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Cappadocia is a destination that has made it onto most travellers bucket lists in recent years. The Turkish region is famous for its skyful of colourful hot air balloons, otherworldly natural landscapes, and Instagram-spots galore.
Most visitors choose to visit Cappadocia during the warm summer months. But today I’m going to share a little secret with you… Cappadocia in winter is even better!
I recently visited Cappadocia during the winter. And not just any winter. One of the coldest and snowiest winters in many years. When I first saw the forecast, I thought the extreme weather was going to ruin my trip. But what I actually discovered was a dreamy, snow-covered winter wonderland. It was an amazing and unique experience that I’ll certainly never forget.
Reasons to Visit Cappadocia in Winter
Although winter may not be the most popular season to visit Cappadocia, there are plenty of reasons why you should give it a chance…
It’s a Magical Winter Wonderland
I didn’t think it was possible for Cappadocia to look any more magical than it already did. But turns out, a light dusting of snow turns its mystical landscapes into a real life winter wonderland.
Seeing Cappadocia’s spectacular valleys and crimson-hued fairy chimneys covered in a snowy white blanket is truly a unique experience that only a few visitors get to have. Don’s miss out on the opportunity to be one of these.
It’s Less Crowded
Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination that attracts visitors from all across the world. Its ever-increasing popularity means that during the summer months and peak seasons, it can get extremely crowded.
The small towns are packed with people and you’ll probably have to queue for most attractions.
But winter in Cappadocia is a whole different story. While the region has grown in winter tourism over the last several years, it’s still much, much quieter than during the summer.
During the winter, you’ll get to enjoy the peaceful natural landscapes of Cappadocia without the crowds and big tour groups. You also won’t have to queue at the best attractions, viewpoints, and restaurants.
Lesser demand in Cappadocia during winter also means that visiting the region is significantly cheaper.
Hotels, tours, transfers, activities, and even the hot air balloon rides all reduce their prices during the off-season to attract the few tourists that are around.
These lower prices mean that your money will go further and you can enjoy a luxury trip to Cappadocia without breaking the bank.
Located in a desert in Central Turkey, summer temperatures in Cappadocia can reach unbearable highs of 40°C+.
While this hot weather might be great for lazing around a pool or sunbathing by the beach in Turkey, it’s not ideal for trekking through Cappadocia’s expansive valleys and fairy chimneys.
If you’re not a fan of sweating in the dry heat (me neither), the cooler winter months are a much better time for heading outdoors to explore Cappadocia’s many hiking routes and beautiful natural landscapes. Just make sure to wrap up warm and bring sturdy walking shoes.
When is Winter in Cappadocia & How Cold Does it Get?
Winter in Cappadocia runs from late November through to early March.
Temperatures during this time range between -5°C and 5°C on average, but can easily drop even lower.
The highest likelihood of snow in Cappadocia is during January and February, but a light dusting is common throughout the entire season.
Are Attractions in Cappadocia Open in Winter?
The majority of hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, tours, and attractions in Cappadocia remain open throughout the winter.
Some attractions do close a couple of hours earlier during the winter to coincide with sunset. So make sure to check winter opening times when planning your itinerary.
Do the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons Fly in Winter?
In short… yes they do.
Cappadocia’s hot air balloons aim to fly every day of the year, weather permitting. They only won’t fly if there are strong winds, heavy rain, or heavy snow that could be hazardous to safety.
On average, the balloons fly 250-280 days a year.
During my stay in Cappadocia in early March 2022, we had -10°C temperatures and very heavy snow, yet the balloons still flew 3 out of the 5 mornings.
Tips for seeing the Cappadocia hot air balloons in winter:
- Stay in Cappadocia for a few nights to increase your chances of riding in/seeing the balloons.
- Even during the off-peak winter season, it’s best to pre-book your balloon flight in advance.
- Book your ride for the first morning of your trip. This way, if it gets cancelled due to poor weather conditions, you can just delay it to the next day.
- The balloons fly at sunrise, so you need to be up early to ride in one or to watch them fill up the sky. An advantage of visiting Cappadocia in winter is that sunrise is much later (between 7-8am) so you won’t have to get up quite as early as you would during summer (5-6am).
- While it’s tempting to wear your most Instagram-worthy outfit for your balloon ride, remember that early morning temperatures will be very cold and you’ll be up in the air for at least an hour. Bring lots of layers so you don’t freeze!
- You can find out if the balloons are flying the next day by checking this website, asking your hotel reception, or looking at the Facebook and Instagram pages of the balloon companies.
