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On my journey through Turkey, I was especially stunned by the diversity of the scenery. From the green coastal regions along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the mountainous regions in the east and the high plateau in the centre, the versatility of the country completely changed the perception I had had of it before.

The most beautiful places in Cappadocia, Turkey

After my stay in the south where I had been hiking and relaxing on the beaches, I was now on the way to Turkey’s heartland. And of course, I had heard about one place on my way that I was not to skip on my trip: Cappadocia.

I didn’t know much about this region in Central Anatolia. So, I went on the internet and searched for images. And by an instant, I was surprised again. Cappadocia promised ancient history, breathtaking scenery and a sense of adventure. Of course, I had to go there and take a look myself.

There is a lot to see in Cappadocia since it is a whole region that spans the provinces Nevşehir, Kayseri, Aksaray, Kırşehir, Sivas and Niğde. That is why I would like to share my personal Cappadocia things to do.

But first, a few words about Cappadocia itself.

About Cappadocia

The ancient region of Cappadocia was ruled by many different peoples in the past, including the Persians, as a sub-region under the rule of Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. There are several theories about the origin of the name, of which the most commonly accepted says it is derived from a Persian word and means something in the sense of “Land of the beautiful horses”. It would make sense because the region was known for its horse breeding in the ancient world.

Cappadocia has a semi-arid climate, which makes the best time to travel between April and October. The summer months are mostly sunny and dry – perfect for exploring the surroundings.

But now, let’s continue with the best things to do for your stay in Cappadocia.

1. Sunrise in Goreme

Is there anything better than to start the day with a mesmerising sunrise? In Göreme, one of Cappadocia’s main towns, you don’t even have to walk far to reach one of the more elevated points at the edge of the town. You get a beautiful view across the valley with its unique rock formations that appear like chimneys reaching the sky.

Goreme in Cappadocia with hot air balloons in the sky

The main act begins just before sunrise hot-air balloons start their ascent from the ground, ultimately being lit in bright colours by the sun. Shortly after the whole scenery is bathed in bright sunlight and you can feel the sun’s warmth on your skin. It’s a spectacle you cannot afford to miss.

Of course, you can also take a ride in one of the hot air balloons. But more on that later.

2. Fairy Chimneys

Of course, this is also one of the most important Cappadocia things to do. The Fairy Chimneys are million years old rock formations which once came about through volcanic activities. These columns in various shapes and sizes are found everywhere across Cappadocia. People used to carve their homes into the soft rock of these formations.

Fairy chimneys and rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey

Fairy chimneys and rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey
Fairy chimneys and rock formations in Cappadocia

3. Uçhisar Castle

In Uçhisar, another bigger town in the region and directly neighbouring Göreme, you can find another highlight: Uçhisar Castle, or Uçhisar Kalesi in Turkish.

Sunset from the Uçhisar Kalesi (Uchisar Castle) with a fantastic view over Cappadocia
Sunset from the Uçhisar Kalesi (Uchisar Castle)

Towering above the surroundings it can be spotted easily from far away. It also is one of the volcanic rock formations. You could say it is just an oversized Fairy Chimney, that in the course of thousands of years turned into a beehive-like structure with many caves. This is why in the past it became a fortress, providing shelter and protection from attackers. The place was evicted in the year 1960 but ultimately reopened as a museum. It is now open to visitors daily from 8 am until sunset.

Speaking of sunset, this is definitely my favourite spot to enjoy the sunset. From the top, you get a fantastic view of the wide and rocky landscape. The light paints beautiful colours on the scenery and soon you almost feel like on a different planet.

4. Underground cave city Kaymaklı

If you are looking for even more adventure, you can dare to explore the underground cave city of Kaymaklı. It is located in the city centre of Nevşehir. At the surface, the sight is not visible, apart from a car park and an entrance building.

A supply shaft in the underground city of Kaymaklı in Cappadocia
A supply shaft in the underground city of Kaymaklı

The actual cave city lies deep below the surface on many levels, which are connected by tunnels and staircases. In some places the tunnels are tiny and you can only crawl through them. If you suffer from claustrophobia you should really consider your visit. But apart from the fact that you can really spend a lot of time on your visit to the underground city, it is remarkable that only a portion of the whole city is open to visitors. One can only try to imagine how big the whole city must be.

5. Selime Monastery

From the many caves carved into Cappadocia’s rocks the Selime Monastery is one of the most complex structures. Originally built by the Byzantines around the year 900 the settlement is complete with two big halls, a basilica, a large church and several other rooms. Inside the rooms, you can discover countless details and even wall paintings in some places. Today the monastery is a museum and you are asked to pay admission at the entry.

The complex cave system of the monastery of Selime
The complex cave system of the monastery of Selime

6. Ihlara Valley

The Ihlara Valley is a popular destination and the ideal place for a short hike or a walk. Everywhere in the surrounding cliffs and walls, you can discover caves and chapels carved into the rock. Some of these buildings are amazingly well preserved and in some cases, even frescoes bear witness to the religious sites.

Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia in Turkey (Ihlara Vadisi)
View of the Ihlara Valley with its cave formations

The hike through the green valley leads alongside a creek and offers the possibility of resting in one of the cafes near the water. In this valley, too, there is an admission fee, which is supposed to help the preservation of the ancient caves.

7. A ride in a hot-air balloon

But now let’s talk about an attraction in Cappadocia which probably is a highlight for many: a ride in a hot-air balloon. To be honest, I personally never got a place in one of the balloons. It is a very popular thing to do and the number of places also depends on the weather condition. So, be aware that your ride could also be cancelled or postponed if the weather doesn’t allow the flight. The ride can also be quite costly with prices ranging between 100 and 300 USD depending on the time of year and demand. However, if you manage to hitch a ride in one of the hot-air balloons, the experience will be very rewarding.

Sunrise in Goreme, Cappadocia with hot air balloons in the sky

8. Local cuisine

Like everywhere else in Turkey, the culinary aspect as an essential part of the whole experience should not be neglected when coming to Cappadocia. Apart from Gözleme, Pide, Köfte and many other dishes, there are also plenty of options with vegetables and of course the obligatory lentil soup. Cappadocia’s signature dish is Manti, small dumplings usually filled with meat or cheese.

Lentil soup and other typical dishes from Cappadocia in Turkey
Delicious Turkish food in one of the many cheap places

Afiyet olsun! Bon appétit!

Have you ever been to Cappadocia and do you have any other tips for Cappadocia things to do? Write us a comment.

Photos: Photo 8 (Cappadocia sunrise from a hot air balloon): LIAL/shutterstock.com