Experience a sky dotted with colorful hot air balloons Find a secret tunnel that leads to the caving communes Hike around and catch some of the subterrean actions These are just a few of the Cappadocia attractions. Discover the best things to do in Cappadocia!
Perhaps you have seen images of colorful hot air balloons soaring over the sky as the picturesque sunrise wafts over the semi-arid landscape of Cappadocia. For many travelers, only a few pictures of this scene are sufficient to convince them to visit the breathtaking area and partake the balloon ride.
Cappadocia, Turkey is a region in central Anatolia that is a very popular addition to a traveler’s bucket list. It is best recognized for its fairy chimneys, sunrise hot air balloons, and underground cities. From exploring the region’s unique landscapes to enjoying outdoor adventures, there are many things to do in Cappadocia – all of which will either make this destination climb up your bucket list or will successfully add itself to yours.
If you’re planning on making a trip to this magical place, you’ll want to check out the below list of the best places to visit in Cappadocia, Turkey. Having a plan of activities and where you’ll be staying will aid in creating a more organized trip. This guide to Cappadocia not only has practical tips on accommodation and transport but also, the best time to visit Cappadocia. Keep reading for more information on Cappadocia, Turkey activities. But first a little history of this place to help you appreciate it better.
- 1 History of Cappadocia
- 2 What to Do in Cappadocia?
- 2.1 Hot Air Balloons Ride at Sunrise – one of the best things to do in Cappadocia
- 2.2 Goreme Open Air Museum – one of the key places to visit in Cappadocia
- 2.3 Uchisar Castle – an important Cappadocia sightseeing attraction
- 2.4 Derinkuyu Underground City
- 2.5 Paşabağ
- 2.6 Explore the Valleys
- 2.7 Avanos Pottery Class
- 3 Common FAQs about Cappadocia in Turkey
- 4 How to Get To Cappadocia?
- 5 What are the best options of getting around Cappadocia region?
- 6 Where to Stay in Cappadocia?
- 7 How long should you spend in Cappadocia?
- 8 When is the best time to visit Cappadocia?
- 9 Is it possible to do a daytrip to Cappadocia from Istanbul?
- 10 Booking Resources
History of Cappadocia
Located to the north of Mount Taurus, the human settlement in the Cappadocia region can be traced back to the paleolithic age, specifically to the era of Hittites. The area’s incredible rock formations created by a tougher outer basalt rock and a softer inner tufa (soft volcanic rock), helped in creating the famous fairy chimney rock shapes. The tufa rocks’ softer material made it easy for those living in ancient Cappadocia to carve their houses into the rocks and thus, came the cave dwellings.
The region got its name – Cappadocia during its Persian rule in 6th century BC. The term literally translates to the “land of beautiful horses”. The Persian era came to an end in the 3rd century with the Romans taking over under the leadership of Alexander the Great. This is when the influence of Christianity began in Cappadocia. This is when the various cave churches and a subterranean city were built into the tufa rock to shelter the Christians who escaped persecution elsewhere. Today, most of these carved-out living spaces are viewed as Cappadocia attractions and are visited by tourists and locals frequently.
Cappadocia moved from the Romans to the Seljuks and then finally it came under the Ottoman Turks. The rich history and culture of this region can be still experience through the unique Cappadocia sightseeing places – something that you will learn as you read through the rest of this Cappadocia guide.
What to Do in Cappadocia?
While it’s rewarding enough to visit Cappadocia just for the stunning landscape, there are additional activities that you participate in to enjoy the region’s rich history, unique rock formations, and interesting historical sites.
Hot Air Balloons Ride at Sunrise – one of the best things to do in Cappadocia
The hot air balloon rides are one of the most beloved activities in Cappadocia. With the pictures continually circulating of these balloons flying high over the region, many people note this activity as the top option on their Cappadocia sightseeing list.
Each hot air balloon ride typically lasts about 45 minutes to two hours, with some including a complimentary breakfast and champagne toast once you’ve landed safely. The hot air ballooning in Cappadocia takes you about 3,000 feet in the air, offering you incredible views of the terrain and historic sites below.
Given that this is one of the most popular Cappadocia attractions, it requires you to book your ticket in advance. It is also, better to book it as soon as you arrive in Cappadocia as there could be cancelations owing to bad weather. Booking it early will help you with a little flexibility in your own Cappadocia itinerary – just in case that happens. There are several Cappadocia hot air balloon operators , some which can be booked online using the links given below.
- This link through GetYourGuide takes you to one of the most highly rated hot air balloon activities that include the Sunrise ride, a live guide, champagne and light breakfast. Check out the detailed reviews by real travelers on the site.
- Viator.com is another website that some of the best Cappadocia hot air ballooning experiences listed. With over 250 positive reviews, you can pick this experience over the fairy chimneys. Alternately, this operator with 175 positive reviews and a badge of excellence is another option to consider.
Hot Air Ballooning in Gold Coast, Australia
Another place to experience hot air ballooning is Gold coast, Australia. The sunrise ride takes you over the gorgeous hinterlands of Queensland where you can get a glimpse of hopping kangaroos, horses on ranches and fields of gold. Take a peek at my experience through the post below.
