CAPPADOCIA What to See and Do

CAPPADOCIA What to See and Do – Guide 2024

Visiting Cappadocia, an arid region of Turkey , reserves numerous surprises among things to see and do , certainly leaving you speechless. Thanks to its incredible historical and naturalistic , as well as cultural, heritage, Cappadocia is able to amaze even the most curious traveler with incredible landscapes. This famous region of Turkey is in the minds of all of us thanks to the iconic hot air balloons that cross its sky at dawn, a unique point of view to admire the wonderful fairy chimneys : rock formations carved out by the force of nature and time. A destination for hikers and history lovers , Cappadocia is an unmissable stop that will make your trip to Turkey unforgettable.

Cappadocia, Where is it

Located right in the center of Anatolia, Cappadocia is a historical region of Turkey, in Asia Minor . Its territory extends from the Antitaur mountains , covering Cilicia, Pontus and Galatia. Considering its position between Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, in the past, Cappadocia Turkey was an important point where various trades converged, but it was also the scene of many invasions . For this reason today the region is the result of the influence of many cultures, which have modified it from various points of view.

Its landscape today leaves even the most curious traveler speechless, offering fairy-tale views thanks to the work of nature and, above all, of the Erciyes and Hasan volcanoes , now inactive, which have created truly particular lava and rock formations . By reaching Cappadocia from Istanbul with a short flight, it will be possible to discover fairy chimneys , the open-air museum of Goreme , underground cities and enchanted valleys , even flying over them in a hot air balloon!

hot air balloons on the sky during daytime

Top 10 Cappadocia, What to See

Below you will find the map of Cappadocia with the most important places to visit during your trip to Turkey. After that, we will see them in detail in our guide to Cappadocia, what to see and do .

1. The Fairy Chimneys

Among the things you absolutely must see during your trip to Cappadocia, you cannot miss the wonderful fairy chimneys. These prism-shaped rock formations are the result of the patient work of nature and time , which has allowed the creation of these landscapes, shaped by the wind. At first glance, these chimneys look like towers created by pouring material from above, usually made of rock of volcanic origin, silt or tuff, they rise towards the sky along much of the plateau. Surely, fairy chimneys have contributed to creating the collective imagination we have of this area of ​​Turkey, between history and legend.

In fact, their name derives from the ancient popular belief that these formations were houses of fairies and fairy-tale creatures, who lit fires inside them, causing smoke to come out of the holes in these structures. In the past, the chimneys were used as homes by Christian anchorites , who hid here to escape religious persecution. Today, many of these ancient natural structures serve as museums or accommodation for travelers, allowing for a truly authentic Cappadocia experience. Furthermore, the best way to observe them is definitely thanks to a hot air balloon trip at sunrise!

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Read also: Trip to Türkiye – From the border to Cappadocia, a travel diary

2. The Goreme Open Air Museum

During your trip to Cappadocia, among the things to see you cannot miss a visit to the Open Air Museum in Goreme. In addition to its scenic beauty , it represents a fundamental step to better discover the history of this Turkish region, through its rock churches and Byzantine monasteries dug directly into the volcanic rock. A UNESCO World Heritage Site , it is located near the center of the city of the same name and was a settlement of monks and an important place for religious people during the 17th century . Following the path you will immediately find the church of St. Basil , the Aziz Basil Şapeli , among the most important saints of the region. Inside the chapel, it is also possible to observe the ossuaries of other figures of the time.

Thanks to the meticulous restoration work underway we can still see the paintings depicting the saint, together with St. Theodore and St. George fighting with the dragon , a pagan symbol. In the apse there is the Madonna with baby Jesus. Passing this church, you will find yourself in front of the valley of poplars and the church of Elmalı Kilise , S. Barbara, dating back to the 12th century . Among the other Byzantine churches carved into the rock, you will find that of S. Onofrio, the chapel of S. Caterina and a convent, also carved into the stone, intended for the nuns.

a rock formation with a door in it

3. Uchisar

Moving just 5 km from the Goreme Open Air Museum , we find ourselves in front of the rock fortress of Uchisar . An imposing castle that stands at the foot of the small village, which in the past used this structure created in tuff and volcanic rock to escape enemy invasions. Numerous rock churches and Byzantine religious monuments have also been found within the Uchisar fortress . Furthermore, the rooms present were dug directly into the rock, connecting them thanks to tunnels , tunnels and stairs. Many rooms were used as pigeon lofts , thus allowing bird droppings to be collected and used to fertilize crops.

Today, Uchisar represents one of the main attractions among the things to see in Cappadocia, offering a unique landscape for taking dream photos . Furthermore, reaching its top it will be possible to observe an incredible panorama of Mount Erciyes , especially during sunset.

