Things to Do in Cappadocia Turkey That Will Blow Your Mind!

December 14, 2023

things to do in cappadocia turkey

I’ve traveled extensively all over the world and Cappadocia ranks #1 as the most magical place on earth!

Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkiye famous for its unique “fairy chimneys” – surreal cone-shaped rock formations, created million years ago by volcanic eruptions and erosion.  These bizarre structures are clustered in Monks Valley, Love Valley, Göreme, Uchisar, and elsewhere. Uchisar Castle and Goreme Open Air Museum contain Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians seeking to avoid persecution.

Somewhere between 3 and 9 million years ago, Mt. Erciyes erupted, depositing ash, basalt, and lava across the landscape which hardened to become “tuff” (volcanic ash solidified into a soft rock). Tectonic movement and erosion also contributed to the odd-looking hoodoos that exist today.

Around 4000 B.C., locals discovered they could hew the rock and use the structures as houses and churches. Today, some of the fairy chimneys have been converted into boutique hotels.

Cappadocia was the second stop in our month-long road trip through Turkiye. You may also be interested in how to spend three days in Istanbul.

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Here are 10 jaw-dropping things to do in Cappadocia Turkey.

10 Red Valley

red valley

Red Valley is one of Cappadocia’s best valleys, with ubiquitous dreamlike rock formations, pinkish-red colors, and ancient cave churches. It is considered to be the best sunset spot in Cappadocia with uninterrupted views all the way to Uchisar Castle.

You can hike in the valley for sunset, but there are also charming photo ops set up by cafes overlooking the valley.

It never worked out for us to be there for sunset, but we did get to grab a bite to eat and some Turkish chai tea while gazing at the surreal valley below.

9 Zelve Valley

zelve valley

Zelve Valley is among the earliest-settled and last-abandoned monastic valleys in Cappadocia. Its churches are not as impressive as Goreme, but it has topography even more dramatic, with crags and pinnacles. In Zelve you have a bit more freedom to climb around and look at all the caves, nooks, and crannies.

8 Derinkuyu Underground City

things to do in cappadocia turkey

Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city in the Nevşehir Province. Likely built by the Phrygians, highly skilled Iron Age architects, it is the largest underground city in the world, estimated to have sheltered as many as 20,000 people together with their livestock (ewwww) and food supplies.

In 1923, the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled from Turkey and moved to Greece in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, whereupon the tunnels were abandoned.

7 Pigeon Valley

pigeon valley

Pigeon Valley is an easy hiking trail featuring valley views, ancient caves, and carved pigeon houses. It has an overlook of Uchisar Castle which is known for the “Evil Eye Trees,” trees laden with the country’s Nazar Boncuk amulets, which allegedly repel evil spirits and protect the wearer from harm.

6 Uchisar Castle

things to do in cappadocia turkey

The centuries-old 200-foot high rock citadel is one of the most stunning landmarks in Cappadocia.

Originally admired for its fairy chimney shape, the Swiss cheese-looking rock castle was later adapted to serve as the main point of defense against attacks during the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.

uchisar castle

It takes about an hour to explore Uchisar Castle. After taking a look at the inside of the castle, climb the 275 steps up to the top of the castle for panoramic views. The castle is the highest point in Cappadocia.

5 Goreme Open Air Museum

goreme open air museum

The UNESCO Goreme Open Air Museum is a complex of churches cut into volcanic rock during the Middle Ages & decorated with frescoes

First a Byzantine monastic settlement, then a pilgrimage site from the 17th century, this landscape of rock-cut churches, chapels, and monasteries is within walking distance from the town of Göreme.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

In addition to all the fairy chimneys and ancient rock buildings, the site includes the Dark Church, the 11th-century Chapel of St Basil, the Chapel of St Barbara, the nine-domed Apple Church, the Snake Church, the Pantocrator Chapel, the Nameless Chapel, the 13th-century Sandal Church, the Rahibeler Monastery, and the Buckle Church.

Note that photography is not allowed inside any of the churches.

