Cappadocia is a region in Turkey known for its tall volcanic rocks and honeycomb-like caves. Cappadocia is also home to an interesting history, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the 8th century BC. If you’re wondering how to get there and what to do when you’re there, read on!
Where (is Cappadocia?)
Cappadocia is located in central Anatolia, about 620 mi (1000 km) from Istanbul. Provinces located in Cappadocia include Aksaray, Kayseri, Nevşehir, Niğde and Sivas. The nearest major city is Nevsehir, which is where most visitors to Cappadocia will fly into.
How (to Get to Cappadocia & Göreme)
Unless you are planning to visit other parts of Turkey before going to Cappadocia, the best way to get to the region is probably by plane. There are two airports located less than an hour from the center of Cappadocia: the Kayseri Erkilet Airport in Kayseri and the Nevşehir Kapadokya, in Gülşehir.
It is also possible to get to the region by bus or train. Most bus routes will take you to the cities of Göreme and Nevsehir. Trains can take you to the city of Kayseri. If you choose any of these options, it is worth knowing Turkey is a relatively large country and the trip can be quite long, depending on where you start from.
Most attractions in Cappadocia are located in or around the town of Göreme. For this reason, unless you are looking for something more unusual or you want to camp, it’s probably best to find accommodation in the town.
The cool town of Göreme
Why (Is Cappadocia so Popular?)
Cappadocia is popular because of its distinctive fairy chimneys, ancient rock-cut dwellings, as well as its historical and archaeological sites, including the world-famous Goreme National Park. Here are some of the cool things you can do in the region:
Somewhere in Goreme National Park
1. Explore Derinkuyu and other underground cities
Who needs above ground cities when you can have underground ones? That’s right, in the ancient region of Cappadocia, underground cities were all the rage. These subterranean societies were built as refuges from invaders and harsh weather and could accommodate up to 20,000 people at a time. It is believed that the cities were built by the ancient Phrygians during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE and were carved from soft volcanic rock. With underground houses, churches, stables, and even cemeteries, these cities had everything you need to live underground – except for maybe a little bit of sunlight. There are around 200 cities in total, with Derinkuyu and Kaymakli being among the most visited.
This is the deepest and largest of Cappadocia’s underground towns, with an estimated depth of around 85 meters. The city was discovered in 1963 when a local man decided to clear out the entrance to what he thought was a cave. Once inside, he realized it wasn’t a cave at all but an ancient city with rooms upon rooms connected by a complex system of tunnels.
The city encompasses a vast network of tunnels and chambers that extends up to 60 meters below the surface. Derinkuyu has quite an atmospheric place, and its dark tunnels and secret chambers have a distinctly magical quality. It’s easy to imagine that Derinkuyu was once a hive of activity, with people living and working in its subterranean depths.
Between the Arab-Byzantine wars (780-1180 CE), Derinkuyu was used as a shelter from Muslim Arabs. Centuries later, in 1969, the city was open to visitors; well, half of it.
Today, Derinkuyu is a popular tourist destination, and visitors can explore its many rooms and corridors. Despite its popularity, Derinkuyu retains an air of mystery, and it is easy to see why it has captured the imaginations of so many people.
Doesn’t Derinkuyu look really cool even in pics?
Kaymakli is another of Cappadocia’s underground cities. It was first inhabited in the Hittite period (1600-1200 BCE) and then later by early Christians as a place of refuge from persecution.
Like Derinkuyu, Kaymakli has a complex network of tunnels and chambers, some of which are still used as storage areas and stables. However, many of the chambers are now open to visitors, who can explore the city’s hidden depths.
Kaymakli is less crowded than Derinkuyu and retains a more authentic feel. It is also possible to see some of the original frescoes and rock-cut carvings that decorate the walls of the chambers.
The underground city was closed to tourists in 2017, but it reopened in 2019. Visitors can explore the many rooms and corridors of Kaymakli, including kitchens, storage areas, stables, and chapels.
Kaymakli is cool too
Kaymakli is cool too
Other underground cities to visit:
– Sarhatli Underground City
– Ozkonak Underground City
– Mazi Underground City
– Ihlara Valley Underground City
2. See the Rose Valley, the Red Valley, the Love Valley, the Zemi Valley, the Iceri Dere Valley, the Swords Valley, the Pasabag, and/or the Pigeon Valley
The Rose Valley is one of Cappadocia’s most popular tourist destinations. The valley gets its name from the rose-colored rock formations that dot the landscape. The best time to visit the Rose Valley is in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.
The Rose Valley
The Red Valley is another of Cappadocia’s famous valleys. The valley gets its name from the red-colored rocks that make up its walls. The Red Valley is home to many ancient cave dwellings and is a popular place to go hiking.
