There are plenty of things to do in Cappadocia Turkey to warrant spending as much as a week in this gorgeous area. That comes as a surprise to a lot of people who simply come here for a day to take a hot air balloon ride and then leave.
While the balloons are definitely a highlight of visiting, they certainly aren’t the only thing to see here. If you visit the area on a day trip from Istanbul just to hurriedly see the balloons, chances are, you will be disappointed that you didn’t give the area more time.
This region is vast. Many people do not realise is that “Cappadocia” is not just a small town.
It is an area in Central Turkey that encompasses several towns and cities in its grasp. This region includes Goreme, the famous tourist town where you can watch as the Cappadocia balloons take flight every morning, and the quieter towns of Urgup and Uchisar, among others.
This Cappadocia travel guide will help you find the best things to do in Cappadocia (the balloons and beyond) and organise your trip here in 2023.
Best Things to do in Cappadocia in 2023
Cappadocia is a region that extends across the Anatolian plains in the Nevsehir region of central Turkey. It is famous for its air balloon tours and its unique rock formations.
The area is divided into various valleys that have been affectionately awarded different nicknames on account of what their rock formations look like. “Love valley” is a place where the rocks resemble phalluses. (Yes, phalluses!)
The valley of the monks is named as such because many monks once inhabited the area and carved their homes into cone-shaped rock formations. The opportunity to do a hot air balloon ride is most people’s raison d’etre for visiting.
But Cappadocia is much more than that. Here you can go hiking, explore mysterious underground cities that once housed tens of thousands of people, stay in an obscure cave hotel, and relax at a traditional Turkish bath (hammam).
Two or three days should be the minimum amount of time that you dedicate to exploring Cappadocia. But honestly, even if you are here for a week or more, you will not get bored.
I visited Turkey in February. Unfortunately, heavy wind and snow meant that my balloon ride kept being canceled due to adverse weather.
I kept extending my stay and waiting around for the balloons to fly again. And in the meantime, I realised just how underrated the other activities that you can do in the area are.
Take to the Skies in a Cappadocia Balloon Ride
The balloons are without a doubt one of the main draws of visiting Cappadocia. Every morning, around 50-100 balloons are launched into the air. They fill the skies with incredibly vivid colours.
Your balloon company will organise a pick-up from your hotel in the early hours of the morning and take you to the departure spot. You will typically need to leave your hotel at around 5 am.
Balloon tours do not come cheap. They are to the tune of around €150- € 200 per person.
However, for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, they certainly provide a unique way to see this rugged landscape from an aerial viewpoint. You need to reserve your spot online in advance to secure a place, especially during the peak season.
Recommended Cappadocia balloon tours
A selection of reputable tour companies that offer Cappadocia balloon tours is detailed below. Get them while they’re hot!
- Cappadocia: Goreme town sunrise balloon official flight
- Soganli valley hot air balloon tour at sunrise
- Cappadocia: hot air balloon trip at sunrise with breakfast
- Sunrise hot air balloon flight with champagne
Watch the balloons
Aside from actually taking a ride on board Cappadocia’s hot air balloons, another highlight of visiting the area is simply watching the balloons. A lot of the beautiful hotels around Göreme and surrounding areas have balconies and rooftops that offer unparalleled views of the balloons as they take to the sky.
Try and wake up in time for sunrise as the skies are illuminated in incredible hues of pink and orange. Even if you have booked to stay at a hotel that does not have a balcony for viewing the balloons, the vast majority of hotels will let travellers up onto their rooftops to see the balloons at sunrise.
You should just buy Turkish tea or something in exchange for visiting their premises. Better yet, treat yourself to a Turkish breakfast.
Turkish breakfasts, known as kahvalti are a great way to start the day. People usually indulge in lots of little tapas-style plates.
Suçuk (Turkish spiced sausages), eggs, sliced cucumbers, peeled tomatoes, olives, and cheeses make a regular appearance in kahvalti. Instead of spreading butter or jam on your bread, opt for a typical kaymak (clotted cream) and honey.
Go horseback riding
One of the best things to do in Cappadocia is to gallop through the plains on horseback. Did you know that “Cappadocia” actually translates to “land of beautiful horses”?
There are plenty of spots around Göreme where you can go riding with a guide into the valleys for a few hours. If you are an experienced horse rider, you can also organise 5 or 6-day tours into the Taurus mountains.
Bizarrely, there are also some people in the area that offer camel rides. Camels are not native to this region and they did not look very well taken care of.
