“Oh Cappadocia! You are even better than I ever expected.” This is what I thought after I left this beautiful region that lays in Central Anatolia. To be honest I only knew about Cappadocia because of Instagram – and was mainly interested in the famous sunrise Hot-Air-Balloon rides (more about that later!) that just look insane. Once I started to do some research I found out though, that Cappadocia does not only offer some amazing sceneries to explore but also so much history – that would even be worth a trip there alone. No wonder that Cappadocia is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s quite interesting how the otherworldly landscape was formed over the years.
To me, Cappadocia was a revelation of history and unbelievable landscapes in one place – and everybody should consider traveling to Cappadocia at least once in his life. In this post, I will tell you everything about my own experiences in Cappadocia, what you need to know and, eventually, the best things to do in Cappadocia.
But first, here are…
8 Fun Facts about Cappadocia
- Some people believe that the geological formations in Cappadocia (Fairy Chimneys) are made by aliens.
- Most of the land around Cappadocia is still private property – which is mostly owned by locals.
- Cappadocia’s landscape was mainly formed by volcanic erosions (wait, I thought aliens?!), which took place over 3 million years ago.
- The name “Cappadocia” is deduced from the Persian word “Katpaktukya”, which translates to “the land of beautiful horses”.
- There are over 600 churches spread over the region – probably much more are not discovered yet.
- The Christians, who escaped the Arab invasion, gave one town the name of Goreme which means “you cannot see here”.
- You can find numerous underground cities, which were home to over 20’000 people.
- The cities and towns of Cappadocia were possibly originally built and owned by the Hittites in 2500-2000 BC.
Best things to do in Cappadocia
Göreme Open Air Museum
Probably the best-known and most visited place in Cappadocia: The Göreme Open Air Museum. The area, which is home to dozens of churches, was first built when the Christians settled there. It was originally used to disseminate their religion. Well, churches alone wouldn’t be the most exciting – but they are built into rocks, which makes all of them extremely special and so different to regular churches. Inside the churches, you can see paintings, which are in different conditions. The best preserved is definitely the “Karanlik Church” (Dark Church), which costs an extra 10 Turkish Lira.
I really enjoyed visiting this place – however, you should try to avoid the huge tourist hordes, as the Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the first things to do in Cappadocia. I recommend visiting early in the morning or shortly before it closes. If you are interested in some more historical insights it might be a good idea to explore the area with a guide.
Entrance: 30 Turkish Lira (+10 TL Dark Church)
From the distance this place resembles a castle – but it actually isn’t. The village of Uchisar lies at the foot of the rock formation, which is perforated in the usual manner of Cappadocia. Uchisar is the highest point in Cappadocia and offers magnificent views from the top – including Mount Erciyes (which is almost 4’000 meters high) in the distance.
Inside the rocks, there are many rooms hollowed out and are connected to each other with stairs, tunnels, and passages. Due to the erosion, it is unfortunately not possible to access all these places anymore. Nowadays the rooms inside the huge rocks are mainly used as pigeon houses. (to use their droppings as a natural fertilizer)
In my opinion, the panoramic view from the top of the Uchisar “castle” is really amazing, but it looks even more spectacular from the ground, as the castle itself looks just incredible. For me, this was one of the most spectacular best places in Cappadocia.
Entrance: 8 Turkish Lira
Visit other churches
As I already mentioned there are over 600 churches discovered in the area of Cappadocia so far – far too many to explore all of them – but a great option to visit some lesser-known churches. While we were hiking in one of the many valleys we stumbled upon the Hacli Church (Church with the cross), which actually had beautiful paintings inside. So it is definitely not a bad idea to explore some lesser known churches when staying in Cappadocia!
Pottery in Avanos
The town of Avanos is famous for making pottery and attracts visitors with “workshops” where you can see how the pottery is actually made – and even try to do it on your own. Those “workshops” are free of charge and pretty funny (by the way: it’s really difficult!). Afterward, you can have a look at one of the souvenir stores and buy some souvenirs if you want. Just be careful: The prices are pretty high and you have to negotiate to get a good value. I personally went to “Avanos Seramik”, which was recommended to us by a local.
You might ask yourself why the pottery became that successful exactly in Avanos – which has a simple answer: The Red River. It supplied the region with red clay which makes it possible to create the pottery. Pottery dates back to 2’000 BC here.