- It’s generally known whether the balloons are flying or not by the evening before. But if the weather changes drastically in the morning, flights can still be cancelled last minute.
- 100 balloons can take off just before sunrise, and another 50 just after sunrise. There are usually fewer balloons during the winter, but it’s still a spectacle worth seeing!
- If you’re not flying in a balloon, the best place to watch them is from the roof terrace of your hotel. Many hotels in Cappadocia have a rooftop terrace offering great views of the balloons.
- There are also several viewpoints in the region to watch the balloons from. But you’ll have to be up super early to hike or get a taxi to one in time.
Things To Do in Cappadocia in Winter
Cappadocia has plenty of fantastic things to see and do to fill up your winter holiday.
For a more comprehensive guide to many of the attractions and activities listed below, check out my full post on the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Stay in a Cosy Cave Hotel
Winter is the ideal time to cosy up in one of Cappadocia’s unique cave hotels.
Carved into the region’s characteristic soft rock, the word ‘cave’ really doesn’t do these amazing places justice.
Many of Cappadocia’s luxurious cave hotels feature elegant rooms, amazing roof terraces with panoramic views of the region, and 5* facilities including private spas, romantic restaurants, and cosy living areas with fireplaces.
I’d personally recommend staying at one of the many hotels in the region’s principal town of Goreme. In Goreme, you’ll have loads of cafes, restaurants, shops, and attractions right on your doorstep, reducing the time you need to spend travelling.
Some of the best cave hotels in Goreme for your winter holiday include:
- Sultan Cave Suites – picturesque cave hotel with famous rooftop terrace.
- Local Cave House Hotel – one of the most photographed cave hotels in the region.
- Koza Cave Hotel – romantic hotel with spa baths and fireplaces, overlooking Pigeon Valley.
- Kelebek Special Cave Hotel & Spa – luxury suites with fireplaces, private terraces, and an on-site traditional Turkish bath.
Hike Through Cappadocia’s Valleys
Exploring the mystical valleys is one of the top things to do in Cappadocia all year round.
On a snowy hike through the valleys, you’ll get to explore the unique rock formations that have come to symbolise Cappadocia, known as Fairy Chimneys. Many of these giant structures also have dwellings and churches carved into the soft rock by early settlers in the region.
Love Valley, Red Valley, Rose Valley, Sword Valley, and Pigeon Valley are the valleys closest to the town of Goreme.
Slightly further afield, you can also visit the popular Devrent (Imagination) Valley and Paşabağ (Monks) Valley.
Read more about the various valleys in Cappadocia here.
Climb Uçhisar Castle
For stunning panoramic views out across Cappadocia’s snow-frosted landscapes, Uçhisar Castle is the place to go. Standing over 60-metres in height, the ancient Byzantine rock-carved castle is the highest point in the region.
All you have to do is climb up 120 stairs to reach the castle’s summit – careful, it’s slippery in the snow – and you’ll be treated to breathtaking views that go on for miles over the surrounding towns and valleys.
Ride ATVs In The Snow
Riding ATVs around the region’s many otherworldly valleys was the absolute highlight of my winter trip to Cappadocia.
Not only did we get to experience the incredible valleys from a totally different perspective, but we also had fun racing and swerving the quad bikes around the icy, snow-covered landscapes.
Plus, being out of season, we got a private tour for the price of the normal ATV safari. Our guide let us decide where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. During peak seasons, groups can get pretty large and you don’t have as much freedom to explore at your own pace.
Just remember to bring lots of layers – especially a scarf and warm gloves! You’re out on the bikes in freezing temperatures for almost 3 hours and it gets pretty cold.
You can pre-book your ATV tour here.
Discover The Underground Cities
The Underground Cities are one of the most popular places to visit in Cappadocia in winter as the subterranean temperatures stay moderate year-round. Ideal for escaping the freezing weather outside.
There are believed to be around 200 underground cities built into the soft rock below Cappadocia. Many of the unusual multi-level complexes were built during the Byzantine era, 2,000+ years ago. Their purpose was to shelter and protect the local population from war and religious persecution in the region.
Only a handful of the cities have been properly excavated. And only a few are open to the public. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are two of the biggest and most popular with visitors.
On a visit to an underground city, you can climb down narrow staircases and through confined tunnels into the many small chambers to experience what life was once like for residents of Cappadocia.
Derinkuyu Underground City is included in the Cappadocia Green Tour.
