Best things to do in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a fascinating region in the heart of Turkey that offers exciting outdoor activities like hot air ballooning, as well as an insight into the unique history of this area with numerous world-famous sights to see. UNESCO declared Cappadocia a World Heritage Site to preserve this special area.
You can visit most tourist attractions in Cappadocia that require tickets with a Turkish Museum Pass.
If you plan to visit several museums and archeological sites in Turkey, the Museum Pass is a great way to save some money and time, as you can essentially skip the lines.
Check out the Turkey Museum Passes at https://muze.gen.tr/MuseumPasses.
1. Hot air balloon ride
A hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is truly a bucket-list thing as you fly above the fascinating landscape in the heart of Turkey.
Cappadocia is one of the most popular places for hot air balloon flights globally. And it’s because around 150 balloons fly above Goreme at once almost every day. In addition, there are about 260 days a year that you can fly. It looks as if a ballooning festival is taking place every morning in Goreme.
Read our guide: Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons: All You Need To Know
2. Derinkuyu Underground City
One of the most fascinating attractions in Cappadocia is the Derinkuyu Underground City which used to be able to house over 2000 people with all the amenities they would need.
Derinkuyu is the deepest and largest underground city in the world, and you can walk down five levels of its incredible cave system.
We visited Derinkuyu by ourselves, but we can imagine that a tour would be a good idea, as there aren’t any signs with information. So it’s hard to understand which room you are in at times. We were lucky and picked up some extra information by eavesdropping on a tour there at the time.
Plan to spend about 1 hour to max 90 minutes exploring the Derinkuyu Underground City.
The ticket price for visiting Derinkuyu Underground City is about 5 USD.
The opening hours of Derinkuyu Underground City are 8 am to 7 pm in the summer, and 8 am to 5 pm in the winter.
There are a lot of underground cities in Cappadocia, some claim around 30, but there are possibly hundreds according to some sources.
Some of the most popular underground cities to visit in Cappadocia are:
- Derinkuyu Underground City
- Kaymaklı Underground City
- Özkonak Underground City
- Mazı Underground City
3. Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum is a truly unique site as it was once home to one of the largest communities in Cappadocia and has been very well preserved. Enjoy exploring Zelve’s ruins and imagine what life was like for the people who resided here centuries ago.
Zelve Open Air Museum is much less crowded than the Goreme Open Air Museum as it’s a bit further out from Goreme but still offers everything and more.
You can explore Zelve Open Air Museum comfortably in about 1 hour to 1 hour and a half.
The ticket price for visiting Zelve Open Air Museum is around 3 USD.
The opening hours of Zelve Open Air Museum are 8 am to 5 pm.
Tip: There is a restaurant at the entrance to Zelve Open Air Museum and you can enjoy some delicious pomegranate or orange juice, as well as tasty Gözleme (Turkish pancake, but better).
4. Goreme Open Air Museum
Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia and is full of cave houses and churches open to visitors to walk around and explore these old buildings for themselves.
You can explore Goreme Open Air Museum comfortably in about 1 hour and a half, but you can also see most of the main spots in about 30 minutes if you’re tight on time.
The ticket price for visiting Goreme Open Air Museum is around 8 USD.
The opening hours of the Goreme Open Air Museum are 8 am to 5 pm.
5. Ortahisar Castle
The Ortahisar Castle is an incredible place to visit if you’re looking to take in some of the best views of Cappadocia. You can see Uchisar Castle and other nearby landmarks from the top of Ortahisar.
The climb up to the top of Ortahisar Castle takes only 5 minutes and is not too hard. While climbing Ortahisar Castle, you also have to walk up a steep staircase on the exterior of the castle at one point.
Since Ortahisar Castle closes at 6 pm, you will only be able to stay for sunset if you’re visiting in October or later. This was the case when we visited. We had just about enough time to see the sun go down before we had to rush to the exit. We managed to leave a few minutes after the closing time.
This castle was our favorite because the climb was much more fun than just walking up the stairs at Uchisar.
Plan to spend about 1 hour at Ortahisar Castle.
The ticket price for visiting Ortahisar Castle is very low, only about 2 USD.
The opening hours of Ortahisar Castle are 8 am to 6 pm.
6. Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle is one of the most well-known and iconic castles in Cappadocia. It’s heavily photographed and has stunning views of the surrounding landscape, especially at sunset.
The views of Uchisar Castle are so popular that locals have built cafes around it to serve those who want to enjoy picturesque views with a cup of coffee.
We enjoyed a meal at Dream Spot Cappadocia Restaurant, which has great food and an amazing view of the Uchisar Castle.
Plan to spend about 1 hour on your visit to Uchisar Castle, or 2 to 3 hours if you also want to go for a lunch or drink in a cafe or restaurant nearby.
The ticket price for visiting Uchisar Castle is about 2 USD.
The opening hours of Uchisar Castle are 7:30 am to 8 pm.
