There is no other way to describe Cappadocia in Central Anatolia, Turkey than to say that it is a land straight out of a fairytale - think volcanic rocks and caves looking like they’ve been fashioned by fairies, centuries-old labyrinthine underground cities, Byzantine-era churches, castles atop hills, ancient villages, cave hotels (yes!), and scores and scores of valleys with the most interesting of rock formations. The cherry on top is taking off in vibrant hot air balloons to get a bird’s-eye view of this gorgeous landscape at the crack of dawn! Cappadocia is a land as intriguing as it is mysterious. Here are the best things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
1. Admire the stunning Uçhisar Castle
The tallest point in all of Cappadocia is Uçhisar Castle located in the village of Uçhisar, just a few miles south of the village of Göreme. The majestic, behemoth, rock-cut fortress, which can be climbed to the top, offers gorgeous, sweeping views of the Cappadocia region as well as Uçhisar village which houses thousands of caves and tunnels. During the sieges which took place during the Byzantine and Roman eras, Uçhisar Castle provided protection to the villagers. Most of the castle rooms lie on the northern side and are now pigeon houses, the droppings being used as fertilizer by farmers. Intrepid travellers can indulge in the extremely scenic walk to White and Pigeon Valleys from Uçhisar.
Address: Tekelli, 50240 Uçhisar/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Website: Uçhisar Castle
Opening hours: 7:30am - 8pm (daily)
2. Hike through the dusty-white Pigeon Valley
Dusty-white rock formations with pigeon house holes nestled in brown-green foliage - Pigeon Valley, also known as Guvercinlik Valley, is one of Cappadocia’s prettiest places. Stretching between the villages of Göreme and Uçhisar, Pigeon Valley also happens to be one of Cappadocia’s most popular hiking trails too, complete with earth pillars, ancient ceiling paintings, cave dwellings - and pigeons! Choose the slightly downhill 4-km-long (2.5 miles) trail from Uçhisar to Göreme - there’s also a 2-km-long (1.2 miles) option - which goes through fascinating caves and gorgeously thick trees. Enter the valley to see hoards of pigeons flying around and sitting to the entrance of the pigeon holes, which were built to domesticate pigeons for message delivery, sacrifice, meat, and for their nutrient-rich poop!
Address: Aşağı, Adnan Menderes Cd. No:50, 50240 Uçhisar/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
3. Snap gorgeous pictures at Aşıklar Vadisi
Those in love, and even those who aren’t, will fall in love with Aşıklar Vadisi, also known as Love Valley or Bağdere Valley, one of Cappadocia’s most exquisite sights. Filled with comical phallic-shaped rock formations, the hidden, chalk-white valley is something out of a dream. These ancient structures formed millions of years ago, with the dry, green foliage of Cappadocia growing around them to create a stunning panorama. One can either hike down to the base of the valley or see the valley from a gorgeous vantage point high above, complete with photo op spots including a large heart-shaped swing right at the valley’s edge! PS: do make a wish at the gorgeous wishing trees hung with bright-blue Nazar beads - and fulfil an ancient Turkish tradition.
Aşıklar Vadisi/Love Valley
Address: 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
Website: Aşıklar Vadisi/Love Valley
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
4. Explore the scenic vistas of Göreme National Park
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the rocky, dreamy landscape that is Göreme National Park is surrounded by the Erciyes and Hasan mountains and is chock-full of gushing rivers in deep-carved valleys, ancient underground cities, caves, and churches featuring outstanding Byzantine art, and the region’s iconic, defining features - unusual rock formations known as “ peri bacaları” or “fairy chimneys". This rock-hewn ancient sanctuary was entirely sculpted and created by erosion and is one of the best sites to feature remains of traditional human habitat dating back to 4 AD. Check out the Göreme open-air museum, Devrent and Ihlara valleys, and the Bezirhane churches, and watch a gorgeous sunset over the fairy chimneys.
Göreme National Park
Address: 50500 Aktepe/Avanos/Nevşehir, Turkey
Website: Göreme National Park
5. Walk through underground tunnels at Derinkuyu Underground City
The 18-level-deep Derinkuyu Underground City is Cappadocia’s, and the world’s, deepest underground city, of which currently only 8 floors are open for viewing for visitors. The spectacular underground city is said to have flourished during the Byzantine era and was used as a refuge for Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine wars of 780 to 1180 AD. According to other theories, the city was created in the 15th century BC during the time of the ancient Anatolian Hittites. Walk through subterranean mazes, stoop through ancient tunnels, and explore all kinds of rooms from chapels and stables to wine cellars to storage rooms.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Address: Bayramlı, Niğde Cd., 50700 Derinkuyu/Nevşehir, Turkey
Opening hours: 8am - 7pm (daily)
How’d you like to see the stunning, straight-out-of-a-fairytale vistas of Cappadocia from the skies? Float above the spectacular, lunar-like landscape and world of Cappadocia on a hot air balloon at sunrise in a hot air balloon, as you see everything from cave homes and churches, volcanic spires, and magical fairy chimneys in the soft morning light of the rising sun. Wake up at 3am and take off before sunrise to watch hundreds of vibrant hot air balloons take off, and snap pictures for a lifetime of memories.
