If you’re planning to travel to Cappadocia – and you should! – you are likely starting your journey in Istanbul.
However, Turkey is a huge country, and Cappadocia isn’t exactly close to Istanbul. The distance between Istanbul and Cappadocia is a whopping 735 kilometers, so it takes about 9 hours to drive between the two.
There are a few ways to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia, so I’ll detail them all in this post, so you can figure out the best method for how to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul in terms of time, ease, and cost.
The Best Method to Get from Istanbul to Cappadocia: Flight
The easiest way to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia is definitely by flying, and it’s cheaper than you’d think. Due to the depressed Turkish lira, flights are often really affordable for people purchasing with stronger currencies like the dollar, pound, or euro.
There are two main airlines that serve the routes from Istanbul to Cappadocia: Turkish Airlines (often operated by AnadoluJet) and Pegasus. Prices vary, but they are generally in the $30-60 USD range, which is pretty affordable.
Getting from Istanbul to Istanbul Airport
There are two airports in Istanbul, and the main airport is brand new; Istanbul Ataturk Airport is now closed (thank god because that airport suuuuucked). Those two airports are Istanbul New (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen (SAW). Most flights from Istanbul to Cappadocia depart from Sabiha Gökçen, which is a bit closer to the city than the new airport.
The best way to get to Sabiha Gökçen is via the Havabus from Taksim Square, which costs 18 lira ($3 USD) and takes about 90 minutes.
To get to the new main Istanbul airport, you can take Havaist which also costs 18 lira, about $3 USD. These will depart from Taksim, Beşiktaş, and Sultanahmet as well as other destinations. The ride takes about 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic.
Alternately, it may be less hassle (but higher cost) to book an inexpensive airport transfer. Here are shared shuttles to IST and private transfers to IST. For Sabiha Gökçen, you can take this private transfer.
From Kayseri Airport to Cappadocia Hotels
There are two airport options for arriving in Cappadocia: Nevşehir (much closer) than Kayseri (further, but not so bad).
I took a shuttle from Kayseri to my hotel in Göreme, on a shared shuttle service just like this one. Private transfers are also available at a higher cost, but they are still reasonably priced. I recommend this private transfer service offered on GetYourGuide, which is one of the companies I use most often when booking airport transfers. These companies provide services to both Nevşehir and Kayseri; just specify when booking.
Whichever you opt for, they will easily and safely take you to your hotel without the hassle of haggling with a taxi driver upon landing or stressing out about public transportation. It’s a far better way to start your trip!
There are local buses, but I’ve never taken one so I can’t speak to my experience. As far as I’ve been able to research, you have to take a shuttle into Kayseri bus station and then onwards to Göreme, which is run by Kamil Koc and runs four times a day. Doing that would cost you about 10 euros total, so it’s cheaper than a spot on a shuttle but definitely more hassle. If you do this route – let us know how it goes for you in the comments!
From Nevşehir, I imagine you could do something similar – take a shuttle from the airport to city center and then catch a bus – but I wasn’t able to find any information online, nor did I fly into Nevşehir so I’m not familiar with that airport.
For that reason, I’m inclined to recommend a shared shuttle for budget travelers or a private transfer if you want a faster, more private means of getting to your hotel, say if you’re visiting Cappadocia with your loved one for a special occasion.
TL,DR: Is flying from Istanbul to Cappadocia worth it?
Yes, definitely! Even factoring in getting to the airport, checking in, and booking a transfer out to your final destination, it’s a lot more comfortable and relaxing to fly.
The Next-Best Method to Get From Istanbul to Cappadocia: Night Bus
If budget is a concern, a night bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia is not a bad option. Typically, a bus between these two destinations will cost about 130 lira, about $20 USD, so it’s cheaper than even the cheapest flight options.
However, it does take about 10 to 12 hours given how slow buses go, how many stops it makes, and how long the distance is between the two destinations are. But if you’re the kind of person who can knock out on a bus and get a decent night’s sleep (I envy you) this is a good option.
I haven’t done the night bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia, but I did take the night bus from Cappadocia to Pamukkale as the next leg of my trip. I was surprised by how comfortable the buses in Turkey are and they’re definitely a step above Balkan buses to be sure! They have some light snack and drink services included for free on long-distance buses, which I really appreciated, and they were good about stopping frequently for bathroom and leg-stretching breaks.
