20 magical things to do in Cappadocia

Cappadocia had been on our list of places to visit for over ten years and when we finally made it we weren’t disappointed. It is one of those places which everyone should visit once in their lifetime. It's known for fairy chimneys, incredible valleys and hundreds of hot air balloons that fill the sky every morning. But it offers so much more.

Upon arriving in Cappadocia we realised that we were never going to have enough time to see it all! There is so much to do in this small area, you’ll find yourself wondering how to cram it all in. Even when some of the best things to do are at sunrise, you’ll still wish there were more hours in the day. It’s a fairytale landscape with so much beauty to explore both on and off the beaten track.

We spent two weeks here and every day was full of adventure. Here’s our thoughts on the best things to do in amazing Cappadocia.


Understanding Cappadoccia

Cappadoccia is a collection of villages in central Turkey. The tourist hub is centred around Goreme and tends to be the place where most travellers base themselves. Within a short distance are many other villages and valleys that each have their own unique character.

It doesn't take long to get from one place to another and you can rack up quite a few places in a single day. However, unless you plan on getting taxis all the time, you’ll need a car. It makes everything a lot easier and means you can get to some of the gems which are further afield. The roads are excellent and the driving standard is high so don’t be afraid to get behind the wheel.



Top ten things to do in Cappadocia

If you want a quick summary of the must do things in Cappadocia, check out our list below. Otherwise, read on for our comprehensive guide to the best places to visit and things to see in the area.

  1. See the balloons at sunrise from Sunset Hill

  2. Devour the tastiest local food at the Apple Garden in Sognali

  3. Stroll through the pink cliffs in the Rose Valley

  4. Sip apple tea at Crazy Ali’s - a cliff edge cafe

  5. Stay in a cave hotel

  6. Get lost in the hundreds of rock formations in the Devrent Valley

  7. Explore the bewildering underground cities of Kaymakli or Derinkuyu

  8. Marvel at Uchisar Castle at sunset

  9. Wander through the stunning valleys at Goreme and Zelve Open Air Museums

  10. Try to stop yourself over spending on magical carpets at Galeri Ikman

To make things easier we’ve broken it down by area, starting with the centre of Cappadocia - Goreme.

Sunrise in Cappadocia

Things to do in Goreme

Some people love Goreme, some people hate Goreme, but it is undisputably the centre of everything in Cappadocia and a place you can’t avoid. At the foot of a valley, this village is full of hotels, restaurants, travel agents and shops that are geared towards tourists.

Whilst it can be pretty busy - and in some parts tacky - we still loved it. The setting is spectacular, surrounded by stunning valleys and covered in atmospheric fairy chimneys. Goreme is “touristy”, but it doesn’t sell out with British Pubs and tacky restaurants serving food it thinks that tourists like. It has retained a Turkish identity and we didn’t find ourselves hassled by touts.

Most mornings there are over 100 hot air balloons that take to the skies and Goreme is the best place to watch them from as they all take off in the hills and valleys around the village.

We’ll start with the best places to see them.

Sunrise from one of the cave hotel balconies

The place of choice to see the balloons at sunrise is one of the cave hotel balconies in Goreme. A lot of hotels have them and you’ll see the whole town come alive in the early hours with people out on the balconies watching the spectacle. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen of the balloons nothing will prepare you for the sight in real life. Magical is about the only word to describe it.

The views are incredible, but if you are at one of the popular hotels it can feel a little strange. We’ve seen so many people in black tie attire to add to that amazing photo! The sad thing is many people took the shots and then left and didn’t even watch the balloons, but that means you get way more space for yourself so we shouldn’t complain!

Despite the clamour for photos, it is undeniably one of the best things to do in Cappadocia. You can check out our favourite places to stay in Cappadocia, including the famous Sultan Cave Suites (where the photo above was taken).


Sunrise at Sunset Hill

The people of Goreme should probably rename Sunset Hill as it is a great spot at sunset but even more stunning at sunrise. This is one of the highest points in the area, making it perfect for panoramic views of the balloons taking off in the morning.

We actually preferred this spot to the cave hotel balcony proving you don’t need to spend big to have an amazing time in Cappadocia. It is easily one of the most photogenic locations in Turkey.

We recommend going to the furthest point along the ridge as you’ll have more space and be right in the thick of it. Then you can roll out a rug and take in the spectacle. The balloons felt close enough to touch and in fact at one point we could even see individual expressions on peoples faces!


