Turkey is the epitome of diversity. Sitting on the fence between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, one cannot simply miss Turkey on their travels. When you look up Turkey online, most of the scenic postcard captures come from Cappadocia and a few cities that are home to some of the most breathtaking sites in the region. Why is Cappadocia so special?
Cappadocia is a laid-back semi-arid region. Unlike its distant neighbours, this city breathes out a whole different holiday aura. If you’re a traveller, you’d surely enjoy the tranquillity Cappadocia offers you. On our visit, we were able to bag some of the best experiences here in Cappadocia. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do on your visit to this magical city.
1. Ride on a Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Ballooning is the key tourist attraction here in Cappadocia, and we wouldn’t deny this fact. Looking down from above the clouds is absolutely breathtaking. Tours usually commence at dawn when the sun is barely present, but the sky is touched with light. During summer, the views are truly magical. There are options to book private balloons where you could celebrate special days or even propose to your loved one.
You can book your tickets online along with other tours. But we recommend exploring the city on your own. Make sure to not exclude Hot Air Ballooning from your Cappadocia bucket list.
2. Watch the Skyline during Sunset
Cappadocia welcomes the most stunning sunset ever in the whole of Turkey (this may be a bit exaggerated, but we assure you the skyline at dusk is magnificent). The sunsets and sunrises are pretty much similar. During sunrise, you could catch a glimpse of the famous Hot Air Balloons-filled skyline.
The city of Goreme is the best place to watch the sunset. You can look over the magical valleys and canyons and take many pictures for the gram! If you’re travelling with your loved one, this is one of the best moments to share.
3. Visit the Göreme Museum
The Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the hotspots in Cappadocia. You wouldn’t believe the rush you’d encounter on a regular summer day. The valley is home to many historical sites – precisely 15 churches and 11 refectories, which were inhabited by monks and nuns from the 4th to 10th century. Home to one of Turkey’s largest collections of Byzantine art and carvings, Goreme Open Air Museum features rock-carved churches, chapels, dining halls and rooms within the rock caves.
We highly recommend getting a guide on your tour, otherwise, you may find it confusing to identify the different rock sites, and the chances of you getting lost in the maze-like museum are low.
Goreme is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is open every day. Some of the must-visit sites here are Tokali Church, Elmali Church, Dark Church, Saint Basil Chapel and Santa Catherine Chapel.
4. Explore Rose Valley
Rose Valley, also known as the Red Valley, is another breathtaking site in Cappadocia. If you’ve visited Goreme Open Air Museum, you can easily hike over to this rock-formed nature preserve where sunsets are absolutely magical. It gets its name from the pink coloured peaks. If you’re travelling to the Rose Valley all the way from town, you will have to rent a car or get a taxi or scooter. No buses are heading that way. The hike may not be for the faint-hearted, so be equipped with the proper gear.
You will most probably end up near Orthahisar or Kaya Camping at the end of the hike. You can build up a camp and stay the night watching the clear Mediterranean skyline with stars. We visited Rose Valley at sunset, but some travellers visit at dawn when it’s less crowded and the climate cooler. There’s a small entrance fee depending on where you’re entering the valley, but it’s totally worth visiting.
5. Immerse in the Historical Marvels
Cappadocia has some of the largest numbers of Byzantine historical sites in the whole of Turkey. Once a flourishing city back in the 10th century, many churches and caves in Cappadocia are coloured and occupied by Byzantine arts and crafts. You would also come across many bazaars and historic villages dating back to the Ottoman period. But then again, you can find these in Istanbul, and they may not excite you much. What we found fascinating during our visits to Cappadocia was the intriguing civilization of Phrygians.
Phrygians are said to have originated from central-western Anatolia, and they settled here in Cappadocia during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. They carved their homes in the soft volcanic rocks, and you wouldn’t believe that over 200 cities were found hidden within the valley.
6. Head to the Kamyakli and Derinkuyu Tunnels
When it comes to magnificent underground caves, Turkey tops any list. Kaymakli and Derinkuyu tunnels are one of the most captivating tourist destinations here in Cappadocia. Although both these are a series of underground tunnels, the nature of the structures differs from one another. Kaymakli tunnels are much steeper and narrower, while Derinkuyu resembles an underground city. In fact, Derinkuyu is the world’s oldest underground city.
The caves of Derinkuyu were once used as passageways since 800 BC. In 1923 the Derinkuyu tunnels were abandoned following the Greece-Turkey population exchange. It is said that they were rediscovered after forty years.
When you go underground to explore the sites, you may feel a little eerie like we did, and perhaps even claustrophobic – if you don’t like packed spaces. But we assure you, it’s an amazing experience. Who wouldn’t want to visit the world’s oldest underground city?
