The 8 Best Things to See and Do in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is an area in central Turkey that is best known for enormous and complex underground cities, cave churches, houses and hotels carved directly into the rock, and “fairy chimneys” which are tall cone-shaped rock formations stretching upwards of 130 feet into the air.

More recently it has become known for the hundreds of hot air balloons that take to the skies every morning at sunrise, perfectly complementing the already surreal setting. The landscape of Cappadocia with it’s deep valleys and stunning formations will make you believe you’ve actually traveled to another planet. There is absolutely no where else like it in the world!

Check out our list of the best things to see and do in the spectacular city of Cappadocia!

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Dancing at Sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey by Wandering Wheatleys
Sunrise in Sword Valley, Cappadocia

Cappadocia, Turkey Travel Basics

Getting to Cappadocia

Cappadocia is a remote area and not entirely easy to get to. A short plane ride from Istanbul will get you to Kayseri (ASR) and then you’ll need to take a 1-hour shuttle bus into Cappadocia. Kayseri is also accessible by bus or train. If you are adventurous enough to make the trek out to it, you’ll be rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Once you get to Cappadocia, you’ll likely want to rent a motorbike at one of the many shops around town so you can cruise around at your own pace.

Book a Shared Transfer Service from the Airport

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Hot air balloons over Cappadocia by Wandering Wheatleys
Every morning hundreds of hot air balloons rise over Cappadocia, Turkey

Where to Eat and Drink in Cappadocia

Be sure to have an afternoon snack at the Viewpoint Cafe and Restaurant. They offer stunning views over Cappadocia and delicious iced cold coffee.

House of Memories is a quaint little local joint that we’d highly recommend for dinner. Start with the mixed appetizer platter and then try the fried beef for your main course. Grab a bottle of local wine in the wine shop directly below the restaurant – they’ll open it for you!

Stop at Sedef Restaurant in Göreme for the chef’s special kebab, it’s the best in town!

Know Before You Go

  • The Turkish currency is the lira and the conversion is about 3.5 lira to the US dollar
  • Learn a few phrases in Turkish; “mer-ha-ba” is “hello”, “saw-owl” is “thanks”, and “goo-lay-goo-lay” is “goodbye”
  • Be sure to arrange a shuttle from the airport to Cappadocia in advance – taxis are few and far between and incredibly expensive
  • Accept tea when it’s offered to you and place your spoon across the top of your glass when you’ve had enough
  • A 5-10% tip at restaurants is acceptable
  • While Cappadocia is a tourist hot spot, women travelers should consider dressing modestly as Turkey is fairly conservative overall

A Brief History of Cappadocia’s Spectacular Landscape

Cappadocia’s Göreme Valley, with it’s deep valleys and fairy chimneys surrounded by mountain ridges, was originally formed by massive volcanic eruptions that covered the area in a thick ash. That ash then solidified into a soft rock called tuff which was then eroded by wind and water for centuries leaving behind the interesting rock formations that we see today.

In the 4th century it is believed that small anchorite communities saw the honeycombed rock formations and determined to begin inhabiting them be it for protection from the elements or from warring neighbors. In the present day they are the most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes in the world.

The 8 Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey

1. Sleep in a Cave Hotel

Cappadocia is a travelers dream with gorgeous cave hotels carved directly into the rock and delectable cuisine on every corner. And one of the top things to do during your visit is to actually sleep in a cave hotel. Taskonaklar is a boutique-style cave hotel located just outside of Göreme in the small historic town of Uçhisar. The land surrounding Taskonaklar was purchased originally as ancient cave ruins and the architect kept the integrity of the original rooms in the present-day design.

While the town of Göreme is more of a busy backpacker scene, the town of Uçhisar is home to upscale boutique hotels and offers the best views of Cappadocia in the region. The town is quiet and quaint with delicious local fare and friendly locals. And is only a short ride to Göreme. We would most definitely recommend staying in Uçhisar during your trip to Cappadocia.

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Sleep in a Cave Hotel

Each cave room at Taskonaklar is different and unique and will make you feel as though you are actually sleeping in an ancient cave, but with all the modern day conveniences. Intricate stone work and antique furniture create the foundation of each room while luxurious bedding and traditional decor give it flare.

The peaceful outdoor space at Taskonaklar also provides amazing views of the hot air balloons floating by in the early mornings. Be sure to awake early so that you can catch the amazing sunrise views over the valley!

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Sunset a Taskonaklar Hotel, Cappadocia, Turkey
The best view for sunrise and sunset

2. Go on a Hot Air Balloon Ride

One of the things that you absolutely must do during your trip to Cappadocia is to go on a hot air balloon ride! The views from the air are absolutely breathtaking and you’ll won’t experience anything else like it anywhere else in the world.

