Which is better: Istanbul or Cappadocia?

Istanbul sunset panorama from Galata Tower
İstanbul sunset panorama from Galata Tower

Istanbul and Cappadocia are two of the most popular destinations to visit in Turkey. They both have their advantages that will convince you to visit, with some other parts might question your travel decision, but there is always a middle part that can be found. 

The best would be visiting both Istanbul and Cappadocia in a Turkey travel, but sometimes time and resources cannot allow this. This article is prepared for you to see, compare, and contrasts all sides of Istanbul and Cappadocia to help you make the best decision for you. 

View of Air Balloons in Cappadocia

Istanbul: Costs and Benefits

There is a high chance of your mind to think of when Turkey is mentioned, and there is an excellent reason behind that. Istanbul had always been a significant city throughout history and now: whether if it is the strategic location and beneficial sources of then and the historical landmarks, natural beauties, and thousands of activities of today.

Istanbul is a metropolis, meaning that there is little chance for you not to find what you are looking for. You can spend time in nature, party in exclusive clubs, take a yacht tour, or just wander around, all in one city. Let’s dig a little bit deeper to understand what Istanbul can offer you.

Places to Visit

Istanbul is a heaven when it comes to historical landmarks and places to visit. Since İstanbul was as significant as it is today (maybe even more) in history, you will have the opportunity to visit hundreds of landmarks from the Ottoman Empire, Byzantine, and all the other places that carry traces from history.

Today, four regions of Istanbul are under the protection of UNESCO World Heritage. Four is a significant number, as we are talking about a single city. Those four regions include Sultanahmet, Süleymaniye Mosque, Zeyrek Mosque, and the beautiful Walls of Constantinople. Of course, there are thousands of other landmarks to visit in Istanbul, great Ottoman architectural masterpieces, unique churches and synagogues, and so on. 

Golden Horn

Nightlife

Nightlife is alive and entertaining in Istanbul. You can find nightclubs to have the best time of your life, discos to party until the sun goes up, or chill pubs to enjoy a couple of drinks by yourself or with the company. You will most probably find the best option for you in Istanbul straightforward.

However, the safety issues arose here, as in it would be in every other city of the world. The world can get desolate at night when you are walking your hotel or home. You should be careful as you leave your point of entertainment in the nightlife, and sometimes it is best to have someone with you trust and not leave alone. This situation can be tedious, but unfortunately, things will be similar in Istanbul, and you need to be careful.

Expenses

Another important detail on any given trip is expenses. Your expenses in İstanbul and how you will evaluate them would be greatly affected by the currency. Regardless of the currency, there are all kinds of options in Istanbul for every budget. But of course, as the charging changes, the quality will also change.

You can have the fanciest dinner by Bosphorus, or you can just eat a traditional dish at a popular city restaurant for half of the price. Istanbul has many options about everything, and you can have nice travel planning according to your budget and preferences.

However, there can be some problems if you do not speak the language and people can tell that you are a tourist. 

There can be some people will bad intentions to benefit from your lack of knowledge about the city and charge you more. So, keep in mind to do a quick research about the payments you will make before purchasing.

Climate

Another key issue about traveling is, of course, climate. You would not want to find yourself in a very hot weather condition when all you packed were sweatshirts and jackets. Istanbul has a climate that is a mixture of the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Caucasian and Anatolian climate. 

Typically, the summers are hot and dry, whereas winters are cold and rainy. In the wintertime, some days can be snowy, but usually, the snowy days are about ten days a year. The weather can get as cold as -14 Celsius degrees and as hot as 40 Celsius degrees, but of course, those are extremes of Istanbul, and the weather is not always extreme. 

The weather in Istanbul in the spring is also very beautiful, as it is not as cold as winter and not as hot as the summer, the perfect in-between weather. You can choose a season that you can participate in the activities you will have fun and have the best time of your life in İstanbul. Keep in mind that sometimes it can get too hot in the summertime. 

Solo Travelers

Solo traveling is a controversial issue, some find it safe and entertaining, and some find it boring. In Istanbul, you can have a great time on your own and meet other people as over 16 million people are living there from all countries, ethnicities, and cultures. It can be fun to be on your own and explore the city without needing to catch up with anybody else.

Couples

Traveling with your significant other can be lots of fun, but also scary if you do not know what you will face in another country. Istanbul is a city with so many different sides, and this makes it difficult to come to a conclusion to tell you whether it is wise to visit Istanbul as a couple.

It is not that you will not have a comfortable holiday with your significant other in Istanbul; it would be great most of the time. But there is always a risk of inconvenient issues, and this risk can increase or decrease depending on which part of Istanbul you will be.

If you are visiting a place in an area where the people are more conservative, it would be good to appreciate and respect their values. In more modern parts of Istanbul, such as Bebek, Nişantaşı, or Etiler, the chances of you having troubles are much less. 

Families

Istanbul is one of the most popular (perhaps the most) cities of Turkey, and many people visit Istanbul annually. Thousands of families visit Istanbul every day; there are many activities to do as a family and lots of landmarks to see. Istanbul gets the point when the situation is about family holidays.

A thing here to consider is the crowd and business of Istanbul. If you have small children or toddlers with you, you need to be extra careful since they can get lost with an eyeblink. If you have all precautions set and gave a little pep talk to your children about not to leave your hand, then you are good to go. 

Cappadocia: Costs and Benefits

Moving on with Cappadocia, a wonderland of Turkey. Cappadocia is another tourism center of Turkey, but the opportunities and the things you can do in Cappadocia are quite different than those you can do in Istanbul. Cappadocia is mainly popular for the natural beauties of it, so you should not expect the easiness of Istanbul in terms of having access to everything you can think of.