7. Cavusin Castle
Just a bit outside Goreme is the town of Cavusin and the Cavusin Castle, which was built right into a mountain, and it’s a spectacular site to visit for free.
8. Fairy chimneys
Fairy chimneys in Cappadocia are a unique natural rock formation created when volcanic tuff (soft, porous rock) is hardened by the surrounding lava, then eroded by wind and rain to form the so-called chimneys.
Tip: There are different spots in Goreme and around Cappadocia where you can see the fairy chimneys.
Twin Fairy Chimneys just outside of Ürgüp are the most popular, but it’s often overcrowded. It’s a cool spot to visit but maybe think twice if you’re coming in the high season. We skipped those, as we saw many elsewhere, for example, at Pasabag Valley.
9. Red Valley and Red Valley Viewpoint
Red Valley in Cappadocia is a beautiful valley that gets its name from the red-colored rocks that look especially amazing for sunset.
You can spend anywhere from 30 minutes up to a few hours at the Red Valley since you can either hike the valley, stay at the viewpoint above it, or hike to the even higher hill above the viewpoint.
The Red Valley has an entrance ticket only if you come by car, and it costs less than 1 USD.
10. Love Valley
The Love Valley in Cappadocia is one of the world’s most unusual sights, with interesting natural rock formations that resemble the male private organ. 😉 Understandably, it’s the most popular spot for wedding shoots.
There is no entrance ticket to visit the Love Valley in Cappadocia, and you only have to pay about 0.5 USD if you’re coming by car to the panoramic view at the upper part.
Exploring the Love Valley on foot is free.
Plan to spend about 1 hour at Love Valley.
11. Sword Valley
Just outside Goreme, you can find the Sword Valley. And it’s right next to the take-off spot for hot air balloons, so it’s a great spot for taking photos.
There is no entrance ticket or opening hours for the Sword Valley.
12. Pasabag Valley (Valley of Monks)
The Pasabag Valley or Valley of Monks is one of the most interesting valley sites in Cappadocia, located near the Zelve Open Air Museum with many rock formations to explore.
One of the most famous photo spots in Cappadocia is right inside the Pasabag Valley, as you can get up close to them. Plan to spend about 30 to 45 minutes at Pasabag Valley.
So far, there is no entrance ticket for Pasabag Valley, but they might implement it soon. Still, we can imagine it won’t be high at all.
13. Pigeon Valley
Cappadocia’s Pigeon Valley is a glimpse into the history and culture of raising pigeons in this part of the world. Here, you can see the dovecotes, houses made for pigeons. In Cappadocia, pigeons have been used as food and fertilizer since ancient times. With poor soil, the use of pigeons was integral to their economy.
Plan to spend only about 15 minutes at Pigeon Valley if you stay at the viewpoint by the souvenir shops or about 2 hours if you go for a hike in the beautiful valley. You can hike the Pigeon Valley all the way to Goreme.
There is no entrance ticket or opening hours for the Pigeon Valley in Cappadocia.
14. ATV Tour
A very popular activity in Cappadocia is an ATV tour that takes you around the valley. It’s a super cool way to explore the area.
15. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding in Cappadocia is one of the most famous activities, and you can do it in different locations, some even go up the hill at Red Valley.
Tip: As always, please make sure to do proper research and go horseback riding only with reputable companies that treat their animals well.
Cappadocia is a great place for hiking with many known trails all around the area. These trails are easily accessible by foot.
Hiking trails in Cappadocia offer stunning views of the valleys and mountains and pass by historical sites such as churches, schools, and homes from centuries ago. Hiking is a great way to enjoy the beautiful landscape of Cappadocia.
You can check out all the hiking trails in Cappadocia on AllTrails.com.
17. Watch sunrise and sunset
There are so many great places for watching the sunrise and sunset in Cappadocia.
Read on to learn more about all the best viewpoints in Goreme and around.
The Lover’s Hill viewpoint directly above Goreme town is the easiest one to get to, and that’s why it’s also the most crowded one. But rightly so, as it does give you a unique view of the beautiful scenery around.
Red Valley viewpoint
We loved the Red Valley viewpoint in Cappadocia the most because you can either stay down by the parking lot or do a short hike for maybe 15 minutes to get to the top of the hill with a flagpole. The views from there are to die for!
Love Valley Panorama
Very quickly in the morning, the balloons can fly over the Love Valley, and that’s why the panorama there is a perfect choice as you can get up close to them.
Viewpoint right outside Goreme
Along with Love Valley’s viewpoint, the one right outside Goreme town is the one we liked the most and visited for two sunrises. It offers a great view of the valley below where the balloons are taking off. You can walk along the ridge and get some amazing photos! Also, balloons will fly really close to this spot.
Viewpoint on the west side of the valley
There are countless viewpoints around Goreme, and for one sunrise, we decided to pick a spot on the west side of the valley. You just drive from the main street towards the hills for a few minutes to reach one of these spots. Finding a rocky outcrop that will suit you should be easy.