Goreme Open Air Museum – one of the key places to visit in Cappadocia
The Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the top-visited attractions in Cappadocia. This open-air museum features church ruins and remains from the 17th century. Inside the churches and monasteries, you can view stunning frescoes on the walls.
It is best to take a guided tour of Goreme Open Air Museum. There are over 25 points of interest in this tour and with a guide, you can get a good understanding of what their story is. The guide also, usually explains the all about the various cave houses and also, entertains you with the various nuances of the culture that prevails there.
Goreme Open Air Museum is open from 8 am to 6 pm every day and is right in the center of the town. You also, have an option of a self-guided audio tour, should you prefer to do it yourself. It is truly one of the most amazing things to do in Cappadocia.
If you’re short on time, see the Dark Church, a restored church with stunning high vaulted ceilings and beautiful frescoes. This church has kept its fresco paintings well-preserved due to the lack of windows (hence its name). The other prominent churches include New Tokalı Church (the largest church of Cappadocia), Apple and Sandal churches.
Uchisar Castle – an important Cappadocia sightseeing attraction
Uchisar Castle features the famous carved-out caves that have helped keep Cappadocia on the map. This castle was once a citadel used to protect the people of Uchisar. It resides on top of a rocky ridge, allowing you to view Cappadocia from the highest point in the region. It is considered to be one of the best sunset viewpoints of Cappadocia.
To make the most of your tour to Uchisar, it is best to head there a few hours before sunset. Hike along the various paths of the castle and discover some of the remains of the rock fortress – including the cave houses. Just before sunset, make your way to the highest point to get an amazing panoramic view of Cappadocia. The entry fee for the sunset viewpoint at Uchisar castle is 20T.
Derinkuyu Underground City
This underground city is one of the most interesting places to visit in Cappadocia. This ancient city has multiple floors (18), which visitors can explore via tour. This 7 BCE city holds rooms once used as homes, stables, churches, and a winery.
This underground city could shelter an impressive 20,000 people when it was initially built. It is the largest excavated underground city of Turkey that not only houses people but their livestock too. The ancient city had its own supply of water and was well aerated – ensuring safety of its residents in case they were cut-off. You can visit it anytime between 8 am to 7pm. Again, it is the best to explore this Cappadocia attraction with a guided tour.
Book your Derinkuyu underground city and Ihlara tour
Paşabağ, also known as the Valley of the Monks, holds some of the fascinating fairy chimney formations in Cappadocia. These formations have two or three rock caps, which create the appearance of mushroom caps.
At Paşabağ, you’ll find cave dwellings and chapels to explore. This area does not typically require more than 30 minutes, so it’s a great activity to tack on if you’re planning on visiting Avanos afterward. It is open from 8 am to 7 pm every day and costs 25 TL.
Explore the Valleys
Cappadocia holds many stunning valleys, like Pigeon Valley, which provide various activities like hiking, horseback riding, and spending time in hot air balloons. Below are a few of the valleys that you can explore in Cappadocia.
Ihlara Valley is synonymous with hiking tails, as it has some of the best paths to explore. Continue alongside the Melendiz River for views of the local wildlife and insects, including turtles and butterflies. These walking paths have four access points and take you nearby to some historic cave churches. You can even experience a dip in one of the waterfalls here.
Like Ihlara Valley, Rose Valley presents the opportunity for hiking and visiting ancient churches and homes tucked away in caverns. Church of the Cross and Columned Church are two of the major church ruins that are explorable in this valley. The valley has pink stone which is what gives it the name. As the day goes by, the pink becomes more and more dominant.
This valley also offers views of the fairy chimneys, making it a popular route to explore. You can access the path through Rose Valley only by foot.
Love Valley, nearby Goreme, offers visitors the chance to see mushroom-shaped rock formations up close. Most of these mushroom shaped structures appear like phalluses, which is what gives this valley the current name. What makes this trail magical is the photo spots that sit next to the trail. Anyone who loves photography or wants to snap a few pictures for memories will want to stop by these specific locations.
If you like hiking, you can take the trail from Love Valley right up to Uchisar Castle.
Avanos Pottery Class
Avanos is a charming town in Cappadocia famous for its tradition of pottery making. Its proximity to the Red River and its clay has allowed Avanos to keep the tradition alive. Avoid the tourist pottery shops and head to the local stores to join pottery-making classes and workshops. You’ll be able to work with pottery masters to craft your own piece.
Cappadocia is a stunning destination in Turkey that’s been able to preserve its history. Through exploring and staying in the caves, you can take a step back in Cappadocia’s past. This unique region has everything you could want in a vacation, picturesque views, stunning landscapes, and attractions that you can’t find anywhere else.
Common FAQs about Cappadocia in Turkey
How to Get To Cappadocia?
You can use a few methods to reach Cappadocia, which varies depending on whether you’re traveling internationally or domestically. Cappadocia can be reached from Istanbul and internationally through airplanes, while other domestic travel includes a bus trip, car rental, and hotel transfers.