Discover the Beauty of Cappadocia by Hot Air Balloon
Duration: 3 hour
7. Step back into the Byzantine era at Gümüşler Monastery
Carved out of a single large rock, the Byzantine-era cave monastery of Gümüşler Monastery is one of Cappadocia’s largest and best-preserved of its kind. Featuring captivating 11th- to 17th-century Byzantine-era frescoes, the rock-hewn monastery is particularly known for the fresco of Virgin and Child which features the only smiling Mary in existence. Also featured on the walls of the monastery are hunting scenes, which aren’t seen anywhere else in the region of Cappadocia. The paintings, which feature a diverse variety of animals and a special iconography and style, date back to 12th to 13th century AD.
Address: 51310 Gümüşler/Niğde Merkez/Niğde
Website: Gümüşler Monastery
Opening hours: 8am - 5pm (daily)
8. Stop on ancient Silk Road at Sultan Han
On the flat plains between Aksaray and Konya sits the massive, impressive 13th-century Seljuk caravanserai of Sultan Han on the ancient Silk Road. Functioning as a caravanserai during 1229 to 1236, this truck-stop-for-camels is Turkey’s largest Seljuk caravanserai, complete with stone-paved courtyards, sleeping quarters, and massive walls. Designed simply and elegantly, Sultan Han is considered one of the best examples of Anatolian Seljuk architecture. The caravanserai also has a mescit (small mosque), the oldest such mosque in Turkey.
Address: Cumhuriyet, Konya Aksaray Yolu, 68000 Sultanhanı/Aksaray Merkez/Aksaray
Website: Sultan Han
Take in pink and red-tinged Cappadocian landscapes at the Kızıl Çukur (Red) and Güllüdere (Rose) valleys, which feature gorgeous rock formations, mountains, and jaw-droppingly beautiful cliffs. Explore the gorgeous, ancient, cliffside-carved village of Çavuşin and the 7th-century Üzümlü Church, one of the region’s most important historic churches. Walk through the otherworldly pink-and-red-hued valley, complete with patches of green, brown, and yellow, making for gorgeous photo ops.
Hiking in Red and Rose Valley
Duration: 3 hours
10. Discover the historic monastery retreat of Zelve Open Air Museum
Between Avanos and Çavuşin lies the incredible cave-town of Zelve Open Air Museum, once having housed one of Cappadocia’s largest communities where three valleys full of crumbling churches and cave homes. Explore the former 9th- to 13th-century, gorgeously beautiful monastic retreat of Zelve where you can not only stroll the town square and explore religious chambers and churches, but also walk amongst what are historic houses. Visit Valley One which is home to an old değirmen (mill) and Üzümlü Kilise (Grape Church) and Valley Three which features a beautiful rock-cut mosque.
Zelve Open Air Museum
Address: Aydınlı Mahallesi, Yavuz Sk. No:1 D:No:1, 50180 Aktepe/Avanos/Nevşehir
Website: Zelve Open Air Museum
Opening hours: 8am - 6:15pm (daily)
At its best, Cappadocia boasts a ton of dazzling sites and a vibrant culture that the Turkish people continue to bring to life. Explore Cappadocia’s best and most historic landmarks and get a taste of authentic Turkish cuisine for lunch. Book this superb GetYourGuide tour and spend 6.5 hours absorbing pure Turkish history. See the Fairy Chimney rock formations, visit the village of Avanos, and be taken off guard by the scenic beauty of the Uchisar Castle and Pigeon Valley. Guests who participate in this tour are entitled to a private driver, hotel pick-up and drop-off an English speaking tour guide, and admission fees to all the sites.
Cappadocia Highlights Tour with Lunch
Duration: 6.5 hour
For visual travelers who love to document their trips to new places, this tour is for you. Book this one of a kind Viator tour where participants will get the chance to take videos using drones, and get stunning Instagram-worthy photos by a professional photographer. Cappadocia in itself is a picturesque background and with this tour, guests will be entitled to a private photographer to take 200 to 300 photos taken during the tour. They will also be getting complimentary shoot setups like blankets, cushions, and a carpet. Private transportation and complimentary drinks like coffee and tea are also up for grabs.
Drone Video shooting and Photo shooting in Cappadocia, Turkey
Duration: 2 hours
One of Turkey’s crowning historical jewels, Cappadocia is an enchanting region with a wealth of culture and history, complete with open-air museums, crumbling, ruined villages, cosy cave homes, and a gorgeous, lunar-like landscape. Cappadocia is every intrepid traveller’s dream so here are the best things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey.
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