There are so many things to do in Cappadocia that you will be spoiled. Or in doubt: what to do first? Cappadocia, Turkey, is famous for the “moonish” landscape, the hot air balloon, the underground cities, the heartwarming food, the valleys and centuries of history. Cappadocia was in our bucket list for many years, so in our third visit to Turkey we finally crossed it off.
First things first, where is Cappadocia? Well, it’s literally in the middle of Turkey, the area is called Central Anatolia. It’s a must visited place in Turkey and considered one of the top destinations in the Middle East. The famous cities in the region are Göreme, Urgup, Uchisar, and Avanos. So, where to stay in Cappadocia?
Each city has it`s pros & cons. Göreme is usually the main choice. Yes, it is busy and full of tourists, but it comes handy on the availability of hotels, restaurants, and activities. Uchisar for sure grants the best views of Cappadocia, although it is really quiet. In Urgup, you can also find a large selection of hotels and restaurants. If you are looking for pottery, Avanos is your place. There are public buses connecting the cities but I would recommend arranging your own transport, especially because there are a lot of things to do in Cappadocia and you need to move around.
We opted to stay in Göreme because we found an awesome cave hotel with a great price, we could walk to some valleys, we could appreciate the hot air balloons every morning from the terrace of our hotel while having breakfast and it was easy to reach from Istanbul.
What are the top things to do in Cappadocia?
I think the question is what not to do in Cappadocia? Seriously there are so many activities and things to do in Cappadocia that you will run out of time. We had 2 targets on this trip: fly on a hot air balloon & explore the area on a scooter.
A hot air balloon in Cappadocia is a must-do activity. Ok, not that cheap, price ranges from 110 -180 Euros, but it’s money well spent. I`m not a big fan of heights and I was a bit anxious about the flight. The driver picked us up at the hotel around 5:00 am and drove to the company’s HQ where they gave us safety instructions and an “ok” breakfast.
A lot of tension was going on because on the past three days no balloon flew due to the weather conditions. It was the last opportunity for some people. Consider that the weather can be tricky, book your hot air balloon flight on your first morning in Cappadocia. After waiting about 1 hour they rushed everybody to the vans and drove like crazy to the launching point.
What a beautiful scene, those colorful balloons being inflated, the first lights of the sun crossing the sky. And myself thinking if I should board in that fragile basket that would be lifted by hot air trapped in the fabric. No, I was not convinced. Natalie realized that I was, let’s say, paralyzed. She is very persuasive, first she asked if I was afraid, then told me to think about my regrets related to things that I didn`t do, and finally, she told me to not be such a pussy.
Five minutes later I was holding the basket border and watching Cappadocia from its best point of view. The Cappadocia rocky formations from above are spectacular, the sunrise, all the other balloons swinging with the wind, what an experience. Definitely hot air balloon is one of the must things to do in Cappadocia. After landing we celebrated the flight with champagne, actually was a kind of non-alcoholic wine [horrible].
Back to the safety of the ground we were off to explore the valleys. The first one was Zemi Valley, crazy rocky formations and almost nobody there. A trail took us to a plateau with great views of the Göreme Open Air Museum. Then we headed to Rose Valley, more bizarre formations, looks like we were in a Star Wars site.
On the following day, we packed some fruits, biscuits, water, and went to the famous Love Valley. A stray dog started following us and keep following till we were far from Göreme. I was worried if he would manage the trail, turns out that “Mustafa” [nice name, I know] was leading us.
We walked the whole valley and Mustafa walking beside us all the time. We gave him water, biscuits, some cuddle. We bumped into other hikers [so fancy, after 2 days walking we became hikers] and everybody was asking how we manage to travel with a dog. We had to explain that he was our dog only for the day. After 11km and 3 hours hiking, we reached back Göreme and Mustafa just walked away, no goodbye, no tears, nothing…
The Love Valley was my favorite one, we were there during Autumn so the shades of yellow, brown and orange gave a special touch. The rocky formations at Love Valley are, humm… well, check the pictures out and you will have your own conclusions what they remind.
On our last day we rented a scooter to search for things to do in Cappadocia out of the tourist path. Our idea was to get lost. We drove over 50 km with no plan in mind. We passed by Uchisar, Ortahisar, Cavasin, and Avanos. Our curiosity took us to small roads lined with vineyards, hills overlooking the valleys, abandoned houses and churches carved on rocks. Of course, I had a lot of fun riding off-road. I followed some ATV`s on dirty tracks and sandy roads, great fun. [Hope the rental guy don’t read this post].