The quickest but most impactful on the wallet is a flight to Cappadocia. A smaller and larger airport (both facilitating domestic and international flights) is situated in Cappadocia – Kayseri Erkilet and Nevşehir Kapadokya.
Kayseri Erkilet is the larger of the two, so it handles most of the flights. The main benefit of flying into one airport over the other is the proximity to your accommodations. Flying into Nevşehir Kapadokya means being closer to attractions like the Goreme Open Air Museum. However, it’s worth noting that this airport hosts 1/3 of the number of flights that Kayseri Erkilet does each day. Thus, the flights to Nevşehir Kapadokya are pricier, less frequent, and can be more challenging to book.
When booking a flight, double-check that you’re booking the correct airport. Many people mistakenly book the wrong arrival airport, leading them to travel an additional distance to their accommodations.
Renting a car to travel around Cappadocia is the most convenient option as most towns are about 30 minutes to an hour away via car. A car rental allows you to travel between towns and attractions with ease.
While you can drive from Istanbul to Cappadocia, the travel time is much longer than flying (nine hours vs. 1.5 hours). If you’re not in a rush, this can be a good option for saving a few hours. However, you’ll need to account for an extra day for this trip each way due to the long drive time.
A quick note about shuttles – they do not travel to the airports unless you request them. If you’re planning to use a shuttle to get to your accommodations, call ahead and book a ride.
You can schedule a shuttle through your hotel or reach out to the few companies that directly offer this service.
What are the best options of getting around Cappadocia region?
One of the best options for traveling around Cappadocia is by car. The region is spread out and you’ll find it easier to explore at your own pace if you have a vehicle. You can rent a car when you arrive at one of the local airports.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia?
When booking a trip to Cappadocia, the second item on your list is figuring out which accommodation(s) work best for your itinerary.
Stay in a Cave Hotel
As mentioned, the soft tufa rock allowed the ancient citizens of Cappadocia to dig out homes in the rocks. Staying in one of the available cave hotels provides a unique experience in Cappadocia that you can’t find in many other destinations worldwide. Below are a few cave hotels you can book and stay at while in Cappadocia.
Museum Hotel Cappadocia
The Museum Hotel Cappadocia is a luxury hotel stay that offers a unique concept – “living” museum rooms. These rooms contain priceless art, monuments, and artifacts from various times, like the Ottoman and Roman periods.
This multi-award-winning hotel is established in restored caves that sit at the bottom of the Uchisar Castle. It’s a popular stay for those seeking convenient accommodation nearby this major attraction. There’s also a spa available which helps create an even more luxurious feel.
Cappadocia Cave Suites
The Cappadocia Cave Suites are found in Goreme, the city home to the famed fairy chimneys. These suites use historical caves with upgraded 21st-century amenities to provide a unique experience for travelers.
Additional amenities include a spa, a Turkish bath, and lovely views of Goreme.
Hera Cave Suites
Hera Cave Suites offers visitors a stay in traditionally decorated cave suites. These suites have been updated and renovated with a style that matches the district’s style. Like the Museum Hotel, each room has artifacts on display, creating a more luxurious atmosphere.
There are 28 cave rooms to choose from, with options including a standard room through a king family room for larger families. You can enjoy the open buffet breakfast in the morning, which boasts locally made items (like jams) to help you fill up before exploring the Goreme and the nearby attractions.
How long should you spend in Cappadocia?
It is recommended that you keep aside at least 3 days to experience the best things to do in Cappadocia.
When is the best time to visit Cappadocia?
The best time to visit Cappadocia would be the months of July and August when the weather is warm and pleasant.
Is it possible to do a daytrip to Cappadocia from Istanbul?
Yes, it is possible to do a daytrip to Cappadocia from Istanbul. There are several operators who offer the same but be prepared to cover only few of these Cappadocia sightseeing attractions. It is not possible to do it all. The daytrips include either flights or minibuses.
Before you go, pin this
- Cleartrip.com is a good resource to book your flights to Turkey. They have some attractive deals too. Check them out through this link.
- Booking.com has some of the best hotels in Cappadocia listed with them. You can use the given link to browse for the various hotels including the recommended cave stays – Hera Cave Suites, Cappadocia Cave Suites and Museum Hotel Cappadocia.
- GetYourGuide has numerous tours in Cappadocia including the famous Hot Air Balloon Ride. You can even book guided tours of the cities and get skip-the-line tickets through this link. You can also book various airport cabs and other transfers through the site.
- Viator.com is another resource that will help you book various tours including a two-day tour of Cappadocia from Turkey.
- If you use Amazon to buy your travel or home needs, do consider using my affiliate link to get to it. It will not cost you anything additional but will help me earn some commission to keep this website going.
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This post has been contributed by my guest author – Dania Demirci. She is the co-founder of Adventurefolio, has traveled in Turkey for over 15 years and helps families have fun and confidently plan their trips to Turkey. You can find Dania on Instagram – @adventurefolio.