If you’re hesitating on whether it’s a good idea to visit Cappadocia in winter – stop! This beautiful region of Turkey is wonderful to visit any time of year, and in winter, you’ll enjoy reduced prices, fewer crowds, and some even more magical landscapes.
While some of the activities you might normally do in Cappadocia aren’t always available in winter, such as trekking in the Ihlara Valley, the truth is that Cappadocia is truly a year-round destination and most of the activities and tours run in winter in Cappadocia!
The Very Best Things to Do in Cappadocia in Winter
Fly in a hot air balloon over the winter Cappadocia landscapes
Cappadocia is beautiful any time of year, but it’s simply breathtaking when it’s covered in a layer of snow that glazes the fairy chimneys artfully.
And it’s even more magical when that same snowy landscape is viewed from hundreds of meters in the air from a hot air balloon!
A lot of people don’t know that you can go on a Cappadocia hot air balloon ride year-round – it’s not just a summer or peak season thing!
Balloons fly in Cappadocia somewhere in between 250 and 300 days a year, depending on weather conditions, so you actually have a pretty good chance of being able to fly in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia in winter. However, the bulk of those no-fly days occur in the winter period, so if you’re visiting Cappadocia in December, January, or February, be prepared that you may not get to fly.
Reputable balloon tour operators (I recommend both Royal Balloon and Butterfly Balloon, two of the best-rated and safest companies in Cappadocia) will offer you a 100% money-back refund if balloon flights are canceled, so you can book a winter Cappadocia balloon ride without fear.
I suggest booking your balloon flight for as early in your Cappadocia trip as possible, the first morning you have available, so that in case flights are canceled you can rebook on a future day. Keep in mind that this is the most popular thing to do in Cappadocia so you want to book it at least a month in advance — yes, even in winter in Cappadocia you have to book in advance!
The cheapest (but still reputable) balloon ride I was able to find was with Royal Balloons, for around $200 USD. You can see more details and book it here. I flew with Royal and recommend it; they’re widely regarded to be one of the best hot air balloon companies in Cappadocia, with nearly 2,000 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor.
In case Royal Balloons’ budget flight is booked on your trip dates, my second choice would be Butterfly Ballons, which also enjoys an excellent reputation and is only slightly more, around $210 USD, and has over 1,600 5-star reviews. You can look at more details and book it here. Hey — it was good enough for Rick Steves, so it’s good enough for me!
If budget isn’t a concern, there are plenty of more luxurious balloon rides you can do. One step up from the Royal Balloon Queen flight is the King Flight, which you can check out here, which lasts longer and is more luxurious for about $90 USD more ($290 USD total).
Watch the balloons at sunrise from ground level
If you don’t have the budget for your own hot air balloon ride, if you’re too afraid of heights to actually go in a balloon, or you just want even more balloon action, be sure to wake up at sunrise at least once during your winter trip to Cappadocia to watch the balloons float in the sky over the beautiful winter landscape.
Do note that there is a chance that the balloon flights may be canceled on any given day with little to no warning due to frequently-changing safety conditions, and the aviation controller always operates on the safe side. Cancelations are more frequent during winter, so have your heart set on seeing the sunrise – which will happen no matter what, obviously! – and think of the balloons as an added, serendipitous bonus.
Get cozy at a cave hotel
Staying at a cave hotel in Cappadocia is an incredible experience, and for me, it was nearly tied with my hot air balloon ride as one of the best things I did in Cappadocia.
Be sure to pick a cave hotel that is winter-proofed so that it has heating — trust me, you don’t want to stay in a stone-walled cave house without heating! I stayed in a cave suite at the budget-friendly Chelebi Cave House that had a Jacuzzi tub, which would be phenomenal in the winter to warm up after a long day of exploring in the cold or a morning of seeing the sunrise from a hot air balloon!
Meanwhile, some hotels like the ultra-luxurious Museum Hotel even have a heated pool where you can watch the hot air balloons dance over the winter Cappadocian landscape from the comfort of a bathwater-warm pool!
Go on a brisk winter hike
Despite the fact that it gets quite cold in Cappadocia in winter, keep in mind that there is pretty limited snowfall, meaning that a lot of outdoor activities are still totally viable in the winter.
When there is snow in Cappadocia, it usually is a dusting over the ground rather than a giant blanket of snow — which means that the weather is actually quite nice for a winter hike, provided you dress warmly and appropriately, of course!
A few of the most popular hikes in Cappadocia are Love Valley, Pigeon Valley, and Rose Valley.
Since these are all low-altitude hikes, they’re quite easy to manage in the winter so long as there wasn’t a recent heavy snowfall. We still suggest that you ask your guesthouse owner about hiking trail conditions before embarking on a hike in winter just to be safe!
Have a hammam day
Dedicating a few hours to enjoying a hammam – the Turkish ritual of steam room, scrub, massage, and rest – is an essential part of a winter trip to Turkey!
Many cave hotels also have hammams which you can enjoy. Some are only for guests of the hotel; others allow bookings for the spa services from non-guests. Ask before you arrive!
If your hotel doesn’t have a hammam, we suggest making a booking at one of the following spas, all of which are highly-rated on Trip Advisor: Panoramic Cave Spa, Kelebek Hamam & Spa, and Hill Spa Cappadocia.
Warm up with a fiery pottery kebab
One of my favorite Cappadocian delicacies is ‘testi kebab’, sometimes written ‘tasty kebab’ — which is pretty accurate! ‘Testi’ in Turkish means pot or vessel, and it refers to the sealed ceramic container that your kebab is prepared in.
