved out shape in the rock and are awesome to see in person.
Cave hotels can be incredibly fancy and crazy expensive, with in room hot tubs and other 5 star amenities. However the area of Goreme has a variety of cave hotel’s aimed at those of us travelling on a budget.
We stayed in Shoe String Cave House for €11/30 TL ($15) for a dorm bed. There were a couple of others in the area for €9 /€10 per night, but Shoe String included a free breakfast, free wifi and had a swimming pool, so we thought the extra €2 was well spent.
The cave dorm at Shoe String is actually four connecting caves, so although it is a 16 bed dorm it really doesn’t feel this way.
The breakfast was amazing, a huge Turkish buffet breakfast spread with delicious crusty bread, pastries, olives, meats, cheeses and grilled vegetables. It was another great way to save money on the trip, since we were usually so full from breakfast that we didn’t need lunch.
3) Eat on the Cheap
If like us you stay in a hotel or hostel that offers free breakfast, you should be able to eat on the cheap for the rest of the day.
If you stay in Goreme there are a variety of options for a low cost meal. There are the usual Turkish Kebab places offering low cost wraps and kebabs for around 6TL ($3). Most of the cafe style places in town offer mixed meze plates for 12-15TL ($6-8). Since these usually come with unlimited bread we always found these plates enough to feed two people.
If you fancy a more substantial meal a few of the cafes on the main strip near the canal offer Pide (turkish pizza) or Gozleme (turkish filled pancake that can be savoury or sweet) for about 8-10TL ($4).
On any of our meals in Goreme we rarely spent over 20 TL ($10).
4) Go Hiking
Cappadocia has an unbelievable landscape and the best way to experience it is to get out and walk through it.
If you stay in Goreme there are a couple of hiking trails that begin very close to town. A great one is Pigeon Valley, which connects Goreme and Uchisar.
Many of the other valleys are further away and require transport, you can do tours (these are labelled as the Red or Green Tours) both go to separate areas and last the entire day, they are also not cheap. If you have the budget ($40), this is a full-day discovery “Red Tour” a great option.
If you are not a fan of organised tours or want to save some money, you can do these hikes on your own. You can catch a local bus out to one of the valleys and walk through them and back to your area, or of course catch the dolmus back if you time it right.
5) Don’t Do a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Although we did take part in a hot air balloon ride, I learned quickly you can still have an amazing sunrise experience without one. If you really want to do Cappadocia on a budget, you need to skip the popular hot air balloon ride (sorry!).
One of the things that makes a sunrise balloon trip such an amazing experience in Cappadocia, aside from the wonderful scenery, is actually the other balloons in the air. It’s an awesome sight to behold; hundreds of brightly coloured Hot Air Balloons taking to the skies.
There are a couple of options for taking in the beauty of a Cappadocian sunrise in Goreme, other than a balloon ride.
If you stay in Shoe String Cave House I can vouch for the view on their upper level by the pool.
You can also climb up to the aptly named Sunrise Point, an easily accessible hilltop about a 10 minute trek up from the town centre, the path starts to the right of the mosque, across from the canal.
You won’t be alone in doing this, but Sunrise Point has quite a lot of space, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet you should be able to find a secluded spot. Or make some new friends if that’s also a goal.
The Cappadocia hot air balloon price ranges. So if you really do want to experience the Cappadocia hot air balloon journey, then consider a few of the below options.
6) Visit Uchisar Castle
Since I have suggested avoiding paying a small fortune to see the landscape of Cappadocia from a Hot Air Balloon, I’d like to present you with an incredibly cheap viable alternative.
Why not pay just 6TL ($3) to visit Uchisar Cave Castle instead?
Not only is this cave castle an extremely cool sight, the top level is also the highest point in the region. So 6TL is well worth it for the view alone.
You can’t explore the entire castle, but there are many rooms, caves and creepy dark spaces for you to investigate if you’re into that kind of thing.
As I said above, if you are staying in Goreme you can hike to Uchisar from Pigeon Valley and combine these two activities in one afternoon as we did.
We really enjoyed having a little explore of the caves and just chilling at the top of the castle taking in the view. Plus it’s a darn sight cheaper than €160, with much the same view!
That’s how you do Cappadocia on a budget
If you follow the advice I have given above you could definitely get away with spending about 170 TL ($85) per person for three days and nights if you include the night bus as a night of accommodation. That’s less than $30 per day to see one of the most amazing regions in Turkey. Yes, Cappadocia on a budget is possible!