Cappadocia Travel Guide: Top Attractions, Activities and Tips
Cappadocia is a stunning region in central Turkey that offers a unique landscape of fairy chimneys, rock formations, cave dwellings, and ancient valleys. It is also one of the best places in the world to experience a hot air balloon ride, as hundreds of colorful balloons fill the sky every morning at sunrise. If you are planning a trip to Cappadocia, you might be wondering what are the best things to do in this magical land. In this blog post, I will share with you some of the top attractions and activities that you can enjoy in Cappadocia, based on my own experience of spending ten days there.
Things to do in Cappadocia
- Go on a hot air balloon ride
This is probably the most popular and unforgettable thing to do in Cappadocia. Imagine floating above the fairy tale scenery of Cappadocia, with over 100 other balloons, as the sun rises over the horizon. It is a truly magical and surreal experience that you will remember for a lifetime. You can book your hot air balloon ride online in advance, as they tend to sell out quickly or get delayed by bad weather. There are different options for balloon flights, depending on your budget and preferences. You can choose a classic flight, which lasts about an hour and includes a buffet breakfast and champagne toast, or a luxury flight, which offers a longer duration, smaller groups, and royal treatment. Either way, you will have an amazing time and take some incredible photos.
- Explore Derinkuyu Underground City
Cappadocia is home to several underground cities that were built by ancient civilizations as a refuge from invaders and natural disasters. The largest and deepest of these is Derinkuyu Underground City, which dates back to the 8th century BC and could accommodate up to 20,000 people. You can visit this fascinating site and see how people lived underground in different levels, connected by tunnels and shafts. You will see rooms for storage, worship, education, ventilation, and defense, as well as traps and secret passages. It is a remarkable example of human ingenuity and survival.
- Visit Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum is another historical site that showcases the cave dwellings and rock-cut churches of Cappadocia. It was once a thriving monastic community that was inhabited until the 1950s, when people were relocated due to erosion and rock falls. You can walk around the museum and see how people carved their homes, chapels, mosques, mills, and stables out of the soft volcanic rock. You can also admire the frescoes and paintings that decorate some of the churches, depicting scenes from the Bible and Christian saints.
- Visit Goreme Open Air Museum
Goreme Open Air Museum is similar to Zelve Open Air Museum, but it is more famous and crowded. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that features some of the best-preserved rock-cut churches and monasteries in Cappadocia. You can see more than 10 churches with beautiful frescoes dating from the 10th to the 13th centuries, as well as refectories, kitchens, tombs, and living quarters. Some of the most notable churches are the Dark Church, which has vivid colors and intricate details; the Apple Church, which has scenes from the life of Christ; and the Buckle Church, which has four chambers with different themes.
- Climb Ortahisar Castle
Ortahisar Castle is a huge rock formation that rises above the town of Ortahisar. It was used as a fortress and a lookout point in ancient times, and it offers stunning views of the surrounding valleys and villages. You can climb up to the top of the castle for a small fee and enjoy the panoramic scenery. You can also explore the town of Ortahisar, which has a charming atmosphere and some traditional houses, shops, cafes, and mosques.
- Take in the views at Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle is another impressive rock formation that dominates the skyline of Cappadocia. It is located in the town of Uchisar, which is the highest point in the region. You can also climb up to the top of the castle for a small fee and see the amazing views of Cappadocia from different angles. You can spot some of the famous valleys and landmarks from here, such as Pigeon Valley, Love Valley, Red Valley, Rose Valley, Goreme Town, and Mount Erciyes. You can also wander around Uchisar Town and see some of its cave houses,
hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
- Visit Cavusin Castle
Cavusin Castle is another rock formation that houses a complex of cave dwellings and churches. It is located in the village of Cavusin, which is one of the oldest settlements in Cappadocia. You can walk up to the castle and see some of the abandoned houses and chapels that date back to the 5th century. You can also see some of the frescoes that adorn some of the churches, such as the Church of St. John the Baptist, which is the oldest and largest church in Cappadocia. You can also visit the newer part of Cavusin Village, which has some cozy cafes, restaurants, and guesthouses.
- Observe fairy chimneys
Fairy chimneys are the iconic rock formations that give Cappadocia its distinctive look. They are formed by the erosion of the volcanic tuff layer by wind and water over millions of years. They have different shapes and sizes, and some of them resemble mushrooms, cones, pillars, or animals. You can see fairy chimneys all over Cappadocia, but some of the best places to observe them are Pasabag Valley, Devrent Valley, Monks Valley, and Love Valley. You can also see some of them with windows, doors, or chimneys, indicating that they were used as dwellings or storage by the locals.