Tip for sunset hill

You can park here, meaning you don’t need to hike up to the top from town if you don’t want to. Simply look on the location below on google maps, or set your sat nav to Ascension Caves Suites or Köy Evi.

 

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Take a balloon ride

The most popular thing to do in Cappadocia is hop into a balloon and see the fairy chimneys and valleys from above. Sadly it was out of our budget but maybe next time. One thing to note though is the balloon cram a lot of people in and that was something we weren’t too keen on.

Take a balloon ride - things to do in Cappadocia

The balloons take off from various locations and your route is determined by the winds. No matter what, you’ll take in Cappadocia’s iconic landscape at close range.

The balloons only fly at sunrise when the winds are calm and conditions are perfect. We’d also recommend asking about how many people are in each balloon as most were packed. Even if you pay €200 per person, you may find yourself with 24 others and barely able to see outside the balloon.

Shop for stunning, centuries old carpets

Cappadocian carpets are world famous for their quality and style, and there’s nowhere better to check them out than Galeri Ikman. This place has been in business for decades and has a huge collection of carpets that are up to 300 years old!

Top things to do in Cappadocia - Galeri Ikman

Spanning several rooms, this shop is more of a gallery and is a beautiful place to visit if anything for the sheer quantity of amazing carpets you can see. The courtyard with carpets on the walls and floors is the most striking place, but there are several other rooms to see.

Be considerate

You can take photos here if you are buying a carpet or pay for the privilege, it’s a shop after all. Tourists coming here and taking photos could disrupt their ability to make a livelihood and it isn’t unreasonable for them to ask for compensation for this.

Whilst many would ban it, the owner has tried to accommodate everyone’s needs. He is currently charging 50 lira ($8) but is likely to increase this every year.

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Stay in a cave hotel

One of the quintessential experiences in Cappadocia is staying in a cave hotel. The area has hundreds of them from simple small economy rooms, to vast suites in fairy chimneys. It is a really fun experience as you get to see a little of how locals lived for centuries in the area. Check out our tips for the best cave hotels in Cappadocia.

Check out the Goreme Open Air Museum

There are quite a few open air museums in Cappadocia, but the most popular is in Goreme itself. Open air museums are small areas of history preserved in their original condition, which in Cappadocia means fairy chimney houses, churches and villages that you can explore.

Goreme Open Air Museum

You can see everything here comfortably in 1 - 1.5 hours unless you want to use the audio guide. The highlight is the Dark Church which has by far the most beautifully preserved paintings on the ceilings of the church. This has an additional entrance fee of (15 Lira - approx US $2.70), but it is well worth the extra cost. It was the highlight of our visit.

The museum can get incredibly crowded so we’d recommend visiting at opening time or in the final hour or so before closing.

Getting to Goreme Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum is a five minute drive from Goreme centre. Entry costs 45 Lira - approx US $8.

 

Things to do in Uchisar

Ten minutes outside of Goreme, pretty little Uchisar is a quieter place to base yourself. We liked Uchisar but you will have a lot less options for dining and probably spend most of your time around Goreme.

There are a couple of interesting things to do here and it’s well worth spending a day exploring. We chose to stay here for a few nights as it was a lot quieter than Goreme and offered better value rooms to stay in.



Take in the views from the top of Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle dominates the surrounding landscape. Sitting on the top of a hill, this huge natural rock has been carved out to be a “castle” (without the draw-bridge, crenellations etc) and is a must see attraction.

You can go inside and head to the top for views that go for miles in all directions, including to the snow-capped Mount Erciyes. From here you can see just how many valleys and fairy chimneys Cappadocia has! It’s a beautiful spot to be at sunset, there isn’t a huge amount of room at the top so get there early if you want a sunset spot.

Getting to Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle is very well sign posted and is a 10 minute drive from Goreme. You can park at the castle (or for free on the street nearby) and entry costs 9 Lira - $1.50.

 

Take a stroll through Pigeon Valley

Often overlooked for Rose Valley and Love Valley, Pigeon Valley tends to be a place where tour buses stop at the top, take in the view and leave. If you do it this way, we’ll understand why you’d be a little underwhelmed.

The best way to see Pigeon Valley is to hike to the bottom. It’s not a very long or difficult walk, and you’ll soon enter a green, lush and narrow valley with cave houses all around you and stunning views to the castle.

Within minutes you’ll leave the built up town of Uchisar with the tourist buses at the lookout, pass the crazy mass of pigeons and reach tranquility on the valley floor.

The walk takes about 30 minutes altogether and you can simply turn back at any time you fancy.

