Cappadocia is a top bucketlist destination mainly for its distinctive cone-shaped rock formations called “fairy chimneys”, and picturesque hot air balloon flights. The region of cave dwellers in Central Anatolia, Turkey is a dream adventure for travelers looking for a unique landscape.
1. Hot Air Balloon
Highlight of the trip. If asked for exceptional hot air balloon experience destinations, Cappadocia is one of the two best around the world that comes to mind. The fact that they fly these flurries across the rock valley only during sunrise (for better weather predictability) makes it a real golden opportunity. It easily tops my best sunrise list from all of my travels. Take note: balloons weren’t flown in two out of three mornings we spent there due to strong wind. Weather condition is a major determining factor. Therefore, if you strongly fancy doing the balloons, you might as well prepare extra days as allowance to cover possible cancellations. Never leave Cappadocia without doing it.
Best balloon-viewing spots in the ground – Literally, anywhere you go is an instagrammable spot when balloons start to fill the skies. A very popular option, as seen from top bloggers’ photos, is your hotel’s balcony while enjoying a traditional Turkish tea.
2. Love Valley
Goreme, as a cave town, boasts about the famed fairy chimneys. These are products of hundreds of years of rock and lava erosion. Another hiking attractions are Imagination Valley, Pigeon Valley and The Three Beauties/The Three Graces.
3. Rose and Red Valley
One of those lunarscape panoramic sights you see being flashed as default windows wallpapers/screensavers. The stunning red rock formations are baked into perfection at sunset. Sunset in Göreme is just as spectacular as the sunrise.
4. Göreme Open Air Museum
The historical significance of each church or monastery carved into a volcanic rock is written on the facade therefore a guided tour is not necessary. It can get congested on the narrow connecting alleys during visiting hours. For tourists planning to visit a handful of state museums and the like, getting a Cappadocia pass is highly recommended.
Caves, Chapels, Monasteries (outside Open Air Museum) – Numerous of these sprawl across the county. They are similar but different and it’s up to you to discover why so. Play a fun trivial game with friends and list down how many frescoes of Transfiguration and Nativity you can visit.
5. Turkish night
Nothing can get more immersive than showing off your belly dance moves in this trademark entertainment by the Turks. Try the traditional “raki” (alcoholic drink) if you please.
6. Sultan carpets or Galerie Ikman
These instagrammable carpet shops are conducive for great Turkish photos. Politely ask permission before taking photos. Also, buy their products and leave a tip so they will pay forward the hospitality to future travelers.
7. Ancient underground cities of Kaymakli or Derinkuyu
Go hundred meters below ground and explore endless hidden compartments used as refuge, stable, storage, and chapels in ancient times. When they say underground city, they seriously mean “city”. Be stunned with how vast it goes. Not suitable for claustrophobics.
8. Ihlara Gorge
Hike through the refreshing Ihlara gorge and enjoy a meal in one of the river restaurants.
9. Avanos pottery (Red River)
For centuries, Cappadocia region has been skilled in clay crafts since Hittite period. Drop by one of the artisan shops and try having a hand on the potter’s wheel or go shopping for those handmade clay products. Learn why the Hittite Wine Jug is shaped oddly. Shopping note: Authentic jugs have concave bottoms. It’s not handmade if it’s flat.
10. Turkish bath (Hammam)
Rejuvenate yourself with a steamy bath, wash, and massage after a long and exhausting day. If you’ve ever had one before, Turkish bath in Turkey is still done differently in comparison to those offered somewhere else.
Where to stay
Cave hotels are part of Cappadocia’s attractions. They cover an extensive area in the valley giving you a range of selections so you can choose what suits your trip style and budget. Advanced booking is highly encouraged as hotels quickly get fully-booked.
Top recommendations: Sultan Hotel, Museum Hotel, Local Cave House, and Rox Cappadocia.
For backpackers, rent a scooter. For groups, go for car/van rental because short-distance public transport can become challenging. If you want to level up your game, why not choose to explore around in a horse or camel?
See other historical cities in Turkey that you can visit for great adventure.
Want a tour operator recommendation? Leave a comment below and I can send you a tour guide referral. Our guide was passionately detailed about all the history behind the fascinating rocks and cave carvings. You'll love her! ➳