35 Spectacular Things to Do in Cappadocia Turkey

There’s no end of things to do in Cappadocia, the region in central Turkey where Göreme valley is known for its UNESCO world heritage park. The area is covered with spectacular rock formations that have been worn away by the weather to look like fairy chimneys, pillars and mushrooms.

Humans saw the potential to carve away at the “tuff” rock and created hidden cave dwellings and underground cities. You can visit lots of cave churches and homes while in the area including the underground labyrinths.

More recently the environment has been used as a fascinating backdrop for hot air balloon rides. The area around Göreme turns into a magical, breathtaking sight early in the mornings and is the specific reason many people go.

Fairy Chimney Landscape of Cappadocia

Göreme is the main tourist hub but there are hotels and tourist facilities in Nevşehir, Ürgüp and Avanos too. Many people just stop in Cappadocia for a couple of days but there’s plenty to do to justify a longer stay.

So if you’re looking for things to do in Göreme and the surrounding area, here are 35 spectacular things to do in Cappadocia.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Göreme

At the top of the list is taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia at sunrise. It’s such a novel and exciting thing to do and the scenery in the area is spectacular. Book in advance and for early on in your trip.

Although hot air balloons are available throughout the year they don’t run every day. For safety, the balloon rides are cancelled when the weather conditions aren’t right. So you’ll want contingency time in case you’re date is affected.

Hot Air Balloons in Cappadocia

I took a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia as part of my 50-before-50 list. I wrote about the experience and answered loads of questions about the hot air balloon experience so take a look.

Watch the Balloons at Sunrise

Whether you’re going up in a hot air balloon during your trip, or prefer to keep your feet on solid ground throughout, watching the balloons at sunrise is a breathtaking experience. I thought it was just magical.

Be at a good vantage point about 30 minutes before sunrise. One minute you’re seeing these huge structures glowing as they’re being filled with air. Blink and the next minute they’re all around you in the most incredible spectacle.

Watching the hot air balloons on New Year’s Day

Most of the balloons set off from around Göreme and you’ll see them from anywhere in the town. But this viewpoint gives a panoramic view. I was also told that Love Valley is a great spot to go in the mornings (and it’s free). Get amongst the stones or watch from the rim of the valley.

Visit the Fairy Chimneys

There are fairy chimneys all over but I hiked out to see the ones at Paşabağları. They’re really close to the Zelve Open Air Museum and both are included in each other’s ticket.

I thought they were really cool and it’s a fun spot to walk around. The entrance is a bit touristy and it looks like a popular coach trip spot so try and go early-ish.

Go to A Turkish Night Show

In Cappadocia, the Turkish Night shows usually take place in a cave restaurant. They normally include a 3-course meal with unlimited alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks while you enjoy the show. The various acts throughout the evening will include things like live music, traditional dances and a belly dance performance.

Seating is generally at group tables and audience participation is encouraged! CappadociaAway offers a show package with hotel pick-up and drop-off.

Observe a Whirling Dervish Ceremony

Another type of evening show is seeing the whirling dervishes perform. I’ve put this as a separate event because some whirling dervish performances are a fun show put on for your entertainment. However, the most authentic are religious ceremonies that you get to observe.

Gorgeous Turkey Tours can help you book either type of Whirling Dervish show in Cappadocia. Make sure you book the one that fits your expectations to get the best experience.

See The Home Of The Whirling Dervishes

Even if you don’t get the chance to watch one of the shows you’re still able to go in and see Saruhan Kervansaray. If you’re on the road between Goreme and Avanos it’s worth a quick stop. You can admire the Seljuk architecture of the building built in 1249.

From the outside, it’s a very plain building sitting next to the road. I understand that’s quite common for these types of buildings. Inside it feels grand and there’s more detail in the stonework.

Visit Derinkuyu Underground City

Apparently, there are hundreds of underground cities in the Cappadocia region. But there are two that you can visit during your trip.

The first is Derinkuyu. It’s narrower and deeper than the one at Kaymakli. Derinkuyu underground city has 8 levels down.

It’s really fascinating to think about how people lived down there. Apparently, Derimkuyu could safely house almost 20,000 people! It’s also pretty mind-boggling how they cut out these dwellings in the rocks and created interconnecting tunnels to other cities.

A must-see (unless you’re claustrophobic). Keep in mind that the passageways are very narrow and the doorways low. Having said that, I’m 5’9 and not skinny. Although I was bent double at some points to pass through I wasn’t worried about getting stuck anywhere.

