Now that you have reserved your transportation and hotel, the time has come to decide what to do in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia’s activity list is almost infinite but most people only spend a few days here and, therefore, they have to decide between the top options.
Below you will find a list of the most popular things to do in Cappadocia. As you plan your days you can refer to this list to make sure all your favorites are included.
* Hot air balloon ride – This is probably the biggest draw. The opportunity to see this magical landscape from above while quietly floating in and out and around the valleys and fairy chimneys occurs once in a lifetime for most people. Be sure to schedule this early in your trip in case bad weather forces cancellations. Your hotel will be happy to help you book your trip. The prices of the flights can change from season to season.
* Göreme Open-Air Museum – On a hill side outside of Göreme sit a gaggle of 1100 year old cave churches with beautiful frescoes covering the walls. Expect to spend about 2 hours here. An audio guide is available at the gate.
* Underground city – Of the hundreds of underground cities lying beneath the surface of Cappadocia only a few are open to the public. The two biggest are Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı. They are massive going 100 meters underground with countless tunnels and rooms. Unlike the open air museum they have little available information so you may want to have a guide when you visit.
* Hiking Valleys – The Cappadocia landscape is littered with valleys most of which center around Göreme. Each of them has a hiking trail that leads by cliffs full of caves, fairy chimneys with remnants of former civilizations, and orchards and vineyards. The most popular are Pigeon, Love, Swords, Red/Rose, and Zemi Valley. About an hour and a half away the Ihlara Valley is actually a captivating river gorge. Pack a picnic with water, put on a sturdy pair of shoes, grab your camera and enjoy a day in nature.
* Turkish Night and/or Whirling Dervish – On one evening plan on experiencing a cultural feast. All you can eat and drink while watching a host of different cultural dances. If you can help it, try not to plan this for the night before your balloon ride as you will be up late and have to get up extra early, not a good combination for most people.
* Ürgüp Wine & Kuruyemis – If you like wine, then you need to take some time in Ürgüp tasting the different wines made from local grapes. The wine industry is quickly developing, and although it does not compete with France yet, most people enjoy the local offerings. Ürgüp has a number of places that are happy to let you sample their many varieties. Also, Ürgüp is known for the wonderful dried fruits and nuts grown and produced in Turkey. Along the main square sit a number of shops eager for you to sample their products. Be careful because once you taste their delicacies you will not leave until your arms are full and your wallet is empty!
* Avanos pottery – The red river produces a red clay that is perfect for ceramic pottery. The trade has developed around the area for centuries and there are today no lack of masters plying their trade for the many international visitors. They give free demonstrations and even allow you to try your hand at throwing a pot with no obligation to buy anything.
* Avanos Red River Jet Boat, Gondola, Cafes – Over the last few years Avanos has worked hard to develop the banks of the river that cuts right through the middle of town. You can easily spend a day playing in the park with your kids, sitting in a riverside cafe, riding in a gondola, or speeding up and down the river in a jet boat. Include this with a visit to a pottery shop, and you will not be disappointed.
* ATV and/or Horseback Riding – For a reasonable price you can rent an ATV and speed around Cappadocia’s dirt roads or become a cowboy and tour the valleys and hills of the area.
* Uchisar/Ortahisar – These two ancient rock towers provide a wonderful view of the surrounding area and are well worth the climb. The towns that have grown around them are happy to serve their visitors with a host of shops and restaurants.
* Zelve/Cavusin/Pasabag – Ancient churches, breathtaking fairy chimneys, beautiful views, and fun hikes are available in these neighboring sites.
* Sunset Point – A short hike up the hill towering over the south side of Göreme you will find a small platform from which you can watch Cappadocia’s captivating daily sunset. For couples this is a romantic opportunity not to be missed.
* Mustafapaşa – In 1923-24 all the Greek Christians in Turkey were sent to Greece (and the Muslim Turks in Greece were sent to Turkey). This mass migration left countless empty homes across Anatolia. Most of them are not recognizable anymore but in Mustafapaşa, a village 15 minutes outside of Ürgüp, you can catch a glimpse of their lives and culture.
* Various overlook points – These are points from which you can see Göreme or Pigeon Valley or various other beautiful parts of the region. These are usually included on the package tours to give visitors good photo opportunities.
* Belisirme Monastery – This amazing monastery is built into the side of a cliff that sits right outside of the Ihlara Valley. It is included on the Green Tour.
* Soğanlı Valley – Another region of the area with cave churches, hiking trails, and shopping opportunities. This area is highlighted on the Blue Tour.
* Besides the wine and pottery listed in the previous section, you can also shop for carpets and onyx jewelry. These shops are located in most every town in the region. The package “color” tours will usually include a visit to one type of shop.
Wow! That is a list. Now that you have added a few days to your trip (or started planning your return!), you need to make some decisions.
Put all of this together, list your priorities, and have a great time. Your cave hotel manager will be happy to help you arrange transportation, tours, hot air balloons, or whatever you need. If you are not sure, plan on sitting down with them once you arrive and mapping out your stay. Or you can email ahead of time and work it out.
