Traveling to Cappadocia and what to see in Cappadocia, Turkey

by Ale Werner

Turkey is a destination in the minds of many travelers. There are a huge number of towns and cities to visit that will surprise you. Among them is the Cappadocia area, where each dawn hundreds of hot air balloons rise showing tourists and visitors a completely different view of the place. In this travel guide to Cappadocia, we tell you everything you need to know before and during your visit. How to get to Cappadocia, where to sleep in Cappadocia, where to eat in Cappadocia, how to get around Cappadocia, what to see in Cappadocia and much more.

Göreme is the most popular town, so we recommend you to stay there.

Information about Cappadocia in Turkey.

Located in the Central Anatolian region of Turkey, Cappadocia / Cappadocia / Kapadokya has been home during thousands of years of human settlements. It is said that it is one of the regions that were first inhabited in the world, so its historical heritage is impressive. The rock formations have allowed different generations and cultures to dig them and turn them into cave cities, now open to visitors who choose to visit Cappadocia.

Cappadocia is famous for its rock formations called “fairy chimneys” and a landscape that seems taken from another planet. The truth is Cappadocia has many attractions to offer. The most popular activity here is rising into a hot air balloon at dawn. In Capadoccia you will find the best prices to do this, so dozens of tourist agencies offer the rides.

The area can be easily traveled by car or motorcycle. Today the roads are very well maintained and ready for the massive arrival of tourists.

You need to know: Cappadocia is an area within Central Anatolia, it is not a town in itself. The nearest towns are Göreme and Ürgüp. From this cities depart most of the tours and you can find nice hotels and accommodations.

You can access the map here.

What to see in Cappadocia

There are 4 types of tours to made in Capadoccia, and other places that you can visit on your own. Regarding the tours, these are fixed by colors on all the tourist companies: red, green, blue and yellow. The nicest and more liked ones are the red and green, which was what we do. If you have a lot of time and you stay more than just a couple of days in the city, you can also do the other two. Tours include transfer, lunch and all entrances tickets. In addition to a guide that will tell you the history and information about what you are seeing.

Next, you can find information about the red and green tours to do during your trip to Cappadocia. If you are looking for information about the blue route, you can visit this link. About the yellow tour, there is almost no information because very few agencies do it.

All the sightseeing stops of the tours can also be done by free. You can rent a motorcycle or car in Göreme or at the airport. Some places require the payment of an entry (never more than 10 or 25 Turkish Liras per person).

The green tour in Cappadocia

  • Duration: 09:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Price: 50 euros per person if you book online.
  • Tip: By booking in the same city of Göreme you can get better prices, but in high season we recommend you book in advance.
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Goreme Esentepe (Panoramic view):

A beautiful viewpoint to the Göreme valley, the city, and the fairy chimneys.

Ihlara Valley:

It is the most famous valley for excursions in Cappadocia. The valley is nestled in cliffs over 100 meters high and was eroded by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago.

You can not miss this place when visiting Cappadocia. There are 4 entrances to the valley that extends in a walk of more than 14 kilometers. The first is in Villa Ihlara itself. The second entrance is at kilometer 4; the tours arrive here… and you must descend a staircase of more than 300 steps to reach the valley. The third entrance is at kilometer 7 in Belisirma and the last at the end of the valley in the Monastery of Selime.

The valley has several churches dug into the rock, which can be visited on the trek. On these, we find vestiges of painting. There are also caves that were once homes of an ancient civilization.

  • The tours usually make the route between the second and third entrance on foot. It is said that this is the best sector with the greatest appeal of both stone churches and nature.
  • Belisirma has some restaurants next to the Melendiz River, where the tours also usually make their lunch stop. The place is very attractive and relaxing.
  • There are tours that make the 14 kilometers of the valley by foot if you want to see it completely. It is also possible to do it on your own.
  • Due to the conquest of various religions, all the religious paintings within the churches have no eyes. They were erased.
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Derincuyu Underground City:

One of the must-see places in Cappadocia that you can not miss. Here you will find a huge underground city built 60 meters from the ground (like 7 floors down). Here people used to live and it is estimated that some 20,000 people could have populated the city. The tour goes through different types of rooms and explains the ventilation system that was made to allow people to survive and live underground. In addition, they show how the inhabitants used to cook without the need to go outside.