Explore Kaymakli Underground City

The underground city at Kaymakli is five levels deep but it’s a bit bigger than Derinkuyu. There are definitely more rooms and areas branching off the main path to go and explore. I was told this was a better option for people who are claustrophobic although I’m not sure I agree.

When I went there weren’t many other people around. And I did worry about getting stuck in one or two places! (I am rather large though.)

Stone door beside a tunnel in Kaymakli Underground City

Watch the Sunset at Red Valley

The sunrise spot I linked to above in the balloon-watching section is also amazing for sunset.

Red Valley in the distance at sunset

It’s a large area and you can walk around different parts to watch the sky change.

Cafe at Red Valley Cappadocia

But at Red Valley, you’ll get a close-up view of rocks changing colour as they pick up the light. During the sunset, the red pigment shades get picked up by the golden sunlight and it’s really pretty.

Red Valley Cappadocia

Enjoy a Hammam Experience

A hammam is such a treat if you visit in the colder months and a nice traditional activity to enjoy any time of the year. At One Day Spa, you can choose from different packages that include things like a mud facemask and access to the salt room and a massage.

The team will explain how everything works so don’t worry if you’ve never been to a hammam before.

Explore Göreme Open Air Museum

Göreme Open Air Museum is close to town and a very popular attraction.

You get to walk around and see the houses and churches carved into the rocks. Some of the frescoes on the walls and ceilings are amazing. It’s probably a good idea to hire one of the audio guides if you’re there on you’re own so you can make sense of what you’re seeing.

Please do mind your head as you explore the museum. Most of the cave entrance doors are very low, especially if you’re tall. I bashed my head as I mistimed a step and properly cracked my head open and lost a few handfuls of hair!

Make sure to visit Tokali Church on the opposite side of the road as I missed this on the first visit and had to return. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures but the frescoes inside were stunning.

You can also clamber up to some of the stone houses behind the chapel (for free) and explore those rocks.

Explore Zelve Open Air Museum

The Zelve Open Air Museum is a little further from Goreme but I’ve heard it’s just as good and much quieter. Keep it in mind if you visit at a busy time of year. It’s just beyond the Paşabağları fairy chimneys so no doubt you’ll be that way at some point.

I’d planned to visit it at the end of my last day but the times on Google Maps weren’t up-to-date. The museum was just closing as I arrived so I need to go back and do this one next time.

Hike the Ihlara gorge

Ihlara gorge is a beautiful, lush, 14km valley with butterflies and other creatures. Plus lots of carved-out rock churches along the route. Thanks to the river, walking through the leafy forest is a different experience from the arid walks closer to Göreme.

Rock church carved out of the rock
Ceiling fresco in one of the rock churches in Ihlara gorge

Walking there is one of my favourite things to do in Cappadocia. Although I think it’d be stunning in summer it’s still enjoyable at other times of the year. I went in autumn and the leaves were a lovely colour.

Look into it if hiking’s your thing. Some of the Green Tours that I mention in this post include a short trek in the valley.

Even if you’re not a hiker I highly recommend going. There are a lot of steps down into the gorge if you access it from this point. But they’re proper, maintained steps.

They are very steep to come back up though. I left the car near the steps and I needed to up my day’s step count so I walked to the taxis and then back along the gorge. The steps were a challenge at the end!

What most people do is descend there, make a pleasant 3km-ish walk along the valley to Belisirma and then get a taxi back from the other end. There’s a place along the way to stop for refreshments and benches to rest on the path too.

If you’re driving, there’s parking around the steps at the entrance (for a small fee). Just use the link below to get to the right place as there are several access points on GoogleMaps. This is where you want to be to start near the steps. From there you can choose which direction you want to walk along the valley.

Clamber Around Selime Monastery

On the way to Ilhara Valley, you can pass Selime Monastery. It’s similar to other rock churches in the area but it’s quite large in comparison and I enjoyed scrambling around it. Bonus it was also very quiet when I went.

Climb Uçhisar Castle

From Göreme you can see Uçhisar Castle up on the hill. A night it looks really pretty, all lit up. The stairs to the top are pretty sturdy and won’t take you too long.

What I liked about this castle is there’s a section you can go in at the entrance then you can walk around the outside and explore other rooms. There are lots of random steps and openings to follow and see where you end up.