Getting to Pigeon Valley

The start of the hike is by the shops and tourist viewpoint at Pigeon Valley. From here, follow the dirt path down to the valley floor.

 

Things to do near Cavusin

Cavusin isn’t so much a town, but the gateway to some of the most unique and beautiful valleys around Goreme. This is your chance to escape the crowds and head into the landscape that makes Cappadocia so famous and what most people only see from the air.

You can choose just how far you want to hike as places such as Love Valley and Devrent are pretty small and don’t require whole day excursions. However, we recommend putting aside a few hours to explore the magical Rose Valley up close.


Explore Rose Valley

The best hike in the whole of Cappadocia is through the Rose Valley. This stunning landscape is only accessible by foot or horse and winds through a narrow valley before coming up to the beautiful pink coloured cliffs. The views from here are spectacular and the trail continues to show you something amazing at every turn.

It’s not a difficult trail but there are some areas of loose gravel which can make it a tiny bit slippery.

Be sure to stop at the cafe in the middle of the track as it is right next to one of the best preserved paintings in any church in Cappadocia. Whilst many others are easier to get to, this was one of the few that hadn’t been vandalised and worth doing the hike for alone!

The cafe serves fresh juices, we opted to try all three combined - grapefruit, orange and pomegranate - and it was delicious! The views are out of this world and there are lots of comfy seats to relax in.

The church in Rose Valley


Getting to the Rose Valley hike

Finding this hike can be tricky, the trail starts on a dirt road by a hut (which had a man who pointed us in completely the wrong direction!). You can see where it starts on the map below.

 


Take a stroll through Love Valley

It’s not hard to see how Love Valley got its name and it’s one of the most popular stops on the tourist trail. However, most people view it from above in an area with heaps of swings and ATV’s whizzing by which wasn’t really our scene. In our opinion the best way to experience Love Valley is to wander through the valley itself.

Love Valley Cappadocia

The rock formations here are pretty odd and we still don’t really understand how they created such unique shapes. The walk is easy and the terrain is good, you can wander for as far as you want, all the way to Uchisar Castle or just through the best formations which takes around 20 minutes.

Things to do in Cappadocia - Love Valley

Getting to Love Valley

We recommend walking along the valley floor, which is a lot more peaceful and enjoyable. You can see where the trail starts on the map below.

 

Escape the crowds at Devrent Valley

To most people who visit, Devrent Valley is a stop along the road to Urgup with a small patch of concrete covered in souvenir shops. However those in the know will find an incredible landscape with narrow ridges that are densely packed with weird and wonderful rock formations.

The start is the hard part as the path into Devrent is steep and slippery (we don’t recommend it in sandals), but once in you’ll likely have this incredible valley all to yourself. There’s no set path but many meandering ones which you can follow for as long as you want.

Just watch out for the narrow sections where they are crumbling away as you don’t want to take a tumble.

Hiking in the Ilhara Valley, Cappadocia

This was one of our favourite experiences in Cappadocia and one that you definitely shouldn’t miss.

Getting to Devrent Valley

Devrent Valley takes about 20 minutes to drive to from Goreme. You’ll pass Pasabag and Zelve on the way and then see a set of shops with a small parking area. Cross the road and start exploring!

 

See the fairy chimneys and church at Pasabag

We were a little disappointed with Pasabag, having read many reviews from people saying it was much much better than Zelve or any open air museum.

The only reason we can think that anyone thought this was because entry is free unlike the other places. Or because it has a spot that is incredibly popular on Instagram! It’s not that it’s not worth seeing it’s just that it’s not as good as many of the other less visited attractions in the area.

Best things to do in Cappadocia - Pasabagi

Pasabag has fairy chimneys and a couple of unique places to explore, but it wasn’t comparable to the likes of Zelve, Devrent Valley, Goreme Open Air Museum or Rose Valley. This small area becomes incredibly busy and is a favourite for tour buses which continuously drop off big groups throughout the day. Visit early or late to avoid the crowds.

Our favourite part was actually going inside the chimneys which we were thrilled you are actually allowed to do.

Sadly the site has become covered in trash from tourists and touts who used to have shops inside the site. We saw disused fridges, water bottles and all kinds of rubbish which was really disappointing.

Getting to Pasabag

Pasabag is a five minute drive from Goreme and is easy to find (just look for the huge car park and shops!). It has no entrance fee.

 

Explore the Zelve Open Air Museum

Zelve is probably the biggest open air museum and takes you far away from modern Turkey into ancient Cappadocia. Here you can see churches and frescoes that are over 1,000 years old and were in use from the 10th Century.