4. The city of Avanos

In addition to the magnificent landscapes carved into the volcanic rock, among the things to see in Cappadocia there are also fascinating and characteristic cities , such as Avanos. Crossed by the red Kizilirmak river , the largest in the country, thus dividing the new part from the old, it is a place that seems to have stopped in time, preserving its traditions and local craftsmanship . As soon as you arrive here, everywhere you can observe vases , shards, jugs and glasses, all created by working with terracotta . In fact, the main characteristic of Avanos which has made it famous in Turkey and not only in Cappadocia, is precisely the processing of ceramics , which is handed down by men , while women take care of the production of carpets .

Walking through the streets of the city you can observe stone houses, monuments dedicated to craftsmanship and an enormous jug that pours water directly into the river, which owes its reddish color to the presence of Kil clay at the bottom . The city’s artisanal production has its roots in the Hittite people , who were the first to know how to exploit this resource, working it thanks to the skilful use of the lathe . But the production of carpets is also thriving, thanks to the schools that teach women this profession, creating unique and world-famous designs thanks to the quality of the workmanship.

5. Devrent Valley

Also known by the funny name of Pigeon Valley or Imagination Valley, the Devrent Valley absolutely must be part of our What to do in Cappadocia guide . A truly unique spectacle for the eyes, thanks to the dense cones of volcanic origin that sprinkle the area , which create a truly evocative image and varied shapes, in which it is possible to see the Madonna and Child , hats, reptiles and much more; as far as our imagination allows us to go. Thanks to the natural flat cap of rock that most of these pink-colored formations possess, they have protected themselves from rain and erosion , which instead affected all the surrounding rocks, thus creating the process known as differentiated erosion .

Reaching this site is simple, being right on the road that connects Avanos to the city of Urgup . It is not necessary to pay tickets to visit the formations and there are no paths, for this reason it is important to pay attention so as not to get lost among the rocks or slip . So, if you want to enter here it is recommended to have suitable shoes .

6. Pasabag Valley

Between Goreme and Avanos lies the Pasabag Valley. Also called the valley of the monks , it is a real open-air museum where you can observe the most famous fairy chimneys in the whole region. The most common rock formations here are mushroom-shaped. Until a few years ago, a particularly busy road passed right through the center of this place, now closed to allow the formations to be preserved in the best way and thus avoid their collapse. In the past, the Pasabag Valley hosted places of exile for monks , who found shelter inside the chimneys for their spiritual retreat.

Even today, in this truly unique archaeological and landscape site we can observe and visit churches and chapels inside the rock, tunnels and ancient settlements . A truly evocative walk along a route specifically designed to explore this site to the fullest, discovering ancient places and structures carved into the rock.

7. Derinkuyu Underground City

Among the things to see in Cappadocia that are absolutely not to be missed is a visit to the underground city of Derinkuyu. A set of caves, narrow tunnels, stairs and rooms , which wind up to a depth of 85 metres ! This ancient settlement dates back to the 7th century BC and was home to over 20,000 inhabitants , thus creating a true metropolis underground, where absolutely nothing was missing. This city was discovered by chance in 1963 , revealing a veritable labyrinth of tunnels and caves on multiple levels, which had more than 600 portals to access dormitories, kitchens and chapels. Of the 20 levels discovered to date within the underground city, it is possible to visit 8 , thus allowing its optimal conservation.

8. Creamy

The city of Derinkuyu is not the only one underground to visit in Cappadocia, and it is not even the largest ! In fact, the record belongs to the underground city of Kaymakli. Its origins are dated between the 6th and 10th centuries BC , unfolding over eight floors that descend to a depth of over 43 metres . As with the structures of all the underground cities of Cappadocia, that of Kaymakli also develops around a chimney which allowed the ventilation of the rooms, winding through tunnels and narrow passages which allowed the places to be connected. According to studies carried out within the site, the underground city was home to over 30,000 inhabitants .

Its main purpose was to protect the inhabitants from foreign invasions, concealing its presence and creating an environment that also allowed, in the event of enemy intrusions, to disorientate those who did not fully understand its labyrinthine structure. This place was first opened to the public in 1964 , and to date, around 36 underground cities have been discovered in Cappadocia . Given its particularly narrow structure, the visit is not highly recommended for those who suffer from claustrophobia .

9. Ortahisar

Nicknamed the Turkish Matera by travellers, the rock city of Ortahisar is one of the must-visit stops among the things to see in Cappadocia. Close to the city of Goreme , Ortahisar offers a visit rich in history , but also a breathtaking landscape and a sky crossed by the flight of hundreds of colorful hot air balloons. The name of the city derives from its castle created in the tuff and the enormous stone chimney which represents one of the highest points in the region. In fact it was built at over 86 m above sea level ! In the past the castle was both an accommodation and a structure that allowed the defense of the city’s inhabitants and, only since 2013 , has it been open for visits.

