Cappadocia is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Turkey. It is located in the center of Turkey, about 700 km from Istanbul. It is a land of natural wonder famous for its picturesque valleys, unique cave hotels, mysterious underground cities, and fairy chimneys (unique rock formations). Cappadocia is also most popular for its breathtaking hot air balloon rides at sunrise.
The ancient valleys of Cappadocia provide many hiking routes. There is so much hiking here that it will take you at least a week to explore them all. Goreme is one of the main attractions of Cappadocia. It is an open-air museum and home to historic sites, hidden churches, and fascinating frescoes.
Contrary to popular belief, Cappadocia is not a city but an entire region. It has smaller towns such as Goreme, Uchisar, Urgup, and Ortahisar. These regions are surrounded by three dormant volcanoes – Mount Erseus, Mount Hassan, and Mount Gullu. These have contributed to Cappadocia’s exotic landscapes and unique cave hotels. These cave hotels are the quintessential experience in Cappadocia. This is also the place you don’t want to miss out on the sunrise!
Things to Know
Shuttle services are available outside the airport to travel to Goreme. It normally costs TL50. Havas buses are cheap that drop you off at the bus station, from where you can take another bus to Goreme
Book hot air balloon rides in advance, as they can often be sold out
Hot air balloon flights in Cappadocia are weather dependent and may be canceled. So, plan to spend a few days there and keep a buffer. Also, the take-off site changes daily depending on the wind direction.
The most convenient way to explore Cappadocia is by renting a car or taking a local tour.
The most popular areas for accommodation in Cappadocia are Goreme, Urgup, and Uchisar.
Visit Sunset Point in Goreme early in the morning for great hot air ballooning photos. Also, you can see these from the roof of your residence.
Things To Do In Cappadocia
- Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia
Cappadocia in Turkey is one of the most famous places in the world for hot air balloon rides. These hot air balloon rides are group tours and there are at least 100 hot air balloons in the air at a time, taking passengers to an altitude of 3,000 feet above the ground. Taking a hot air balloon ride also offers a chance to capture stunning sunsets over the spectacular Cappadocia landscape and take beautiful photos. Many packages include pick-up and drop-off services, pre-flight refreshments/meals, and even a commemorative flight certificate.
- Red and Rose Valley
The Red and Rose Valley are aesthetically pleasing. Rocks in various shades of rose are scattered all around, making it one of the most famous hikes in Cappadocia. As you go along the valley, you will be surrounded by colorful flowers and see many beautifully built churches with lots of paintings and decorations, vineyards, and fields cultivated by local farmers. The most notable churches are Hakli, Avyali, and Usi Hakli. There are also several hiking trails, which are about 2 hours long, giving you ample time and opportunities to witness the beauty of the valley.
- Gšreme Open-air Museum
Located just outside the main village, this is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Cappadocia. It is astonishing chaos of churches, chapels, and monasteries carved into the rock. This stunning complex dates back to the 10th century when the area was a major religious center. Today, hundreds of thousands of people visit the complex every year for the charming churches adorned with beautifully painted frescoes along the walls. Some of these notable ones include Yelnali Kilise, Elmali Kilise, Karnalik Kilise, and Tokli Kilise. All of them have many enchanting and colorful frescoes, and while some of them were ruined over the years, others, such as the one in Karnlik Kylie, have been completely restored to all their glory.
Gšreme Fair is a village in the Chimney Rock formations, and giant cliffs spread across the city. Gšreme is the center of tourism in Cappadocia. Its unique nature and an array of attractions make it extremely popular and the first place to visit in Cappadocia. Some of the most popular places in Gšreme are the Gšreme open-air museum, hot air balloon rides, and the many historical sites in the village. The open-air museum is actually the most popular attraction in Cappadocia, home to a wonderful collection of rock-cut churches and monasteries, decorated with beautiful frescoes. There are also other churches in the city that are full of such paintings. This small village of about 2000 people, therefore, makes a definite visit.
