If you’re looking for an amazing and unique travel destination, look no further than Cappadocia in Turkey. This stunning region is home to some of the most incredible landscapes and attractions in the world. The famous dawn balloon flight over the fairy chimneys and breathtaking hikes are just the beginning. Wondering what to do in Cappadocia? Here are the top six things that will blow your mind!
Because of the pending war in Ukraine, the only possible way to realize my road trip from Poland to Georgia was through Turkey. I marked some interesting points in Google Maps, and Cappadocia became the cherry on the top. This is how my friends and I ended up spending four days in what turned out to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Cappadocia is an area located in central Anatolia, in Nevsehir province. It’s famous for its ‘fairy chimneys’, unique rock formations that were created by erosion. The material used to build many houses and churches in Cappadocia, called tuff, is a soft volcanic rock. People started carving their homes into these rocks centuries ago and some of them are still inhabited today. And I must admit it’s the most outstanding symbiosis of man and nature I’ve ever seen.
Six unique things to do in Cappadocia
After this short introduction, I’ll share with you what to do in Cappadocia, what are the best places to see, and where to stay to have an unforgettable experience.
1. A dawn balloon flight over Cappadocia
Honestly, I’m not the type of traveler who would spend a lot of money for one hour of pleasure. Moreover, I don’t really like must-do’s, must-experiences, and popular tourist attractions. But this time, I made an exception because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I don’t regret it!
Balloon flight in Cappadocia is definitely one of the most beautiful things to do not only in Turkey but also in the world. Imagine floating over a surreal landscape of fairy chimneys while the sun slowly rises – it’s an experience you’ll never forget! I had to hold back tears of emotion as I watched this otherworldly landscape at dawn. Remember that it’s not cheap – depending on the season, the flight costs 150 to 180 euros per person.
2. Hiking in Rose, Love, and Pigeon Valleys
There are many ways to explore just stunning valleys of Cappadocia – on horseback, quad bike, or MTB bicycle. But to me, there’s nothing better than walking around. That’s how you can see the most, feel the most, and simply enjoy being there.
If you have to choose just one hiking trail in Cappadocia, make it the Rose Valley. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Cappadocia and probably the best place to watch the sunset. The valley got its name because of the color of the volcanic rocks that surround it. When sun rays hit them, they turn into magical pinkish-red colors.
Depending on the choice of a path (you can modify the length) and your pace, the loop will take you from two to seven hours. It’s not too challenging unless you want to climb to the top of one of the mountains surrounding the valley.
Love Valley is located just next to Rose Valley (that’s how we found it), and it’s another great spot for a hike with an incredible view.
This valley is famous for its ‘phallic-shaped’ rocks, which according to the local legend, were created by a saintly man who prayed for 40 days and nights. The rocks supposedly turned into what they are now to protect his chastity. Who knows, maybe it’s true?
Pigeon Valley got its name from the pigeon houses that were carved into the rocks centuries ago and served as dovecotes. Pigeons were bred here for their meat and droppings, which were used as fertilizer. It offers a great view over Uçhisar Castle and is relatively easy to reach by car or bike.
As I stayed four days in Uçhisar, it was easily accessible from my ‘home’ by foot. The best thing about Pigeon Valley is that it’s not as crowded as Love and Rose Valley.
3. Climb up the Uçhisar Castle
The most popular town in Cappadocia is undoubtedly Göreme, but in my opinion, the best place to stay is Uçhisar. It’s a small town located on top of a hill with an incredible view over the valleys and “fairy chimneys”.
There’s not much to do or see in Uçhisar itself except for one thing – the Castle. You can’t miss it as it’s the highest point in town. The best time to go is early morning or late afternoon when the sun is not too hot, and you can enjoy the views without being surrounded by hordes of tourists.
The castle itself is not that impressive – it’s more like a big rock with some rooms and tunnels carved into it. But the views are definitely worth the climb!
4. Eating börek and baklava at a local restaurant
Answering what to do in Cappadocia, we shouldn’t omit delicious Turkish food! As I mentioned before, I had one important handicap – the car. Therefore, I had an opportunity to explore restaurants not only near the place I stayed or explored. I did some research and found one true hidden gem that turned out to be a foodie paradise – Nazar Börek & Cafe.
This small restaurant is located in Göreme, the most touristic town in Cappadocia. However, it’s not situated in the center but a bit further away from all the hustle and bustle. The place is run by a local family, and what makes it special are traditional homecooked meals.
The owner of Nazar Börek & Cafe is a fantastic person speaking fluent English and shares stories about his family and the neighborhood. Moreover, it offers breathtaking views of Göreme valley.
The food is absolutely amazing! One of the best I tried in the whole of Turkey. Make sure to try their delicious börek (a type of Turkish pastry), manti (Turkish ravioli), and of course, baklava for dessert. And don’t forget to order a cup of strong Turkish coffee!
5. Visit the ceramics shop in Nevşehir
Nevşehir is a small town located in the heart of Cappadocia. It’s not as touristic as Göreme but still worth visiting, especially the ceramics shop – Çarşı Seramik.
This place is a true paradise for ceramic lovers! The shop is run by a local family, and they sell beautiful handmade pottery. The owners are very keen on telling the stories behind each piece and even offer pottery classes. If you’re lucky, they can offer you their delicious, homemade mulberry wine.
I fell in love with their unique designs and ended up buying a unique tea and breakfast set. I saw similar sets in Istanbul, but they were twice as expensive. So, if you’re looking for something special to take home from Cappadocia, this is the place to go!
6. Explore one of the ancient underground cities
Cappadocia is famous for its underground cities. People used to live in these strange, cave-like dwellings for centuries. They used them not only for living purposes but also as shelters in tries of war.
The most famous underground city is Derinkuyu. It’s located in Nevşehir, and it’s open to the public. You can explore the dark tunnels and small rooms on your own or with a guided tour.
I must say, it’s quite an experience! I felt like I was transported back in time. If you’re claustrophobic, though, this might not be the place for you.
Where to stay in Cappadocia?
There are many accommodation options in Cappadocia, from camping and hostels to luxury cave hotels. The place I can recommend with all my heart is VG Cappadocia Cave House in Uçhisar.
It’s a small, family-run hotel located a little bit outside the center of Uçhisar. The rooms are stylized on the traditional rock dwellings of Cappadocia, they are very cozy and comfortable. I really appreciate the staff and owner, who were extremely helpful and always ready to answer our questions.
The breakfast was also delicious, with many homemade jams, pastries, and fresh fruits. Moreover, VG Cappadocia Cave House offers an amazing view from the rooftop terrace, where you can watch the sun set behind the rock formations. Highly recommended, especially during sunset!
Who recommends these unique things to do in Cappadocia
Michał Jońca is a travel, food, and trail running passionate who has visited 40+ countries on four continents. He is a Travel Leader for the adventurous travel company Solisci and the Community Manager at PhotoAiD. Only this year, he enjoyed his workation in Thailand, Turkey, and the Caucasus mountains.
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