Cappadocia is a beautiful region in central Turkey famous for its fairytale scenery, cave dwellings, remarkable rock formations and, of course, the hundreds of hot air balloons that soar in the sky during sunrise each morning. There is also so much awesome hiking in Cappadocia, that it will take you at least a week to explore all of the diverse hiking trails in the region.
THE CAPPADOCIA TRAVEL GUIDE: 24 AWESOME THINGS TO DO
1. FLYING IN A HOT AIR BALLOON AT SUNRISE
The Cappadocia hot air balloons are fast-becoming one of the most common travel bucket list items in the world. It’s not hard to see why as you seamlessly float above the historic cave dwellings of Goreme Town with over 100 other balloons at sunrise in what can only be likened to a fairytale scene.
Each year more than half a million people enjoy hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, which is an incredible number and makes this region the number one hot air balloon destination in the world. I think half of the spectacle is seeing all the other balloons in the air at the same time, not just the epic landscape you are flying over.
You NEED to book your balloon flight in advance as they can often be sold out or have a backlog of flights if there are prior days of bad weather.
2. RED VALLEY HIKE & SUNSET VIEWPOINT
When it comes to hiking in Cappadocia, it is hard to go past Red Valley. The Sharp sandstone ridges glow a deep, vibrant red as the sun burns into the unique landscape in the last moments of the sunset each night. If you only have a couple of nights in Cappadocia, but this one up high on the list for sunset spots. There is a great trail loop including Meskindir and Rose Valley or you can drive straight to the sunset viewpoint to chill at the cafe or hike to the top of the flag viewpoint. Whether you hike or not, this is one of the must-visit places in Cappadocia.
The hike is joined with Rose Valley in most cases and leads you through an ancient church inside one of the caves, past yellow sandstone rock formations and incredible cave dwellings. The trail is diverse and only moderate in difficulty making it a perfect adventure and of the top things to do in Cappadocia.
3. ROSE VALLEY HIKE AND SUNSET SPOT
The Rose Valley hiking trail in Cappadocia winds through an incredibly unique area with sharp ridges, tinted in pink especially during sunset! Over thousands of years, the ridges have formed to create a unique corrugated landscape. Almost all of the time, one side of a ridge is in the sun while the other in the shadow, further accentuating the sharpness and scale of these sandstone formations.
What makes the Rose Valley one of the most unique places to visit in Cappadocia is that not only do you have these incredible rock formations but in this particular region, the minerals in the sandstone have a pink tinge. This pink becomes more and more evident throughout the day, peaking at sunset when the sun glows directly onto the Rose Valley giving it that fine shade of pink so many people come to see.
4. LOVE VALLEY TRAIL TO UCHISAR CASTLE
Love Valley is set just outside of Goreme and you can hike all the way through Love Valley to Uchisar Castle, passing by the rock formations up close on a trail with likely nobody else. It is a relatively flat, peaceful walk through to Uchisar taking 1-2 hours. The rock formations are phallic shapes, which is why the valley full of penis-shaped rocks got its name, ‘Love Valley’. It’s truly one of the most unique places to visit in Cappadocia.
The final section of the valley was brilliant with waving sandstones in a beautiful, stark white surrounding us. At the end of the valley, you can continue walking all the way up to Uchisar Castle, which is one of the best viewpoints in Cappadocia.
5. VISIT PASABAG VALLEY
Pasabag Valley is one of the most popular spots in Goreme, Cappadocia with its epic fairy chimneys and cave dwellings.
Aside from the large crowds and tour buses, Pasabag Valley is well worth a visit. The fairy chimneys truly are quite amazing. Often a rock, sits atop off the chimney, ominously balancing its way through storms and heavy winds. Amongst the valley, you’ll find lots of cave dwellings, which are often double and triple stories. You are able to venture inside to explorethe different levels.
The Goreme Open-Air Museum is one of the most popular attractions and historic sites in Cappadocia with an audio-tour guiding you through the ancient paintings, churches and cave houses from centuries ago. The tour below actually includes Pasabag Valley with a guide (I highly recommend) and a visit to other popular spots in Cappadocia.
6. GOREME OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
The Goreme Open-Air Museum is one of the most popular attractions and historic sites in Cappadocia with an audio-tour guiding you through the ancient paintings, churches and cave houses from centuries ago. The tour below actually includes Goreme Open-Air Museum with a guide and a visit to other popular spots in Cappadocia.
The Goreme Open-Air Museum is very close to the city-center in Goreme, which is the most popular town in Cappadocia. It is possible to walk to the Goreme Open Air museum from the town-center and would take about 15-minutes and is a little bit uphill.