There are viewing platforms in different sections of the upper castle so check out the views from each. You can see for miles.

Also, if you’re interested in photogenic spots for social media then there are plenty here. I visited at New Year and the Instagram set was out in full force.

Take a Picture from the Uchisar castle viewpoint

Whether or not you make it up to the actual castle this is a lovely viewpoint around sunset. You can find the location here.

See Göreme Panorama

As you leave Uçhisar on the main road to Göreme, stop at the panoramic viewing area on the right-hand side. I got my first glimpse of the chimneys here as we arrived on the airport shuttle. It was early in the morning, the balloons were out and it was such a magical moment.

Enjoy Pigeon Valley

Pigeon Valley, also known as Güvercinlik Vadisi is a 4km valley that runs from Uçhisar to Göreme. Not surprisingly, it’s named after the pigeons that live there! If you’re taking one of the tours that stop here you’ll get to see the valley from the top.

At the top of Pigeon Valley

Historically pigeons/doves were important in the area for food and to help fertilise the soil. People carved out pigeon houses/dovecotes in the rocks for the birds to live and they’re still there now.

If you have time to go on your own then I’d recommend hiking along the valley. It’s probably easiest to go from Uçhisar to Göreme. Most of the walk is pretty steady but there are a couple of steep bits. Going this way means they’re downhill at least.

The walk is doable in winter although be prepared for mud if it’s been raining. I went when it was muddy and nearly fell over going down a couple of steep bits. It was more entertaining than worrying and I passed a Turkish family who was having a right hoot trying to clamber up the slippery slopes.

Use Your Imagination in Cappadocia’s Devrent Valley

Devrent Valley is another valley with fascinating rock formations and it’s also known as Imagination Valley. If you use your imagination you can make out what the various rock shapes represent.

Hike Rose Valley

Another of the many valleys is the popular Rose Valley. It connects with Red Valley and is another interesting one for some walking. The map below shows you a good overview. There are waymakers along the route to keep you right too.

Hike or View Love Valley

You might have guessed by now there are a variety of valleys in Cappadocia, especially around Göreme. The rock formations in each are fascinating and can be quite different from each other.

Love Valley is so-called because of the phallic rock shapes. If you go on a tour that includes this valley you’ll probably get to see it from above. There are plenty of decorated trees (make a wish!) and seats where you can take photos.

If you want to hike amongst the rocks you can do that too. But ask for directions from your hotel. It’s not a hidden valley for nothing! I headed out intending to walk through the valley and instead found myself at the viewpoint hundreds of meters above. It’s not a long walk from Göreme though and not a difficult trek.

At the end of the valley, you can carry on walking up to Uçhisar. Often there’s a taxi waiting at the big junction on the main road so if you need a lift to your next destination it could be quite easy to get one.

Take a Pottery Class

Cappadocia is famous for its clay pottery. So it’s interesting to go and visit the studios and see it being made. While I was in Göreme I saw lots of clay pots piled up outside some of the restaurants. You might have heard about the traditional Testi Kebab meal that’s cooked in a sealed pot.

If you want to learn a bit more about this culture you can take a tour of a pottery centre. You can even get stuck in and make something yourself if you fancy it. This Airbnb experience lets you have a go at the pottery wheel while learning about the history of this type of local art.

Find a Magic Carpet

There are plenty of carpet shops in Cappadocia including a lot in Göreme. One of the guys who work at the carpet shop next to Cappadocia Cuisine is quite entertaining and will show you a flying carpet.

Have a mooch around the various shops you find in town and let the owners make you some Turkish tea while you look.

I’ve you’re looking for photos for Instagram then Galerie İkman is a well-known set-up. They charge you for entry which I think is fair. They’ve got a few gimmicks to help you get a load of good images, including a drone.

If you’re elsewhere and the owners allow you to take some pictures for free I think it’s decent to pay them a tip as a thank you. At the time of writing the country is in an economic crisis and I’m sure a gesture would be appreciated.

Find an Instagrammable Rooftop

Many of the hotels have rooftops set up ready for your Instagram pictures. If that’s important to you, choose to stay in a cave hotel with this set-up. Alternatively, if you book a photoshoot (try Airbnb Experiences for offers) you can usually find one with a rooftop option.

Have a Flying Dress Photoshoot

Have a photoshoot with a difference: flying dress shoots are quite popular in the area. Unsurprisingly, with the breathtaking scenery and the striking dresses, you can get some pretty dramatic shots. There are loads of photography experiences to choose from here.