There are so many great viewpoints all around Goreme but don’t forget about the most accessible one, your hotel terrace (if it has one!). We realized the last night that our hotel Seven Stone Hotel had a big rooftop. So the next morning, we enjoyed watching the sunrise and balloons lift off from right there.
18. Lake Tuz
While Lake Tuz salt lake is not part of Cappadocia, it’s often included in people’s list of attractions to visit there, as it’s the second largest lake in Turkey with great photo opportunities.
Depending on when you visit, the color of Lake Tuz can be different from the recognizable pink you might see online. It also wasn’t pink when we visited.
Also, depending on the year and time of year, the water level can be low to the extent that you would have to walk a long way out to get to the water. You will only know the best spot when you get there and see it for yourself.
You can visit Lake Tuz by car, or on one of the tours going from Goreme.
Best time to visit Cappadocia
The best time to visit Cappadocia is between April and October when the weather conditions are at their best for sightseeing.
The winter season is also a great time to visit Cappadocia since it’s less crowded, and the snow-covered landscape is a sight to be seen. Though in the winter the weather is a bit more unpredictable, so there might be more hot air balloon flight cancellations.
Where to stay in Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is famous for its cave houses that people lived in for more than 3000 years, and in which you can stay now. These cave houses are usually carved into the rock of cliffs and hills.
The terraces of most Goreme cave houses offer a panoramic view of the area and provide an excellent opportunity to take some truly unique photographs.
Beyond the cave houses of Cappadocia, you can find a great selection of budget and luxury hotels. We stayed at Seven Stone Hotel, which is among the cheaper options. Still, it offered a very tasty Turkish breakfast and a great terrace on the rooftop from which you can observe the balloons.
Book your stay: Goreme Hotels
Where to eat in Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is the perfect place for all foodies. The region has a variety of restaurants, both traditional and international, serving a wide range of cuisines. Cappadocia has something for everyone: from vegetarian to vegan options, from Turkish to Italian dishes.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, there are plenty of kebab shops and doner places to choose from.
We frequented the Fat Boys restaurant, which offers traditional and international food, vegetarian options, and a delicious lentil soup. The staff was super friendly, and the owner’s wife is Australian, so don’t be surprised if you find interesting items like Vegemite on the menu.
How to get to Cappadocia?
Traveling to Cappadocia is easy, simply fly into the Nevsehir or Kayseri airport and catch a taxi or shuttle to Goreme, where you will most likely stay.
The accommodations you book in Goreme are generally able to organize a ride from the airport.
The shuttle from Kayseri Airport to Goreme takes 70 minutes and costs about 10 USD.
The shuttle from Nevsehir Airport to Goreme takes 40 minutes and costs about 8 USD.
The airport shuttle service in Cappadocia is effective and frequent, and you will get picked up by a reliable driver at the airport right after landing. Cappadocia’s airports are not very big. So it’s easy to see the airport shuttle bus waiting for you when you get off the plane and exit the terminal.
How to get around Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is a popular tourist destination, and there are many ways to explore the region. You can rent a car or scooter and explore the area on your own or go on an organized tour.
Renting a car in Cappadocia is the best option and gives you more freedom and flexibility to explore the region. The prices of renting a car in Cappadocia start from around 30 USD per day.
Click here to find the best deal for rental cars in Goreme.
Also, don’t worry about driving in Cappadocia, as the roads are great. In addition, everything is easily accessible by a regular car, and you do not need a 4×4 vehicle. If you do want to go offroad, then we’d suggest an ATV.
You can also access tourist sites with a private full-day Cappadocia tour by car.
Cappadocia tours and activities
Cappadocia’s tours and activities are well organized and the most common way to explore it to the fullest.
How long should I spend in Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is best explored in 3-5 days, the perfect duration for a hot air balloon ride, seeing fairy chimneys, climbing the castles, and exploring the open-air museums, valleys, and an underground city.
Of course, staying in Cappadocia for more than just a few days will give you plenty more things to do.
Prices in Cappadocia
|Budget Hotel: $30 – $40 / night||Inexpensive meal: $3 – $5||Taxi 1km: $0.5|
|Luxury Hotel: $100 – $250 / night||Mid-range meal: $5 – $10||Car rental: $30 – $45|
Is Cappadocia safe?
Cappadocia is a very safe destination for everyone, and you can explore it without any worry. It’s easy to see why Cappadocia is one of the most popular tourist destinations globally!
Is Cappadocia worth visiting?
Cappadocia is definitely worth visiting for its amazing landscape full of historical sites, many attractions, and activities, including hot air balloon rides, incredible rock formations, and underground cities like Derinkuyu.
Things not to do in Cappadocia
There is a lot to do in Cappadocia, but there are also some things that you definitely should not do on your visit:
- Book a room in Cappadocia in winter without heating
- Miss any sunrises in Cappadocia
- Ride horses or camels from unethical businesses
- Book only one night if you want to fly in a hot air balloon