It’s best to take your Cappadocia hot air balloon ride early in your trip as they are completely dependent on wind conditions. So if you wait until your last day, unfortunately, your trip may get canceled and you’ll miss out on the bucket list activity that puts Cappadocia on every Turkey itinerary. Be sure to book your hot air balloon ride in advance to ensure you get a spot!

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Hot Air Balloon Ride over Cappadocia

The tour will pick you up from your hotel bright and early way before sunrise to take you to their office for tea, coffee, and a light breakfast. Once everyone is checked in they’ll drive you to the spot where all of the balloons launch and you will watch as your balloon is inflated. They fit around 20 people in each basket so quarters are tight but everyone has their own railing space so no one will block your epic views of sun rising over the city.

Your balloon tour will take you high above Cappadocia, 800 meters into the air. You’ll be surrounded by dozens of other air balloons and the sight is truly breathtaking. Depending on wind conditions your pilot may also dip you down into a valley so you can get up close and personal with the cave houses. The entire trip takes about an hour to an hour and a half and it’s worth every penny!

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia
An absolute must-do excursion in Cappadocia!

Book a Hot Air Balloon Ride

3. Take a Ride Through the Valley on a Quad

One of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia is to cruise around the Sword, Love, and Rose valleys on a quad bike. The most popular time of day to tour the Rose Valley is during sunset when the rock formations turn into light pink hues. But regardless of the time of day, you’ll love flying down the maze of rough roads while enjoying the landscape of Cappadocia!

We would highly recommend doing this excursion as a tour, rather than simply renting a quad in town. The roads are incredibly confusing and it’s very easy to get lost. Take it from two people who did.

Book a Valley Quad Tour

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Tour the Valleys on a Quad Bike

4. Take the Scenic Route to Göreme

If you want to get out and stretch your legs a bit, then you’ll love the scenic path that leads toGöreme. Take the road into Pigeon Valley from Taskonaklar and you will find a 2.5-mile-long path into Göreme. Even though it’s a well trodden route, you’ll likely end up getting a bit lost. Luckily, a very friendly local named Ahmet will likely come to your rescue.

Ahmet will take you to a few scenic overlooks, you’ll stop at a few local spots for Turkish tea and eggs, and finally ending at an old cave church in Göreme. He’ll expect a tip at the end so if that’s not your cup of tea just give him a polite but firm “no thank you” when he first approaches you. A tip in the range of 20-50 lira should suffice. If you enjoy learning a bit about the plants of the area and having a darling local guide then you’ll have a great afternoon with Ahmet.

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Uchsir Castle, Cappadocia, Turkey by Wandering Wheatleys
Views from Pigeon Valley

5. Visit Uçhisar Castle

Uçhisar Castle is an absolutely stunning place to watch sunset in Cappadocia. This rock castle towers above the small town of Uçhisar and there are many interesting cave rooms to explore both inside and around the vicinity. After your climb through the castle and to the panoramic lookout at the top, be sure to head around to the side where more great views await.

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Sunset from Uçhisar Castle, Cappadocia, Turkey by Wandering Wheatleys
Sunset from Uçhisar Castle

6. Tour the Underground Cities

Did you know that there are 150-200 known underground and cliff settlements in the Cappadocia region? Some were large enough to accommodate 30,000 people! It’s difficult to consider what life underground would be like unless you actually tour these underground cities for yourself.

There are two popular underground cities that are open to the public; Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Kaymakli is a popular tour bus destination as it is the widest cave and is laid out in a loop so there is no need for large groups to pass each other in tight quarters. Derinkuyu is the deepest of the caves and is rich in history. It is thought to have been built during the era of 780-1180 AD and was likely used as a giant bunker to protect the inhabitants from wars and/or natural disasters. Heavy stone doors on each floor allowed those inside to fend off intruders.

If low walls and tight tunnels aren’t your thing, head to Kaymakli. If you don’t mind an enclosed labyrinth of tunnels then Derinkuyu is the more fascinating of the two options. It is approximately 278 feet deep with 8 floors. Imagine people living there; going to school, cooking meals, having church. And consider the intense amount of work that went into carving not only the massive tunnels but also the giant 180-foot-deep ventilation shaft.

7. Snap a Photo in Paradise Valley

Be sure to stop at Paradise Valley for a quick stroll through the towering fairy towers at the base of Uçhisar Castle. This is a small area where you can wander around, snapping photos of the amazing stone formations surrounding you.

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: Paradise Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey by Wandering Wheatleys
Paradise Valley

8. Visit the Zelve Open Air Museum

No trip to Cappadocia is complete without a trip to the Zelve Open Air Museum which was once one of the largest communities in the region. Take your time walking the 1.25-mile loop around the 3 valleys reading the signs along the way, wandering in and out of the churches and dwellings, and imaging what life was like in these shelters.