- Fairy Chimneys
Fairy Chimney is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. It is synonymous with thousands of unique rock formations formed due to volcanic tuff or soft rock erosion. One of the most popular attractions in the country, they are mainly found within Goreme National Park. Some of the most famous places to see Fairy Chimneys include Zelway Valley, Red Valley, Devant Valley, and Pigeon Valley. Another way to see these mesmerizing structures is by taking a hot air balloon ride.
Fairy chimneys date back millions of years, resemble cone stems that are topped with caps of basalt, and can be up to 130 feet tall. They can be mushroom-shaped, pointed, and erect. Their interiors were initially used by humans during the Paleolithic period and then by Christians as shelter during the Arabic invasions during the 11th and 12th centuries. Some of the more stable fireplaces are built into hotel rooms with fireplaces where guests can stay overnight and enjoy spectacular views of the area. There are several sunset spots along the valleys that offer spectacular views of the Fairy Chimneys.
- Uchisar Castle
Located on the highest point of the Cappadocia region, Uchisar Castle is famous for its panoramic views. It is a short trek from the towns of Uchisar or Goreme and it takes around 120 steps to climb up to the palace. It overlooks the famous Fairy Chimney, Pigeon Valley, Goreme, Mount Arsius, and other nearby tourist spots. The palace is also an ideal place to watch the spectacular sunset.
Uchisar Castle was first used for defense purposes during the Byzantine and then Ottoman Empires. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is shaped like a cylindrical tower and from the inside is full of rooms, tunnels, and passageways, most of which are almost impossible to enter.
- Ihlara Valley
The Ihlara Valley is a picturesque valley formed by the Melendiz River over thousands of years. This 14 km long valley is one of the most beautiful and serene places in Cappadocia. It used to be a favorite place for monks to entertain, which was visited by the many churches along the length of the valley. It is famous for its hiking.
The Koker Kilisse is decorated with many biblical frescoes. Agcalti Kilise is a church with a distinctive architectural style, vibrant colors, and many decorative features, which make it extremely interesting. Other important churches in the valley are Purenli Seki Kilise, Agritas Kilise, Yilanli Kilise, and Kirk Dam Aarti Kilise. There are 4 entry points into the valley, the first beginning in the village of Ihlara, the second and busiest at about 4 km into the valley, the third being halfway and accessible via car, and the last from the other side of the valley, Selim Monastery.
- Zelve Valley
Located between Urgup and Avanos in Cappadocia, the Zelwe Valley is one of the last abandoned monastic valleys in the region. It dates to the Byzantine era and has been converted into an open-air museum. Belonging to pre-iconoclastic times, it is spread over three valleys and is known for its unique architecture.
The Zelve Valley Monastery Complex has four churches (Direkli, Balikli Kilise, Ozumlu Kilise, and Geykli Kilise), some caves, rooms, fairy chimneys, a mill, passages, doves, and even some houses. Unlike other churches in Cappadocia, these churches do not have frescoes. There are many trails around, which make it easy to explore this attraction and there is also a tunnel that connects two of the three valleys. Due to the topography of the area, there are plenty of places for photography. There is a cafe and a gift shop nearby.
- Pigeon Valley
Also known as the Guersinlik Valley, the Pigeon Valley is a very popular hiking destination in the Cappadocia region in Turkey, particularly between the cities of Goreme and Uchisar. The trek can be done from either city, although Uchisar is the preferred starting point as it is mostly downhill from there; The hike is not very difficult and is suitable for beginners as well.
Spread over 6 km, the Pigeon Valley gets its name from the many pigeon houses that have been carved in soft stone here. The valley is famous for its trails and earth pillars, ancient paintings, and cave dwellings. There are also some churches scattered around. Pigeon Valley Pigeon Valley is also a great place to watch the sunset and take beautiful pictures. Another way to experience the beauty of the area is to book a hot air balloon tour that allows one to admire its picturesque landscape from a high vantage point.
