With magical landscapes, rock-cut history and excellent hiking, there’s a host of wonderful things to do in Cappadocia. Explore hidden valleys, the best views and awesome day trips in our curated guide to Cappadocia.
Cappadocia, deep in the heart of Turkey, is a place of unique landscapes. Rocks, sculpted over the years by wind and water, form a canvas of magnificent scenery; half-domed white rocks cling to valley tops, rippling rose canyons scar the earth and phallic rock formations reach for the sky.
Not only does it live up to all the hype, but there are also things to do in Cappadocia far beyond the remarkable scenery and awe-inspiring balloon rides. The valleys are made for hiking, the Turkish hospitality endearing, the tea free-flowing and the ancient cave architecture enthralling.
For a predominately outdoors destination in a very agreeable climate with wonderful experiences, it’s very hard to go past Cappadocia.
Our guide to the best things to do in Cappadocia covers the highlights from our itinerary, where to stay, how to get around and our tips for getting the most out of this incredible destination.
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IN THIS GUIDE
THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
1 – HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
On still days, as the sun rises over the mountains of Cappadocia and lights up the tall cone-like rocks, hundreds of hot air balloons take to the skies. A myriad of colours, they drift in and out of the rippling canyons of rock, before rising towards the heavens and returning to earth. With the sun illuminating the valley walls and masses of balloons floating around you, taking a hot air balloon ride is one of the most magical things to do in Cappadocia.
Flights are weather dependent and are often cancelled due to wind. Book in advance for your first morning in Cappadocia so that if it is, cancelled you can rearrange for the next day.
This Hot Air Balloon Sunset tour includes hotel pick-up (about an hour before dawn) and drop-off, plus a glass of champagne and a certificate marking the occasion.
2 – SUNSET POINT
Just a few hundred metres from the centre of Göreme, Sunset Point (also called Lover’s Hill or Aşiklar Tepesi) is the perfect place to take in dawn or sunset at Cappadocia.
At dawn, as the first rays of light hit the unusual shapes of the valley, it’s perfectly positioned to watch the profusion of colourful balloons lift gracefully into the air and float over the town.
At sunset, there’s a small café serving beer and tables scattered around to watch as a fiery orange and red glow illuminates the strangely shaped rock formations. You won’t have the place to yourself, but it’s a wonderful thing to do in Cappadocia.
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3 – HIKE PIGEON & LOVE VALLEY
Cappadocia is one of our favourite hiking destinations and a walk combining Pigeon Valley and Love Valley sees some of the best and most diverse scenery in the area. Paths lead through moulded rock formation, smoothed into wave-like shapes, then burst into colour with long grass and wildflowers in full bloom.
Pigeon Valley is named after the dovecotes carved into the cliff faces. But the highlight of the walk is Love Valley, where sweeping curves of white rock give way to towering phallic rock formation. The whole area is excellent for photography.
Our tailored hike through Pigeon Valley and Love Valley is one of our favourite things to do in Cappadocia. It takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete. Details are on our hiking in Cappadocia guide.
4 – STAY IN A CAVE HOTEL
Many of the caves in Cappadocia were originally carved out of the soft rock by early Christians fleeing persecution. Other cave dwellings were possibly used by early humans taking advantage of the unique topography.
But there’s nothing primitive about the current cave hotels in Cappadocia. Carved out of the natural landscape, they are luxurious, quirky and packed with atmosphere. Outdoor terraces and rooftops provide glorious views across the fairy chimneys.
Staying in a cave hotel is an unmissable thing to do in Cappadocia. Here are some suggestions from us.
Tucked under Sunset Point, Artemis Cave Suites is an upmarket hotel with an outdoor terrace and excellent views over the town. The rooms are comfortable and maximise the cave vibe.
Set in one of the most scenic valleys of Cappadocia, Hotel Taskonaklar is a magical stay with outdoor hot tubs overlooking the view. The staff are very helpful and it’s only a short drive to Göreme.
Perfectly located high on a hill with one of the best vantage points for the morning hot air balloon show, Sultan Cave Suites is both quirky and luxurious with traditional stylings from around Turkey.
Restoring the original man-made caves, Kayakapi Premium Caves provides a unique stay where no two rooms are the same. The breakfast is excellent, and the pool has some of the best views in Cappadocia.
5 – GÖREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM
The Göreme Open Air Museum is a collection of 10th to 12th-century churches carved out of the rock. The churches are peppered with frescoes demonstrating the significance these hideouts had for early Christians.
Three of the churches included in the entrance fee have frescoes in decent condition. But by far the best is at Karanik Kilise or the Dark Church. The entrance through a narrow tunnel opens to a room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling where frescoes depicting Christian biblical scenes adorn the walls.
Entrance to Karanik Kilise is an additional ₺10 on top of the regular entrance fee of ₺30, but it is well worth it.