Basically, the restaurant makes a delicious meat and vegetable stew (some offer a veggie version), bake it inside a sealed clay vessel over a searing hot fire — which they often bring out and show to you as a stellar form of presentation — then crack it open and serve it to you from your own personal clay urn.
It’s pretty amazing to watch, ultra-tasty to eat, and the food is hearty and screams ‘winter’ more than any other Turkish food I know, which I generally find quite light and better suited for summer.
Shop til you drop!
What is it about winter that makes me want to shop myself into a stupor? And in Turkey, it’s doubly so – mostly so I can avail myself of the delicious apple tea the shopkeepers love to give their guests!
Luckily, Cappadocia has tons of excellent shopping opportunities. Whether you want to buy a gorgeous patterned rug, beautiful Ottoman lanterns, traditional Turkish tilework, or other souvenirs, you’ll find dozens of excellent shops in Göreme and Uchisar.
We suggest reading our guide to Turkish souvenirs before planning to shop in Turkey as we highlight traditional products and let you know a bit about shopping and haggling culture in the country.
Go horseback riding in the snow
If you had to think of something nearly as magical as riding a hot air balloon above an epic winter Cappadocia landscape, a horseback ride through the snowy valleys would be a close second.
You can ride horses in Cappadocia year-round by booking a 2-hour horseback riding excursion, which includes hotel pickups and drop-offs. You’ll see beautiful landscapes everywhere you go, culminating with the massively impressive Hallacdere Monastery, a historic rock monastery in Cappadocia.
Explore the marvelous Göreme Open Air Museum
I suggest the Göreme Open Air Museum no matter the time of year because it’s one of the best resources for truly understanding the cultural, historical, and geographical reasons behind why Cappadocia looks the way it is.
While of course, the museum is open air (as the name implies), I think it’s actually more enjoyable in the winter when you can easily bundle up for the cold versus in the summer, where there’s virtually no shade except in a few caves and the Turkish summer heat can be unrelenting.
You can easily walk there from the center of Göreme and visit independently; however, you may also want to do it as part a guided tour that covers the wider Cappadocia region that are harder to get to independently, such as this full-day Red Tour. There are three tour circuits, each with something a bit different (and a tad of overlap between the three
Personally, I visited the Open Air Museum independently and then went on the Green Tour to see more of the region. However, I know that in winter the Green Tour skips the Ihlara Valley trek, so I’d suggest the Blue or Red Tours in winter instead.
What to Pack for Cappadocia in Winter
Winter Clothes: Yes, it snows rather often in Cappadocia! If you’re visiting in the winter, at a minimum, you’ll want to bring a warm winter jacket (I love this North Face parka), cozy snow boots or other waterproof boot with plenty of traction, warm wool socks, touch-screen friendly gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.
The Lonely Planet Turkey: A good guidebook can help you with the kinds of safety tips you need if you’re out and about and feel a bit lost, especially if you don’t have internet or a cell signal. These also have specific guides to every town in Cappadocia (which is a region, not a town in itself), and it’s a great supplement to blog posts like this one!
Unlocked Cell Phone: Stephanie and I both have unlocked cell phones that we bought in Europe (Stephanie uses a Samsung and I use an iPhone). This allows up to get sim cards when we travel so that we always have the internet. This has gotten us out of so many jams! If you don’t have an unlocked cell phone that can use a Turkish sim card, you can buy a cheaper unlocked phone online and bring it with you!
Grayl Water Filter: It generally isn’t safe to drink the tap water in Cappadocia, although you could ask your hotel what they think. If you don’t want to be buying millions of plastic water bottles, we strongly recommend a reusable water bottle that comes with a water filter like this Grayl water bottle that filters out literally 99.999% of so that you can sanitize the tap water and reduce your plastic consumption.
Your Camera: Do I need to elaborate?
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
We have a full guide of cave hotels that will rock your world — you can read it here. Here’s the quick version:
Budget: For a cheap but chic place to stay in Cappadocia, Angel Cave Suites offers a total of 9 cave rooms within a really budget-friendly price range. Most of their rooms have a private bathroom with complete amenities plus a balcony with a view of the mountains or the city.
>> Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Angel Cave Suites here
Mid-Range: For a not too expensive but still comfortable stay, we recommend Wish Cappadocia. This small boutique cave hotel in Cappadocia offers six rooms with well-fitted furniture that goes perfectly with the structure of the cave rooms. Some rooms even have a fireplace, and chopped wood is provided for your disposal — great if you’re visiting Cappadocia in winter!
>> Check out guest reviews, prices, and availability at Wish Cappadocia here
Luxury: Awarded both the Best Luxury Boutique Hotel and the Best Hotel Architecture in Europe, you can rest easy that Museum Hotel is one of the finest cave hotels in Cappadocia. Heated outdoor pool where you can even eat breakfast? Check. Museum-quality artifacts in the hotel for guests to peruse? Check. Beautiful luxury rooms? Check. A room with an actual wine tap in it? I’ll never leave.
>> Curious? Check guest reviews, prices, and availability here.
More Cappadocia Travel Resources
If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also written a 3-day itinerary for Cappadocia, a guide to some of the best things to do in Cappadocia, and a review of the Cappadocia Green tour
You’re likely also planning a trip to Istanbul if you’re headed to Cappadocia. We have a guide to the best things to do in Istanbul, which we’re continually improving, but for now, you can check out our Instagram guide to Istanbul, our favorite Istanbul neighborhoods and where to stay, and tips for shopping in Istanbul.
For more general Turkey information, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide to other beautiful places to visit in Turkey.
Headed to Cappadocia? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Cappadocia, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Turkey, especially in Cappadocia, you need to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.