- Lake Tuz
Tuz Lake is one of the largest salt lakes in the world, located in the central Anatolia region of Turkey. Tourists flock to watch the lake’s seasonal color change and walk the salt beds. The lake is so bright during summer that it can be seen even from space. And during other seasons, the lake turns a beautiful pink color due to algae blooms that have many beneficial health properties.
Since the lake is shallow for most of the season, the dense layer of salt can reach up to 30 cm. A Special Environmental Protection Area, Lake Tuz is the source of more than 50 percent of Turkey’s salt. For those who love photography and wildlife, you can find the main Turkish breeding colony of Greater Flamingos on the group of islands in the southern part of the lake. If you’re lucky, you might even see more white-fronted geese and lesser kestrels.
- Devrent Valley
Davrent Valley is famous for its rock formations which are in various shades of pink. It is also known as Imaginary Valley or Pink Valley and is full of many naturally formed pillar-like formations, rock formations, and the famous fairy chimneys. Many rock formations resemble animals such as snakes, crocodiles, dolphins, seals, and even one that looks like a praying Mary. The valley also offers spectacular views of the sunset and is a perfect place for photography.
Unlike other valleys in the region, the Devant Valley was never inhabited by humans and thus has no mad-built structures such as castles, troglodyte caves, pigeon houses, or rock-hewn churches. One of the best ways to explore the valley is by foot as there are many hiking trails, but one can also opt for quad biking, horse riding, or jeep safaris.
- Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu Underground City is the deepest underground city in Cappadocia, with a depth of 85 meters. Like Kaymakali and others, the city of Derinkuyu was built by Christians to hide during raids. This is the deepest of Cappadocia’s 36 underground cities, and the tunnels get smaller and smaller as you go deeper, so it’s best to avoid this place if you’re claustrophobic. The city has all the features of a basic underground city, such as cellars, wineries, stables, etc., and also had a school.
Steep stairs take you down the floor, though less than half the city is to be reached. Derinkuyu has a very elaborate system of ventilation since fresh air needs to be provided very deep inside the earth. This elaborate system of passages and tunnels connecting an entire underground settlement is truly fascinating.
- Zemi Valley
The Zemi Valley is a popular tourist attraction due to its unique and attractive rock formations. Many visitors walk through its unique terrain created by volcanic activity over thousands of years. The trek also brings you many beautiful views, fairy fireplaces, eerie caves, and a small chapel carved into a rock with frescoes on the ceiling.
The Zemi Valley is home to some of the most beautiful and fascinating rock formations, with hills and mountains of all shapes and sizes. It’s not as popular as some of the other hikes in the area, so it won’t be as crowded and you’ll enjoy your experience to the fullest.
- Cavusin Castle
Cavasin Castle, located in a small town in Cappadocia, is a beautiful castle carved into the mountain. The castle, along with the surrounding houses, was inhabited by local people until the 1950s and is a great sightseeing spot for those interested in Turkey’s archaeological heritage. To reach the castle, you have to walk through the Cavasin Valley from the Cavasin Church. The top of Cavasin Castle is the perfect place to watch Cappadocia hot air ballooning at sunrise.
A small rocky path leads to the top of the castle from where you can see the entire valley with the church and the tall earth pillars. Although the palace has hundreds of rooms, it is quite difficult to enter them as the roads leading to them are narrow and slippery. Due to exposure to natural erosion, the infrastructure of the palace has partially collapsed.
- Love Valley
Love Valley, located outside the city of Goreme in Cappadocia, is an architectural wonder with natural and massive structures that have been created due to volcanic eruptions. The unique geological site is the most surprising region of Turkey. It is famous for hiking, biking, and hot air balloon rides. Cappadocia Love Valley has one of the most beautiful sunset views and is especially popular among couples for proposals.