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There are a lot of hidden treasures in Turkey, and beautiful historic cities, including Istanbul, Antalya, Ephesus, Izmir, and magical Cappadocia. Cappadocia, located in central Turkey, is a unique and breathtaking destination that offers a wide range of exceptional experiences attracting visitors from around the world. From over 200 hot air balloons entrancing the morning sky to ancient cave dwellings, underground cities, spectacular rock formations, and delicious local cuisine, Cappadocia is a bucket list destination that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.
A short flight from Istanbul, Cappadocia makes a great weekend trip to escape the bustling city life and packed streets of Istanbul. While the high season will bring more crowds to this enchanting landscape, you will find it easy to break away from the touristy hot spots and discover secluded areas to call your own.
While many people only spend a few days in Cappadocia, there are plenty of things to do in Cappadocia to keep you entertained for a week or more. You will need a car to travel easily from town to town but if you only have a few days the town of Göreme is very walkable. I spent a week in Cappadocia in shoulder season, and so glad I did. If you visit outside of summer (which I recommend to avoid the crowds and heat), it is best to give yourself a few buffer days for the weather, as the majority of things to do in Cappadocia are outside and you won’t want to miss a spectacular hot air balloon sunrise due to inclement weather.
From hot air balloon rides to hiking through caves and horse back riding, here are 35 of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Experience a Traditional Turkish Bath
Steeped in centuries-old customs, the Turkish bath, or hammam, is an intrinsic part of Turkish heritage. Taking a step into a hammam is akin to a journey back in time, an immersion in a ritual of purification and relaxation. Some of the best Turkish bath options include Kelebek Hamam and Spa, Carus, or Cappadocia Cave Resort and Spa.
Whether in historical bathhouses or more modern spa facilities, numerous Hammams in Cappadocia provide this authentic experience, giving you a chance to relax after a day of sightseeing.
Get a Bird’s Eye View on a Hot Air Balloon Ride
No trip to Turkey is complete without the thrill of a hot air balloon ride, one of the top things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey. As the sun rises, painting the sky with red, pink, and orange hues, you’ll gently ascend, floating above the extraordinary landscape shaped by volcanic eruptions.
From your vantage point in the balloon, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of Cappadocia’s unique topography – a sea of wave-like rock formations, towering fairy chimneys, and winding valleys. This experience, perfect for snapping stunning photos or soaking in the breathtaking scenery, is worth every Turkish Lira spent.
Many Cappadocia balloon companies offer a small breakfast before ballooning and a post-landing champagne toast. I went with Turquaz Balloons but was a little disappointed that they only went up and down in the same area and did not fly across the valley as many other balloons did. My friend had a fantastic tour with Butterfly balloons and got really close to the rock formations of Love Valley during her ride.
Watch the Balloons Take to the Skies
Afraid of heights? If flying in a hot air balloon isn’t your thing, watching them take to the sky is just as spectacular. You can watch them get blown up in the early mornings in the valleys; just follow the bright specks of light. It is a really cool sight to see the balloons light up and expand from piles of fabric on the ground.
It is also just as thrilling to watch the hot air balloons land. Most maneuver their baskets from the sky directly onto the back of a truck while moving. Suddenly, the helpers come out of nowhere, jumping onto the baskets to hold them down, scaring many of the people in the baskets while they are at it.
Indulge in a Traditional Turkish Breakfast
A traditional Turkish breakfast, known as “kahvaltı,” is a delightful and leisurely affair, reflecting the country’s rich culinary heritage and emphasis on fresh, flavorful ingredients. Turkish breakfasts are typically hearty and varied, meant to be savored slowly, with ample time for conversation and relaxation. It’s an excellent way to start the day and experience the country’s vibrant food culture.
Expect fresh bread and pastries. “Simit” is a popular ring-shaped bread covered with sesame seeds, while “pide” is a boat-shaped flatbread. “Poğaça” are savory pastries filled with cheese, potatoes, or minced meat, all so delicious.
Local cheeses will also be served with different types of olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers, along with plenty of jams and honey, usually paired with yogurt. Turkish Tea or Turkish coffee is also a staple during any traditional Turkish breakfast.
Taste Traditional Turkish Coffee
This unique style of coffee is known for its strong flavor, rich texture, and aromatic qualities. Turkish coffee has a robust, intense flavor that is bold and full-bodied. It’s stronger than typical drip coffee and has a unique taste profile due to how it’s brewed and the finely ground beans.