- Hike in the valleys
Cappadocia has many beautiful valleys that offer scenic hiking trails for all levels of difficulty and interest. You can hike in the valleys and enjoy the natural beauty, the rock formations, the cave dwellings, the wildlife, and the views. Some of the most popular valleys for hiking are Rose Valley, Red Valley, Pigeon Valley, Love Valley, Ihlara Valley, and Zemi Valley. You can hike on your own or join a guided tour that will take you to the best spots and tell you more about the history and culture of Cappadocia.
- Ride a horse or an ATV
If you want to explore Cappadocia in a more adventurous way, you can opt for a horseback riding or an ATV tour. You can ride a horse or an ATV through the valleys and hills of Cappadocia and feel the thrill of being close to nature. You can also see some hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path places that you might not see otherwise. You can book your horseback riding or ATV tour online or through your hotel or a local agency. You can choose from different durations and routes, depending on your preferences and skills.
Explore the pottery workshops
Cappadocia is known for its unique pottery traditions that date back centuries. Visiting pottery workshops is a great way to learn about the traditional techniques and craftsmanship that go into creating these beautiful pieces. You can watch skilled artisans shape clay on a potter's wheel, decorate the pottery with intricate patterns, and witness the firing process in kilns. Some workshops even offer hands-on pottery classes where you can try your hand at creating your own masterpiece.
Indulge in a Turkish bath
A visit to a Turkish bath, also known as a hammam, is a must for relaxation and rejuvenation. These traditional bathing houses offer a unique spa experience where you can unwind and pamper yourself. The process typically involves steaming in a hot room, followed by a vigorous scrubbing and a massage. The combination of heat, exfoliation, and massage will leave you feeling refreshed and revitalized. Many hotels and spas in Cappadocia offer Turkish bath services, or you can visit a local hammam for an authentic experience.
Attend a Turkish night
Immerse yourself in Turkish culture by attending a Turkish night, which is a lively and entertaining event featuring traditional music, dance, and food. You can enjoy performances by belly dancers, folk dancers, and live musicians while savoring delicious Turkish cuisine. These events often take place in atmospheric venues such as cave restaurants or outdoor settings, adding to the overall ambiance. It's a great way to experience the rich cultural heritage of Turkey and have a memorable evening.
Explore the underground cities of Kaymakli and Ozkonak
In addition to the Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia is also home to other remarkable underground cities such as Kaymakli and Ozkonak. These subterranean complexes were built as underground civilizations to protect residents from various threats throughout history. Exploring these cities will give you a fascinating glimpse into the underground life of ancient civilizations. You can navigate through narrow tunnels, visit communal spaces, see ventilation shafts, and learn about the ingenious architectural features that allowed these cities to function.
Discover the Ihlara Valley
The Ihlara Valley is a picturesque gorge located near the town of Guzelyurt in Cappadocia. It offers breathtaking natural beauty with its towering cliffs, lush vegetation, and a meandering river running through it. One of the highlights of the valley is the collection of rock-cut churches that are adorned with impressive frescoes. You can hike along the valley floor, crossing rustic bridges, and exploring the churches along the way. The tranquil atmosphere and stunning scenery make it a perfect spot for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat.
Visit the Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, encompassing the unique cultural and natural wonders of the region. The park is renowned for its extraordinary rock formations, fairy chimneys, and ancient cave dwellings. Exploring the park allows you to witness the harmonious integration of human settlements with the natural landscape. You can hike, walk, or cycle through the park, marveling at the geological formations and the historical significance of the rock-cut architecture.
Take a wine tour
Cappadocia has a burgeoning wine industry, and the region is known for producing high-quality wines. Embark on a wine tour and visit local vineyards and wineries, where you can learn about the winemaking process and sample a variety of wines. Cappadocian wines are made from indigenous grape varieties and offer unique flavors influenced by the region's volcanic soil. Some wineries also offer wine tasting sessions paired with
These are just some of the amazing things to do in Cappadocia that will make your trip unforgettable. There are many more attractions and activities that you can discover in this enchanting region, such as visiting pottery workshops, watching Turkish nights, enjoying Turkish baths, tasting local cuisine, shopping for souvenirs, and more. Cappadocia is a place that will surprise you with its diversity and charm every day.
How do I get around in Cappadocia?
Getting around in Cappadocia can be easily done through various transportation options. Here are some common ways to get around in the region:
Rent a car: Renting a car gives you the freedom to explore Cappadocia at your own pace. There are several car rental agencies available in the major towns and airports. However, keep in mind that driving in Cappadocia may be challenging due to narrow roads and unfamiliar terrain. It's advisable to have prior experience driving in similar conditions.