Be mindful when considering any animal-related experiences in Cappadocia. Check the past reviews of tour companies that you are considering.
Cappadocia horseback riding tours
A selection of reputable horseback riding tours is detailed below. Even if you are not an experienced rider, your guide will help and accompany you at all times.
- Cappadocia: Sunset horse riding tour
- Goreme horseback riding experience
- Sunset horse trek through the valleys of Cappadocia
- Sunrise horseriding excursion from Goreme
Go hiking in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a great place to go hiking and there are dozens of trails that weave through the dramatic landscapes of the area. You could easily dedicate 3 or 4 days of your trip just to hiking!
The scenery is just as beautiful when you are in and amongst it as it is from up high. There are countless trails in this area but the main trails are the red, blue, and green trails.
These routes are relatively manageable and can be attempted by people of all ages and fitness levels. Many hotels and tour agencies around Göreme offer organised hikes and Cappadocia tours.
Depending on personal preference, you can opt to join a tour or go it alone. If you opt for the latter, download an offline train map before you set out.
Hiking in Cappadocia: Red Cappadocia Trail
The Red Cappadocia Trail takes you through the Northern part of the region. If you are staying in Göreme and you don’t fancy being lumbered onto a bus with a load of tourists then you can do this route alone quite easily.
You can start early and head over to the Göreme Open Air Museum. From here you can take a long route through the Red Valley.
Then, stroll through the Rose Valley, past Zelve, and up to Cavusin. On arrival at Cavusin, there are a few coffee shops where you can stop for a cup of tea/Turkish coffee and visit the castle.
On your return journey, you can head back via a slightly different route to keep things interesting. Pass through Love Valley.
This is an area that was awarded its name on account of the peculiar, phallic-shaped rock formations.
You should be back in Göreme in time for dinner. You can check tours and prices for the red Cappadocia hiking route here.
Hiking in Cappadocia: Green Cappadocia Trail
The Green Cappadocia Trail takes you to underground cities and mysterious mountain monasteries. The distances between sites are a little greater but you are certainly rewarded for your efforts.
If you prefer not to hike, you can also hire a car. Prices for Car hire in Cappadocia start at around $35 a day.
Discover Cars is a great platform to use for car rentals in Turkey. They enable you to compare and contrast prices between every rental company in a specific town/village so that you can secure the best deal.
Start by heading over to Derinkuyu underground city and then continue on to Güzelyurt. Güzelyurt is an Ottoman-Greek town filled with centuries-old churches.
Hundreds of years ago, Greeks and Turks lived here in harmony. From here, you can head to Ihlara Valley and hike its length until you reach the Selime Monasteries carved high in the mountains.
The Selime Monasteries were made in the 8th century for religious purposes. They were later transformed into caravansaries on the old silk road trade route.
Travelling merchants and their traders would stay here as they broke up the long journey from Asia to Europe.
Be sure to incorporate the silk road architecture and ancient Byzantine monasteries of the Green Cappadocia tour into your list of things to do in Cappadocia if you can.
Recommended Cappadocia green trail tours
A selection of reputable tours along the Cappadocia green trail is detailed below. Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- South Cappadocia full-day green tour with trekking
- Cappadocia green tour in the Ilhara Valley
- Full-day Cappadocia green tour
- Full-day Cappadocia green tour with lunch
- Small group Cappadocia green tour with a trip to Nar lake
Hiking in Cappadocia: Blue Cappadocia Trail
The third and final Cappadocia hiking route is the Blue Cappadocia Trail. This takes you along the picturesque Soganli valley filled with Cave churches and underground settlements.
A highlight of this trail is the opportunity to stop by the town of Mustafapasa. This is an old Greek settlement where affluent traders settled during the 18th century.
The remains of old Orthodox churches and the faded Greek letters on the sides of buildings hint at the Greek population that once called this town home. There are several Greek settlements in the Cappadocia region, but Mustafapasa was the largest.
The Greeks lived here until the 1920s. At that time, they were forced to return to their country. You can check tours and prices for the blue Cappadocia hiking route here.
Cappadocia Hiking Tours
The organised Cappadocia tours are a great way to access remote trails and cover a lot of ground in a limited amount of time. The prices are very economical.
It is around $40 for a day’s touring including lunch. The number of people that you are exploring with will no doubt vary depending upon the time of year that you decide to travel to Cappadocia.
If travelling during the winter months, this is not likely to be more than 5-6 people. During the spring, summer, and “peak” times, tours may be jam-packed.