Turkish coffee is not just a drink; it’s an integral part of Turkish hospitality and culture, representing warmth, tradition, and a way of bringing people together. Whether enjoyed in a bustling cafe or a serene home setting, Turkish coffee offers a taste of history and a delightful sensory experience.
Try Traditional Turkish Tea
Traditional Turkish tea, known as “çay” (pronounced chai), is an integral part of Turkish culture and hospitality. Turkish tea has a rich, reddish-brown color and a robust flavor. It is strong and aromatic, with a slightly bitter taste that can be balanced by adding sugar.
As with Turkish Coffee, Turkish tea is more than just a beverage; it embodies the warmth, friendliness, and unity that defines Turkish hospitality and culture. It’s a simple yet cherished tradition that has stood the test of time and continues to play a significant role in the daily lives of Turks.
Embark on a Horseback Riding Adventure
Unleash your inner equestrian spirit in Cappadocia, also known as the “Land of Beautiful Horses.” This region provides a unique horseback riding experience, with its rugged terrain peppered with fairy chimneys and ancient cave dwellings offering the perfect backdrop for exploration.
Whether you’re an experienced rider or a novice, there’s a trail for everyone that unfolds the region’s beauty. Galloping through the mesmerizing valleys such as the Rose Valley and Red Valley provides a unique perspective of Cappadocia’s natural wonders and historical sites.
Rose Valley Horses and The Dalton Brothers Horse Ranch provide several different horseback riding tour options. This adventure connects you with the region’s deep-rooted equestrian heritage, making it an exciting way to explore Cappadocia.
Immerse Yourself in History at a Local Cave Hotel
Cappadocia’s cave hotels offer an enchanting blend of history, luxury, and charm. Nestled in the region’s unique volcanic rock formations, these hotels were once ancient dwellings, now serving as one-of-a-kind accommodations. Staying in a cave hotel lets you experience the region’s geological and cultural heritage firsthand.
The interiors are as captivating as their exterior. The rock’s natural thermal properties ensure that the rooms remain comfortable, cool in summer and warm in winter. Many of these hotels have beautifully incorporated modern amenities while preserving the cave’s original features, resulting in a comfortable yet authentically Cappadocian experience. I stayed in the Local Cave House Hotel, and the Sultan Cave Suits, and both were wonderful. They both offer rooftops and great sunrise views of the morning hot air balloons.
Enjoy the Views from Love Valley
Love Valley, also known as Baglidere Valley, in Göreme Historical National Park, is one of Cappadocia’s most iconic and picturesque locations. It is located near Göreme and is renowned for its striking rock formations resembling giant phallic columns. The valley’s unique landscape has earned it the nickname “Love Valley” due to its suggestive shapes.
Love Valley provides stunning panoramic views of the Cappadocia landscape, offering an ideal vantage point for the spectacular sunrise or sunset in Cappadocia. As the first light of dawn breaks, the valley is gradually bathed in the soft hues of the rising sun, setting a surreal scene. Similarly, as the sun begins its descent, the sky becomes a mesmerizing canvas of red, orange, and purple hues. From various vantage points, you can admire the unique contours of the valley, the distant fairy chimneys, and the vast expanses of Cappadocia’s rocky terrain.
Love Valley is a fantastic place to watch a hot air balloon sunrise. Hundreds of hot air balloons rise in front of the valley and glide over the pointy spires. Some get so close to the valley (although it is not recommended) you can touch the baskets and high-five the people in them! Love Valley is also great for watching sunrise or sunset. You’ll see the sunrise in front of you and see the sun’s rays illuminate the red rocks of Rose and Red Valleys across from you during sunset.
Trek through the Rock Formations at Love Valley’s Base
Love Valley isn’t just a haven for sunrise or sunset enthusiasts; it’s also a paradise for hikers. The trails meander through the valley’s core, offering an up-close exploration of the intriguing rock formations. You can discover the extensive network of caves, tunnels, and dwellings, the handiwork of early Christians seeking refuge during the Byzantine Era.
While there are a few different routes through the valley, one of the best is the Goreme, Love, White, Uçhisar and Pigeon Valley Loop. While this trail is technically considered moderately difficult, most of it is quite easy! The entire loop is 7.3 miles and takes about 3 hours to complete.