Buildings in Cappadocia

Places to Visit

There are many places to visit in Cappadocia. Cappadocia was a place that has a great historical value due to the natural sources and the strategic location. Your Cappadocia trip would include many natural beauties, lots of valleys, underground cities, churches, and mosques. Besides, here you can see a unique geographical formation, fairy chimneys at their best. Places to visit in Cappadocia are surely different from the places you can visit in Istanbul, but they have their own worth.

A minus here can be the smaller number of activities to do when compared to Istanbul. Of course, nature is great, and you will have the opportunity to see all those beautiful geographical formations. But sometimes it is normal to want to have access to the crowd of the city, where you can find every single thing which Istanbul can offer you. 

Nightlife

If you are looking for an alive nightlife where you can have the best parties of your life, then Cappadocia might not offer you this. There are not as many nightlife opportunities in Cappadocia, and the ones that are present are typically taking place in hotels.

But you can always participate in the Turkish nights designed to introduce the Turkish culture to tourists. Here you can observe and learn more about the country you are visiting while having fun.

Expenses

Cappadocia is typically not considered an expensive destination if you are not looking for the most luxurious hotels and the best restaurants to eat. It can be said that your expenses in Cappadocia can stay at a normal level as long as you do not want to do something extra.

A point in Cappadocia that everyone mentions about the expenses is the hot air balloon rides. They can be one of the most expensive activities in Cappadocia. But consider this: it is an incredible experience that you will not be able to do frequently, and the panoramic view of Cappadocia is worth it. Of course, there is always the option for not using the hot air balloon and travel in Cappadocia on a budget.

Climate

The climate of Cappadocia is a continental climate. In general, Cappadocia is a typical example of Central Anatolia cities’ climate, but there can be some differences. As in the typical continental climate, summers are hot and dry, and the winters are rainy and cold in Cappadocia. 

Sudden weather changes are not common in Cappadocia, so the chances of an unexpected weather change throughout the day are pretty low. In mid-winter, Cappadocia can be snowy. A disadvantage of Cappadocia in terms of climate conditions might be the hotness in the summertime. 

The hot weather in the noon can make your trip uncomfortable, especially if you are not used to hot weather. But of course, this issue can be overcome by wearing light clothes, taking breaks between walks, and drinking lots of water. Keep in mind to check the weather conditions in Cappadocia before your arrival, and pack accordingly.

Solo Travelers

As I mentioned earlier, solo traveling can mean different things to different people. It is hard to put places into categories in which “safe to travel solo” and in the other way around. You would not encounter situations which special to Cappadocia. In other words, safety in Cappadocia as a solo traveler is not about Cappadocia itself, but it is about solo traveling in general. With simple precautions, you can have a nice and calm holiday in Cappadocia.

Besides, exploring Cappadocia on your own can be very fun as well. Traveling with a company is nice, but not considering others’ opinions on holidays is also very nice. If you feel anxious about traveling on your own, but you do not want to miss out on the town, you can participate in guided tours.

Couples

It is difficult to give certain judgments about how comfortable you will be in Cappadocia. As in the solo traveling issue, the situations you will encounter will not be mainly due to Cappadocia.

Cappadocia can be seen as a more “local” area when compared to Istanbul, given that Cappadocia is much smaller, and it is in another region of Turkey. In general, it can be said that Cappadocia is safe for couples. Insomuch that, most couples in Turkey prefer Cappadocia as their holiday destination since Cappadocia has a romantic atmosphere and all the things necessary for the best couples’ holiday.

Since many couples prefer Cappadocia as their holiday destinations, the town is used to it. Even some parts of the area are arranged for couples (special air balloon tours, restaurants, and so on).

Families

The thing about Cappadocia and families is that you cannot do wrong. Many families visit Cappadocia annually, and they seem to be enjoying it. If you want to have a unique and wonderful family holiday, then Cappadocia might be one of the best options for you. 

Overview: Cappadocia and Istanbul 

With all that being said and the relative information about different aspects of those destinations are given, now all those things can be summarized.

When Cappadocia and İstanbul are compared, we can observe that we are looking for two different aspects of tourism in Turkey. Istanbul is a place that can offer some of everything: historical landmarks, natural beauties, technological entertainments, nightlife, and so on. But in Cappadocia, you will not have access to things as in Istanbul. 

In other words, Istanbul is a metropolis, and Cappadocia is a small town. The differences between small towns and big cities are pretty clear. In Cappadocia, you will have more opportunities to be in nature and have a headrest, whereas in Istanbul you can experience more rush and city life.

It is not that there are no places in Istanbul to be in nature, get some headrest, maybe go on hiking or participate in nature sports. What I mean here is, there are all kinds of opportunities in Istanbul, but Cappadocia can offer other things that you cannot have access to in Ito Istanbul.

Cappadocia is a calm tourism center that is mainly visited by tourists. On the other hand, Istanbul is a big city with 16 million locals, with all the different centers you can think of. An example here can be that you might want to have sushi in the middle of the night in Istanbul, and you can easily find a restaurant. Still, something like this might not be this easy in Cappadocia (the situation here is not only about food).

But Cappadocia offers a great holiday opportunity as well, with benefits of the big cities discharged and the benefits of small towns included. Cappadocia can never be as crowded as Istanbul on any given date so that you will have a calm visit to landmarks. Besides, you cannot find fairy chimneys anywhere in Istanbul!

However, Istanbul offers a great cultural and historical heritage that you cannot find anywhere else in Turkey, let alone Cappadocia. Istanbul hosted three big empires throughout history, and since Istanbul was very significant for each of them, there are many structures from those periods. 

To sum up, Istanbul and Cappadocia are two incredible destinations in Turkey with different features. Suppose you want to visit one of them, but you cannot decide which one, consider carefully the things that those destinations can offer you, and decide wisely. May the best holiday be yours!

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...