Let us know how it goes.
You have perused the lists and now have to figure out how to see your favorites in Cappadocia. Perhaps one of the Cappadocia tours is the way to go? Read on to find out.
You can choose between custom or package tours. Your hotel will be able to help you set these up, but we want to give you some preliminary information to help you determine which of the many alternatives is best for you.
Perhaps the daily tours include what you want. If so, just have your cave hotel reserve a spot for you. You will be one of around 15 people and the tours include transport, a guide, and lunch. These are given colorful names including the Green Tour, Red Tour, Blue Tour. The exact places can change according to season so ask your hotel staff for a current list. Expect to be gone from 10:00 am – 5:00pm.
If none of the daily tours work for you, then you can arrange a guide and transport (ask your hotel manager or a travel agent) and give them a list of what you want to do. This will be considerably more expensive, but you will be able to customize exactly to your tastes and will not have to share your guide with strangers.
If you do not like the packages and your budget will not allow the private tour and your sense of adventure is bubbling over, then rent a car or scooter and go for it. This option will certainly provide the best stories once you get home and are relating your travel experiences to your friends. With this option you should expect to get lost and enjoy serendipitous adventures.
Hopefully with this information in your back pocket you will be able to make the decision that allows you to have the best time in Cappadocia. Be sure to let us know what you chose and how it went.
Valley Hikes – A Detailed Guide to Hiking in Cappadocia
Valleys of Cappadocia – Introduction
When God carved out Cappadocia, He apparently had a little trouble keeping His hand steady. For this we must be thankful.
This is made abundantly clear from the sky. As any visitor who has flown in a hot air balloon will tell you, the view of the many Cappadocia valleys is breathtaking.
But the ground is the locus from which the valleys are truly to be enjoyed. Spending at least one day hiking through a Cappadocia valley (or mountain biking if that is your thing) is a must.
In the central Cappadocia area at least 5 valleys are easily accessible. Pack a bottle of water, take a picnic lunch if you choose, wear decent shoes/boots as the trails can be slippery and/or wet/muddy in places depending on recent weather. Expect to spend 3-4 hours in most of the valleys and work out transportation beforehand since they do not go in circles but end a few kilometers from the trailhead.
This valley descends from Uçhisar to Göreme. You can go both directions but starting in Uçhisar is easier since it goes downhill the whole way to Göreme. This trail has two starting points in Uçhisar. The longer route starts on the backside of the town near the View Point, also the location of the trees with many evil eyes tied to them. The shorter trail starts close to the fork in the Göreme – Uçhisar road. About 100 meters after the fork (heading up the hill from Göreme) you will see a sign for Pigeon Valley and bunch of wooden birds on poles). Once you get to Göreme look across the parking lot from the bus station, and you will find a public bus that leaves towards Nevşehir every half hour. This bus will drop you off in Uçhisar, or just jump in a taxi to return to Uçhisar.
Trail – Hiking map for Pigeon Valley
Across from Ortahisar a couple of kilometers down a road is a panorama viewpoint. This marks the beginnings of the multiple trails into both Rose and Red Valleys. The trails take different routes but all end in the same place near Çavuşin village. These valleys have a wonderful combination of ancient churches, panoramic views, and freaky landscape. If you happen to be in Cappadocia during a full moon, then you may want to plan a moonlight hike through this valley. Groups do this each month. It is even possible without flashlights on a cloudless night.
Trail – Hiking map for Red Rose Valley
This trail starts on the Ürgüp – Nevşehir road not far after the Uçhisar turn off (heading towards Ürgüp). The first dip into the valley is quite steep but after that the trail levels off for most of the way except for one spot for which you need to use a rope to go down a drop off (about 15 feet but not difficult). At one point the trail splits, and you must make a decision. Go left and you will follow a little plateau with great views and no shade. Go right and you follow the lower trail through the overgrowth, past cave churches, and in and out of orchards and vineyards. Both trails end at the same place on the Open Air Museum road outside of Göreme.
Trail – Hiking map for Zemi Valley
Kiliclar (Swords) Valley
Right past the Göreme Open Air museum sits the entrance to this mini-valley. If you are in a hurry, this is the best choice as it is about half the length of the other valleys. Besides being shorter it is unique in its landscape as well having more accessible fairy chimneys and cave churches than the other valleys. If you have elementary-age children, this may be your best bet. It ends in the area between Göreme and Çavuşin.
Kiliclar (Swords) Valley Hiking Trekking Map Cappadocia
This is the most interestingly named of Cappadocia’s valleys. We will leave it to you to figure out what we mean, but we do not expect it will remain a mystery once you make the trek. Love Valley is less of a trail and more of an opportunity to wonder around fairy chimneys and along the base of cliffs. This is another good one for children. Take a picnic and spend a few hours climbing and exploring.Hiking map for Love Valley Cappadocia