Cappadocia has to be the most unreal place I’ve ever been to, with incredible landscapes that prove nature truly is the most creative architect. Located in the heart of Turkey, this region will make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet! If you’re ready to discover more about this beautiful place, here are the top ten things to do in Cappadocia!
Cappadocia is not a city or a landmark, but a huge ancient region located in the middle of Turkey (Anatolia). It spans an area of over 5000 square kilometers and encompasses a variety of towns and cities, the most famous being Göreme, Ürgüp, Uchisar, and Avanos. You can get there by flying to Nevsehir or Kayseri from Istanbul, then transferring to one of the smaller cities in the area (Göreme is the most popular, so you may want to start there).
The name Cappadocia means “the land of beautiful horses”, but although there are gorgeous horses here, the region is most notable for its crazy landscapes that look like a Salvador Dalí painting. You’ll see surrealist fairy chimneys everywhere, built by the erosion of volcanic rocks that began millions of years ago. Clearly, Mother Nature got really creative here!
My boyfriend and I recently spent four magical days in Cappadocia. I noticed that most of the tourists were Asian, which led me to believe Europeans and Americans still need reasons to visit Turkey. So I’m sharing this post to inspire other travelers to visit Cappadocia and see all its wonders. Read my tips below and learn the top ten things to do in Cappadocia, definitely a must-see destination!
Top 10 Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey
01 | Stay in a Cave Hotel
Even if only for a day, you must stay in a cave hotel for a truly once-in-a-lifetime lodging experience! Cappadocia has many hotels built into the caves that make this region unique. These exotic hotels exist in many towns in the area, but again, you may want to stay in Göreme for its broader choice of hotels, restaurants, and activities.
You can find cave hotels for any budget, but I highly recommend staying at Koza Cave Hotel. Koza is a family-run hotel that offers the most incredible views of Cappadocia from the rooftop. Seriously, if you can, stay there!
Other great cave hotels are:
Shoestring Cave House – You don’t need to be rich to stay in a cave hotel. This is a great budget option!
Find more places where you can stay in Cappadocia:
02 | Fly in a Hot Air Balloon
Unfortunately, for the three days we were in Cappadocia, the hot air balloon rides were canceled due to bad weather conditions.
Even though we didn’t get a chance to fly in a balloon, it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Cappadocia. It’s not exactly cheap—it can cost 100 to 250 euros per person—but when will you have the chance to see such an incredible view from a hot air balloon again?
If you can’t afford the ride or if you’re afraid of heights, you can still enjoy the amazing sight of the colorful balloons from the ground. Again, for the best views, I recommend Koza Cave Hotel.
If you do decide to fly in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia, make sure to book in advance for your first day —cancellations are frequent, so this way you’ll have more than one chance!
Here you have some of the best Cappadocia hot air balloon tours:
03 | Visit the Göreme Open Air Museum
Another site you must visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Göreme Open Air Museum. For an entrance fee of 30 TL, you can check out the 1000-year-old churches built inside caves and marvel at the detailed frescoes still visible to this day! Also, don’t miss the Dark Church (for an additional 10 TL); it’s the highlight of the museum. A truly majestic sight!
04 | Hike the Red and Rose Valleys (Güllüdere Vadısı)
There are many fantastic valleys in Cappadocia, but if you only have time to hike through one of them, choose the Rose Valley (Güllüdere Vadısı). This valley has no admission fees and boasts some of the most impressive hidden cave churches. The trails are easily accessible to hikers of all levels and have some of the best views of Cappadocia.
We truly enjoyed the views, the walks, the random fairy chimneys, and the silence. Especially the silence, since we were the only ones exploring the valley! Having such wonderful views all to yourself makes hiking in the Rose Valley one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Another thing we enjoyed was the sense of adventure. There were a few signs spray-painted in red on the rocks to indicate the path, but some of them were misleading, and at one point we couldn’t find them anymore and got lost. Fortunately, we did manage to find the çıkış (exit) after a while, but it was quite an adventure until we did!
To get to the Rose Valley, take a minibus from Göreme to the town of Çavusin. Once there, ask around until you find the start of the trail, then just follow the signs!
05 | Explore the Fairy Chimneys
The fairy chimneys are literally everywhere in Cappadocia, but in certain areas, they truly stand out. For starters, you can visit the Love Valley to see some phallic-shaped formations (fun fact: Love Valley got its name from them). Another interesting site is the Devrent Vadisi (Imagination Valley), which features many animal-shaped rocks: camel, snake, dolphin, and more. Let your imagination run wild!
Another area you must see is Paşabağ, the site of the famous mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys.
All of these areas are very close to Göreme (a 5- to 10-minute drive). You can access them easily by rental car or taxi.
Another option is to take one of the three tours offered by most travel agencies in Cappadocia. The Red Tour covers the entire area. It costs 29 euros but includes transportation to all these sites and more, plus a buffet lunch and entrance to the Göreme Open Air Museum. For more information about what can you expect in the Cappadocia Red Tour, read this post.
06 | Visit the Underground Cities
Cappadocia is already incredible on the surface, but did you know it’s also impressive underneath? The area boasts over 40 underground cities, which were built many centuries ago by early Christians seeking to hide from the Roman Empire.
I recommend you visit Kaymakli (the widest) or Derinkuyu (the deepest). Explore the hundreds of passages built deep into the ground and see the remains of churches, storage places, schools, kitchens, wineries, and more!
07 | Do a Wine Tasting
After so much sightseeing, you’ll probably want to relax with a nice glass of wine. Luckily, you’re in the right place: Cappadocian wine is the best in Turkey!
With its volcanic soil and cool mountain climate, Cappadocia is the perfect place to grow grapes for wine. In fact, archaeological evidence suggests winemaking in Cappadocia dates back over 7000 years.
You can enjoy a wine tasting tour at the local wineries in Ürgüp. I recommend Kocabağ Kav Butik, Mahzen Şarap Evi, and Turasan.
08 | Go Horseback Riding
If hiking isn’t your thing, why not try exploring the Rose Valley on four legs instead? The “Land of Beautiful Horses” is the perfect place to explore on horseback!
Some of the horseback riding tours take you through the valleys to a beautiful sunset viewpoint. You won’t find a more beautiful place to ride horses!
09 | Do an ATV Tour
If you’re more adventurous, one of the best things to do in Cappadocia is taking an ATV tour through the valleys. I didn’t get to try this, but it looks really fun! You can book an ATV tour for as little as 50 TL (about $12) an hour per person. For this price, I don’t recommend booking online before visiting Cappadocia; just book it after you arrive.
10 | Go Shopping!
Aside from its amazing landscapes, Cappadocia is also famous for its handicrafts. If you want to buy a typical nomadic rug or simply look at the beautiful patterns, I recommend Galeri Ikman in Göreme, a huge shop that sells handmade rugs and other handicrafts. Definitely take an item (or two) home!
Another thing you must see in Cappadocia is the amazing handmade pottery. You can find the best pottery in the town of Avanos. We attended a live demonstration and were truly amazed by the process, not to mention the breathtaking result.
As you can see, there are many interesting things to do in Cappadocia! This region offers much more than beautiful views, gorgeous horses, and colorful hot air balloons; Cappadocia is pure magic, with something for everyone to enjoy. So what are you waiting for? Come and see this unbelievable part of Turkey for yourself!
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