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6 – LOOKOUT POINT AT RED & ROSE VALLEY
The area around Red Valley in Cappadocia is one of the most beautiful, but also the most confusing. A profusion of unclear signs and arrows pointing in multiple directions make the trails difficult to navigate. We know because we circled the area several times trying to find our way.
But don’t let that put you off because it has some of the best scenery in Cappadocia. Rose Valley is a mass of pointed pink and white rocks whose interiors have been carved into churches. Red Valley is a sweep of sinuous fins of rock creating rippling oceans of stone.
The most stunning viewpoint to see it all from is called Demir Merdiven. It might not be the easiest place to get to, but we have provided detailed instructions in our hiking in Cappadocia guide and well worth the effort.
7 – PANORAMA POINT
Just above Demir Merdiven, on the ridge above the Red & Rose Valleys, Panorama Point is another excellent viewpoint in Cappadocia. Come here at sunset and the gentle hues of the Red & Rose Valleys glow in the soft light as the shadows of the twisting curving rocks lengthen.
Grab a beer at Crazy Ali’s café and sink into one of the sofas clinging to the edge to enjoy one of the most memorable sunsets you’ll ever see. The vertical drop from the sofas may not pass health and safety in many countries but it’s an unforgettable thing to do in Cappadocia.
Panorama Point is a 5-minute drive from Göreme. There’s a large carpark (2 Turkish Lira) and several stalls set up along the edge selling the usual tourist trinkets. Skip them, but make sure you try the delicious, dried fruit. The whole experience was one of our favourite things to do in Cappadocia.
Read Next — Our Cappadocia itinerary
8 – UÇHISAR CASTLE
Uçhisar Castle is a 60-metre-high cylindrical tower perched on rock into which was carved a network of rooms connected to tunnels. It was once home to up to 1,000 people. Today much of the castle is inaccessible, but it remains a striking example of an entire village carved into the rock.
The village of Uçhisar is a relatively local Turkish community, however, it’s also a hub for high-end luxury hotels; mostly because it occupies the highest point in Cappadocia. The views across the surrounding fairy chimneys are excellent.
It is 5 kilometres from Göreme which you can easily walk (all the instructions are in our hiking in Cappadocia guide). Otherwise, it’s a short taxi ride or there is a minibus which runs hourly from Göreme.
9 –PAŞABAĞI (MONK’S VALLEY)
Paşabağı is a small wine valley in Cappadocia with some of the best mushroom-topped fairy chimneys in the region. Near the car park, an unmissable three-headed rock formation rises out of this unusual landscape.
Hermits and monks once lived in the chimneys at Paşabağı, and one of their medieval living quarters can still be inspected today. Christian frescoes and decorated crosses remain preserved on the walls.
Paşabağı is a popular hop of point on tours of Cappadocia, so the site gets very busy and it contains the usual tacky tourist shops. Nonetheless, it’s still a great thing to do in Cappadocia. The best option is to arrive at opening time. If you are using public transport, the local bus from Göreme to Avanos stops at Paşabağı.
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10 – KAYMAKLI UNDERGROUND CITY
Kaymakli Underground City is a massive network of caves that were initially constructed around the 7th or 8th Centuries BCE by early Indo-European people. The city was later inhabited by Greeks then Christians.
The complex descends 8 levels into the earth and includes a network of around 100 tunnels connecting various subterranean rooms. The first floor contains stables, while the second is dedicated to a church with a nave and two apses. Storage and various rooms for cooking occupy the third floor.
Only the top few floors are open to visitors. Nevertheless, it offers a fascinating insight into how this unique geology was used by early tribes. It’s around 30 minutes’ drive from Göreme, or you can visit on an organised tour. Just beware it can be a little claustrophobic down there and surprisingly easy to lose your way.
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11 – GORKUNDERE VALLEY & EL NAZAR KILISI
Cappadocia is blessed with interesting valleys that make it a scenic place to explore. Gorkundere Valley and Zemi Valley are excellent destinations which each offer something a little different.
Gorkundere Valley has some of the tallest and most impressive phallic rock formations in Cappadocia. There are several look out points to take in the surreal geological forces at work in the area.
Zemi Valley is also well worth a visit for the intriguing El Nazar Kilise. This 10th-century church was carved from a single piece of rock and the frescoes inside are impressive works which have been kept in fine condition.
Being a little off the beaten track in Cappadocia, you may have Zemi and Gorkundere all to yourself.
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12 – HORSE RIDING IN CAPPADOCIA
This rugged terrain already feels like the location of a western movie, so seeing it on horseback feels like the right thing to do in Cappadocia. Most rides take place in the Rose Valley, Red Valley and Sword Valley. With a local Turkish guide pointing out interesting facts, it’s a relaxing and informative way to see the area.
Tours are generally 1 hour, 2 hours or 4 hours and no riding experience is necessary. Most will include transportation to and from Göreme. We recommend this 2-hour Horseback Riding Experience which visits some of the quieter valleys in Cappadocia, a local apricot orchard, a vineyard and the rock-cut Hallacdere Monastery.