With more than 30 stops along the tour, the audio guide explains lots of the history and facts about the region and the people who lived in Cappadocia in the cave houses. This is one of the main reasons why it is one of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia.
7. SPEND SUNRISE AT LOVER’S HILL
This panoramic sunset viewpoint in Goreme Town is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise, which is why it is quite crowded in the morning for sunrise and of course sunset as mentioned. Despite the crowds, it is where I took all of my best Cappadocia hot air balloon photos. You are often above the balloons and can shoot towards Uchisar Castle, Red Valley or over Goreme Town. There will be crowds but also epic views of the entire region.
8. EXPLORE IHLARA VALLEY
The Ihlara Valley is an incredible gorge with a stunning river running right down the heart of the valley for 16km within the volcanic rock. It is near the province of Aksaray but still considered part of the southern Cappadocia region. It’s a great spot for a relatively easy walk amidst some peaceful, leafy nature as well as being a hub for cave churches, of which you will find many along the trail.
The Ihlara Valley is mostly comprised of the section running from Selime to Ihlara Village. Along the route, you will come across lots of churches. 16 of the 105 churches are open to visitors and there in intact paintings and carvings inside.
For a few hours, you can forget you are out in the dry, desert and experience the sounds of the forest as you walk beneath tree arches, clamber over boulders and stroll through the grassy openings. Wildflowers of all colors paint the sides of the path and lead your eyes off the trail and toward the towering cliffs on either side of the gorge. There’s even a waterfall you can swim in, which is why it makes it one of the top ten things to do in Cappadocia.
9. PIGEON VALLEY HIKING TRAIL
Pigeon Valley (also known as Guvercinlik Valley) is among the most popular hiking trails in Cappadocia, especially because it stretches between Goreme to Uchisar. Along the route, you will find cave dwellings, ancient paintings, earth pillars and of course… pigeons.
The trail begins with a sharp descent along a white dusty path. Within a few minutes, you are in the heart of the valley and hardly take notice of the town above you. In fact, you only get small glimpses of the town or theUchisar Castleabove the treeline at certain moments.
The trail leads you through thick trees and several caves. If you keep your eyes peeled you will spot a number of ancient paintings on the walls of the cave dwellings, where people lived during the Byzantine period. The Pigeon Valley Trail is definitely one of the top things to do in Goreme, Cappadocia.
10. ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
The Zelve Open-Air Museum is an incredible site that once housed one of the largest communities in Cappadocia. In this incredible cave town, you can walk amongst historic dwellings, churches, and religious chambers as well as the town square.
They have done a great job at this location by creating an easy path to navigate but also given adventurous people paths and trails to explore a bit further. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on the tourist track when there’s so much more to see but you can really immerse yourself in amongst the scenery here. It’s actually much more interesting than the Goreme Open-Air Museum, which has 20 times more tourists visit per day and is very crowded.
11. EXPLORE DEVRENT VALLEY
Devrent Valley in Cappadocia (also known as Imaginary Valley) is a beautiful valley full of unique rock formations, many of which are said to resemble animal shapes.
The beauty of Devrent Valley is that unlike other sites in Cappadocia, you can immerse yourself amongst the earth pillars and rock formations. You can explore and discover as you wind your way up the steep, slippery hills. If you are willing to get off the beaten path, you will enjoy wandering through Devrent Valley and adventuring amongst these unique natural structures.
12. WATCH SUNSET FROM THE TOP OF UCHISAR CASTLE
The Uchisar Castle is in the small, but beautiful town of Uchisar in Cappadocia, Turkey. It’s one of the best viewpoints in Cappadocia and only a short drive or a small trek from the nearby town of Goreme.
The trek isn’t tough with about 100 stairs to the top. However, the path first leads you inside the caves of the castle before you emerge to begin walking up the stairs on the exterior.With 360-degree views, there really is a lot to take in so make sure you walk around to all corners to see out over Goreme and all of the surrounding valleys. Making your way is one of the most fun things to do in Cappadocia!
13. MESKINDIR VALLEY
The Meskendir is a short trail in Goreme that leads you past numerous cave dwellings and historic sites as well as through multiple tunnels. It is quite a shady trail, which makes it a top suggestion for during the middle of the day. I combined the Meskendir Trail,Rose Valley Trail, andRed Valley Trailall into one super hike as the paths all connect. However, if you prefer a short walk, you can just venture out on the Meskendir Trail and do an out and back hike.
