9 BEST Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia is a semi arid region in central Turkey and is one of those destinations that looks like it fell straight out of a fairytale. Cappadocia derives from the Persian word, Katpaktukya, meaning 'the land of beautiful horses' for in ancient times the region was known for its equine offering. The landscape is dotted with intricate fairy chimneys, rolling hills, the colour of pale rose and entire houses carved out of caves. Millions of years ago, Tuff, a type of rock formed by volcanic ash was deposited in Cappadocia.

Although horses are still important to the locals who call Cappadocia home, today the region is better known for its unique lunar landscape, underground cities, cave churches and of course, the hot air balloon rides.

Located in the central Anatolian region of Turkey there are direct flights from Istanbul to Kayseri in Cappadocia that take about 1.5 hours. Alternatively, you can also travel by the overnight bus from Istanbul, which takes about 11 hours. All that to say there are plenty of ways you can get yourself to Cappadocia's fairytale scenery, cave dwellings, remarkable rock formations and under the hundreds of hot air balloons that soar in the sky during sunrise each morning.

There are a lot of valleys and geological wonders to explore here. Rose valley for the gorgeous hues, Pigeon Valley for the massive pigeon populations and the cave dwellings, Love valley for the phallic shaped rock structures, the various underground cities for their rich and deep history and so on.

Horseback at sunset a wonderful way to explore the valleys, go on foot for the museums, fly in the balloon for a bird's eye view of the entire land and buy some souvenirs from this Turkey trip. You can access some hard to reach spots and the vistas are just so worth it. The most famous underground cities are called Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

Beautiful hot air balloons in the sky in CappadociaBeautiful hot air balloons in the sky in Cappadocia

Here are the top things to do in Cappadocia:

1. Red Valley Hike and Sunset Viewpoint at Kizilcukur

Near the Göreme National Park is the Red and Rose Valley, named for the pink rock formations found there. Red Valley is also known for being one of the hottest spots during the summer months of Cappadocia, as well as being a wine destination.

For those who love hiking, Red Valley is a must. The sharp sandstone ridges glow a deep, vibrant red as the sun sets over the uniquely beautiful and calming landscape of the valley. There are a couple of great trail options that are from easy to moderate difficulty level. The first option is driving to the Rose Valley Trailhead and beginning the Rose & Red Valley hike combination route. This is an easier route for those who are not avid hikers.

Alternatively, you can drive to the Meskendir Trailhead and take that trail to the Rose Valley trailhead and continue on to the Red Valley Trail.You can also drive directly to the Rose Valley Trailhead and then begin the trail from there but its highly recommend starting with the moderately easy Meskendir Trail that leads you there.

However, for those not interested in hiking but still want to experience the enchanting Red Valley Viewpoint, you can drive straight to the sunset viewpoint to chill at the cafe. The cafe is located near a historic cave church. After climbing up the stairs into the church, you can find some incredible paintings on the wall in great condition. They are similar to the church paintings hundreds line up every day to see at Goreme Open-Air Museum.

2. Göreme Açık Hava Müzesi

As previously mentioned, the Goreme Open-Air Museum is one of the most popular attractions and historic sites in Cappadocia. The Goreme Open-Air Museum is very close to the city-center in Goreme, which is the most popular town in Cappadocia. The walk to Goreme Open-Air museum from the town-center takes about 15-minutes and is a little bit uphill.

However, whether you choose to travel by foot or car, it is definitely worth visiting the historic museum. The Goreme Open-Air Museum is equipt with individual audio-tours guiding you through the ancient paintings, churches and cave houses from centuries ago. 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 as it gives visitors a holistic understanding of the city's art, history, and culture.

3. Hot Air Balloon Ride in Aşıklar vadisi

One of the few places in the world where hundreds of balloons fly in the air every dawn and dusk, sunrises and sunsets in Cappadocia are magical, to say the least. Surely the next-best thing to a fairytale. The hot air balloon is the highlight of a fun ride in Cappadocia with impeccable views. What more could we ask for? The experience leaves everyone on a high (quite literally) as it is one thing to see the dramatic landscape of Cappadocia from the ground, but a whole new experience to see it from above!