As you navigate through the trail, the unique beauty of the landscape boasts excellent photo opportunities or simply serene spots to rest and soak in the tranquility. This hike immerses you in the area’s raw beauty, marking it as one of the best things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Unearth History at Uchisar Castle
A visit to Uchisar Castle, the highest point in Cappadocia, is akin to stepping back in time. This castle, ingeniously carved into a colossal rock, is a testament to the early inhabitants’ creativity and resilience. The climb to the top might require effort, but the reward justifies every step.
Once at the summit, a breathtaking panoramic view awaits. You’ll be greeted by a labyrinth of fairy chimneys and winding paths snaking through the beautiful valleys. On a clear day, you might even be able to spot Mount Erciyes in the distance.
The castle also houses numerous rooms, tunnels, and windows, offering a peek into the region’s past. The visit to Uchisar Castle presents a blend of history, adventure, and incredible views, securing it a spot among the top things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Take a Guided ATV Tour through the Valleys
For the thrill-seekers visiting Cappadocia, hopping on an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) is a top thing to do in Cappadocia. This adventurous activity enables you to traverse the region’s awe-inspiring valleys and unique landscapes. Under the guidance of your tour guide, you’ll venture through several parts of the area, including the Red Valley, Love Valley, and Rose Valley.
Imagine the wind whipping through your hair as you navigate the rugged trails, the backdrop of fairy chimneys and rock formations shaped by volcanic eruptions adding to the thrill. Make stops at vantage points to soak in the breathtaking panoramic views and capture unforgettable photos. Although a bit dusty, this experience combines adventure with sightseeing, making this a great way to see a lot of landmarks in a short amount of time.
Unearth the Secrets of an Underground City
Peel back the layers of Cappadocia’s history by visiting one of its underground cities – Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, and Ozkonak. These elaborate subterranean networks, carved into the soft volcanic rock, served as refuges for early Christians during periods of conflict and invasions in the Byzantine Era.
Journey into the depths of these cities and explore the vast labyrinth of tunnels, rooms, storage areas, wineries, and chapels. As you wander through these ancient corridors, you can almost hear the whispers of the past echoing through the walls, recounting tales of survival and resilience.
Indulge in a Wine Tasting
Cappadocia’s fertile volcanic soil and ideal climate conditions make it one of the best places for wine production. The local vineyards yield some of Turkey’s finest wines, including unique Kalecik Karası and Öküzgözü varieties.
Spend an indulgent afternoon tasting a selection of local wines at a winery or a wine house, like Efendi Wine House, Turasan, or Aryatus Şarap Evi. You’ll get the chance to learn about the winemaking process, sample an array of wines, and pair your choices with delicious Turkish cuisine. This delightful gastronomic experience beautifully complements the region’s rich history and culture.
Experience the Sunrise (or Sunset) from a Rooftop
Cappadocia’s magical landscape is further enhanced at sunset. The changing hues of the sky mirrored on the unique rock formations and fairy chimneys, create a mesmerizing spectacle. The perfect place to enjoy this natural light show is from a rooftop bar – Haruna Restaurant, Mithra Terrace, and Rox Cappadocia are all excellent options.
As the sun dips below the horizon, the sky is painted in shades of pink, orange, and red, casting a warm glow over the valley. It’s a tranquil and beautiful experience that encapsulates the magic of this city, making it one of the top things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Explore Zelve Open Air Museums
Immerse yourself in history at the Zelve Open Air Museum in Zelve Valley, a sprawling complex of rock-cut dwellings and religious sites, all remnants of the Byzantine Era. Here, fairy chimneys and rock formations are not just natural wonders; they serve as homes, chapels, and monastic cells that echo the lives of monks who once inhabited the area.
This extraordinary historical site offers a fascinating glimpse into the region’s unique past and cultural heritage. As part of the Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Zelve Valley and its unique rock-cut architecture are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving its cultural and historical importance for future generations.
Walk around Göreme National Park
As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Göreme National Park is a must-see. It’s not just a park but a living testament to Cappadocia’s unique geological, historical, and cultural features. This park is home to an eight-story deep city system amongst the unique hoodoo rock formations. In fact, some of these underground dwellings still serve as homes!
Göreme Open Air Museum
The Göreme Open Air Museum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a remarkable glimpse into the region’s rich historical and religious heritage. The site is home to a collection of rock-cut churches, chapels, and monasteries dating back to the Byzantine era, many adorned with beautifully preserved frescoes of biblical scenes.