Selime Monastery

An old monastery dug in rock. Here people used to live. It is possible to walk freely through different rooms and rock formations. It is also possible to climb the fairy chimneys and get any place you want, but always under your responsibility. There are no major restrictions.

The monastery dates from the 13th century and was constructed by Christian monks. You will be surprised by the resemblance to the Star Wars movies because they were filmed here.

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Pigeon Valley

Returning to Göreme we found this valley. It is popular because of the small holes in the Fairy Chimneys where the pigeons’ nest; hence its name.

Red Tour through Cappadocia

  • Hours: 09:45 to 16:30
  • Price: 50 euros per person
  • During high season you must book in advance to secure your spots.

Uchisar Castle:

In the city of Uchisar next to Göreme is this impressive castle dug on top of a mountain. It is the highest peak in Cappadocia and a natural fort since the 1st century.

It is possible to get to the top and observe the castle inside, but the truth is not worth the walk as much as other viewpoints in the area. If you decide to go in, you will have to pay an entry of 20 Turkish Liras.

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Love Valley:

A panoramic view of what appears to be male genitalia, that’s why the name. You can also see the city of Göreme from here. You can not miss this beautiful view during your trip to Cappadocia.

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Göreme Open Air Museum

(25 Turkish Liras, included in the tour price).

From the 3rd century, monks and religious nuns lived in this place. Here they dug Byzantine churches and monasteries. Paintings inside the buildings are very well preserved, showing images of the old and new testament. The trails are much more restricted than in other museums and monasteries in the area, but everything is much better preserved and it is easy to get an idea of how they lived at the time. This outdoor museum is something you must-see when traveling to Cappadocia.

Avanos.

This city is the cradle of ceramics. Because the city is on the coast of the Red River, which gets its name from the red clay that brings in the water and deposits on the coasts of the city. There are several workshops, but in general, the tours take you to the largest of them all.

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Imagination Valley:

Also known as Devrent Valley, this valley is popular for its unreal environment, with rock formations where with a little creativity you can find shapes of animals and objects. We could not get down the bus and visit it because it started to rain very hard, but we left you a picture of a “camel” on a rock.

Pashabagi or Monks Valley

More caves dug by the monks during the Byzantine era. Here it is possible to climb several levels of the Fairy Chimneys freely. It is also known as the “valley of the monks” because it has some churches in the three-headed peaks, symbolizing the Holy Christian Trinity.

Ballon flight over Cappadocia

Well, of course! We could not stop mentioning the main reason why thousands of people decide to travel to Cappadocia. Here the most popular activity is flying in a hot air balloon. Every morning, if conditions allow it, hundreds of balloons rise above Capadoccia showing tourists and travelers a landscape that seems to come from a dream.

This point is so important, that we have dedicated a post only to balloon rides through Cappadocia. You can see it here.

Other places of interest in Cappadocia

Göreme sunset view

An ideal place from where you can see the city of Göreme from the top and free. Here you can see a beautiful sunset and, if you arrive early in the morning, it is the best place to see the hundreds of balloons that take off to the sky. You must arrive before takeoff, which is at 06:00 in summer and at 07:00 in winter. If you will not do the balloon flight, do not miss it!

Trekking through the Pigeon Valley.

The valley goes from Göreme to Uchisar, about a 5 kilometers of road. The trek is quite easy, but you need to wear closed shoes or greater security. There is no commerce or shops, so you must bring your own water. You will go through lots of fairy chimneys and beautiful landscapes on the way.

Cavusin

Another town in the area, 4 kilometers from Göreme. You can see a mountain where its wall was dug into rooms. People used to live here in the past and in recent centuries it has been modernized.

Rose Valley

If you stay several days in Cappadocia this is another walk that is worth to do. You can only do this trek walking because motorbikes and bicycles will not be good for the roads.

Important information to plan your trip to Capadoccia

Best time to travel to Cappadocia

The Central Anatolian region where Cappadocia is located suffers varied climatic changes during the year, so depending on the month you visit the area you should bring different wardrobes. The best time to travel to Cappadocia is between April and June.