While the Fairy Chimneys (Rock Formations) are a product of both nature and human work there is no doubt that they are so special to see. Once I arrived in Cappadocia and saw the first weird looking rocks I was already fascinated – and this didn’t stop until I left Cappadocia. Honestly, the Fairy Chimneys are one of the best things to see in Cappadocia – and they are basically everywhere! Just keep your eyes open, explore some valleys (you can find some of them in this post!) and enjoy the view once you find a couple of new Fairy Chimneys!
If you want to be sure to see all the famous Fairy Chimneys you can book a guided tour.
Zelve Open Air Museum
The Zelve Open Air Museum was one of the biggest surprises to me: In a positive way. It is by far one of the most picturesque corners of Cappadocia and way less crowded than the Göreme Open Air Museum. Today a museum, the Zelve area used to be a monastic settlement and later a village. Since the 1950s it is abandoned due to a rock collapse. In my opinion, the Zelve Open Air Museum is a great place, as you can explore all three valleys at once and have some great spots to take pictures. Apparently, the Open Air Museum closes pretty early, which makes it hard to capture it during sunset. Still, one of my favorite things to do in Cappadocia.
Entrance: 10 Turkish Lira
Nearby the Zelve Open Air Museum you can find another well-known place to visit in Cappadocia: The Monks Valley. The name was derived from some cones carved in tuff stones which stand apart. Some of them split into smaller cones in their upper sections, in which stylites and hermits once did.
That sounds pretty interesting, but why should you go there? Well, it is probably the place with some of the most striking Fairy Chimneys and should definitely be on your list when you travel to Cappadocia.
We already mentioned cave churches and fairy chimneys – it can’t get crazier, right? Well, it can! In the area of Cappadocia, you can find some big former underground cities that are worth to explore.
The two best known are Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. I visited the latter one, which was an interesting and impressive experience. It was discovered in 1968 and eight layers have been excavated until 2018. The underground city is 55 meters deep and has a surface area of more than 2’400 square meters. Inside the city used to live around 20’000 inhabitants, which is a crazy number if you ask me. The underground city Derinkuyu (and many others in the area) were first used by the Byzantines to hide from the Muslim Arabs.
I already felt a bit cramped after one hour inside – hard to imagine how people lived there for months or even years. But for sure one of the most interesting activities in Cappadocia.
Entrance: 25 Turkish Lira (Derinkuyu)
Another rock formation that looks like a castle from far away – and not less stunning than Uchisar Castle in my opinion: Ortahisar Castle. It also lies at the foot of a rock-block slope with many rock-hollows. The first inhabitants of this village probably lived there. Nowadays, the hollows are used as storerooms. Known for the jagged castle that gives the town its name, Ortahisar is the acme of Cappadocia’s agricultural soul.
When I went there personally I spent quite some time to take pictures, as I really loved how the “castle” looks – one of the main things to see in Cappadocia for sure.
The combination of the name “Love Valley” and the phallic-shaped pillars is quite hilarious. Seriously, once I arrived in the Love Valley I just had to laugh for a bit, as most of the rocks basically look like a huge penis. But the valley is not only a good place if you want to take some “suggestive” images but also to hike around, as the area looks absolutely beautiful.
Sinasos – “Greek City”
This area was home to numerous civilizations over the centuries: The Assyrian, Hittite, Roman, and Byzantine empires are some of the cultures that have occupied the area. Therefore you can see all these influences in the style of architecture. In some of the houses have been found Greek letters, subtle clues that allude to the thriving Greek Orthodox community of wealthy merchants who settled in this town in the late 18th century.
If you decide to visit Sinasos you can explore the old “Greek city”, which looks pretty interesting. There is also a viewpoint to have a better overview of the area. I also visited the nearby History & Art Museum of Cappadocia, which was rather special and illustrated with dolls and artifacts. If you don’t have that much time and ask yourself what to do in Cappadocia I would maybe cut Sinasos out of the program, as other places impressed me more.
Sunrise Hot-Air-Balloon Flight
No doubt about that: Flying with a hot-air-balloon in Cappadocia must be one of the highlights of a trip to Cappadocia – as it offers aerial views on this beautiful region. Unfortunately, I was not able to do it due to constant bad wind conditions during my stay, still, I talked with some people who did it already, including locals, and they all told me the same: It is an unforgettable experience that is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia. At least I already have a reason to travel to Cappadocia again!
Usually, the tour operators will pick you up from your hotel and transport you to the starting point. After enjoying the sunrise views from the air you will land and even get a champagne toast. You can book your own sunrise flight right here!
