Welcome to Magical Cappadocia!
Cappadocia is situated in Central Anatolia, one of Turkey’s most beautiful regions, if not the world! The area of Cappadocia became famous for its unique landscapes, filled with mushroom-shaped rock formations and deep valleys, created through the years from volcanic activity and erosion.
It’s hard to believe that nature itself can create this kind of otherworldly scenery, likened by many to the moon! Over hundreds of years, the people of this region have used what nature has given them by carving the rock into houses, churches, and underground towns.
1. Experience a Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Flight
The number one thing to do while you’re in Cappadocia is to go on one of the world-famous balloon rides. Hundreds of hot air balloons, in various rainbow colors, fly through the beautiful skies above the fairy tale landscapes, in a display like no other.
Most tour companies will collect you from your hotel at 5 AM before taking off at 5.45 AM in time for sunrise. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and, as a result, it can be expensive. Tickets usually cost upwards of $180. However, they do normally offer breakfast and champagne. What’s more, you can’t put a price tag on a bucket list experience like this!
2. Sunset Horse Riding Through Rose Valley, Cappadocia
Rose Valley is where Cappadocia’s moon-like reputation comes to life. Situated a 15-minute drive from Goreme, it’s home to pink-tinted rock valleys, huge rolling rock formations, and craters. These one-of-a-kind landscapes are what make Cappadocia, and particularly Rose Valley, so great for hiking and horse-riding.
If you’re horse-riding, there are plenty of options to choose from. However, we highly recommend the 2-hour sunset ride with The Dalton Brothers. You can’t beat being at one with nature and getting to visit secret viewpoints; perfect for watching the sun go down.
Hiking in Cappadocia
If horse riding isn’t your thing, you can choose from a variety of hiking trails instead. They vary from 2 kilometers to 10 kilometers, and you can discover the famous cave houses and churches en route. Additionally, if you want a little more speed, there are other options to see Rose Valley, such as quad biking.
Tip: If you have time, check out Pigeon Valley and Love Valley too!
3. Watch the Balloons at Sunrise
Seeing Cappadocia from above is sensational, however, maybe even better is experiencing the balloons from the ground too! Get up early, and walk to a viewpoint, to watch the glow of the balloons against the pinks and oranges of the morning sky.
Depending on your choice, the hot air balloons can get really close- almost close enough to touch. We actually had to move out the way of a balloon at one point in order to not get hit by the basket! The chance to get up close and personal is not only an amazing travel experience but a photographer’s dream and easily one of our favorite things to do in Cappadocia.
How to get to the balloon take-off site
Because you’ll need to leave at 5 AM to see the balloons take-off, it’s best to rent a bike or motorbike the evening before. When you wake up, search on Google Maps for ‘The Dalton Brothers’, and you’ll find a road that runs at the foot of the valley. Follow this for about 5 minutes and park as soon as you see hot air balloons beginning to light up. From here, hike up as high as you can onto one of the ridges and experience balloons flying all around you as the night stars fade, and the sun rises.
Tip: Another option is to head to Lovers Hill, another panoramic viewpoint in Goreme town. It’s a great place at sunrise to watch the balloons take off, or a peaceful place to simply sit and watch the sun go down.
4. Pasabag and Cappadocia Open Air Museum
Pasabag, also known as ‘Valley of the Monks’, is where the mushroom-shaped rock formations live. With large rocks that seem to balance on top of them, these chimneys are dotted all over the valley and were once an important settlement for monks. As a result, many of them were carved into churches, and now over 30 rock churches are open for visitors. Make sure you take the opportunity to visit inside and even climb to the top!
Be aware that Pasabag can become very busy as it is a popular stop-off on many organized tour circuits. If you want to see it when it’s quiet and snap some photos without people in them, we advise visiting at sunrise. The area is free to enter!
Cappadocia Open Air Museum
Another must-see is the Cappadocia Open Air Museum, one of Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. It is located in Goreme, only a 15-minute walk from the city center, so it’s a fun and easy thing to visit if you’re staying in the town. The Open Air Museum is home to many magnificent churches carved within the rock and have stunning frescoes painted on the walls.
Entrance fee: The Open Air Museum entrance is around 40 TL, which is around USD 8. You pay more to visit this museum than Pasabag because of the paintings, and it’s well worth it!
5. Get Lost in a Maze of Rugs
There’s a famous carpet shop in Goreme, named ‘Galeri Ikman’. This is one of the best places to get beautiful photos of colorful Turkish rugs and other kinds of traditional handicrafts. It’s absolutely huge, with over 50,000 pieces of craftsmanship divided into 17 rooms!
Wander among the colorful textiles, snapping photos, and sipping on chai tea while you chat with the owners, who are super friendly and helpful.
After you’ve finished browsing, pick up a few things to take home with you. This way you’ll get to have a little piece of Turkey in your home forever!
6. Stay in a Typical Cappadocia Cave Hotel
The caves of Cappadocia were carved out hundreds of years ago and used as houses and churches by the locals and monks. Nowadays, these rock houses have been converted to hotels, giving visitors the opportunity to live like the locals used to. This is an unforgettable accommodation experience and something totally unique.
We stayed at Sultan Cave Suites, which was fantastic. What’s more, they have an amazing roof terrace which has beautiful views across the valley and rock formations.
How to visit Cappadocia
There are two airports in the area that you can choose from when you’re traveling to Goreme. The main flight runs from Istanbul to Goreme Nevsehir Airport (1 hr 15 min) or Kayseri Airport (1 hr 15 min). From these airports, you can easily arrange a transfer to Goreme, as lots of tour operators offer a package. It’s also worth asking your hotel if they offer a transfer from the airport.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to fly, there is a night bus that runs from multiple cities to Goreme. It takes around 12 hours and is credited for its comfortable ride and good service.
Once you’re in Cappadocia, the attractions are very spread out. This is great if you’re a hiker and love long walks between sights. If you’re not a hiker, it’s best to hire a motorbike, car or join an organized tour to see all the sights. Tours also often include lunch as well, so it’s a good way to save money on your trip.
Best Time to Visit Cappadocia
Cappadocia is beautiful in all seasons; however, try to avoid July and August because of the heat, crowds of tourists, and higher prices. Late spring or early autumn is the ideal time for a peaceful visit, with mild temperatures and lower prices.
Additionally, you’ll see that lots of people visit Cappadocia on a day trip, but one day is not enough to soak up the atmosphere of this stunning place. We recommend visiting for 3-4 days in order to hike, relax, take a hot air balloon ride, and do many other outdoor activities on offer.
Best Restaurants in Cappadocia
Turkish food is absolutely delicious! Think Baklava, Turkish delight, and colorful Mezze platters. Although it’s famous for its kebabs, there are also lots of tasty veggie options.
- Pumpkin – was our number one favorite restaurant in Cappadocia
- Sedef Restaurant – This is the perfect place to try the famous pottery kebab: a typical meat stew that comes inside a pot that you have to break open.
- Firin Express – serves the most delicious (and cheap) flatbreads!
- Dibek – serves the overall best traditional food
Best Places to Stay
There are many beautiful towns within the area in which visitors can stay. We chose to stay in Goreme, which is very convenient with many great hotels and restaurants, and centrally located to many main sights.
Our hotel, Sultan Cave Suites, was beautiful and one of the most unforgettable stays we’ve had on our travels so far.