  1. December to March: This is the coldest months of the year, and when we say cold it is because it is. Minimum of -10ºC and maximum of 5ºC. It is highly probable that snow and there is a lot of wind. In general, flights in balloons need to be suspended due to the bad weather conditions. In addition, many hotels close because of the low season, it is not justified to spend on heating so they choose to close. If you travel to Cappadocia at this time, read our tips for getting dressed on a winter trip.
  2. October, November, and April: This is also cold months, but tolerable. With temperatures between 5ºC and 15ºC. It is not yet high season, so prices are still relatively low.
  3. May to June and September: It is the high season when we find the best temperatures and green trees. It’s also the rainy season. Long lines and tumults of tourists are formed in all the attractions, so do not expect to be alone enjoying the scenery.
  4. July and August: Temperatures goes between 16ºC and 35ºC but in an arid and dry climate. You will really melt because of the heat. If your goal is to walk the trails, then try not to come at this time of the year.
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How to get to Cappadocia in Turkey

Airplane:

There are two nearby airports where you can get to Cappadocia: Nevshehir Kapadokya Airport and Kayseri Erkilet Airport.

The Nevshehir airport is the closest to the city of Göreme (45 minutes by car; from Kayseri, it’s 90 minutes travel). Göreme is where tourists and travelers usually stay. However, plane tickets to this airport are also more expensive and flights are less recurrent. From Istanbul they there are flights only once or twice a day to this airport.

To get to your accommodation on your trip to Cappadocia, it is best to ask directly at the time of booking for transportation options. A shared transfer from the airport door to the door of your hotel should not cost more than 10 euros per person. Book it here if you want. 

You can also ask directly in the airport to the bus and tour transfer drivers if they have space to take you. If they do, you can save and only pay about 3 euros per person. But if you arrive on a busy day or hour (very early or at night), then better book in advance to secure your transportation.

Public transportation in this area of Turkey is quite complicated, so we do not recommend it.

Train:

It is not recommended for your trip to Cappadocia. You can take a train from Istanbul to Ankara for about 10 hours (60 Turkish lira); and from here another bus that will take you to Cappadocia in about 4 to 5 hours (30 Turkish liras). It is the longest road, and in the end, you will pay a similar total price as if you buy a plane ticket.

Bus:

The nearest and central bus station in the area is located in the city of Nevşehir. From here you must take another mini bus that will transport you to the city where you have chosen to stay.

Even though agencies offer it, a trip to Cappadocia for the day is not recommended. Think that from Istanbul it’s about 10 hours by bus, it can be more by traffic; and the price goes between 50 and 60 Turkish liras.

What to do in Cappadocia:

Here the visit to the archaeological sites, fairy chimneys and viewpoints to the valley are obligatory and the most important thing to do in Cappadocia. You can do it on tour or on your own, but bear in mind that nothing is very well marked on the roads.

Also, don’t forget to fly on a hot air balloon!

What to take with you on your trip to Cappadocia

How to get around Cappadocia and its surroundings.

Because the best of Cappadocia is outside the cities, it will be necessary to travel some short distances and other long distances to know the area.

Local buses:

There are local buses that connect the main towns of Cappadocia. The schedules are few and quite variable, so we do not recommend them unless your budget is too low. The ticket costs between 2 and 4 TYR (Turkish liras) and operates between 08:00 and 20:00 every day.

Renting a car in Cappadocia:

It is one of the best alternatives since the distance between points of interest can be large. If you like to travel freely and hate tours, then renting a car on your trip to Cappadocia is an incredible alternative. Before leasing, read here 12 tips for leasing a car abroad.

Rent a motorcycle, quad or boogie:

Many tourist agencies of Göreme offer rental service of these means of transportation. The price of renting a motorcycle in Göreme is approximately 20 Turkish lira a day.

Tour:

Ideal if you are short on time, or if you do not feel like having your own transport. There are 4 types of tours well defined by the agencies: red, green, yellow and blue. They all go to different areas and you can choose which ones you like the most. In general, buses are for 8 to 10 tourists and the circuits are completely defined.

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Finger / Auto stop:

Yes, it is an option. We did not do it, but they told us it was quite easy and the people are very friendly. You do not have to wait long before someone offers to take you.