And on your way back to town, be sure to stop at The Church of Saint John (Vaftizci Yahya Kilisesi) which is an honeycomb cave church that rises above the small town of Çavusin. The rooms of the cave are interesting but the real gem of this site is the view from the very top. You can hike to the top on your own or hire a local guide and get some fun facts of the area for 10 lira.

The Best Things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey: The Church of Saint John in Cappadocia

We hope this helps you to plan your trip to the beautiful region of Cappadocia, Turkey!

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23 Comments Add yours

  1. The two girls in the city says:

    such beautiful pictures. I am a travel blogger. would love if you have a look at my blog

  2. it looks very exciting. Hot air balloons and beautiful scenery

  3. Definitely does look like you were in a fairytale! Can’t wait to visit it one day!

  4. What a gorgeous region, unique landscapes, rich history…I have only been to Islanbul but I think it would be worth going back to Turkey to see this beautiful area and ride a balloon for the first time! Thanks for the useful itinerary

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Sure thing Julien! Thanks for reading!

  5. Oh wow. I love the look of Cappadocia and it is certainly on my list. Your hotel looks fabulous but also love the pictures. How awesome to do a balloon flight here!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      The balloon ride was pretty epic! I hope you make it to Cappadocia soon Anne!

  6. Aleah | Solitary Wanderer says:

    Very timely post as I’m going to Turkey from Georgia. Your photos are LOVELY. It seems very magical indeed.

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Oh good I hope this helps you to plan your visit! You’ll absolutely LOVE Turkey!

  7. muryan6 says:

    Woooow… gorgeous photos! Flying on a hot air balloon is on my bucketlist and crossing fingers, I hope I do it in Cappadocia!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      You couldn’t ask for a better place for your first hot air balloon ride! I hope you get there soon!

  8. Hot air balloon, cave hotels and awesome Turkish food! Couldnt ask for more. But sadly just when I was planning the trip, there was civil unrest in Istanbul and we had to pull out. Will surely get there sometime. Love your header image with all the balloons too!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Oh no! When was that? You should definitely try again, Turkey is such an amazing place and they definitely need more tourists there now!

  9. Rocio says:

    Never been in a balloon!! I guess it would be fantastic! I just met your blog and I really love your minimal style. I will keep following you!!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Thanks Rocio! We do try to keep things simple. You’ve got to get up in a balloon – you’d love it!

  10. Kiyoko says:

    I’ve ridden in a hot air balloon, but we only went over a bunch of trees. The views from those hot air balloons looks absolutely fantastic. The city overall seems like a beautiful place to visit. You were right to say it’s like a fairy tale!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Yes it definitely beat the hot air balloon ride that we did in Laos a few years before! Thanks so much for reading!

  11. Karla says:

    I have always wanted to visit Turkey! I wish to go too. Your pictures are really amazing and you look really nice in that yellow dress.

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Thanks Karla! You should definitely visit Turkey someday – it’s amazing!

  12. I’ve seen photos of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys, and of the incredible hot air balloon rides, and ever since it’s been on my bucketlist. We recently visited Istanbul though didn’t have a lot of time so unfortunately couldn’t include it on our itinerary – though a flight + 1 hour bus ride I don’t think is too remote – definitely a once-in-a-lifetime modern day fairy tale adventure!

    I had no idea that you could stay in a cave hotel built directly into the rock – how incredible! Your room at Taskonaklar looks amazing, and it’s definitely where I’ll stay. I love that they can handle the hot air balloon booking on your behalf – I always prefer the local recommendations over what I manage to find online. Cool idea to also take an ATV tour – thanks for sharing your itinerary!

    1. Valerie Wheatley says:

      Thanks so much for reading Meg! It is rather difficult to get to but certainly worth the trek – the landscape is like nothing we’ve ever seen before! I do hope you make it to Cappadocia in the near future to get it checked off of your bucketlist, I’m sure you would absolutely love it! The tourism industry is also really hurting right now unfortunately – apparently there used to be close to a hundred more balloons going up daily but so many have gone out of business. So the sooner you can get there the better!

  13. Cappadocia is like no other place in the world. The landscapes are so unique and look out of this world. The best experience of Cappadocia is probably that of floating high up in the air in a hot air balloon and feasting your eyes on the bewitching landscapes. Your pictures bring alive the wonderland that is Cappadocia in stunning effect.

  14. Vanessa Lecky says:

    Cappadocia looks amazing, however unfortunately pregnant women are not allowed to fly in the balloons. Would you still recommend a trip to Cappadocia if the main highlight cannot be experienced?

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