However, if you’re having a photoshoot then many of the photographers have add-ons where you can have the dress as part of the package. However, if you’re looking to save money then in Cappadocia, you’re actually able to rent the dresses on their own. You can hire one and then get some photos yourself.

Have a Meal at Pumpkin Restaurant Göreme

Pumpkin restaurant was the best food and wine I had in Cappadocia. Normally you need to make a reservation to go there so do book in advance. The day I went I asked my taxi driver to drop me off somewhere good for tea. He took me there and ran in to make sure they’d seat me without a reservation.

Everything is made to order although I think they make some of the Testi Kebabs (see above pottery section for a description of this spectacularly displayed dish) are prepared earlier in the day. I had an incredibly tasty dish of stuffed courgette.

What I liked about the restaurant was that they taught you how to eat everything. They brought some bread with a dish of herbs and oil and explained that they dip the bread in the oil, and then in the herbs.

When they brought the courgettes they told me that they eat them with yoghurt and something else that I’ve forgotten now. But it was delicious! I also ended up buying a bottle of local wine that was very good.

Try a Pottery Meal

When I was at Pumpkin restaurant I saw someone else order this. The clay pot was sealed and the meat, combined with herbs, had been cooking for hours. When it was brought to the table it was within a ceramic dish and surrounded by flames – a bit like a Christmas pudding!

It was quite something to see. The flames were put out and the server took a hammer and knocked the top off the clay pot to serve the meat within. I’ve had this meal myself since but it wasn’t served with the same theatrical flourish.

Have a Classic Car Tour of Cappadocia

When I first saw the classic car tours I thought it meant there were classic cars all over the place and you got to go on a tour to see them all. D’oh!

It’s actually a tour of Cappadocia in a classic car (probably pretty obvious to everyone else, haha!) I saw quite a few of these while I was out and about and they did look pretty cool. You can also choose them as a photoshoot add-on.

We flew over this classic car in Cappadocia on the hot air balloon ride

Take a Tour Around Cappadocia

There are three tours you can take in Cappadocia (if you’re not making your own with a private driver).

They might change a little bit from company to company. And the order they go in differs so everyone’s not descending on the same spots at once. But the tours will be something along the lines of:

Red Tour

Full-day tour with lunch. It may include stops at tourist places for carpets or other souvenirs.

  • Uçhisar Castle
  • Zelve Open-air Museum
  • Paşabağ Fairy Chimneys
  • Göreme Open Air Museum
  • Avanos town for a pottery demonstration
  • Devrent Magic Valley / Imagination Valley

Green Tour

Full day tour including lunch. Again your tour might make a stop at an arts centre or onyx factory for shopping.

  • Göreme Panoramic Viewpoint
  • Underground City Tour
  • Short Hike in Ihlara Valley
  • Selime Monastery
  • Pigeon Valley
  • Uçhisar Panoramic View Point

Blue Tour

The blue tour can vary quite a bit from company to company. But it normally takes you further away from Göreme to see more authentic Turkish villages and caves. Usually, there’s an underground city visit and a short amount of hiking in one of the valleys.

Your hotel can probably recommend a travel company to use otherwise have a look online. If you’re only in Cappadocia for a couple of days then the red tour will give you a whistle-stop tour of the major sites.

For all of these tours, double-check what’s included with the one you’re booking. Hotel pick-up/drop-off, lunch and entry fees are often included. However, drinks probably aren’t and some don’t include an actual tour guide.

Take a Private Taxi Tour

I personally find the thought of 10 hours on someone else’s schedule a bit draining and like to visit things on my own. If you’re similar then perhaps look at organising a custom tour or hiring a taxi driver to take you around.

I used two taxi drivers a few times and they also offer these tours. I prefer going at my own pace and being able to go into the shops that interest me instead of the big tourist traps set up for coach-loads of people. The taxi drivers I recommend are Göreme Yellow Taxi and a guy who goes by the name of Black Snake

He works for Göreme VIP Taxi which you can find beside the bus station. (His real name is on his business card and he told me it was very tonal. So I took that to mean I’d butcher it if I tried to say it!). He’s very outgoing and energetic. Mehmet at Yellow Taxi is calmer and more softly spoken.

Visit Nevsehir Castle And Kayaşehir Rocktown

There’s not a huge amount to see at Nevşehir Castle but if you’re passing it’s nice to stop there. As well as the castle there’s a town below carved into the rock. Both are free to access and much quieter than probably anywhere else you’ll visit.