Soaring above the valleys and dramatic rock formations, peeking into pigeon holes and caves, and floating among a hundred multi-coloured hot air balloons was nothing short of spectacular. The views are so compelling that the groups on the balloon share moments of ooh-ing and aah-ing and moments of absolute silence as everyone tries to absorb the incredulous beauty that lies beneath.

Do not miss the opportunity to do Hot Air Balloon tours, a unique experience that you will not forget. For example, you can fly to Antalya or Kaysery and from there travel to Cappadocia by bus.

Travel Tip: If weather conditions do not permit, the flight may get cancelled and delayed to the next morning. However, if you do not have another day to fly your money will be refunded.

4. Göreme National Park

One of the most emblematic places of the Cappadocia is the Göreme National Park, a place characterized by the characteristic architecture of the caves. Next to Göreme there is also an open-air museum of Zelve.

5. Ottoman monuments in Kayseri

The city of Kayseri is qualified as the gateway to Cappadocia. It is little known by tourists, but it stands out for its many Ottoman monuments. There are more than two hundred mosques in Kayseri. On the other hand, the city has an urban itinerary that is marked on the ground. Thus, tourists just have to follow the arrows to make a pleasant journey without getting lost.

In the historical district is the Hunat Hatun complex. It is composed of a madrassa, a mausoleum and a Turkish bath. It is worth to turn aside to go see it. And what you can not miss in Kayseri is the great mosque that rises in the center of the city. If you are a woman, you should cover your hair with some cloth.

6. Ski in Mount Erciyes

For lovers of skiing and hiking: the mountains are only twenty-five kilometres south of Kayseri, specifically Mount Erciyes.

7. Hiking in Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley is a perfect place for hiking. The beautiful route has a length of 15 kilometers and all of it constitutes a fairy tale backdrop.

8. Camel Riding in Nevşehir

Most people go to Cappadocia for the hot air balloons, but the camel ride is fantastic as well! "Boarding" the camel while it's lying down and then being hoisted up to their walking height is an unexpected thrill. The camel riding in Cappadocia is a 1-2 hour tour that can take place at sunrise, sunset, or during the day.

You ride through fantastical rock formations in the Red Valley, Rose Valley, or Meskendir Valley, and get a great view of the fairy chimneys and surreal landscape. You can even wear traditional clothing during your tour, and often hotel pickup and drop-off is provided. The camel rides are necessary to complete anyone's trip to Cappadocia as it is a relaxing yet exciting and fulfilling way to experience a city and region that is shrouded in history, mystique and legend.

9. Eat in Old Cappadocia

There are three local dishes that are unique to this part of the country that you absolutely need to try. The first is the Pottery Kebap. It is slowly stewed meat and vegetables inside a clay pot over coals that you break open table-side and eat with rice and bread. It is very mildly spiced and seasoned and the flavors are left to themselves to shine.

The second is a Turkish dumpling called Manti. It is like a little ravioli that is stuffed with meat and cooked down aromatics like onions served with a herbed yogurt sauce. Içli Köfte (also known as Kibbeh in some places) are Bulgar balls stuffed with minced meat and onions and spices cooked down to perfection and then baked or fried (or sometimes raw).

Finally, do not forget to try traditional Turkish coffee. And tell the Turks to read you the future in the dregs. It is the local tradition! Everybody has heard about Turkish Tea. Turkish tea is just the best tea. Most people like drinking tea without sugar. The tea culture in Turkey is infiltrated everywhere. Its a way that people bond, men bond over their cups of tea in the morning and evenings, and merchants will refuse to sell you their artifacts until you have a seat and have a cup of their delicious Black tea!

Kalyan Panja