Are you planning a visit to Cappadocia and looking for the best things to do? Or maybe you just want some inspiration for future travel plans and you want to know more about this magical place? Well in both cases I got you completely covered!
I stayed in Cappadocia for 5 days and went on a bunch of excursions and I am here to tell you all about it! I wanted to see more of Cappadocia than the standard balloon sunrises and fairy chimneys. So I am very excited to share my full experience with you!
Cappadocia, also known as ‘land of the beautiful horses’, is a magical place in Turkey that you should visit at least once in your life! And while it’s one of the number 1 honeymoon destinations, it’s also an amazing place to get in some quality time with your friends, or like I did with my mom :).
In this article I will give you the lay down of the best things to do in Cappadocia and what you can expect from your time here!
Magical Cappadocia – A Complete Travel Guide
Cappadocia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a historical region located in Central Turkey. It is mostly known for its moon-like landscape or as the land of whimsical fairy chimneys and peculiar rock formations.
Cappadocia is generally regarded as the plains and the mountainous region of eastern Central Anatolia around the upper and middle reaches of the Kizilirmak river.
Due to its inland location and high altitude, Cappadocia has a rather continental climate, with hot dry summers and cold snowy winters.
The caravan path between Cappadocia and Konya also used to be a part of the Silk Road, a historic system of caravan trails through Turkey, Persia (Iran), India and China that allowed trade to prosper and cultures to come in contact over the centuries.
The typical landscape was shaped by erosion and by ancient volcanic eruptions. The thick ashes became solidified in rock formations and these were then shaped by the eroding wind and water. This way a fairytale landscape of cones, pillars, mushrooms and chimneys came to exist and every year draws in millions of people from all over the world!
But human hands also performed incredible work here and created a network of handmade caves and tunnels. You imagine it and they created it into the soft stone rocks: houses, places of worship, storages. They actually created entire towns underneath the ground, all connected through different tunnel complexes which could run 8 different storages deep underground!
When to visit Cappadocia
The best time to visit Cappadocia is in shoulder season, meaning either Spring or Autumn. I went at the end of April and while the mornings and evenings were rather chilly it still became pretty sizzling during the day!
In the Summer months on the other hand this place can be brutally hot and you’ll also encounter a lot more tourists!
I do think that visiting Cappadocia during the Winter must be absolutely fantastic. The balloons keep on flying but there’s also snow on the ground which must make the scenery that much more magical!
Where to stay in Cappadocia
The Cappadocia region itself is rather large so knowing the best place to stay is crucial to your trip planning!
The town of Göreme is the historic center of the region and is where most tours will start as well. Göreme is also the place where you have one of the best views over the hot air balloons in the morning!
Some of the best places to take photos in Cappadocia are actually at the hotels themselves! And while you can’t enter most hotels during sunrise it is usually possible to visit afterwards. During sunrise and the hot air balloon event they want to ensure their guests have the best time of course. Then again, it can never hurt to ask!
Typical for people who travel to Cappadocia is that they stay in a cave hotel overlooking the town of Göreme. I’ve selected the best ones for you where I am sure you’ll not only have an amazing time but where you’ll also be able to take beautiful photos and make memories that last a lifetime!
- Mithra Cave Hotel – Located on one of the top levels in Göreme and offering a spectacular view over the entire valley. This is the hotel where I stayed at and I 100% recommend staying here! The owner is super nice and he owns several cute dogs that roam around the property!
- Sultan Cave Suites – This is probably the most photographed hotel in Cappadocia. Known for inviting influencers from all over the place to promote their property. Sultan Cave Suites is actually located below Mithra Cave Hotel so I could actually see all of the mayhem in full blown action. :p
- Local Cave House Hotel – Known for its pool which can come in handy on those sizzling hot Turkish afternoons.
- Museum Hotel – This stunning Relais & Chateaux hotel is a masterpiece on its own and is definitely worth a visit! I got lucky to be invited during sunrise but I have to admit that the hot air balloons were really far. nevertheless it’s a stunning hotel and if you want to splurge yourself with some luxury then this is the way to go!