St. Barbara Cave Church, named after the early Christian martyr, is notable for its unique red and white geometric designs. The Dark Church, named for its minimal windows, houses some of the museum’s most impressive artwork. While there’s an additional fee to enter this part of the museum, the stunning, well-preserved frescoes depicting biblical scenes are well worth the extra cost.
Visit the Byzantine Era Churches in Cavusin
The ancient village of Cavusin is an important site for its rock-cut Byzantine-era churches. The Saint John the Baptist Church, one of the oldest known churches in the region, stands as an iconic example. This cavernous church contains stunning frescoes, some still displaying vibrant colors despite the passage of time. Ascend to the top of the church to enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding area, which will surely leave you amazed.
Be Amazed at the Fairy Chimneys of Paşabağı
The Paşabağı, also known as Monks Valley, is renowned for its peculiar and fascinating mushroom-shaped rock formations, known as fairy chimneys. With their characteristic multiple caps, these structures are a testament to Cappadocia’s unique geological history. The name “Monks Valley” is a nod to the Byzantine-era monks who sought solitude in this tranquil valley, carving rooms and churches into these unique rock formations.
Walking amidst these towering formations, you’ll feel a sense of wonder at the natural forces that shaped this distinctive landscape. Located between Cavusin and Avanos, it’s about a ten-minute walk to reach the chimneys, with a fee of 150 Turkish Lira per person.
Visit the Town of Avanos
Avanos is a small town steeped in tradition, mainly known for its pottery – a craft dating back to the Hittite period. Take a tour of a local pottery workshop, like Chez Hakan Pottery Shop, and watch skilled artisans shape clay into beautiful forms, and perhaps even try your hand at the potter’s wheel. The small town also boasts a variety of charming cafes and restaurants, perfect for a restful break to sample local cuisine.
Stay the Night in UçhisarTown
Experience the authentic Cappadocia lifestyle by spending a night in Uçhisar town. This charming small town is known for its cave dwellings, which have been converted into luxurious hotels. The small town’s elevated position provides stunning panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and fairy chimneys, especially at sunrise or sunset.
Learn About the Historic Selime Castle
Selime Castle, the largest rock-cut monastery complex in Cappadocia, offers a fascinating insight into the region’s historical and religious past. The castle, carved directly out of the rock face by early Christians, served as a monastery and a fortress during the Byzantine era. As you explore the vast, labyrinthine complex, you’ll encounter numerous rooms, including living quarters, stables, and a cathedral.
Cue the Drama with a Flying Dress Photoshoot
A unique way to capture your visit to Cappadocia is by participating in a “flying dress” photoshoot, which involves an extravagant, flowing dress and posing against the surreal backdrop of Cappadocia’s otherworldly landscape. The resulting photographs, with the dress appearing to float in the wind, are nothing short of magical, and you’ll definitely get some Instagram-worthy shots to make your friends jealous! There are even cranes involved to capture the insane swinging valley shots.
Search Instagram for “flying dress Cappadocia,” and several photographer accounts come up. Shoots can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 or more, depending on what you want.
Or a Professional Classic Car Photoshoot
For those who love nostalgia, a classic car photoshoot adds a vintage charm to your Cappadocian memories. Imagine yourself leaning against a beautifully restored classic car with fairy chimneys, beautiful valleys, and an ethereal sunset in the background. This unique photoshoot experience juxtaposes the old with the ancient, leaving you with extraordinary keepsakes of your journey.
Enjoy the Eski Gümüşler Monastery
The Eski Gümüşler Monastery, a little off the beaten path, is a testament to Cappadocia’s deep-rooted Byzantine heritage. This hidden gem is a cave monastery located in the small town of Gümüşler, is known for its remarkably well-preserved frescoes that retain their vibrant colors despite the passage of centuries. With fewer tourists visiting this site, the monastery offers a peaceful retreat and a more personal experience of the region’s rich history.
Pose for Instagram at Galerie Ikman
Galerie Ikman, a famous Turkish rug shop in Göreme, is a haven for Instagram enthusiasts. The walls and floors of this shop are covered in a spectacular array of traditional Turkish rugs and kilims, providing a rich tapestry of colors and designs that form an impressive backdrop for photos. The vibrant colors and intricate patterns make for a super fun photo op!
Try a Traditional Pottery Kebab
Sampling a traditional pottery kebab is a must-do while in Cappadocia! This local delicacy consists of slow-cooked meat and vegetables inside a clay pot, infusing the dish with rich, smoky flavors. The reveal is equally part of the experience: the pot is typically cracked open at your table, releasing the mouthwatering aroma of the cooked meal.