4 Love Valley

love valley

Love Valley is a valley in Göreme Historical National Park, Cappadocia, Turkey. It is considered to have the best views of the surreal “fairy chimneys” in Cappadocia, created 60 million years ago by volcanic eruptions and erosion.

Why is it called Love Valley? There are three popular explanations.

  1. According to local legend, after the death of the two lovers, God rained stones upon the landscape to punish the feuding villagers and kill anyone who opposes young love.
  2. Due to the heart-shaped fairy chimneys that dot the landscape.
  3. The rock formations known as “fairy chimneys” have a distinct phallic shape.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

We had a blast hiking in the upper valley for views as well as walking in the lower valley amongst the fairy chimneys. It’s one of the most surreal things to do in Cappadocia Turkey.

3 Sunrise Terrace

things to do in cappadocia turkey

View of Goreme

Are you a sunrise or sunset person? I have to admit, I’ve seldom been a sunrise fan because I’m not a morning person, but in Cappadocia, I set my alarm to see the sunrise every day!

things to do in cappadocia turkey

Another view of Goreme from a different hotel terrace.

I just could not get enough of those hot air balloons on the horizon! It’s one of the most iconic things to do in Cappadocia Turkey.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

View of Uchisar Castle

This one, in Uchisar, has a totally different view than the two we stayed at in Goreme.

Although the hot air balloons are further away, I could almost reach out and touch Uchisar castle! What a spectacular view!

2 Hot Air Balloon

hot air balloon cappadocia

Ever since I saw photos of the magical Cappadocia landscape with hot air balloons floating over it, I put it on my bucket list. Cappadocia is considered to be the #1 spot in the world for hot air ballooning, so that was a good choice.

We were picked up at our hotel well before sunrise and treated to a continental breakfast before driving a short distance to our balloon. It was still dark, so driving through a forest of balloons on the ground being lit up with air and turning neon was amazing.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

The pilots at Royal Balloon did a great job at rotating the balloon so everyone had an equal opportunity to get all the angles.

It was magical to see all the other hot air balloons around us and on the horizon as the sun came up. This experience was one of our favorite things to do in Cappadocia Turkey.

1 Rock Stars: Cave Hotels

things to do in cappadocia turkey

The highlight of Cappadocia is staying in one of its otherworldly cave hotels. Don’t settle for an ordinary hotel – you won’t regret this incredible experience.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

These hotels, originally carved out of the soft volcanic rock by early Christians, contain sprawling rooms, and are one of the most unique stays you’ll ever experience.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

Our fairy chimney hotel

The hotels range in size, amenities, and costs. They are decorated to create a cozy environment.

fairy chimney hotel cappadocia

The inside of our fairy chimney hotel – outstanding!

We spent 5 nights in Cappadocia in various cave hotels in different towns. We loved them all, but the one in an actual fairy chimney was the ultimate experience.

Additional Photo Spots

things to do in cappadocia turkey

things to do in cappadocia turkey

Of course, the views of the hot air balloons rising over the fairy chimneys, as seen from the terraces of many of the cave hotels, are the best (see #3 above) and on the grounds of the hotels overlooking the bizarre landscape. But there are other great spots, too.

ikman galeria

As a former interior designer, I have always loved designing around Turkish carpets. They add such a fantastic punch of color and texture to any room, any style! Getting to do a photo shoot at Ikman Galeria was one of the highlights of Cappadocia! The owner, Suleyman, was so incredibly nice!

things to do in cappadocia turkey

For the best sunset point, climb to the top of the hill in Goreme and take a seat.

Best Day Trip

lake tuz

Lake Tuz, aka the Pink Lake, is the second largest lake in Turkey and one of the largest saline lakes in the world. It was a fun stop on our road trip, although massively windy and dry so it barely had a pink hue at all.

Food with a View


One of the best things about Cappadocia is that there are so many places to enjoy delicious Mediterranean food with a gorgeous view… of the fairy chimneys in front or back of you, or even from inside an actual cave.

things to do in cappadocia turkey

Fun restaurant in a cave!

Click here for details of exactly what to eat in Cappadocia.

Photos by Kary Kern.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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