How to get to Göreme
The nearest airports to Göreme are in Kayseri or Nevsehir and most international flights will have a short layover in Istanbul. The Nevsehir airport is closest to the city center and only 40 minutes driving from Göreme. In the summer months, Turkish Airlines has daily flights from Istanbul, Antalya, and Izmir.
From there you have a shuttle service that will take you to Cappadocia’s city center (Göreme) for around 35 TL.
If you’re flying into Kayseri airport your transfer will take around 1,5 hour and will therefore also be more expensive.
From Istanbul there are plenty of overnight busses that will take you to Cappadocia. While it might take more time to reach your destination it is a much cheaper way to travel.
From Istanbul the trip takes around 10 hours and wil cost around 100TL. Busses are usually comfortable and clean with enough space and WiFi on board. When booking an overnight bus make sure to look if you’re booking one with or without rest stops.
These busses won’t drop you off in Göreme but at busstop Otogar in Nevsehir from where it’s 25 minutes to the city centre.
You can always contact your hotel and they might be able to arrange a transfer for you.
This would be my favourite way of transportation in Turkey cause I am a sucker for road trips. I love the feeling of freedom and that you can plan on the go.
From Istanbul to Cappadocia it’s around 728km and the drive takes around 8,5 hours. On the way you’ll pass by Ankara, the second largest city in Turkey.
From Pamukkale to Cappadocia it’s a 650km drive, which should take around 7,5 hours.
Note that driving in Göreme might not be for the faint of heart cause the streets are super narrow and windy. I think it’s best to find a parking spot along the main road and then go from there.
Top Things To Do in Cappadocia
1. Watch the sunrise from one of the many terraces in Göreme
I can tell you that one of the best and most spectacular things to do in Cappadocia is to wake up early. Roll out of bed and make your way to one of the terraces in Göreme. It is important to mention that these terraces are part of individual hotels. It is not allowed to access them if you are not staying there.
A lot of people don’t know this and drive to Göreme in the early morning in hope of seeing the balloons during sunrise. This will not be possible unless you are staying at one of the hotels! However, most hotels do offer free entrance after sunrise!
The balloons should fly every morning, however it does depend on the amount of wind. They usually don’t know this from before. Sometimes the balloons also rise a little after sunrise so it’s definitely worth it to stick around for a while.
Cappadocia is a desert landscape, which results in very cold mornings. Make sure to pack warm clothes with you so you don’t freeze your but off while you’re out there waiting for the balloons!
I stayed at Mithra Cave Hotel and absolutely loved my stay here! They have several platforms from where you can watch the sunrise and they also have the cutest little puppies! For my full review on this hotel click here.
2. Indulge in the local cuisine
If I had to name one of my favourite cuisines, Turkish food is right there in my top 5. The Turkish cuisine is a fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Armenian and Balkan cuisines.
And I am not just talking about their Turkish delight. I would love for you to try some of my favourite dishes: stuffed dolmas, eggplant and definitely try a meze! This is a selection of appetisers that can be shared with the entire table!
If you’re staying in Göreme I can recommend you the restaurant Dibek, a local restaurant where you should indulge in their pottery kebap!
3. Watch the sunset at Rose Valley
This is one of the best and most beautiful things to do in Cappadocia! Watching the sunset over Rose Valley is absolutely magical and an activity that you can not miss.
If you don’t have a rental car the easiest way to go there is by taxi. This is a very popular sunset spot so please, don’t expect to be there alone for a second :p. There will be a mix of tourists and locals, playing music, drinking, all waiting fir the sun to set over the valley!
We did not have a rental car during our stay and simply agreed on a pick up time with our taxi driver! It all went very smooth and we were back at our hotel in no time.
But what makes the Rose Valley so special isn’t just the incredible rock formations. But here the minerals in the sand stone have a pink hue which you can see clearly throughout the day. But the best time to see it in all its glory is during sunset.
That’s why Rose Valley is one of the most popular sunset point in the Cappadocia region.