Watch the sunrise
The best thing about the Hot-Air-Balloons comes now: They are not only amazing if you fly in one of them but also if you just enjoy a beautiful sunrise. Why? Because the whole scene just looks way more beautiful than without – it adds so much interest to images and just feels so special. It’s probably the main reason why Cappadocia became so famous on Instagram – because hands down the images of Cappadocia with the balloons during sunrise are just out of this world. You can get the best views from several viewpoints or if you’re lucky from your own hotel (more about that later). Anyway, watching the sunrise is for sure one of the best things to do in Cappadocia – and I could do it every day.
The Turkish nights are pretty famous and well visited in Cappadocia: You basically spend a whole evening in a restaurant, enjoy traditional food (like lamb dinner) and in the meantime experience shows consisting of Turkish dancing. It’s personally nothing I’d really enjoy, that’s why I skipped this myself. However, it would be a great and funny experience, especially if you don’t know too much about Turkish traditions. You can book the Turkish nights online or simply ask your hotel in Cappadocia.
Evil eye trees
The evil eye trees are adorned with blue glass talismans against a cobalt sky. Receiving those “evil eyes” are believed to cause misfortune or injuries. To protect against that, the talismans were created and are hung frequently on those trees. This tradition is spread over many parts of our world, including Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Mexico and many more. It is also a perfect souvenir for tourists. The trees itself look very nice, especially when standing right next to a huge valley. When you know about its history and meaning it gets even more interesting.
Another cool way to explore the many different valleys of Cappadocia is to go on an ATV Tour with a local guide. In that way, you can see a lot of the region in a short time – and even have some fun while driving around the moon landscapes in Cappadocia. For me, this is a perfect option if you like adventures or don’t want to hike in Cappadocia for many hours. it might also be a fun idea to do with kids as the routes are really easy and tailored towards inexperienced drivers.
Stay in a cave hotel
Staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia is a great idea, believe me. At first, I just thought it’s really special, but at the end, I was fascinated by our accommodation in Cappadocia: Staying in a cave hotel is just so much fun and a feeling you’ll never forget! Sure, there might be cheaper places than a cave hotel, but the money is invested really well and you would regret to not take your chance. I personally stayed in Koza Cave Hotel, which has amazing cave rooms and one of the best views from its terrace to see the hot-air-balloons during sunrise.
Try pottery kebab
As you already know Avanos is famous for its pottery – and one of the best regional dishes is a combination of pottery and kebab! The “testi kebab” is known for the vessel that it’s cooked and served in. It’s usually made with lamb, beef or chicken with vegetables like onions, carrots, and potatoes. While there are so many different (and tasty!) kebabs throughout Turkey I can just recommend trying the local specialty wherever you are: So get your self a “testi kebab” and enjoy its special flavors.
The “Devrent Valley” (Imaginary Valley) is one of the places that I liked the most during my trip to Cappadocia. After some days in Cappadocia you are definitely used to weird rock formations and unreal landscapes, yet, this place left me almost speechless. Once you arrive there you will witness rock formations that look like animals, humans, hands, and whatever your phantasy will see. Strolling around there was something I’ve really enjoyed.
There is only one drawback: All the guided tours arrive there with their buses too – but will mainly just go to the most famous rock formations at the beginning of the valley. If you hike up the steep hills for some minutes you will be almost alone – which is perfect to explore and take creative images.
Horse / camel riding
Just like the ATV tours, it is a pretty common way for tourists to get around in Cappadocia with horses or camels. This is definitely a faster way to get around than by walking – yet, I think it’s not necessary if you don’t have a below average endurance, as the hikes are not that exhausting (except during hot summer months).
Saving the best till the last! That’s so true with the Red Valley. While there are so many amazing locations in and around the area, the Red Valley is for sure one of the best places to go in Cappadocia, especially for sunset! Even better is, that there is something to do for every kind of traveler!
The Red Valley Sunset viewpoint has is easily accessible by car and offers amazing views. There are even some small cafes where you can have a drink and enjoy the time. If you are more of an adventurer/hiker there are plenty of amazing routes available – including the possibility to hike to the summit. And when you are a photographer like me, well, then this is the first place you should add to your bucket list in Cappadocia. The views there are a mix of Grand Canyon and moon landscapes, in short: just breathtaking. But I will let the pictures speak…
Where to stay in Cappadocia?
When it comes to where you should stay in Cappadocia there is only one answer for me: In a cave hotel. While there are plenty of amazing options in an around Göreme I stayed in Koza Cave Hotel during my 4 days there and I’m completely happy with what I’ve experienced there.