We absolutely loved it.

It was everything we hoped Cappadocia would be and we were for the most part the only ones there!

Zelve Open Air Museum - Must see places in Cappadocia

It is a very beautiful place to walk around, set in a deep, green valley with hundreds of cave houses, churches and a monastery covering the mountainside.

You can choose to go inside and explore them up close, or simply walk on the paths and admire them from below.

Zelve needs about 1-1.5 hours to really take in, but it is well worth the effort.

Getting to Zelve

Entry to Zelve is 15 Lira ($3 USD) and takes about 10 minutes to drive to. It is further along the same road as Pasabag.

 

Things to do near Ortahisar

There’s not much in Ortahisar as it is essentially a junction between Urgup and Goreme. However, it is the entry to the Red Valley and the stunning panoramic viewpoint there. It is about 15 minutes west of Goreme, and there are few better places to be at sunset in Cappadocia

Take in the views from Panoramic View

Panoramic View is breathtaking. The views to the rose coloured cliffs, deep valleys and fairy chimneys is one of the most spectacular in Cappadocia and the best place to be at sunset as you can see the sunset straight in front of you.

There are plenty of places to explore, including several epic ridges and even a few coffee shops. You can actually hike around the Red Valley which was our original plan but these paths are slippery. Like seriously scarily slippery. We decided to abandon the idea but if you’re comfortable with that kind of terrain then it would make for an awesome hike.

Drink an Apple Tea with a view

There aren’t many cafes in the world like Crazy Ali’s. Perched at Panoramic View, this cafe has cushions seats that are literally on the edge of a cliff. To say it’s a spectacular location is an understatement.

With an apple tea, or maybe a glass of wine in hand, you can see the whole of the Red Valley at your feet and look over to the sun setting on the horizon in front of you.

We’ve never been anywhere quite like it. We recommend turning up at least an hour before sunset as there are only a couple of seats on the very edge of the cliff and this place is popular.

 

Further afield

The further you go out from Goreme, the quieter you’ll find things are. There are plenty of amazing places to visit for those who make the effort so we recommend hiring a car and taking a day or two to check out a few of the following places.

Kaymakli underground city

The underground cities in Cappadocia are a popular stop, if anything to see their incredible feat of engineering. Here you can explore the many tunnels that lead to churches, living areas, wine cellars and communal areas where people used to live. It’s amazing to think people lived in these tightly packed winding spaces.

Kaymakli Underground city - Cappadocia

Kaymakli is the most famous of all the underground cities in Cappadocia and is the best preserved for visitors. It takes about 30-45 minutes to wander around and you’ll be entering a labyrinth of tunnels and rooms that without the signs would leave you completely lost!

We would recommend getting a guide to explain the history and take you through it all as otherwise you’ll be looking at empty rooms! We didn’t hire a guide and decided we had probably missed out. The tunnels are narrow, so we don’t recommend this for anyone who is claustrophobic or has any problems with hunching over - even if you don’t have any problems, you’ll find your back aching after visiting!

Getting to Kaymakli

Kaymakli is a 30 minute drive south from Goreme. Entry is 35 Lira ($6.25 USD) and you can hire a guide at the entrance if you want.

 

Derinkuyu underground city

The town of Derinkuyu has seen better days as the centre looks relatively derelict. However, the underground city is pretty cool and goes incredibly deep into the ground, more so than at Kaymakli. Derinkuyu is pretty different to Kaymakli, a little more rustic and less manicured.

Derinkuyu Underground city in Cappadocia

The highlight is the church which is at the bottom of a never ending flight of stairs that goes really deep underground. Like Kaymakli, there isn’t much information if you don’t have a guide and all rooms are empty, but it is an impressive place to explore and wonder just how they built it all this far underground.

Getting to Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu is just another 10 minute drive south of Kaymakli. Entry is also 35 Lira ($6.25 USD).

 

See the Keslik Monastery

Tucked into the countryside, the Keslik Monastery is a combination of buildings that were once home to monks. The grounds here are beautiful and you can explore living quarters and communal rooms, although again there is little information available if you aren’t visiting with a guide.

The most impressive part is the church which is one of the biggest we saw in Cappadocia and went across two floors. Keslik is run by a local family who also offer turkish tea in a beautiful garden at the end of your visit.

The views were very pretty from here and we spent some time sitting on the rocks taking it all in. Only two other people were visiting when we were there which was very refreshing!