Explore mysterious underground cities
There are several underground cities scattered around Cappadocia. The caves date back as far as the 8th century and they have been used as hiding places for people of various religions over the years.
They are not insignificant in size. Derinkuyu is one of the most well-known underground city in the region.
It is eight stories deep and is thought to have the capacity to house over 2,000 people! Exploring it is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
There are still underground cities around the region that are only being discovered. Who knows what else lurks beneath the surface of Cappadocia’s plains?
Another underground city in the region that is well worth visiting is the city of Kaymakli. This city is covered on the blue Cappadocia trail.
Explore the pottery town of Avanos
The quaint little town of Avanos is famous for its pottery. It is situated on the Kızılırmak Red River.
If you find yourself in this region, you can step inside one of the pottery-making workshops here and watch how the potters work their magic. It’s even possible to try your hand at pottery making here if you do so wish.
The locals have been making pottery in Avanos for thousands of years – all the way back to 2000 BC in fact! The Red River is a source of red clay for the locals which is why Avanos quickly became known for the pottery trade.
It is completely free to watch the potters in action. However, it should be noted that you will be taken into the store afterward and the prices are very steep and touristic.
Do haggle if you are interested in anything. This is expected here and nobody takes the initially quoted price as it is severely inflated.
While in Avanos, stop by one of the homely restaurants on the riverfront and order a “testi kebab“. This unique local delicacy is also known as a “pottery kebab” and the meat is prepared in a clay pot.
The people of Avanos really are pottery crazy, eh? Exploring Avanos is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia if you enjoy travelling off the beaten path.
Marvel at Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle is not actually a castle, though it certainly looks like one. The strange, perforated volcanic rock has become one of the main landmarks of Cappadocia.
The castle can be seen from miles around, towering above its namesake village which sits at the base of the rocks.
The rock itself has actually been hollowed out and an intricate network of tunnels and small rooms and annexes lies within. For centuries, the local villagers would hide here when enemies invaded the area.
Unfortunately, a lot of the rooms at Uchisar Castle are now taped off because of erosion. However, you can enter the tunnels and the view from the top of Uchisar castle is incredible.
This is the highest point in Cappadocia and the castle stands tall at 4,000m. It offers breathtaking views over the fairy chimneys and the unusual landscapes of the region.
Go off-the-beaten-path to Ortahisar
Ortahisar could be likened to Uchisar castle. This is a small town that has escaped the attention of most travel blogs and magazines.
Travelling here is one of the best things to do in Cappadocia if you want to really escape the crowds.
Here you can find the Ortahisar Kalesi (“castle”). It is another unusual rock formation you would be forgiven for believing was an actual castle.
Ortahisar is more off-the-beaten-path than Uchisar but well worth the trip, and the castle here is no less beautiful. The rooms inside are now used for storage.
There are several short local walking trails around Ortahisar that lead to breathtaking viewpoints. The centre itself is also charming.
It is filled with numerous ramshackle antique stores that sell a vast array of weird and wonderful trinkets. This is a great place for picking up unique souvenirs from your time in Turkey.
Visit the Goreme Open Air Museum
The Goreme open-air museum is perhaps the most popular attraction in the region after the infamous hot air balloons. The museum provides a perfect insight into how people used to live in these caves.
Many of the caves were used as chapels during the 12th century and many of the paintings and frescoes remain inside, albeit slightly worn by time and weather. The chapels have obscure names.
For instance, one is called “the spider church”. Another is “the dark chapel”. Here you will also find the Apple Church, the Chapel of St. Catherine, and the Chapel of St. Barbara.
You should dedicate at least 3 hours to exploring the site. Admission is included in the Red Cappadocia tour but can also be visited independently.
The entrance fee is 150 Turkish liras per person. The museum is a UNESCO world heritage site and has been inscribed as such since 1984.
It was one of the first two UNESCO-protected sites in Turkey. The museum can get very crowded during the summer months but is well worth a visit nonetheless.
Zip around the unique landscapes in an ATV
If hiking and horseback riding isn’t your thing, a more fast-paced alternative is opting to explore the region by ATV. It is possible to explore the “red zone” on an ATV tour.
Alternatively, have a guide take you through the various fairy chimneys and other-worldly valleys that exist in the Goreme region.
Recommended Cappadocia ATV tour
- Quad safari through the sword, love, and rose valleys
- Cappadocia sunset quad safari
- Cappadocia quad safari with BBQ meal
- Guided ATV tour of 4 valleys and Wadi Al-Siouf
Book a Turkish Nights experience
When you are in Cappadocia, you will probably notice a lot of hotels and tour companies advertising a “Turkish Nights” experience. This is basically a dinner where you are served traditional Turkish delicacies as various shows and performances take place in order to give you an introduction to Turkish culture.