Those who wish to discover the castle, however, will have to prepare for a steep climb and pay attention to the small steps , as well as bend down to discover its tunnels. Furthermore, the warehouses are still used today for the conservation of fruit and vegetables produced in the area. In the city of Ortahisar, there is the Culture Museum , to best discover the history of Cappadocia and its rich past. Inside, for those who want to take a break, there is also a restaurant .

10. Ihlara Valley

The hlara Vadisi , or the Ihlara Valley, is a real paradise for trekking lovers and is among the things to see in Cappadocia if you love this sport and walking surrounded by nature . The valley winds 150 m deep in a canyon over 15 km long in the southern part of Cappadocia, near the city of Aksaray . In addition to its naturalistic heritage , the valley is also known for the numerous rock structures and the 50 churches present, dug into the rock of volcanic origin and tuff. The route along the valley begins in the town of Ihlara , which also gives the place its name, and ends in Selime . Along the way you can observe green landscapes that are very different from the aridity of the region, but also rock churches from the 6th century .

It is also possible to stop on some picturesque stilt houses along the route to take a break and refresh yourself, surrounded by a relaxing and bucolic atmosphere. The route can also be adapted based on your experience and difficulty , as well as the kilometers you wish to travel. Absolutely among the things to visit in Cappadocia for sports and adventure lovers!

a rocky cliff with trees

TOP 5 Cappadocia What to do, experiences not to be missed

After having analyzed together the 10 things to visit in Cappadocia , let’s now see the things you absolutely must do and the unique experiences not to be missed during your trip to this region of Turkey.

So, let’s see together what are the 5 things to do and unmissable experiences in Cappadocia !

1. Flying in a hot air balloon

An iconic image of Cappadocia and a dream of many people, hot air ballooning over fairy chimneys is undoubtedly an experience worth having if you find yourself here. A journey of approximately 1 hour at dawn, to observe a breathtaking landscape from a unique perspective, witnessing the preparation of these magnificent colored balloons and watching the colors of the sky change, giving us an experience that we will carry in our hearts forever. Thanks to this flight we will be able to observe the majestic rock formations and, when the hot air balloon drops, almost touch them. During the flight, time will seem to have stopped, giving us magical moments wrapped in the silence of the morning.

hot air balloons on brown field during daytime

2. Walk along the Valleys of Cappadocia

For lovers of trekking and uncontaminated nature , Cappadocia is a true paradise rich in resources. Routes designed between deep and green valleys , the picturesque fairy chimneys and arid lands make this region ideal to discover thanks to a journey on foot, thus also delving into the history of the populations that inhabited the region. Walking along its valleys you will visit underground cities, villages with ancient fortifications, rock churches with Byzantine paintings and pigeon houses. Discovering Cappadocia on foot is an experience that allows you to visit the main attractions at a leisurely pace , fully enjoying the unique atmosphere of these places.

3. Visit Cappadocia by car

If you are looking for a unique way to visit Cappadocia and discover its main attractions in total freedom , a trip by car allows you to move in the best way in this region, starting from Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, reaching Cappadocia to visit as well the wonderful fairy chimneys, the rock churches and the underground cities. Then continuing the journey through uncontaminated and unique landscapes arriving at the cotton castle in Pumukkale and, finally, you will arrive in Bodrum , a magnificent city overlooking the Aegean Sea to experience a few days of relaxation and at your own pace, thanks to the freedom that only a I travel by car.

cappadocia car
A car trip to Cappadocia and Turkey allows you to move around in complete freedom

4. Cappadocia on horseback

The horse is a proud and ancient animal , which has always lived in synergy with man. Furthermore, the Anatolia region is also famous for being the land of origin of Arabian horses , a breed full of energy and lively, ideal thanks to its agility for crossing the steep paths of this plateau. Visiting Cappadocia on horseback is an experience not to be missed to connect in the best way with this magnificent animal and discover together the valleys that wind along the territory. Furthermore, it is possible to choose the route you prefer based on your experience, choosing those for beginners or advanced, thus starting a real adventure of times gone by.

5. Discover local craftsmanship

Cappadocia is not only famous for its hot air balloons, but also for an ancient tradition of craftsmanship handed down for centuries among its inhabitants. Especially during a visit to the city of Avanos , in fact, it is possible to observe women intent on producing typical carpets . Their traditional designs have made this product famous and sold all over the world . To create one, it can take a few months and, for the most valuable ones, even years! If women have dedicated themselves to carpets for centuries, it is men who are entrusted with the processing of terracotta and the production of vases .

By visiting the most famous workshops in Avanos it is possible to observe the methods with which the clay takes shape on the wheel, how the vases are fired and then finely painted. Finally, it will be possible to purchase one, taking home a souvenir or a truly unique and typical gift from Cappadocia!

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