hot air balloons flying over rock formations

How To Get From Istanbul To Cappadocia

Heading on a Turkish adventure? Istanbul and Cappadocia are two of Turkey’s most exciting and popular destinations, so if the opportunity presents itself to visit both, you grab it with both hands. What can be said about Istanbul that hasn’t been said before? It’s a magical city, where east meets west, teeming with winding bazaars, incredible historical sites, great food, and so much more. And Cappadocia is like nowhere on earth. Its remarkable landscape of unique rock formations and caves transports you to a different time, even a different planet. We’ve even named it one of the most beautiful places on earth.

How you get from one to the other will depend on how much time you have and how you like to travel. Most travellers tend to start off in Istanbul so luckily, you have options that cater to every preference. To explore every possibility, take a look at our handy guide on getting from Istanbul to Cappadocia.

Istanbul to Cappadocia: How To Get There

Plane

cappadocia hot air balloon

The quickest way to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia is by plane. If you’re short on time, this could be your most suitable option. There are two international airports in Istanbul – Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. They both fly to Cappadocia’s two airports – Kayseri Airport and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport. There isn’t much difference between the flight times; both Istanbul airports generally get to both Cappadocia airports within 80 minutes.

The two airlines that fly to Cappadocia are Pegasus and Turkish Airlines. Both are reputable airlines, Pegasus is towards the budget end while Turkish Airlines is a full-service airline. Sabiha Gökçen has the most varied links to Cappadocia, with up to eight flights a day going to Kayseri – a mix between Pegasus and Turkish Airlines flights. Istanbul Airport has six daily flights to Kayseri, all of them with Turkish Airlines. Both airports only have up to one flight a day to Nevşehir, both with Turkish Airlines.

Kayseri Erkilet Airport is around 47 miles away from the main Cappadocia tourist villages while Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport is around 27 miles away. Both airports have good taxi and public transport links. Getting from Kayseri to the Cappadocia villages by taxi takes just over an hour, and from Nevşehir takes around 40 minutes.

These options will always be more expensive than booking pre-booked shuttle buses, although may be preferable if you’re short on time and want to get to your destination as smoothly as possible. If you do choose shuttle buses, both airports offer door-to-door services. Not including the time it takes to get all the passengers on board and potential traffic, a shuttle from Kayseri to the main Cappadocia villages takes around 70 minutes. From Nevşehir, it’ll be 40 minutes. Remember to book shuttles in advance.

Tour

open air museum in cappadocia

Another option for those short on time is to take a pre-arranged tour from Istanbul. It’s also a good possibility if you like to tick things off your sightseeing list without having to organise or plan anything. Everything from transport to activities to accommodation will be arranged for you, so you can sit back and relax. The shortest Istanbul to Cappadocia trip is 2 days and 1 night, so you’ll have to put aside at least 48 hours.

There are many door-to-door Istanbul to Cappadocia tours online and with local travel agents in Istanbul. Generally, they’ll include overnight stays in a cave hotel, Göreme Open-Air Museum, a hike through Rose Valley, the underground cities of Derinkuyu or Kaymakli, as well as lunches and breakfasts. However, each tour does differ in what it offers, so we advise researching what it is you want to see and finding a tour that matches. And there are typically some extras, including taking a hot air balloon, which they’ll arrange for you for an additional fee.

Bear in mind that tours arranged in Istanbul tend to be more expensive than those arranged locally in Cappadocia, but are convenient when getting from one to the other. Another thing to take into account is that these tours tend to be rushed and will stick to a strict schedule, so they won’t suit all travellers.

Bus

One of the cheapest ways to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia is by bus. However, it’s a long journey of up to 12 hours, so it won’t be suitable for everyone. The main bus station is Esenler Otogarı but if you go from Harem Otogarı, your journey will be around at least an hour shorter. Either way, you might not notice the distance, because most of the buses to Cappadocia are night buses. There are several bus companies that take you to Cappadocia, and the prices don’t particularly vary too much, so the company you go with depends on the preferred time and date of your journey.

There is one main bus station in Cappadocia, Nevşehir Otogarı. So, the bus will pick you up from the station in Istanbul and drop you off at Nevşehir in the morning. There are some day journeys though, perfect for those that love to enjoy the scenery, which will prove so beautiful that you won’t even need the entertainment system. As well as entertainment systems, passengers get charging ports, comfy seats, complimentary snacks and hot or cold drinks.

Train & Bus

While there are no trains that go directly from Istanbul to Cappadocia, there are other options that combine high-speed trains with buses. Travelling by rail is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel. So if that’s important to you, then this could be your best option.

This is also a brilliant option for those who want to see more of Turkey. This can even be combined with an overnight stay in one of Turkey’s most important cities. One option is to get a high-speed train from Istanbul to Ankara, which takes up to 5 hours 30 minutes and runs 9 times a day. From there, you can get a direct bus to Göreme, one of the main tourist villages in Cappadocia. That takes 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Another route is to get a high-speed train from Istanbul to Konya, which can take up to 5 hours and 45 minutes and runs 4 times a day, then a bus from Konya to Nevşehir Otogarı, which takes 2 hours 15 minutes.

There are five main high-speed railway stations in Istanbul – Pendik, Bostancı, Halkalı, Söğütlüçeşme, and Bakırköy. Any one of these stations will take you to both Ankara and Konya. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance because they tend to sell out.

Car

If freedom is what you’re after, hiring a car to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia could be your best bet. It means you can go at your pace, appreciate the immense scenic beauty, and stop off at the many historical sights along the way. Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city with countless car hire firms. It can be a bit of a minefield, so the first step is to find the best deal for the kind of car you want.

Driving in Turkey is not dissimilar from its neighbouring European countries. The highways are well maintained and well signed, getting you to where you want to go with ease. However, bear in mind that gas is generally more expensive in Turkey due to high taxation, so it won’t be the most cost-effective option. But if you spread the journey out over a few days, it could be an unforgettable adventure.

There are so many spots along the way, so it’s worth doing some research into where it is you’d like to visit and base it on how much time you have for the journey. Some highlights include the Ottoman village of Safranbolu, the Phrygian ruins of Gordion, the ancient ruins of Olympos, the beautiful seaside town of Kaş, Saklikent Gorge, the Hittite ruins of Hattuşa, and so much more.

Aleyna Yilmaz

Aleyna loves learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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