The Trailhas a series of sandstone tunnel that was super cool. Some of them were similar to the tunnels on theLove Valley Trailbut these tunnels were longer and the roofs were much higher. Around every corner would be a little opening that would expose some amazing cave dwellings and historic sites. Huge walls of windows and pigeon holes towered over us as we imagined what the tunnel and stair system looked like on the inside. It’s amazing to try and imagine all of Cappadocia living in this style of dwelling hundreds of years ago. There were even rock paintings high up on the wall.
14. LOVER’S HILL SUNSET POINT
There are a few great sunset points but the most popular place to watch the sunset in Goreme Town, Cappadocia is Lover’s Hill, which is also known as Asiklar Tepesi. You may also hear it referenced as ‘Sunset Point’, which is a pretty good indication that it is THE spot to go for sunset if you are staying in town.
The beauty of Lover’s Hill Sunset Point is that it is within walking distance of most hotels in Goreme, which is where most people stay in Cappadocia. The majority of people looking to catch sunset either do it at Lover’s Hill, Red Valley Sunset Point or from the terrace of their hotel. Therefore, as you can imagine, Lover’s Hill is quite busy being the closest sunset spot.
15. ORTAHISAR CASTLE VIEWPOINT
Ortahisar Castle is one of the best viewpoints in Cappadocia with great views stretching all the way to Uchisar and Goreme!
At the base of the castle, you will first walk through a series of cobblestone alleys and paths, possibly getting distracted by a cafe, wine cellar or both. The climb up only takes about 5-minutes as you aren’t going all the way to the top just to the middle of the castle. The way leads you through the inner caves, ladders and exterior stairs of the castle. Just before sunsetgolden light is beginning to look great on the castle and we could enjoy the views in all directions with the platform having a lookout spanning 3 different angles. There are lots of awesome things to do in Goreme but also Ortahisar and Uchisar have a lot to offer as well with their epic castles and nearby trails.
16. DISCOVER THE DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND VILLAGE
Derinkuyu Underground City cave system is one of the most remarkable things to see in Cappadocia. Walk down through more than five levels of the cave system, which once housed over 20,000 people and their livestock!
Derinkuyu Underground City was a secret for a long time! It wasn’t until a local man in the Nevsehir Province decided to renovations in his home that the ancient city was discovered. After knocking down a wall he discovered a strange room and continued to dig further, exposing an intricate tunnel system with a series of cave rooms.
17. HIKE IN ZEMI VALLEY
The Zemi Valley Hike is a 6km stretch beginning in Goreme that leads you through a series of caves, arches and alongside a small stream as you keep your eyes open for cave houses and earth pillars! I think Zemi Valley is one of the most underrated places to visit in Cappadocia.
The trail is a wide, sandy path that is often covered by the trees within the valley but there is also ample time out in the direct sun, which we copped heavily! We met no-one on this trail except some ducks, which wound its way along a small stream and making several crossings. There were multiple times where we had to walk through a thin layer of mud, which I assume would be quite messy in the winter. All of this made it one of the most fun things to do in Cappadocia.
The trail was definitely more of a brisk walk than a hike as we pushed our way through the bushes and into some beautiful clearings. Cave houses and rock art were found throughout the hike and we even had to make our way through a number of caves along the trail. Towards the end of the trail, there were several rock arches, which had formed over the trail.
18. VISIT THE TWIN FAIRY CHIMNEYS
Cappadocia is full of fairy chimneys and incredible rock formations but some are just a little more amazing than others. The Twin Fairy Chimneys have risen to popularity, so much so that there are often hundreds of people crowded around to marvel at their brilliance.
Forming over millions of years it is hard to believe that they were formed naturally, looking more like the work of aliens. This is a great little stop en route to another attraction and involves no walking or adventure but still worth checking out.
19. LAKE TUZ – THE PINK SALT LAKE
Lake Tuz is an incredible salt lake near Aksaray but only just over an hour drive away from Cappadocia. The lake is like remarkable because of its vibrant pink color. Despite how unique this location is, it’s not very popular and when I visited I enjoyed the entire lake to myself for as far as I could see.
This spot isn’t technically in Cappadocia but it’s just a drive away and we visited it on the same day as Derinkuyu Underground City and Ilhara Gorge on our day trip from Cappadocia.
20. CAVUSIN CHURCH
We originally came to check out the Cavusin Castle, but a lovely old lady invited us in to show us her sunflower garden, the Cavusin Church and a cave bedroom she said was 2000 years old.he church was closed on our visit to Cavusin although we couldn’t find out why. You can still get a great look at the church by walking around the base of it. It is a huge rocky mountain rather than a church building you may be thinking of. It is possible to trek to the roof of the church for a better view of Cavusin Valley.