Go Shopping for Local Treasures
While Cappadocia is not a massive shopping destination, you can find some excellent places to shop for souvenirs, handicrafts, and local products in Göreme, Ürgüp, Uçhisar, and Nevşehir. Supporting local artisans and businesses helps sustain the local community and ensure the continuation of traditional crafts. Local souvenir shops offer traditional Turkish souvenirs, including ceramics, pottery, carpets, textiles, magnets, keychains, and other trinkets. Bargaining is common in such shops, so don’t hesitate to negotiate for better prices.
Turkish delights, hand-painted pottery, and handwoven rugs are among the most popular local souvenirs.
Hike into Devrent Valley
Also known as Imagination Valley, Devrent Valley showcases nature’s whimsical artistry. The rock formations and fairy chimneys here have been naturally shaped into forms that resemble animals, humans, and various objects, limited only by your imagination.
A visit to Devrent Valley offers a playful and enchanting experience as you wander amidst these geological wonders, finding familiar shapes in their contours.
Watch the Sunrise on Red Valley
Red Valley, aptly named for its striking reddish-hued rock formations, is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts in Cappadocia. This geological wonder transforms into an artist’s palette at sunrise and sunset when the light bathes the landscape in warm red, pink, and orange tones, creating a breathtaking spectacle that defies description.
The best Red Valley sunrise and sunset views are from Love Valley. You can still get some beautiful sunset skies inside Red Valley, but you won’t see the sun’s rays illuminating the red rock if you are watching the sunset in Red Valley. The sun rises behind the Red and Rose Valleys, so the actual valleys are pretty shaded during the mornings and evenings.
With many trails snaking through the valley, hikers can encounter surreal fairy chimneys, ancient cave churches, and verdant vineyards. For those craving a bit more adventure, ATV-guided tours offer an exciting and unconventional way to traverse this stunning landscape. One of the most enchanting sights here is the spectacle of hot air balloons dotting the morning sky, a sight that lends an ethereal charm to the Red Valley.
Get Lost in the Rose Valley
Adjacent to the Red Valley lies the Rose Valley, so-called for its uniquely colored rocks that take on an intense pink hue as the sun dips below the horizon. This valley is a paradise for hikers, with trails that offer gentle walks and stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape.
Visitors can embark on a five-hour hike that passes through the Meskendir, Rose, and Red Valleys. However, if you want a shorter path, another trail begins in Rose Valley and takes about three hours total.
Whether you choose to explore on foot or by an ATV guided tour, the Rose Valley provides an immersive experience of Cappadocia’s natural beauty.
Enjoy the Views in Ihlara Valley
The Ihlara Valley, a stunning gorge carved by the Melendiz River, offers a blend of natural beauty and historical treasures. Its vertical cliffs, rising to 100 meters high, are dotted with around 100 rock-cut churches, many adorned with ancient frescoes. The 14-kilometer-long valley has a variety of hiking trails that meander along the river, through verdant vegetation, and past the ancient cave churches. The peaceful ambiance and the natural and historical wonders make a hike through the Ihlara Valley one of the best things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Snap a Photo in Pigeon Valley
Pigeon Valley is an easy hiking trail recognized for its numerous pigeon houses etched into the rock faces. Historically, these pigeons were kept for their ability to carry messages over vast distances, and their droppings were collected and utilized as a rich fertilizer for the local vineyards. You’ll want to plan around a half day for this trek, and luckily, there’s no entrance fee.
Discover White Valley and Sword Valley
White Valley and Sword Valley are two often overlooked gems in Cappadocia. These small valleys are adorned with remarkable rock formations and fairy chimneys, providing a rich playground for hiking, photography, and simply marveling at nature’s handiwork.
Sword Valley, while it is one of the smallest valleys, also happens to be one of the most interesting. Named after the sharp rock formations towering over this barren landscape, this valley also boasts a narrow, gorge-like trail, making this a great spot to snap a few pictures.
While White Valley is a bit more challenging than other hikes in the area, the snow-white rocks and stunning landscapes make the trek worth it!
The captivating and breathtaking natural wonders of Cappadocia, mixed with the rich local cultures and incredible ancient history, draw visitors worldwide. I had the best time exploring Cappadocia, and I still see it as one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. Visiting Cappadocia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that offers a blend of natural beauty, history, culture, and adventure. It’s a destination that will leave you awe-inspired and with memories that will last forever.