As a solo woman, in my personal experience, I felt safe traveling on a night bus alone. I generally feel very safe traveling through Turkey, but again, that’s just me and my own personal comfort levels.
I traveled on Pamukkale between Cappadocia and Denizli/Pamukkale and it was excellent, but as far as I know, they don’t service the Istanbul toCappadocia route. Instead, I’d opt for Kamil Koç which has a great reputation too. Metro is not recommended by Turkish locals, both for the lack of comfort as well as lax driving safety standards, so I’d skip them.
To do this trip, go to Istanbul Esenler Otogari (you can get there via the metro, M1 line) and then take a night bus to Cappadocia.
That will put you in Cappadocia arriving in the morning, so you can maximize your time and not waste a day of travel.
It’s really up to you what you find more comfortable, but I was happy that I chose the plane as it was a lot more comfortable than a night bus for me.
Getting from Istanbul to Cappadocia on a Guided Tour
Finally, the last option would be to do a guided excursion from Istanbul which would take care of all transportation costs. This is likely more expensive than booking each aspect independently but can be a great choice if the thought of planning your own Cappadocia itinerary, picking your own cave hotel, finding the best photography spots, and deciding the right tours to take seems overwhelming.
There are several options for tours to Cappadocia from Istanbul, so I’ll list the best two at different price points for different budgets.
This 2-day tour is the cheapest option which departs by overnight bus and covers all your transportation costs, entrance fees, accommodations, and meals except for dinner.
However, this tour doesn’t account for a hot air balloon ride so if that is your main reason for visiting Cappadocia is to do one, it wouldn’t be the right choice for you. Read more about the itinerary and inclusions here.
This 2-day tour is more expensive, but it goes by plane and also includes a hot air balloon ride and two full-day tours and one night in a boutique hotel accommodation. You’ll get to see the Göreme Open Air Museum, Uçhisar Castle, Cavasin “Ghost Town,” Ilhara Valley, Selime Monastery, Derinkuyu Underground City, and so much more – and of course, the famous hot air balloon at sunrise, which is one of my travel moments of all time.
It’s basically the ultimate, jam-packed Cappadocia itinerary for people who have limited time but want the most epic experience possible without the hassle of planning their own trip. I recommend it highly for busy travelers for whom time is more of a concern than money! Read more about the itinerary here.
Other Ways to Get from Istanbul to Cappadocia
There are a few other ways to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia, but none are really ideal.
There is no direct train between Istanbul and Cappadocia. However, if you wanted, you could take a bus to Gebze, then take the train from Gebze to Konya, and then take a bus from from Konya to Göreme. It seems like more hassle than it’s worth unless you’re like… super into trains.
Alternately, you could rent a car and drive, but clocking in at a minimum of 8 hours of driving time with nothing too exciting in between, it seems like this wouldn’t be a great choice, especially if you’d need to return to Istanbul by car later. The cost of gas alone would be at least $120 USD each way, so you wouldn’t really save much over flying in additional to the rental car and insurance costs.
List of Recommended Cappadocia Tours
If you’re planning your own Cappadocia itinerary, here are a few of the tour companies I recommend most. The *** indicates that I took that tour and deem it to be one of the best!
Hot Air Balloons
Excursions & Activites
Cappadocia ATV Tour Adventure
Göreme: Dinner and Folk Show at a Cave Restaurant
Full-Day Small Group Cappadocia Green Tour ***
Red Tour: North Cappadocia with Göreme Open-Air Museum
Full-Day Cappadocia Blue Tour with a Small Group
More Cappadocia & Turkey Travel Resources
If you want to travel to Cappadocia, we have this massive DIY Cappadocia itinerary post that will be helpful to read if you are not going on a guided excursion. If you’re curious about the most Instagrammable places in Cappadocia, we’ve got you covered. We’ve also written extensively about the best cave hotels for all budgets here in Cappadocia.
For Istanbul, we also have a ton of resources! We’re working on our massive things to do post, 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. If you visit in winter, we have a special winter in Istanbul guide.
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.