Travelers tips for your visit to Cappadocia:

  • Bicycles: Here, they are not a good idea. You will find many descents and climbs on the roads. Also, lots of tourist spots will not let you go in with them and there is no safe place to leave them.
  • Cave hotels: No doubt, our ancestors were really smart. During the summer, sleeping “inside a rock” gives you a fresh and pleasant atmosphere. During the winter, the heat you generate “inside the rock” will stay longer, so it will not be as cold as in a normal cement room. Live the experience during your trip to Cappadocia, although you have to pay a little more there are many economic options.
  • Tickets to visit the sites by free: There is a multi-ticket to enter several attractions for a more convenient price. You can ask for it in the information centers of Göreme or other cities. Only buy it if you do not want to take any tours because they include all the tickets.

Festivals in Cappadocia

Every year the “Cappadox Festival” is held with different themes that emanate from nature. It involves artistic shows, dancing a, d concerts in several of the valleys and towns in the area. It takes place between May and June; the date is fixed every year and may be different each time.

Where to sleep on your trip to Cappadocia

As we told you, Cappadocia is an area within Central Anatolia; not a town in itself.

Göreme

The best place to sleep on your trip to Cappadocia is without a doubt Göreme. Very well located within the area, it is also a pretty city itself. Many cave hotels that are dug into the rocks, just as they were in the old days; but of course, with luxuries according to the price you paid.

Hotel offer in Göreme is wide, you will find an alternative for every budget. From hostels with shared rooms to luxurious hotels with swimming pools and wonderful views of the city and valley. Find here the best accommodation offers in Cappadocia.

Urgup

If you want to stay out the tourist circuit during your trip to Cappadocia and in a more authentic Turkish place; then Göreme is not your thing. Urgup does not live from tourism, so the prices are lower and there are more real Turkish restaurants around. However, all the tourist sites are farther away and you will not stay in caves.

Where to eat during your trip to Cappadocia

The city of Göreme is full of restaurants offering Turkish dishes and international dishes. It will not be difficult to find them on the main street of the city. It is traditional to taste the house wine, which is served in clay vases.

We recommend you to try some typical Turkish dishes and order them without much seasoning if you do not like it. They are usually really delicious. The Kebab is a classic.

Possible scams and dangers in Cappadocia

Unlike the huge city of Istanbul, Cappadocia is usually very safe. It is made for tourists so they take care of them a lot.

If we think of scams:

  • We recommend you to book the tours only in established agencies or through your hotel. This way you will avoid bad experiences, runways with your money or bad organization.
  • Always take care of your belongings, especially in places with a lot of affluence.

And dangers …

  • Fly in balloons only with accredited and recommended agencies. Many pilots do not have real licenses and there have been some fatal accidents. Cappadocia is one of the cheapest places to fly in a balloon for a reason, and therefore there are always bad and insecure agencies and companies.
  • Although it may be tempting to climb into caves in high altitude places, be careful to fall. It is stone, and as it is easy to carve, so it is also easy to break or fall. There have been serious accidents of tourists falling from great heights

Always remember to take your travel insurance. Here we tell you why.

Shopping in Cappadocia

In the same city of Göreme there are many souvenir stores, but here it’s worth going to see another type of shops:

  1. Turkish sweets: They are delicious! And in the shops they let you try all the styles you want. Out of respect, if you have tried a lot buy something.
  2. Ceramics: Ceramics is one of the main crafts of the area. Due to the quality of the stones in Cappadocia, it is possible to carve it to form beautiful plates, sculptures, pots, lamps or whatever you can imagine. Prices can be very low if the work involved is little; but there are some objects that can cost hundreds of dollars because they took the craftsmen many hours to complete. Ask to see the workshops, it’s the most incredible part of this stores.
  3. Carpets: Of course … We are in Turkey! Leaving without feeling with your hands and laying down on a hand-woven carpet is almost a sin. There are some carpets that take only a few hours to complete, others take days or even weeks. Just touch them, you will understand the finish and the wool and threads used in them. If you want to buy, businesses already have all shipping issues to any country solved. Just ask about the conditions.
  4. Limestone: If you have not seen how the stones are carved before, it can be very interesting.

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