See a Traditional Pottery Demonstration
Another indoor activity in Cappadocia is watching a traditional pottery demonstration in Avanos Village.
The Avanos District of Cappadocia is famous for its terracotta ceramics, due to the abundance of red clay from the Kızılırmak River. The industry dates back 2,000+ years and traditional methods are still used today.
In a pottery demonstration, you can watch experienced potters using a foot-driven spinning wheel to create their masterpieces. You may even get to have a go yourself – it’s much tougher than it looks!
You’ll also learn about the importance of pottery in Cappadocian culture and be given to opportunity to buy some of their local products. The beautiful ceramics are great souvenirs to take home with you.
Warm Up With a Traditional Turkish Bath
Warming up in a Hammam is the perfect thing to do on a cold winter’s day in Cappadocia. It’s also a great way to relax your muscles after hiking your way through the many vast valleys.
A Hammam is a traditional Turkish bath and a popular pastime in many Middle Eastern and Eastern European countries. It’s a public steam room where you can relax, enjoy a massage, or get an exfoliating scrub.
Many of the best Hammams in Cappadocia can be found at the luxury hotels, such as the popular Kelebek Hamam & Spa and Hill Spa Cappadocia. At many hotels you can pay to use the Hammam, even if you’re not a guest.
It’s worth noting that Hammams in Cappadocia are more expensive than many of the baths you’ll find in other parts of Turkey. This is because they are targeted toward tourists rather than locals.
Indulge in the Local Cuisine
Central Anatolia’s hearty cuisine is perfect for the colder weather.
Many traditional Cappadocian dishes feature boney meats, beans, legumes, vegetables, and plenty of spices. Cheese-filled pastries are also popular.
The local food in Cappadocia is flavourful, warming, and extremely filling. Ideal for some winter holiday indulgence.
Some dishes you have to try in Cappadocia are:
- Pottery (Testi) Kebab – A hearty lamb, beef, or chicken kebab with vegetables, cooked and served in a traditional clay pot.
- Manti – Turkish lamb-stuffed ravioli/dumplings with a spicy brown butter sauce and garlic yogurt (and occasionally tomato). Popular across Turkish, this dish originates from the Cappadocia region.
- Ağpakla – A delicacy from Ürgup featuring dried white beans, meat, and onions cooked in a traditional clay pot.
Cosy Up By The Fireplace With Some Local Hot Wine
Did you know that Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most famous wine-producing regions?
While winter may not be the right time to visit the region’s vineyards and wineries, it is the perfect time to cosy up in a wine bar and sample the local produce. There are plenty of lovely restaurants and wine bars in Göreme and the other towns of Cappadocia where you can try local wine.
Red Red Wine House in Göreme was my favourite spot for wine tasting. Located in an old cave house, the authentic wine bar is covered in traditional Turkish decor and has the most welcoming staff.
You can cosy up on the carpeted floor tables, close to the open fireplace, while enjoying live guitar music and local wines paired with tasty snacks. Don’t forget to try their Sıcak Şarap (Turkish mulled wine), which is a speciality of the Cappadocia region.
Attend a Turkish Nights Dinner Show
Located within a desert, nighttime temperatures in Cappadocia can drop much lower than during the days. So you may not want to spend your evenings restaurant and bar hopping around the towns.
The best way to spend a chilly winter’s evening in Cappadocia is to head to a Turkish Nights Dinner Show.
Taking place in a cave restaurant, the popular dinner show includes a delicious Turkish meal, unlimited beer, wine, and soft drinks, and a traditional dance show.
The show lasts throughout the evening and features various styles of music, dance, and costumes from all across the country, from authentic belly dance to the famous whirling dervishes.
Plus, you’ll barely have to step outside into the cold all evening. Tickets to the show include hotel pick up and drop off.
How to Explore Cappadocia During the Winter
Cappadocia doesn’t have a very strong public transport network. There are a few buses connecting the main towns but these don’t run regularly – particularly during low season.
So how should you travel around Cappadocia during the winter?
The best way to get around is by either renting a hire car, using taxis/private drivers, or going on an organized tour.
Many people opt to explore Cappadocia on a guided tour. During the winter months, tours are at their cheapest and the group size is usually small. Plus you won’t have to navigate the icy roads by yourself.
Most companies offer 3 main tour routes. The Red Tour is the most popular route and showcases the many iconic sites of northern Cappadocia. The Green Tour and the Blue Tour will take you to discover the more off-the-beaten-path sites off southern Cappadocia.
You can learn more about the tours below:
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