I only heard good things about the cave hotel before I went there – even that it is the best cave hotels in Cappadocia from some. And after I spent 4 nights there I can just agree with everything I heard before: An absolutely amazing place to stay! While the rooms and the breakfast buffet are already amazing, the terrace of the hotel will blow your mind: You have a perfect view on the sunrise spectacle every morning, with a 360-degrees view on the area. Additionally, Koza Cave Hotel is not a huge hotel chain where you are seen as just a “guest”, it’s a family business that really cares about all his guests and will help you with everything you’ll encounter during your stay.
If you ever travel to Cappadocia: This hotel is an excellent option I can just recommend and for sure one of the best places to stay in Cappadocia.
Restaurants in Cappadocia
I have to admit I’m not an expert when it comes to the best restaurants in Cappadocia. I just spent too much time exploring the area and had basically no time to even think about food (which is a good sign). Still, I will tell you some of the restaurants I tried out and liked. They were all recommended to us by locals:
- Top Deck Cave Restaurant
- Ziggy’ Caffe
- Pumpkin Restaurant
I especially liked the Top Deck Cave Restaurant, as you had the chance to eat in a traditional way on the ground, which was pretty cool. If you know about other great restaurants in Cappadocia/Göreme you can let me know in the comments!
Best time to visit Cappadocia
There are to time windows that are recommended for visits to Cappadocia: From the end of April to June and September to October. During this months the days are warm but not too hot and there is only a small chance of rainfall. In the first few weeks of April, there are usually stronger winds, which can lead to canceled hot-air-balloon flights (yep, happened to me!).
The summers can get really hot and dry in Cappadocia, which is not perfect for the many valleys and locations you can explore. On the other hand, it is really cold in Cappadocia during winter, which makes the months stated above the best time to visit Cappadocia. However, Cappadocia is accessible to tourists throughout the year.
I personally stayed there in early April and had good weather in general – the temperatures were mild and I was able to explore and see most of the things I wanted to.
How to get to Cappadocia
This is the fastest and most reliable way to get to Cappadocia! There are even two airports that are possible for your trip to Cappadocia: Kayseri Erkilet Airport (ASR) and Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport (NAV) – which are both a good option.
From the airports, you can use shuttle buses, taxis or public transportation. The easiest way to arrange this is to simply ask your hotel.
Another easy way to get to Cappadocia is to take one of the many buses inside the country. You can basically reach Cappadocia from every major city, which is a great option to get to Cappadocia during a trip through Turkey. Here are some examples.
- Istanbul (12 hours)
- Ankara (5 hours)
- Bursa (11 hours)
- Izmir (12 hours)
- Konya (4 hours)
- Antalya (9 hours)
To get to Cappadocia by train you’d have to get off at the Kayseri train station, which has good connections throughout the country. From there you need to take a bus to Göreme.
To get around Cappadocia without a car can be quite tricky, as the region is huge, the public transport not really good and some of the main attractions are far away from each other. Therefore I’d recommend renting a car – if you don’t decide to book guided tours. For a better overview of the main attractions of Cappadocia, you can have a look at this map.
How long to stay in Cappadocia?
There is so much to explore in Cappadocia and the area is so beautiful and special that you could possibly stay there for a couple of weeks – yet, most of us don’t have that much time. I stayed in Cappadocia for 4 days, which was a good amount of time. I saw the most famous places and even explored many valleys and less-known churches, areas and rock formations. Sure, it is also possible to just come for one day, do a balloon flight, visit some of the main attractions and then leave for the next place.
I highly recommend to not do this! In my opinion, you should stay at least 3 to 4 days, if possible even a bit more. You can see one reason why in my example: I missed the chance for a hot-air-balloon flight, even though I stayed there for 4 nights.
You can read about all the places I’ve visited in Turkey when you click here.
Flying drones in Cappadocia?
Because I am a big freak when it comes to flying with my drone this is a question I asked my self a lot. And I have good news for you: Flying a drone in Cappadocia is not a problem – you can do it. I would still be careful though, as the judicial situation in Turkey when it comes to drones is not defined really clear. Still, flying outside the main attractions shouldn’t be a problem at all.
We’re coming to an end – and I think there is not so much to say anymore. If you are not sure if you should travel to Cappadocia… just go for it, you will not regret it! You can also combine it with a trip through whole Turkey, including one of the most interesting cities on this planet: Istanbul.
I honestly had high expectations before I went to Cappadocia – and this place even managed to be better than I ever dreamed of. For me, Cappadocia is a place that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
I hope you liked this post and you don’t ask yourself anymore what to do in Cappadocia – if there are still open questions or something you’d like to add: I’m looking forward reading your comments.
Have you ever been to Cappadocia? If yes, which place did you like the most?