Cappadocia is one of the most unique and magical regions of Turkey, complete with “fairy chimneys” very ancient underground cities and ruins, and very unique landscapes, often coverd with hundreds of hot air balloons in the early hours of the morning. There are so many amazing things to do in Cappadocia that we will cover in this article.
Cappadocia is located in central Anatolia and is around an 8 hour drive from Istanbul. The main area to stay is in the nearby town of Goreme which has budget accomodation, and even magical ‘cave hotels’ to take you back in time. There are also lots of places to book tours, rent atv’s and access hot air balloon rides.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
For sure this is probably one of the most popular and best things to do in Cappadocia. The rides typically start early in the morning around 6:00am and take around 1 hour to complete.
During the ride you’ll cruise over the fairy chimneys and interesting structures and landscapes, with the sun rising in the east, magically lighting up the surroundings.
The prices are typically $150-300 per person depending on the season, with high season being April to June and September to October. We recommend to book a tour in advance.
Catch the Sunrise & Balloons
If you’re to afraid of heights to take to the skies, then certainly one of the next best things to do in Cappadocia is to finda cute rooftop or cliff early in the morning before the sunrise.
Around 10 minutes before the sun rises you’ll start to see hot air balloons slowly rise up over the horizon all over the place. At times there will be as many as 150 hot air balloons in the sky!
If you’re staying at one of the many guest hotels or boutique hotels in the region (including Goreme) you’ll definitely be able to witness the magical sunrise event.
Stay in a Cave Hotel
As mentioned before, staying in one of the many cave hotels in Goreme is one of the most interesting things to do in Cappadocia.
This region of Turkey is made from soft sandstone that is easily carved out by locals. Some are anceint (hundreds of years) and some are more modern.
There are a few unique cave hotels we recommend including Artemis Cave Suites, Local Cave House, and Luvi Cave Hotel
Catch the Sunset
Cappadocia isn’t just famomus for its sunrises, it has spectacular sunsets as well. The best way to see the sunset in our opinion is at Red Valley located just east of Goreme.
Another great way to do it is by renting a car or going on one of several ATV tours you’ll find around town. Sometimes these tours go to other vallyes including Rose Valley, Pigeon Valley and Love Valley.
All over Goreme and Cappadocia you’ll find the famous ‘fairy chimneys’ which are the result of a geological process in which porous volcanic rock formed over millions of years, the surrounding sediment eroded away, leaving these sometimes ‘phallic’ looking rock formations.
The best place to find these chimenys is around love valley, and you’l quickly learn why it’s called love valley based on the shape of the rocks. You can walk around at your own pace or also take ATV tours to cover more ground quicker.
Goreme Open Air Museum
Goreme Open Air Museum is a serious of historical churches from the Middle Ages carved into the porous rock around town of Goreme and surrounding valleys.
Some of the most popular ones are the Dark Church, Chapel of St. Barbara, Chapel of St. Catherine, and Apple Church. This ‘open air museum’ also happens to have UNESCO World Heritage Byzantine cave churches, which are said to be some of the most important from that era. These churches are still used today for monks and nuns.
About a 40 minute drive southwest of Goreme you’ll find one of the most spectacular things to do in Cappadocia. Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city (so ancient they can’t even carbon date it correctly) that was accidentally discovered underneath a mans house in 1963.
The origins and meaning of Derinkuyu still remains a mystery to this day, and features a maze of deep underground tunnels and living spaces going at least 85 metres deep!
The site is perhaps 10,000 years old, and has been used every century, including for Christians in the 6th and 7th centuries escaping from the Persian and Arabic armies.
If you’re here, you may as well checkout the nearby Kaymakli Underground City also, which is only a 15 minute walk away. If you’re into ancient history and mysterious spots, be sure to check out Derinkuyu!
Considered the highest point in Goreme, Uchisar Castle is a large structure that was actually a large housing complex that held roughly 1,000 people, most likely soldiers as it was a main point of defense for the ancient settlements due to the vantage point.
You can explore the caves freely and climb up to the top of the castle to get a fantastic view of Cappadocia in the surrounding area. You’ll aslo find lots of camels, donkeys and other cute creatures.
Try the Local Cuisine
Cappadocia has an array of dishes that differ from what you may find elsewhere in Turkey such as Istanbul. One of the most popular are Test Kebabs, or Clay Pot Kebabs. Inside the pot you’ll find a delicious stew which is cooked until the pot is broken.
You’ll then stuff the bread with the hearty food. You’ll also find ‘manti’ which is Cappadocia’s signature dish, and it consists basically of small pasta stuffed with cheese, or meat and usually have garlic or tomato sauce as a sauce topping.
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