Nevsehir Castle

Pick up Some souvenirs

The shops around Cappadocia have a good range of souvenirs to take back. You can pick up:

  • traditional Turkish foodstuffs,
  • natural cosmetics like olive oil soaps and rose water
  • toy hot air balloons
  • ceramic rock churches
  • evil eye everything
  • carpets
  • pottery items

and lots of other things that make great gifts or keepsakes.

Buy Some Zultanite

Zultanite gemstone is a diaspore type of mineral. It comes from only one mine and that’s in the Anatolian mountains. Apart from being quite rare, what’s also interesting about it is that it changes colour.

In natural light, it’s quite a light green. But under artificial light, it turns a raspberry colour. Sometimes it comes in other shades of green, pink and bronze.

If you’d like to get some genuine Zultanite the stone should have a registered trademark on it. And you should receive certification with the jewellery. You’ll find this stone in jewellers around the Cappadocia region.

Feed the Local Strays

Like the rest of the country, there are stray cats and dogs all over the place. I particularly noticed how many stray dogs there were in Goreme. It really hurt my heart, because a lot of them were quite thin and it was cold outside.

Lots of stray dogs are tagged and/or have a collar. But that just means they’ve been recognised, not that they actually belong to anyone. It’s not a very good long-term solution but if you pick up a bit of dry pet food in the minimarket you can distribute it while you’re out and about.

You might find a little cat comes to join you when you sit down to eat at a restaurant. So do throw them a few scraps.

Visit the Pink Salt Lake – Tuz Gölü

This one’s right at the bottom of the list for a reason. I’d recommend this only if you’ve been to Cappadocia before. Or if you’re staying for enough days to do a good number of the other things I’ve listed above.

The first reason it’s at the bottom of the list is that it’s about a 2-hour drive from Goreme. So it’s not a short trip there and back. If you’re on a Turkey road trip it can be a good resting point on the way to or from Ankara.

The second reason is that the lake doesn’t look like the bright pink images you might have seen on Instagram. I think it’s still stunning but you’ll need to manage your expectations. It looks more like a sandy beach with the tide really far out.

Lake Tuz used to be the second-largest lake in Turkey. But since the year 2000, the water has reduced to a tiny amount thanks to global warming and subsequent droughts in the area. Because of the general lack of water in the area, water that used to supply the lake has been taken for other uses.

Thankfully there was a good amount of rain and snow in 2022. So the baby flamingoes who use the wetlands as a sanctuary fared much better. (2021 was disastrous for them.) Hopefully, that’ll continue.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be recommending the lake, and we shouldn’t be visiting. I guess that tourists contribute to water consumption in the area. But as usual, I think it’s a complex issue since visitors also help provide a livelihood in what is currently a difficult economic climate in the country.

Support Local Businesses

Well, that’s enough to keep you going for a while on your visit to Göreme. It really is a special place. During your trip, you’ll see tip boxes for the various activities. Please do put something in there as the Turkish people are having a difficult time at the moment with the economic crisis. Support the local businesses by buying from them and reward good experiences with tips to help further.

Best Time to Visit Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia is a great year-round destination.

Like neighbouring Greece, April – May and September – October are pleasant times to visit. In these shoulder months it’s not quite as heaving with people. And the weather is good for walking the various hiking trails and being out and about.

For some people the only option is to visit in summer. Bear in mind that the peak months of July and August it’s busier and can get very warm. Hotel prices are generally higher and you might queue quite a bit longer for the various busy attractions and activities. Early sunrises mean even earlier alarms to join a hot air balloon ride or just to get photos of them from the ground.

Cappadocia doesn’t generally get more than a sprinkling of snow so don’t rule out winter. Bring the right clothes to keep you warm and dry if you visit from December to February and you can still enjoy yourself. The temperatures can be around freezing (or below) first thing and in the evening it can get quite a bit warmer in the daytime.

I did plenty of hiking in December/January when the weather was between about 5 – 13 degrees celsius. Wear layers so you can adjust as necessary and take a proper cold-weather coat. And don’t forget a decent pair of boots

One of the things I liked about visiting in December was the sunrise being later. You can get up at a much more reasonable time in the morning and still catch the balloons. Although there were still a lot of people at the most popular attractions it was also much less busy than at other times of the year.

35 Spectacular Things to Do in Cappadocia Turkey

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