The Love Valley gets its name from the heart-shaped rock formations that can be found in the valley. The Love Valley is said to be one of Cappadocia’s most romantic places, and, for this reason, it is a popular spot for weddings.
The Zemi Valley is home to Cappadocia’s largest open-air museum. The valley is full of ancient cave dwellings, churches, and monasteries that have been carved into the rocks. For these reasons, the Zemi Valley is a great place for history nerds who want to learn about Cappadocia’s history and culture.
The Iceri Dere Valley is dotted with lakes, waterfalls, and forests. The Iceri Dere Valley is a popular place to go hiking and camping.
The Swords Valley gets its name from the many swords that were found in the valley. The Swords Valley is home to an ancient Roman fort, and it is a popular place to go hiking and rock climbing.
The Pasabag is one of Cappadocia’s most famous landmarks. The Pasabag is a group of fairy chimneys or cone-shaped rock formations. Besides being another popular place for weddings, Pasabag is arguably one of the best places in the entire region for photography addicts.
The Pigeon Valley gets its name from the many pigeon houses that can be found in the valley. The Pigeon Valley is quite a cool place to go hiking and camping.
3. Visit the Selime Monastery
The monastery is a complex of churches, chapels, and monastic cells that have been carved into the rocks. The monastery was founded in the 13th century, and it was used as a place of refuge for early Christians during the Ottoman period.
Visitors can explore the many chambers and tunnels of the monastery, as well as see some of the original frescoes and rock-cut carvings.
The Selime Monastery is not just any monastery
Other monasteries to visit in Cappadocia:
– Eski Gumus Monastery
– Aciklar Monastery
4. Take a hot air balloon ride over the valleys
One of the best ways to see Cappadocia is from above, and there is no better way to do this than by taking a hot air balloon ride.
During the balloon ride, you will float over Cappadocia’s famous valleys and get a bird’s eye view of the fairy chimneys, rock-cut churches, and ancient cave dwellings.
Most balloon rides take place in the early morning when the wind is calm and the air is cool. If you are afraid of heights, don’t worry! The basket of the balloon is attached to the balloon with a rope, so you can’t fall out.
For more information on hot air balloon tours in Cappadocia and booking, go here.
5. Sleep in a cave hotel
One of the coolest (literally) things to do in Cappadocia is to sleep in a cave hotel.
Most cave hotels are located in the Goreme Valley, and they range from simple and affordable to luxurious and expensive.
Sleeping in a cave hotel is a unique experience that I strongly recommend. Plus, it’s the perfect way to escape the heat of Cappadocia’s summer days. To book a cave hotel or any other type of accommodation in Cappadocia, go here.
This is how the bedroom of a cave hotel looks like
6. See the Uchisar Castle and/or the Cavusin Castle
The Uchisar Castle is a large rock-cut structure that was once used as a fortress. Today, the castle is open to visitors, and it offers nice views of Cappadocia’s landscape.
The Cavusin Castle is another rock-cut structure that was once used as a fort. The Cavusin castle is located in the Cavusin village, which is one of Cappadocia’s oldest settlements.
Both castles are worth visiting, but, for some reason, the Uchisar castle is more popular with tourists; this may mean it’s more crowdy. Regardless, I recommend visiting both if castles are your thing and you have enough time.
7. Visit the Goreme Open-Air Museum
This is Cappadocia’s largest and most popular museum. The museum is located in the Goreme Valley, and it is home to a collection of rock-cut churches and monasteries.
Some of the highlights of the museum include the Dark Church, which has very well-preserved frescoes, and the Apple Church, which has a unique apple-shaped dome.
Because the museum is a very popular tourist attraction, it can get quite crowded during peak season. I recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds.
Goreme Open-Air Museum
8. Shop at the local markets for souvenirs
Cappadocia is home to many local markets, where you can buy souvenirs such as hand-woven carpets, Turkish coffee pots, and evil eye beads.
Some of the most popular markets in Cappadocia are the Goreme Market, the Urgup Market, and the Ortahisar Market.
When shopping at the markets, be sure to bargain! It’s expected, and it’s how you’ll get the best price for your souvenirs.
9. Hike through the canyons
Cappadocia is full of hiking trails, and one of the best places to go hiking is through the canyons. The most popular canyon to hike is the Red Valley Canyon, but there are many others to choose from, such as the Love Valley Canyon and the Rose Valley Canyon.
Red Valley Canyon
Hiking in Cappadocia is a great way to see the landscape up close and get some exercise. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water if it’s summer, as the region can be quite hot during this time of the year.
I Think You Are Ready to Go
So, there you have it! Cappadocia, Turkey: where, how, and why. I hope this post has made you feel more prepared than ever before to visit Cappadocia. If you want to find more information on guided tours in Cappadocia or make a booking go here.
Happy travels! 🙂