Whirling dervishes and belly dances are just a few of the things to expect. Honestly, this is a little pricey and touristic.
If you want to see whirling dervishes, you can see them for free at the Mevlana museum in Konya. However, if this is your first time travelling in Turkey, it can be a nice introduction to the culture.
You can find more information on the Cappadocia Turkish Nights show here.
Sleep in a cave hotel
There are literally hundreds of hotels in Cappadocia for you to choose from. Staying in a Cappadocia cave hotel is a wholly unique experience and you can enjoy luxury in Cappadocia without breaking the bank.
I stayed at the Guzide Cave Hotel in Göreme which I cannot recommend enough! Murat, the owner was super nice and attentive and helped me organise my hikes and excursions around Cappadocia.
Additionally, the hotel puts on a huge fancy breakfast! Other cave hotels with excellent ratings are Sultan Cave Suites and Aydinli Cave Hotel.
Cappadocia Travel Guide:
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
The “Cappadocia” region is quite vast, and the best area to stay in depends on your personal preference and a number of different factors. A few considerations are discussed below.
Goreme is one of the most popular places to stay in Cappadocia. It is also the most touristic. Though a few locals still inhabit the cave houses here, most of them have been transformed into hotels and restaurants.
Despite being popular among tourists, nothing can detract from the charming landscapes of the fairy chimneys that are scattered throughout Goreme. Since the hot-air balloons and regional tours start in Goreme, the location is perfect if you plan on taking a balloon ride.
Goreme centre boasts ample restaurants, supermarkets, and stores. This makes it a super convenient base for your Cappadocia itinerary.
If you enjoy a little luxury when you travel, and you want a central location without being in the midst of all of the tourist hordes then you can opt to stay in Urgup during your Cappadocia itinerary.
Urgup is perched on top of a hill. This sophisticated spot offers incredible views over the region and boasts plenty of luxurious boutique hotels. Additionally, you will find some upscale dining and nightlife spots here.
The town of Uchisar is relatively quiet when compared to bustling Goreme. It is famed for its namesake castle. There are a number of comfortable budget and boutique hotels here, though there are only a small few dining options.
Uchisar is a great choice for accommodation if you want to get away from the crowds and have your own transport. From here, it is also a great point to hike through pigeon valley towards Goreme.
Ortahisar is missed off most people’s list of things to do in Cappadocia. That said, this rural town is utterly charming and possesses a more “local” vibe.
If you want to get off the beaten track in Cappadocia and have a more authentic experience then the working agricultural town of Ortahisar is a perfect choice. This is the least touristic of all of the Cappadocia settlements.
Getting to Cappadocia in 2023
Rent a car and drive
Driving in Turkey is not as intimidating as it may sound. The roads here are well-maintained and in excellent condition.
Routes are well sign-posted in both English and Turkish and the road rules are generally the same as in other parts of Europe. In Turkey, you drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left.
While a car is not really necessary if you are spending most of your trip in Istanbul and other large cities, it can make getting around a lot easier if you are travelling to more remote areas. That includes all of the towns, villages, and hiking trails around Cappadocia.
Discover Cars is a car rental comparison site that enables you to find the best deals among various providers. Avis, Enterprise, and numerous other reputable global car rental firms operate in Turkey.
Prices vary depending on the season and are more expensive during the summer. For instance, in July, you can rent a car in Cappadocia for around $235.09 a week.
In the winter, you should expect to pay around $76.05 a week. That works out to $10.86 a day. You can obtain a quote here.
Fly to Cappadocia
There are two airports that service Cappadocia. Namely, they are Cappadocia airport and Kayseri Erkilet International Airport.
Both offer regular flights from Istanbul that are relatively cheap, even in the peak season. It is not unheard of to obtain tickets for less than $50 if you book in advance.
Pegasus Airlines and Turkish Airlines both operate routes to Cappadocia.
Many international airports fly into one of the two Cappadocia airports. However, if your starting point does not, then you could also fly to Ankara International and take the bus to Cappadocia.
The bus from Ankara to Cappadocia takes approximately 4-hours.
By public transport from Istanbul
There are also night buses (around 8 – 10 hours in duration) and trains that run from Istanbul to Cappadocia. Turkish public transport is actually pretty nice and comfortable.
However, the journey from Istanbul to Cappadocia and back is long. And that’s before you even consider that there may be traffic.