4. Pay a visit to Pigeon Valley
Pigeon Valley, also known as Guvercinlik Valley, is a 10 minute drive away from Göreme and one of Cappadocia’s most famous valleys. Almost every tour around Cappadocia makes a stop here so you pretty much can’t miss it.
At the top is the famous Göreme Panorama, a moon-like landscape spreads out underneath your feet and all you can do is be in awe of mother natures work here. These typical shapes that you find around entire Cappadocia are the result of hundreds of years of erosion.
You’ll also encounter the famous Evil Eye tree here so make sure you don’t miss it!
5. Go on a hot air balloon flight during sunrise
If you’re planning a trip to Cappadocia, one of the best and most fun things to do is to go on a hot air balloon flight! But be ready to wake up bright and early cause you’ll get picked up at 4 am in the morning!
What I didn’t really like is that everyone is first brought to a local diner where “breakfast” is served. Don’t expect anything fancy, just some white none toasted bread and slices of ham and cheese next to it. Way too little for everyone who is there anyway…
But after that it’s time to go air ballooning in Cappadocia! You’ll be divided into different groups and taken to your balloon in a small bus. Our balloon didn’t make it up in the air until after sunrise and while it was still a magical experience it also left me feeling a little bit disappointed.
The average price of a balloon ride is around €150 so make sure that before booking you read a lot of online reviews!
6. Discover Selime Monastery
The Selime Monastery, also known as the Kaledibi Monastery, is the biggest rock-cut monastery of Cappadocia with a cathedral sized church!
It was carved by hand by the monks in the 13th century and apart from the church it also has living quarters for the monks, a large kitchen and stables for animals. The walls were once decorated with frescoes of which very little remains but it’s still a wonderful site to see today and to explore!
From on top of the Selime Monastery you also get a spectacular view over the Ihlara Valley, a 15 km long and 150m deep canyon. The valley contains around 50 rock-hewn churches and numerous rock-cut buildings.
I loved visiting this place and it was part of the Green tour that we took (more on the different tours that you can take below!).
What I loved most about it is that it wasn’t featured yet on every Instagram photo and I got to learn a lot about the local culture! You also get to go into every single cave room to see the rich history for yourself!
7. Go for a horse ride in the Red Valley during sunset
This was one of my favourite things to do in Cappadocia! I had never been on a horse before, that’s if you don’t include the ponies at the local carnival when I was a kid :p. But the horses were very well trained and our guide also provided us with instructions during the entire ride.
It took around 1,5 hour to reach the summit from where we admired the sunset. Afterwards you return back to the ranch through a different path and say goodbye to your handsome steed for the evening!
I booked my tour with Museum Ranch Cappadocia and 100% recommend these guys!
8. Stroll through Göreme Open Air Museum
The Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the most popular places and historic sites in Cappadocia. The museum is located rather close to the city centre of Goreme, which is only 15 minutes walking distance.
Try to avoid this attraction on the weekend cause the place will not only be swarmed with tourists but also with locals.
There are over 10 cave churches to admire and visit and upon entering you get an audio guide to take with you. This one explains in detail about the history of Cappadocia and how places like this came to exist.
Despite the big crowds it’s still a must visit if you want to learn more about the rich culture and history embedded in this place.
9. Visit the most famous carpet shop in Cappadocia
In the centre of Goreme you’ll find one of the most famous carpet shops in the world.
Galeri Ikham is also one of the most impressive carpet shops I have ever seen in my entire life! Layers and layers of carpets and cushion covers are laid out and I honestly didn’t know where to look first! Take a good look around cause I am a hundred percent convinced you’ll find your perfect Turkish souvenir here!
I found two gorgeous pillow covers and I am pretty sure that if my budget would have allowed me I would have gone home with way more!
A lot of people visit this store sole for the purpose of taking photos. If this is your only goal make sure to ask the shop owner if you’re allowed to do so.
It’s always so important to be respectful cause the constant clicking of a camera might set other possible customers off and the shops loses sales because of it.
Instead ask if it’s allowed and if they want anything in return. There’s nothing wrong with paying a small fee or buying a souvenir in return! It’s a win win situation: you get to take fun photos, they are pleased with you and you don’t ruin the experience for future visitors!
