The otherworldly land of Cappadocia is best known for its unique rock formations and fairytale like landscapes. This whimsical part of Turkey should be a must see in your travel bucket list. The travel guide below covers what to see in Cappadocia as well as key information to help you plan your trip and make the most out of your stay.
Where is Cappadocia and When to Visit?
Cappadocia is in central Turkey in the region of Anatolia. The best time to visit Cappadocia is from the end of April to June and from September to October. These months are typically warmer during the day, cooler at night, and there is very little rain. Another factor that is important when thinking about visiting Cappadocia is the wind and I will get to why soon!
Göreme is the most popular town to visit in this area and is close to most of the attraction in this what to see in Cappadocia post.
How to Get to Cappadocia
The best way to get to Cappadocia is to fly. Turkey is a massive country and driving between places is not worth it, considering that domestic flights are very affordable. If you are flying to Cappadocia from Istanbul or any other major city, Turkish airlines and Pegasus Airlines are the two major airlines that fly to this region.
There are 2 airports somewhat near Cappadocia. Although neither are big airports, one is bigger than the other and probably your best bet for flying into Cappadocia. Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport is the smaller airport at a distance of 45km from Cappadocia (40 minute drive). Kayseri Erkilet Airport is the bigger of the 2 and is located 75km away (1 hour’s drive).
How to Get Around Cappadocia
There are lots of things to see in and around Cappadocia, so I would highly recommend renting a car if you are comfortable driving. Getting a car is also great for driving to and from the airport. Your other options are taxis and tours. Your hotel may be able to arrange a shuttle to and from the airport but I would imagine this would be expensive.
If you are renting a car, then book early. As I mentioned before, the airport is not big and neither are the car rental places. Turkish highways and roads are very easy to navigate through with Google Maps.
How Many Days to Stay
I would recommend staying a minimum of 2 nights. This is provided you are not going to do any lengthy hikes. If you are an hiker, I would recommend staying more than 2 days. There is a reason I am recommending a minimum of 2 nights instead of 2 days and I will cover that in the next section.
What to Do in Cappadocia
Hot Air Balloons
If you had a choice of selecting any location to fly in a hot air balloon, trust me when I say that you will not regret choosing to do it in Cappadocia. Each morning at the rise of the sun, these colorful balloons start emerging almost from no where and it truly is a sight to be behold and a definite must see and experience when in Cappadocia.
There are two ways to experience this:
- From a balloon itself – There are several companies to choose from and we went with Butterfly Balloons . Why them? They were very highly rated and this is important when choosing a company as you don’t want to compromise on your safety or the experience. They offer pick and drop off to and from your hotel, a light breakfast and then a certificate and medal at the end.
- From a Rooftop or highpoint – You can also experience the sight of these balloons from a rooftop or highpoint at sunrise.
NOTE – Balloons don’t fly if the wind is over 10 kmph. This is why it’s important to have at least 2 nights in Cappadocia. if you don’t get to do it the first morning you are there then you can try again the next morning. Pick up from you hotel will be between 4:30- 5AM but you should be dropped off by 7AM the latest.
Explore the Geology
Göreme Open-Air Museum
A UNESCO world heritage site and a famous site to see in Cappadocia. This open air museum includes rock-cut churches, well preserved frescos, monk-cells and a vast spread of rock-formations . The complex dates back to the 10th to 12th centuries, when Cappadocia was an important Byzantine religious center.
There are several churches and chapels within the complex with beautiful frescos depicting images from Christianity. Perhaps the most important church is the Dark Church and you have to buy a separate ticket to go inside. However, there are several other churches like Apple, St. Barbara and Snake that are free with the Göreme Open-Air Museum ticket.
Zelve Open-Air Museum
These cave dwellings started off as a monastery in the 9th century and then turned in to a village and was inhabited until as recent as the 1950s. However, the village had to be abandoned due to erosion and danger of falling rocks.
Red and Rose Valley
Named so because of the pink and red hues of the the rock formations.
You can see a number of diverse rock formations here, from fairy chimneys to mushroom-shapes. Some of Cappadocia’s most famous landscapes can be found here and I think you should definitely add this to your must see list for Cappadocia.
Panorama View Point
A good place to take the view all in and also has several hiking trails.
Most hikes start from the village of Uçhisar. Its most famous site is the castle which is essentially a giant rock formation riddled with caves. This is a popular site to watch the sunset.
These phallic shaped rock formations can be hiked to but you can also see the entire valley from a higher up point.
Derinkuyu & Kaymakli Underground Cities
These underground city was used by early Christians to hide from attacks. Derinkuyu Underground City is Cappadocia’s deepest underground shelter with 16 levels and it said to have accommodated 20,000 people. There are a lot of narrow tunnels so tall and claustrophobic people may not entirely enjoy this experience!
Both Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities are close enough together and can be visited in a day but to be very honest I was glad I only visited one. Out of the 2 cities, Derinkuyu is said to be less popular if you are looking for a quieter experience.
TIP – Buy the combined entrance ticket for the attraction sites. It is definitely a lot cheaper than paying individually for each attraction
There are several vineyards around Cappadocia. We stopped at Turasan in the village of Ürgüp. They had changed the way they conducted tastings due to the pandemic, but we were still able to taste their delicious wines in their restaurant. You could select 3 wines of your choice and they did a great job explaining each type.
Any high point in Göreme will essentially give you stunning views of the sunset. Here’s 2 that we visited.
- Sunset View Point – yes, it’s literally called sunset view point. Our GPS gave us the wrong way and we almost missed the sunset! Follow the rest of the cars instead of the GPS!
2. Uchisar Castle – considered the highest point of Cappadocia. You do need to buy a ticket to go in but the views at the top are worth it.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
There are lots of options for lodging in Cappadocia but I recommend staying in a cave hotel. Although slightly expensive, I think it’s worth it as it will contribute to the memorability of your visit.
Where I Stayed
We stayed at Cappadocia Cave Suites. They have several types of rooms and I stayed in a fairly chimney suite. The property is in a convenient location close to the city center of Göreme. Their breakfast was noteworthy as well!
Where to Eat
The food here was absolutely delicious. We went at almost closing time and the staff were so accommodating and nice. Highly recommend it!
Good for a quick bite or lunch. Had a large selection of Turkish pide (Turkish flat bread that resembles pizza)
Another really great place with rooftop seating. I really enjoyed the hummus which came hot mixed with ground meat!
A sophisticated rooftop restaurant. We stopped here to get dessert.
Old Greek House
Old Greek House is not in Göreme itself but on the way to the underground city of XXX. The food here as phenomenal and we got to try some unique appetizers and raki, which is the Turkish national drink.
A good spot to grab a quick refreshment or coffee. Lots of outdoors seating and very whimsical and colorful.
Interested in learning about what to eat in Turkey? Check out my detailed post about what to eat in Turkey HERE
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Visiting Istanbul? Check out this post about what to see and do in Istanbul HERE