13 – ATV OR QUAD BIKE TOUR IN SWORD VALLEY
If you’re looking for a few hours of adventure in Cappadocia, a ATV (Quad Bike) tour is a great thing to do. The tours allow you to get further into the hills, valleys and dunes of Cappadocia so you can see more and get to places otherwise not possible.
Many start in Sword Valley which has shorter and stumpier rock formations surrounded by wider trails. The bikes are very easy to use (even with no experience) and the energetic guides take you to some of the most scenic spots in the area.
This 2-hour Quad Safari includes the Sword Valley, Rose Valley and Love Valley. This Sunset Quad Safari covers Sword Valley, Rose and Red Valley, Love Valley and the Cavusin Village at a time that’s just right for photography.
14 – DAY TRIP TO SOĞANLI VALLEY
A day trip to the Soğanlı Valley is a great thing to do in Cappadocia. It’s a 1-hour drive from Göreme but there’s plenty to see along the way. The further you go, the less visited and more remote it becomes.
Mustafapaşa, just 10 minutes from Göreme, still clings on to a rural village feel, despite the local rug sellers pedalling their wares to tourists. A little further along, Cemil is a small crumbling town full of atmosphere, completely untouched by tourism, and great for photo opportunities.
Finally, the village of Soğanlı was once a centre for Byzantine Christianity. Ruins of the old village sit underneath the valley walls into which a collection of rock churches have been carved. A tiny, easy-to-follow trail connects the best of them. Don’t miss Snake Church, Domed Church, Hidden Church or the beautiful frescoed Tahtali Church.
At the end of the valley, there’s a café set in a lovely garden by the river.
15 – IHLARA VALLEY
Another great day trip from Göreme is the 15-kilometre-long canyon that stretches up the Ihlara Valley. Narrow, blonde-coloured walls protect a small river that feeds an oasis of slender trees, long grasses and colourful wildflowers. Byzantine churches, adorned with frescoes, have been carved into the rock on the side of the canyon with rough windows that peer over the idyllic river-side scene.
One of the best things to do in Cappadocia is to take the easy stroll along the valley floor, stopping at one of the many cafes perched by the river. It’s a taste of Turkish hospitality in a beautiful area.
Ihlara Valley is a 1 hour, 15 minutes’ drive from Göreme. Entrance to the valley is open between 8 am and 6:30 pm and cost 20 Turkish Lira. All the details are in our hiking Cappadocia guide.
MAP / THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
To help you plan your Cappadocia itinerary, all the excellent things to do we have listed in this guide can be found on the below map.
WHERE TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia is a large area, but most visitors stay in Göreme, a great town with good facilities and many buildings carved into the rock. It’s famous for cave hotels with rooftop terraces that overlook the fairy chimneys and surrounding valleys.
Many of the best hiking trailheads are nearby; sunset and sunrise viewpoints are easily accessible, and the town has plenty of facilities and restaurants.
The other popular option is Uçhisar. This tiny place is a traditional Turkish village with very few facilities, but it contains most of the top-end hotels in Cappadocia.
HOW TO GET TO CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia is in the middle of Turkey with two airports nearby. One at Nevşehir (40 mins drive to Göreme) and the other at Kayseri (60 minutes’ drive to Göreme). Both have flights from several popular locations in Turkey.
AIRPORT TRANSFERS TO GÖREME
If you’re not hiring your own car to explore Cappadocia, private or shared transfers are available from both airports to Göreme in air-conditioned minivans. Your hotel will be able to organise transfers for you, or you could book a shared airport transfer or private airport transfer in advance.
HIRING A CAR IN CAPPADOCIA
We recommend booking your hire car through rentalcars.com, they compare prices across most of the dependable car rental companies. Both airports have car hire facilities although Kayseri has more choices.
Driving in Turkey is also not as hard as many people think and it’s a great way to see the country. Read our tips for driving in Turkey to help plan your road trip.
Check Prices — Rentalcars.com
BEST TIME TO VISIT CAPPADOCIA
The best time to visit Cappadocia is the shoulder seasons from April to June, and from September to October.
Cappadocia sits on a plateau over 1,000 metres high, so in winter the temperature can drop to around 0°C and in summer it’s often upwards of 30°C.
Rainfall is higher in Spring than in Autumn, and being a little windier, this makes balloon riding a bit more susceptible to cancellations. The upside is the landscape is greener, flowers more abundant and the days longer.
We travelled during Ramadan which meant the valleys were much less busy as locals don’t take holiday during this time. We also had no problems booking hotels late (so we could keep some flexibility) or getting into good restaurants with the best viewpoints.
PLANNING YOUR TURKEY TRIP
Turkey is a fascinating destination with ancient ruins, magical landscapes and one of our favourite cities in the world. Here are more of our guides about this wonderful country.
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Our complete 2-week Turkey itinerary
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