The prices for long-distance trains and buses are not that much lower than the flights. Generally, it is better to just fly.
FAQs about the Best Things to do in Cappadocia
Do you have any further questions or queries about the best things to do in Cappadocia? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.
Hopefully, you will find the information that you were looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
How many days is enough for Cappadocia?
2-3 days are enough for an initial visit to Cappadocia. But if you are flexible on time, consider staying in the area for 5-6 days.
This will give you the chance to tread scenic hiking trails, discover mysterious churches carved into cliffs and explore eerie underground cities.
What is there to do in Cappadocia besides balloons?
There is plenty to do in Cappadocia besides balloons. So much so that you might find that the balloons aren’t even the highlight of your trip!
You can go hiking through valleys filled with unique rock formations, take an ATV or a horseback ride through the countryside, and visit traditional villages. There are walking trails here to suit people of all ages and hiking abilities and the trails take anywhere from 2 to 8 hours to complete depending on which one you choose.
You will find some incredible houses, churches and monasteries carved into the rock faces as you go.
What to do in Cappadocia in 3 days?
3 days is a nice amount of time for a first trip to Cappadocia. You can dedicate one day to taking a balloon ride, exploring the open-air museum, and then relaxing in Goreme after your early start. Dedicate day two to hiking the red Cappadocia trail (arguably the best of the three) and the underground city of Derinkuyu.
On the third day, opt to hike the less-frequented blue or green trail, or head further off the beaten path to the pottery town of Avanos.
Is the Cappadocia balloon ride worth it?
The Cappadocia balloon ride is well worth the time, money and early start. You can get some incredible photos from on board the balloon and although you can experience and admire the fairy chimneys by walking around them, nothing compares to the birdseye view that you have from the balloons.
What do people do in Cappadocia?
The hot air balloon rides are by and large the most popular thing that people do in Cappadocia. But aside from that, there are plenty of walking trails, museums, villages, and restaurants to keep you occupied.
When is the best time to visit Cappadocia?
The “high season” for travel to Cappadocia runs between May and September since this is when the weather is at its best. However, with that considered, you should expect a slight increase in prices and the number of tourists.
The “shoulder season” in Cappadocia is in mid-spring (late March/April) and October. This is arguably the best time to travel. That way, you can still enjoy the nice weather but with fewer crowds and expenses.
It’s important to note that in adverse weather conditions, balloon rides may be canceled. The balloon flight schedule is actually managed by the Turkish air force.
Each day, they assess the weather conditions and decide whether or not they are suitable for a flight.
There is simply no getting around this. So if your trip coincides with wind or bad weather, your balloon ride may be canceled or rescheduled.
Cancellations are more common during the autumn and winter months.
Is Cappadocia safe?
Unfortunately, Turkey is still trying to shake off its reputation as being a “dangerous” travel destination. More and more travellers are starting to return in recent years though which is a positive for tourism in the country.
Is Cappadocia safe for solo female travellers?
I felt completely safe during my week in Cappadocia and the general consensus is that the region is very safe. I enjoyed solo female travel in Turkey on the whole and never felt uncomfortable.
Since Cappadocia is so accustomed to tourism, this is arguably one of the best places in Turkey for solo female travellers. There are always plenty of English-speaking locals willing to help you.
It’s also the first place I travelled in Turkey that I actually noticed a lot of other fellow solo females wandering around. When I asked the owner at my hotel if he saw a lot of solo travellers, he said that most of them were solo women!
Cappadocia Safety Tips
Cappadocia is a very tourist-friendly part of Turkey. That said, as with anywhere that you travel, you should follow a few basic precautions as detailed below:
- Be mindful of hiking by yourself in remote areas. Though I hiked the red trail independently, I saw no one else doing the same and I was a little anxious at times. If hiking alone, tell someone from your hotel where you are going
- There are many wild/stray dogs in the Cappadocia area. If approached, try to stay still and stay calm
- Try to arrive in the daytime if possible so that it’s easier and more comfortable to locate your hotel
Final thoughts on the best things to do in Cappadocia
Cappadocia possesses an almost ethereal, otherworldly beauty. Here, fairy chimneys are scattered throughout barren Anatolian plains, and ancient caves and monasteries hide the secrets of civilisations thousands of years old.
Have any questions about this Cappadocia Travel Guide or other suggestions of things to do in Cappadocia? Feel free to reach out to me.
Cappadocia is best enjoyed as part of a wider Turkey itinerary. Safe travels! Melissa xo
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