I was so happy driving around that I didn’t realize how cold it was. On late October the weather can be chilly there, the whole day I was driving wearing only a light jumper. When we arrived in Avanos my body started shaking, I couldn’t control it. I wasn’t feeling my hands and feet. My face was white as a ghost, and my lips deep blue.
Hypothermia, my body was not coping with the cold. We stopped at a cafe and the staff came to help me. Hot tea and a special seat in front of the heater. I was shivering, could barely hold the cup of tea. After half an hour I recovered and we made our way back to Göreme. Tip from the [not] pro: stay warm when riding a scooter or motorbike.
Those 3 activities were our favorite things to do in Cappadocia. Although there are more. On the nearby city of Avanos you can find pottery shops and even learn how to do your own pottery. Talking about pottery, a must-try is the pottery kebab. I think I ate pottery kebab every single night while in Cappadocia. It`s a slow-cooked stew made with meat and vegetables, in a sealed clay pot. My favorite one was made with lamb. Absolutely delicious!
More attractions and things to do in Cappadocia
» The Turkish Night, this is a very touristic attraction in Cappadocia, dance performances and dinner. Not my cup of tea.
» Horse riding, I’m sure that should be a nice way to visit the valleys but I don’t like the idea of being seated over 2 hours on the back of a horse.
» ATV tours, this is a great one, but since we rented our scooter, we venture ourselves in the same tracks as the ATV`s, not recommended but is great fun [and a bit dangerous]!
» The underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are well-preserved ruins going as deep as 8 floors below ground. After a not happy visit to the Catacombs in Paris (I’m not good in tiny enclosed spaces) we skipped the underground cities. However, the visitors say the underground cities are one of the top things to do in Cappadocia.
» If you are short in time consider taking one of the tours. There are two tours that cover most of the things to do in Cappadocia. The Green Tour will take you to Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley hike, Selime Monastery, Pigeon Valley, Göreme Panorama & some jewelry shops. And the Red Tour will take you to Göreme open-air museum, Cavusin old cave village, Uchisar castle, Devrent valley, Urgup fairy chimneys, and to a pottery shop in Avanos. You can book in advance via GetYourGuide and save time, or shop around at the local travel agencies.
How to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul
» Cappadocia by plane
Turkish Airlines flies from Istanbul Ataturk Airport & Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Nevsehir Airport and Kayseri Airport. Pegasus Airlines flies from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Nevsehir Airport. From Kayseri or Nevsehir you need to take a minibus/van to Göreme.
» Cappadocia by bus
If you can sleep on a bus this might be an option. Overnight bus from Istanbul to Göreme takes about 12hs to complete the journey. The buses in Turkey are quite comfortable and some even offer individual LCD screens for movies & games. You can book your bus ticket with Kamilkoc, Metro Turizm, or on OMIO.
» Cappadocia by train
The train from Istanbul to Ankara, about 4 hours, and then more 4 hours by bus to Cappadocia. It`s an option if you are traveling with a Eurail pass. Travel around Europe and Turkey by train is very easy, we wrote an article giving all the information and tips to buy the best Eurail pass, choose the itinerary and save money.
Where to stay in Cappadocia
Stay in a cave hotel! It´s part of the experience and one of the things to do in Cappadocia. Our recommendation is to stay at Family Cave Suites, the rooms were incredibly spacious, with a fireplace, jacuzzi and even a Hamman. The breakfast was assorted and delicious. Will deffo go back!
Another option [especially for tiny budgets] is the Homestay Cave Hostel it wasn’t a properly cave hotel but the price will make you happy.
Best restaurants in Cappadocia
Topdeck Cave is also listed as #1 by Tripadvisor. The food is gorgeous, the service impeccable and the venue is beautiful. And gets better, all of that comes under a very reasonable price. One of the best lamb dishes I ever ate. Book in advance, is a small place and get packed every day! [A big thanks to Clement & Jo-Ann for inviting us for dinner]
Cappadocian Cuisine, this family-owned restaurant offers delicious meals at a very affordable price. My favorite pottery kebab was made there. 🙂
Write this post made me realize how much fun and special moments we had in Cappadocia. It was on our bucket list for a long time e finally we crossed it off. I’m so glad we went there during the Autumn, it was less crowded, with fresh air and nature was gorgeous.
Turkish people know how to treat their guests. You can be sure you will sleep and eat well there. Also, there is something special in the air, not sure if is the culture, the history, the beauty… There are so many things to do in Cappadocia that you will be overwhelmed, however, take some time to seat on Sunset Point hill to relax and watch life goes by… I´m sure you will feel the powerful energy that comes from that place.