Getting to Keslik Monastery

Keslik Monastery is a 30 minute drive south of Goreme and will appear on the side of the road out of nowhere! Entry is 10 Lira ($1.80 USD) and the local family will probably invite you for some Turkish tea in their beautiful garden.

 

Explore Soganli Valley

Soganli was one of our favourite places in all of Cappadocia and that’s saying something. We didn’t see one single other tourist in our whole visit and have absolutely no idea why.

The valley is scattered with amazing rock churches all of which you can explore on your own. The frescos inside are in varying states of disrepair but the churches themselves are incredibly atmospheric.

Soganli Valley

They are spread out across the valley and you can hike in between them or drive fairly close to them and then walk a little way to explore inside them. Most are just a short staircase away from the road but a few such as the Hidden and Domed churches will require a gentle 10 minute stroll to reach. All are signposted.

The whole valley is spectacular and had it not been raining we would have chosen to hike it. We visited seven churches and as they are all really close together if you drive this took less than an hour and a half and we weren’t rushing.

There are a few more churches you can visit but the insides are all similar so we didn’t feel the need. Our favourites were the Church with Deer, Hidden Church, Domed Church and the Church with Buckle (which is just outside the fee zone).

Murals in the churches in Sognali Valley

Entrance to the valley costs 3 Lira (approx 50c USD) and this includes entrance to all churches.

We’d also highly recommend stopping for lunch at the Apple Tree Garden just before the fee zone. It was one of the most delicious meals we had in Turkey and mains came with an enormous wheel of fresh bread and three different homemade cheeses!

Apple Tree Garden - Sognali valley in Cappadocia

The tables are set under the apples trees and have views to the amazing cliffs. It really topped off an amazing day in the valley.

Getting to Soganli Valley

Soganli Valley is an hour’s drive away from Goreme. You can stop at either Kaymakli or Derinkuyu Underground Valley on the way there to break up the journey.

 

Hike around Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley is beautiful and well worth the time it takes to get there (just over an hour from Goreme). The drive is scenic and it gets more and more so the closer you get to the valley.

You arrive to an area with lots of seating right over the river which is a beautiful and peaceful place for a drink or some lunch before making your way into the valley itself.

Ilhara Valley - Places to visit in Cappadocia

You can then walk into the valley following the river and stopping in as many rock churches as you fancy. The forest is beautiful and it was so good to just hear the sounds of the rivers and the birds after spending quite a bit of time in the busy towns.

The riverside walk is almost entirely flat but to get into the churches you will need to climb up staircases. The frescos inside were in much better condition than most of those we saw in Cappadocia and as with all the churches we saw in the area incredibly atmospheric.

Ilhara Valley in Cappadocia

Most people only walk for a kilometre or so to a little cafe area where you can buy fresh juice or gozleme but continuing along the path means you leave everyone else behind and get to see more of the beautiful valley.

You could walk for 14km one way if you wanted to but we chose to do the 7km loop. You walk up one side of the river and then back along the other side where there are yet more rock churches. We’d love to have seen more and if you have more time you can also do a 15km loop.

Entrance to Ihlara Valley is 30 Lira (approx $5.40 USD) and is open from 8am. The earlier you go the less crowded it will be but as mentioned most people only opt to see a small portion of the valley so it’s not hard to lose the crowds at any time of day.

Getting to the Ilhara Valley

The best place to start the hike in the Ilhara Valley is at Belisirma and to head north. There are plenty of places to park as there are restaurants wanting to sell to tourists. The journey should take about 1 hour 15 from Goreme.

 

Where to stay in Cappadocia

Getting your head around the hundreds of places to stay in Cappadocia can be hard, so we’ve got a couple of suggestions below.

Local Cave House - Goreme

Instagrammer’s favourite and truly unique, Local Cave House has it all. As the name suggests, all the rooms are caves in a fairy chimney, meaning you will have a quintessential Cappadocian experience. The rooms are nicely furnished with local touches and despite being in the middle of Goreme, it is really quiet.

There’s a picturesque pool for when it gets hot outside and the views from here are spectacular (but they aren’t of the balloons). It’s also one of the best value hotels in the whole area.

Booking.com

Duven Hotel - Uchisar

Duven House flies under the radar of most travellers, which means this gem is also lovely and quiet. Although it isn’t a cave hotel, Duven makes up for this with a spectacular view of Uchisar Castle which is only 50 metres away!

The rooms are big, comfortable and come with a tasty breakfast included, making it superb value.

Booking.com
Booking.com

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