Today some of the Kamyakli and Derinkuyu tunnels are used as stables, cellars and storage areas.
7. Witness the Pottery Art in Avanos
Avonos is one of the least visited places in Cappadocia. Many tourists just follow the hype and visit the fairy chimney valleys for a glimpse of the hot air balloon-filled skyline and completely miss out on all the other wonderful things the city has to offer for travellers. Avonos district of the Nevşehir Province is such a city that we came across and were stunned. It’s a laid-back town famous for earthenware pottery and pottery paintings.
The serene streets are filled with locals in the evening hurrying to the markets for their essentials. Here is also where you can practically find any souvenir of Cappadocia. Most importantly – ceramics and crockery. The pottery you find here is made using a distinct technique, and they produce the most expensive earthenware. Over the centuries, the craftsmanship of pottery has been passed on to generations, preserving Avonos’s unique style.
A one-day tour in Avanos would be more than enough for you to witness the exquisite pottery ware collection and explore the street markets.
8. Taste Fine Wine in Urgup
Urgup, also located in Nevşehir Province, is one of the least-visited towns in Cappadocia. Home to some of the best wineries in Turkey, Urgup is a city that every traveller must visit on their tour to Cappadocia. Wine is not the only reason why Urgup is so fascinating. Its abundant sunshine and fertile soil flaunt the best summer in the region. It’s located just beside the Goreme valley, which means it wouldn’t take you extra hours or transport costs to get there if you’re already in the valley. For those who do not wish to visit Gorem, you can fly from Istanbul or get a taxi to Urgup. As of yet, no direct overseas flights are arriving in Urgup.
When we visited Urgup, we toured the Turasan Winery – Cappadocia’s largest winery and vineyards producing about 60% of the wine in the region’s market. It sure was an amazing experience. You will be able to taste quality wine made using the sweetest grapes that grow under the Urgup sun.
9. Hike the Ihlara Valley
The Ihlara Township in Cappadocia is another eye-catching site that mainstream travellers often miss out on. Located in the Aksaray Province, Ihlara is nothing like its neighbouring rock valleys. When you visit you’d see how distinct and green the landscape is as a whole. Although Ihlara is also a similar gorge of volcanic rocks to Rose Valley, its outer surface is lush, and that is what sets it apart. Geologists believe this stunning site was formed over a thousand years ago and has been flourishing ever since.
Getting to Ihlara from Cappadocia’s town would take around 1.5 hours, and the traditional hike distance is around 1 mile from the Ihlara village. The entrance fee for Ihlara valley in 2022 is 70 TL. This includes the entire hiking journey passing the village. If you own a museum card, you can visit twice a year.
10. Taste Delicious Manti
Turkish food is simply beyond what words can describe. It’s a fusion of European, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines, and the flavours are always spot on. When we were in Istanbul, we got to taste the best Baklava. As we went on a city-hopping tour, we made sure to taste iconic dishes famous in that particular region. In Cappadocia, we came across Manti – a dish that can also be found in certain parts of China where Turkish settlements are found.
Manti is a lot like ravioli, stuffed with meat and cheese, and served with a variety of sauces. While Manti is a topper here in Cappadocia, you’d also find some other delicious dishes which are similarly mouth-watering. Such is the Testi Kebab – a flavourful kebab that comes in pots. If you’re trying Testi Kebab in Avanos, the pots will be a sight to capture for the gram.
Is the Red Tour or Green Tour Better?
Thousands of travellers visit Cappadocia daily, and many often miss out on amazing experiences due to time restraints and seasonal crowds. That’s why the Red Tour and Green Tour are famous amongst foreigners visiting the region. This saves time as the tours include a considerable number of sites one must visit during their visit to Cappadocia.
The Red Tour includes sightseeing of valleys, fairy chimneys, viewpoints, villages, castles, Avanos pottery workshops and Goreme Open Air Museum. While the Green Tour focuses on visiting the south-western part including fairy chimneys, underground cities, castles, viewpoints, villages and Ihlara Valley.
If you are to choose from the two, we recommend the Green Tour, because you get to see sites in a wider view. You can visit the famous underground cities as well as the fairy chimneys in the red valley. However, if you have claustrophobia, the Green Tour can be a little challenging.
Additionally, if you’re visiting Cappadocia, make sure you’re ready to trek and hike. There are so many exploration activities that need to be done on foot.
5 Best Sites to Visit In Cappadocia
Before we wrap up, here are 5 other best sites to visit in Cappadocia.
- Pigeon Valley
- Mount Erciyes
- Uchisar Castle
- Anti-Taurus Mountain
- Cappadocia Art and History Museum