21. CAVUSIN VALLEY
Within this valley, the Cavusin Valley, are hundreds of cave houses and earth pillars (chimneys) to marvel at. There are a few sites in particular that are truly remarkable feats of erosion over the centuries. It has one site similar to the popular ‘Twin Fairy Chimneys’, although you won’t find any crowds out here.
22. CAVUSIN CASTLE
Cavusin Castle is actually one of my favorite places to visit in Cappadocia. It’s off the beaten path and such a sweet place to chill out. At the top of the castle, you can tell it has been built into the side of the cliff because it is almost just an extension of the mountain. Only as you walk further towards the edge does it become more a building and less of a cliff? There are hundreds of rooms to explore but it is quite difficult to get into them unless you come from the bottom side up. We made it over the flag pole, which seemed to be chained off but seemed relatively safe.
23. EXPLORE SWORD VALLEY
Just out of Goreme Town is a great little valley, which is full of cave dwellings and unique rock formations. Wandering around Sword Valley at golden hour is an epic time . Most of the balloons will fly straight over you, which makes it possible to get some great photos with the rock formations and balloons. We also found a few caves to hang out in here as there are some rock ladders to the doors but you need a bit of luck to find these spots.
24. DERVIS EVI SUNSET VIEWPOINT
Overlooking the Red Valley, this viewpoint is definitely a great spot to watch the sunset. Dervis Evi isn’t an official name just the closest point (A nearby hall) on google maps. If you head there on Google Maps you will see the hills nearby. Climb up, relax and enjoy the show as you watch over Goreme Town and the Red Valley. There won’t be huge crowds here, which makes it one of the.
HOW TO GET TO CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia isn’t actually a town as many people think but it is an entire region. Within this region are towns such as Goreme (most popular tourist spot), Uchisar, Urgup and Ortahisar among others. There are two airports that serve Cappadocia.
Kayseri Airport (70km/60 minutes) is the main airport and takes just over an hour by van/bus to reach Goreme Town
Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (/40km/40 minutes is the secondary airport, which is closer to Goreme but only by about 20-minutes.
The big difference here is that Kayseri is a bigger airport, with more flight options and often has cheaper flights. It is very convenient and quick to fly into Kayseri and I did twice.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CAPPADOCIA
The beauty of Cappadocia is that while it is a fairytale location in summer, it only gets more and more beautiful in the winter. When it snows in Cappadocia it is truly a mesmerizing sight and something out of a dream world. Snowcaps cover rock formations and paint the valleys white. I visited during the summer but am seriously considering returning to fly again in the winter although the flights are a little more irregular due to the weather of course. Below are some recommendations for the best times to visit Cappadocia.
April to October:Most favorable time for the hot air balloons in Cappadocia with warm nights, clear skies and cool air. The hiking trails were quite hot, especially in the middle of the day.
November to February:If you do visit in February the weather is a bit more up and down but you have the chance to fly over snow, which would be a once in a lifetime experience. Some of the hiking trails will be great in the snow also!
TRANSPORT IN CAPPADOCIA
Hire a Private Driver:Hiring a driver for a few hours to take you to several sites will cost about 100 Turkish Lyra depending on the car and your negotiation, which is about $20 USD. This is a good idea if you want to see 1-2 locations in an afternoon.
One of the best ways to get around is to hire a driver that will allow you to create a customized itinerary. That way you can visit all the spots you are interested in. To hire a private car with a driver/guide you canbook online hereor you might be a bigger group and in that case, it can be cheaper tohire a van in Cappadocia,which also comes witha driver.
Rent a Mountain Bike:We thought about renting a mountain bike but they were 150 Turkish Lyra for the entire day so it would have been 300 Turkish Lyra for both of us just to transit around. That’s almost $60 USD. It would have been fun but once we fund out everyone wanted to help us by giving us lifts there wasn’t much need. We either walked or hitchhiked.
Rent A Scooter/Moped:A scooter costs about 150-200 Turkish Lyra ($30-40 USD) per day and could be handy if you want to explore some attractions a bit further away or venture over to Uchisar.
Rent an ATV:Given the rough terrain in Cappadocia, an ATV is a fun option to help you explore the natural wonders and rock formations of the region. Prices are about $40 USD for two hours. If you are keen to head out on an ATV there is an awesomeQuad-Bike Safari Tourthat takes you through Sword, Love and Rose Valley during golden hour!