Hire a private driver: If you prefer a more convenient and hassle-free option, you can hire a private driver. Many local tour agencies and hotels offer private transportation services, allowing you to have a dedicated driver who can take you to various attractions and destinations.
Join guided tours: Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination, and there are numerous guided tours available that cover the major attractions. Joining a guided tour allows you to sit back, relax, and let the professionals take care of transportation. You can choose from group tours or private tours based on your preferences.
Use public transportation: Cappadocia has a limited public transportation network, but it can be used to travel between towns and villages within the region. Local buses, known as dolmuş, operate on fixed routes and connect major towns like Göreme, Uchisar, Avanos, and Urgup. The schedules and frequency of dolmuş services may vary, so it's recommended to check the timings in advance.
Hire a bicycle or scooter: If you enjoy cycling or prefer a more eco-friendly mode of transportation, renting a bicycle or scooter can be a good option. It allows you to explore the smaller villages, backroads, and valleys at your own pace. Bicycle and scooter rentals are available in various towns and can be arranged through local rental shops or your accommodation.
Walk: Cappadocia's unique landscapes and attractions are often concentrated in specific areas. Walking can be a pleasant and practical way to explore nearby attractions within a town or valley. For example, in Göreme, many attractions like the Open Air Museum and viewpoints are within walking distance from the town center.
It's important to note that Cappadocia is a vast region, and some attractions are spread out. Planning your itinerary in advance and considering the distances between attractions will help you choose the most suitable transportation option for each part of your journey.
What is the best time to visit Cappadocia?
The best time to visit Cappadocia is generally during the spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) seasons when the weather is mild and comfortable. These seasons offer pleasant temperatures, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the region. The landscapes are also vibrant during these months, with blooming flowers in the spring and colorful foliage in the autumn.
Another popular time to visit Cappadocia is during the hot air balloon season, which typically runs from April to November. Balloon rides are most frequently operated during the early morning hours, providing stunning views of the unique landscapes at sunrise. It's important to note that balloon rides are weather-dependent, and it's advisable to check in advance for availability and weather conditions.
Cappadocia experiences hot and dry summers (July to August) and cold winters (December to February). While summers can be quite hot, with temperatures reaching over 30°C (86°F), it can still be a good time to visit if you don't mind the heat. Winter months can be quite cold, with temperatures dropping below freezing and occasional snowfall. However, Cappadocia's unique landscapes covered in snow can offer a magical and picturesque experience.
It's worth considering that Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination, and during peak seasons, such as summer and the balloon season, it can get crowded with visitors. If you prefer to avoid the crowds and have a more tranquil experience, visiting during the shoulder seasons (late spring or early autumn) can be a good option.
Ultimately, the best time to visit Cappadocia depends on your preferences, the activities you plan to engage in, and your tolerance for different weather conditions.
What is the best way to reach Cappadocia? The nearest airport to Cappadocia is Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR), which is approximately an hour's drive away. Another option is Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV), located closer to some of the major towns in Cappadocia. From these airports, you can arrange private transfers, take a shuttle bus, or rent a car to reach your accommodation in Cappadocia.
How many days should I spend in Cappadocia? Spending at least three to four days in Cappadocia allows you to explore the main attractions and engage in various activities. This duration allows for a hot air balloon ride, visits to the underground cities, exploration of the open-air museums, hiking in the valleys, and enjoying the unique landscapes. However, if you have more time, you can delve deeper into the region and discover hidden gems at a more leisurely pace.
Is it necessary to book a hot air balloon ride in advance? It is highly recommended to book your hot air balloon ride in advance, especially during the peak season. Balloon rides are in high demand, and they can sell out quickly. Booking in advance also allows you to secure your preferred date and time. However, keep in mind that balloon rides are weather-dependent, and they can be postponed or canceled due to unfavorable conditions.
Are there accommodations available in cave hotels? Yes, Cappadocia is known for its unique cave hotels, offering a one-of-a-kind experience. Many hotels in the region are built into the rock formations, providing comfortable and atmospheric stays. From cozy cave rooms to luxurious cave suites, there are various options to suit different budgets and preferences.
What should I pack for a trip to Cappadocia? It's advisable to pack comfortable walking shoes, as Cappadocia involves a lot of walking and hiking. Layered clothing is recommended, as temperatures can vary throughout the day. Sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses are essential for protection against the sun, particularly during the hot summer months. Don't forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes, and a power bank to keep your devices charged during outdoor activities.
Remember to check the current travel advisories and any specific entry requirements before planning your trip to Cappadocia. Enjoy your adventure in this captivating destination!