10. Visit Pasabag Valley
If you want to spot the best fairy chimneys and cave dwellings then Pasabag Valley is the place to be.
But the same advise goes here, try to visit on a weekday and not on the weekend. I think that’s why a lot of the magic was lost to me when i was there and don’t even get me started on taking photos cause that was absolute insanity!
I would love to return to Cappadocia one day and visit these places a second time!
11. Watch the sunset over Göreme
It’s not just the sunrise that are spectacular in Göreme but the sunsets are actually equally as impressive!
Watch the sunset from the privacy of your hotel terrace or you can also pay a visit to the famous Göreme look out point. This is called the Lover’s Hill Sunset Point and the best part is that it’s within walking distance of most hotels in the city.
The 3 most famous and most frequented sunset viewpoints in Cappadocia are Lover’s Hill, Rose Valley and a Rooftop terrace. So you can imagine that you’ll never have this place to yourself during sunset.
12. Explore the Derinkuyu Underground Village
Remember that I told you that many many years ago the people that lived here build underground tunnels? Well a visit to the Derinkuyu Underground City was included in the Green Excursion that we did during our visit to Cappadocia.
You’ll go down below the ground until 5 levels deep into this cave system which once housed over 20.000 people!
It’s one of the most spectacular things I did during my trip.
Do know that if you suffer from claustrophobia this excursion might not be for you.
13. Marvel at Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle used to be the main point of defence for the Cappadocia region. It is located in the town of Uchisar is the highest point in all of Cappadocia.
If you participate in the Red Tour (more on that below) you have the opportunity to end your day at the top of Uchisar Castle to watch the sunset.
Which Cappadocia tour should you choose
There are so many excursions that you can go on during a visit to Cappadocia. But it usually comes down to three colours: red, green and blue.
Which tour includes which activity you can find out below!
Let me start by saying that you don’t need to make a reservation from before. We were able to book every single tour the day that we arrived and everything was arranged by the hotel that we stayed at (Mithra Cave Hotel).
Now that these tours aren’t private tours! You’ll join 20-30 other people and you’ll be divided into groups according to your language. The tour guide speaks a lot of languages and could even speak a little bit of Chinese!
In all daily Cappadocia Tours, you will be picked up in the morning around 09.00-09.30 AM and tours will start around 10.00 AM. Pick up, transportation during the day, professional guiding, entrances and lunch are included in the price. The average pricing for a tour lies between €25 and €50 and depends on the length of the total tour.
Each of the colour-separated tours is arranged according to the area, distance and entrance fee. In addition, one tour presents natural and historical buildings, while the other offers a tour plan with natural areas.
During the Green Tour you’ll do a lot more walking and you’ll drive further away from Göreme.
This is the tour you should choose if you wish to visit the Derinkuyu Underground Village.
All of the attractions in the Green Tour are: Göreme Panaroma, Underground City, Güvercinlik Valley, Ortahisar Rum Village, Red Valley, Kaledibi Monastery, Onyx Workshop.
I found this tour very interesting but it’s a full day tour and in the end I was dead tired. I wouldn’t recommend this tour if you have small children with you or if you want to make extra plans for sunset.
The Red Tour is the ideal tour if you only have one day in Cappadocia and you still want to see the main highlights.
You can easily combine this tour with one of the sunset excursions such as an ATV sunset tour or the horseback riding through red valley.
All of the attractions in the Red Tour are: Uçhisar Castle, Love Valley, Open Air Museum, Çavuşin Rum Village, Paşabağ Valley, Devrent Valley, Pottery Workshop.
Cappadocia Travel Guide – Is it safe to travel to Cappadocia
I will never understand why but a lot of times Turkey gets a bad reputation for solo female travel. Is it because people are sometimes scared of different cultures?
Well I have traveled to Turkey twice now, once with a girlfriend and once with my mom. Both times were a ton of fun and we never felt unsafe at any given moment!
Also Cappadocia is so accustomed to tourism that it’s one of the best places in Turkey to start your solo female travel journey. A lot of the locals speak English and are willing to help you if you have questions.
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