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!
Top 13 Very Best Things To Do in Cappadocia
About Cappadocia History
Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mesmerizing historical region nestled in the heart of Central Turkey. Renowned for its unparalleled beauty, it captivates visitors with its unique moon-like landscape and enchanting natural wonders.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Cappadocia is its whimsical fairy chimneys. These extraordinary rock formations, sculpted over millions of years by the forces of nature, resemble towering mystical creatures. As you explore the region, you’ll be transported to a realm of imagination, where ancient tales and legends come to life.
Cappadocia’s captivating landscape is not only a feast for the eyes but also offers numerous activities and adventures for every traveler. Dare to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon tour that will lift you above this surreal terrain, providing breathtaking panoramic views that will leave you speechless.
Delve into the intriguing history of Cappadocia by exploring its underground cities and rock-cut churches. These remarkable subterranean complexes, carved into soft volcanic rock, served as hiding places for early Christians during times of persecution. Step back in time as you wander through the narrow passages and marvel at the intricate frescoes adorning the ancient chapels.
Immerse yourself in the local culture by staying in one of the charming cave hotels, which seamlessly blend traditional architecture with modern luxury. Indulge in the region’s delectable cuisine, where you can savor unique flavors and specialties such as pottery kebab or sweet pumpkin dessert.
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
When it comes to visiting Cappadocia, timing is everything. While you can explore this enchanting region in Turkey at any time of the year, the ideal time to visit is during the shoulder seasons of Spring or Autumn. Let me tell you why.
In the Spring, from April to June, Cappadocia flourishes with vibrant colors as nature wakes up from its winter slumber. The weather is mild, with temperatures gradually rising and trees blooming with beautiful blossoms. It’s the perfect time to witness the captivating landscapes of fairy chimneys and unique rock formations while enjoying pleasant temperatures.
Autumn, from September to November, is another splendid time to visit Cappadocia. The summer crowds begin to thin out, and the temperatures start cooling down, creating a comfortable atmosphere for exploration. The surrounding valleys and vineyards come alive with shades of red, orange, and gold, making autumn a picturesque season to capture stunning photographs and immerse yourself in the breathtaking scenery.
During these shoulder seasons, you’ll also have the advantage of avoiding the peak tourist crowds that flock to Cappadocia in the summer months. This means shorter lines, better availability of accommodations, and a more peaceful and intimate experience overall.
Whether you choose to visit in Spring or Autumn, one thing is for certain – Cappadocia will leave you in awe of its otherworldly beauty. From hiking through the Rose Valley and exploring the underground city of Derinkuyu to floating above the surreal landscapes in a hot air balloon, there’s no shortage of incredible experiences to be had.
So, start planning your trip to Cappadocia during the shoulder season and get ready to embark on a memorable adventure filled with stunning sights, warm hospitality, and a touch of magic.
I do think that visiting Cappadocia during the Winter must be absolutely fantastic as well. 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 National Park
I can tell you that one of the best and most spectacular attratcions to do in Cappadocia is to wake up early. Roll out of bed and make your way to one of the terraces in Göreme National Park. 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!
💡 TIP – 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!
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 ride! 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 on one of the best hot air balloon rides 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. This remarkable architectural wonder dates back to the 8th century and is located in the central part of Turkey.
Nestled within the picturesque landscape of Cappadocia, the Selime Monastery is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of its creators. Carved into the soft volcanic rock formations, this monastery is a stunning example of Byzantine rock-cut architecture.
The monastery complex boasts a vast network of chambers, corridors, and tunnels that were used as living quarters, storage areas, and places of worship by the monks who once inhabited the site. The highlight of the monastery is its impressive main church, which features intricately carved details and stunning frescoes that have stood the test of time.
Exploring the Selime Monastery offers a glimpse into the rich history and cultural heritage of Cappadocia. Visitors can wander through the labyrinthine passages, marvel at the breathtaking rock formations surrounding the monastery, and imagine what life was like for the monks who sought solace and spirituality within these walls.
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.
7. Go for a horse ride in the Red Valley during sunset
This was one of my favorite 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 over the Red Valley in Cappadocia. Afterwards you return back to the ranch through a different path and say goodbye to your handsome steed for the evening!
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
One of its most intriguing attractions in Cappadocia is the Derinkuyu Underground City. This ancient subterranean complex is believed to have been built thousands of years ago, serving as a shelter and refuge for the local communities during times of turmoil and conflict.
The Derinkuyu Underground City is a remarkable feat of engineering, consisting of multiple levels that extend several stories deep into the ground. This sprawling labyrinth features narrow passages, hidden chambers, wells, and even ventilation shafts to ensure the inhabitants had access to fresh air. It is estimated that this underground city could accommodate thousands of people, providing them with the necessary facilities for living, such as kitchens, stables, churches, and storage areas.
Exploring the Derinkuyu Underground City is like stepping back in time, as you wander through its dimly lit corridors and discover the remnants of ancient life. As you descend deeper into the earth, you can’t help but marvel at the ingenuity and craftsmanship that went into constructing such a complex network of tunnels and rooms. It is truly a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of the people who once called this place home.
You’ll go down below the ground until 5 levels deep into this cave system which once housed over 20.000 people!
Do know that if you suffer from claustrophobia this excursion might not be for you.
13. Marvel at Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle holds a significant historical and cultural importance in the region of Cappadocia. Situated in the charming town of Uchisar, this castle stands as a remarkable testament to the architectural brilliance of ancient civilizations.
Originally serving as a defensive stronghold, Uchisar Castle played a vital role in protecting the people of Cappadocia from invasions and external threats. Its strategic location on the hilltop offered a commanding view of the surrounding valleys and enabled the inhabitants to monitor any approaching danger from afar.
What makes Uchisar Castle truly mesmerizing is not only its historical significance but also its natural formation. Carved entirely from the soft volcanic rock that defines the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia, the castle showcases the exceptional skill of its builders and their ability to work harmoniously with nature.
Exploring the castle’s interior, visitors can wander through a labyrinth of tunnels, corridors, and chambers that once housed the inhabitants and provided protection during times of conflict. These intricate passageways give a glimpse into the daily life of the people who sought refuge within the castle’s walls centuries ago.
As you make your way to the top of Uchisar Castle, a panoramic view unfolds, revealing the breathtaking beauty of Cappadocia. The sweeping vistas of fairy chimneys, towering rock formations, and lush valleys are truly awe-inspiring, leaving visitors in sheer admiration of the region’s geological wonders.
Whether you are a history enthusiast, an avid photographer, or simply a curious traveler, a visit to Uchisar Castle promises an unforgettable journey through time and a chance to marvel at the wonders of ancient craftsmanship and the natural beauty of Cappadocia.
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!
Know 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 color-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.
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.