Cappadocia travel guide

Once a kingdom, then a Roman province, Cappadocia is more recently one of Turkey’s most sought-after visitor destinations for its whimsical rock formations, known as fairy chimneys, and the staggeringly deep underground cave systems that have been excavated to reveal subterranean sanctuaries of extraordinary complexity.
One of the world’s most desirable destinations for hot air balloon trips, Cappadocia is also a sublime location for hikers with its winding valleys and curious geological erosion.
You might spend the night in a beguiling cave hotel, tour an ancient vineyard or watch a classic Anatolian rug being woven, and visit the painted churches and hermit holes of the open air museum in Göreme. Cappadocia tours will often feature an optional balloon flight or set aside time for it, but the beauty of this historical region is in how many different ways there are to explore it.
Read on in our Cappadocia travel guide for more details.
Cappadocia is/isn't...

Cappadocia is…

one of the world’s most distinctive landscapes, with more than a few secrets underground too.

Cappadocia isn’t…

somewhere to drop by on just a day-trip, if only because the sunsets here are so magnificent.

Practicalities

Small group tours with around 12 people either spend a full week exploring Cappadocia: Göreme, underground cities such as Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, valleys lined with unusual rock formations on walking expeditions led by expert guides, or just a few days as part of a longer tour of Turkey which is enough time to see some of the highlights. You’ll stay either in locally owned hotels, or perhaps one of the famous cave hotels which are generally comfortable, as well as very atmospheric.

It’s worth noting that not all Cappadocia accommodations have air conditioning or fans so check with your operator, and trips that spend more than a couple of days here tend to avoid the heat of summer. Walking tours of Cappadocia involve moderate terrain that will require suitable footwear, reasonable fitness and perhaps poles. You’ll walk for around five hours a day, with a maximum daily distance of 15km.
Anthony Horrobin from our travel specialists Encounters Travel:
“The terrain in Cappadocia for the most part is pretty good, trails and paths are well laid out. On a standard tour there isn't really a need for hiking boots or specialist walking shoes. If you're planning to do some longer walks and hikes then yes, you should bring them and be prepared for wet & muddy paths and potentially snow in the winter.”

Cappadocia map & highlights

Turkey’s iconic Cappadocia region, separated from the Mediterranean by the stormy Taurus Mountains, can be discovered from above, by hot air balloon, and from below in its fascinating underground sanctuaries. But we suggest that one of the best ways to explore is on foot, hiking with a guide around the many valleys surrounding Göreme to admire the unique, mushroom-shaped fairy chimney rock formations which honeycomb the landscape, and the churches and caves that have been craftily carved into them. Sunsets over this striking terrain, carved by centuries of volcanic activity and water erosion, can be absolutely beguiling and there is no end of suitable vantage points.
1. Derinkuyu
2. Devrent (Imagination) Valley
3. Göreme
4. Kaymakli
5. Love Valley
6. Monks’ Valley
7. Özkonak
8. Uchisar
Derinkuyu

1. Derinkuyu

The underground cities of Cappadocia are among the world’s most impressive feats of architecture, and Derinkuyu may be the finest example. It reaches down an incredible 85 metres, has over 600 hidden entrances and some 15,000 ventilation ducts, along with water wells, wineries and crafty defensive mechanisms. Come the zombie apocalypse, we know where we’re heading.
Devrent (Imagination) Valley

2. Devrent (Imagination) Valley

Unlike other valleys in Cappadocia, there is no manmade architecture in the lunar-like Devrent Valley. But what makes it so interesting is the many curious rock formations dotted around, that take on the shape of camels, snakes, dolphins or whatever else piques your imagination. A fun walk to take with younger children.
Göreme

3. Göreme

The main tourism base in Cappadocia for walking and ballooning, Göreme is surrounded by fairy chimneys, ancient rock architecture and underground cities. A key site is the Göreme open-air museum, which was one of Turkey’s earliest World Heritage Sites and where there are several impressive rock-hewn churches and monasteries that date back centuries.
Kaymakli

4. Kaymakli

The largest of Cappadocia’s 40-odd underground cities, many of Kaymakli’s caves and tunnels are still used for storage by local residents today. Like others of its type, Kaymakli had its own wells, ventilation system, church and fortifications against invaders. Among the most interesting features is a large andesite rock that would have been used for processing copper.
Love Valley

5. Love Valley

So-named for the phallic-shaped rock formations with which it has been generously endowed by Mother Nature, Love Valley is one of the most popular walking locations in Cappadocia. The erotically eroded columns of volcanic ash here are easily accessible from Göreme, and the valley can be explored in around two and a half hours.
Monks’ Valley

6. Monks’ Valley

The soft rock of Cappadocia was ideal for hollowing out, and this valley, also known as ‘Pacha’s Vineyard’, is dotted with caves that were inhabited by monks. You can peer inside some of these refuges by climbing up the narrow rock staircases, some 15m high. The fairy chimneys of Monks’ Valley, several of which support multiple cones, are among the most distinctive in the region.
Özkonak

7. Özkonak

This underground city, which would have been able to house 60,000 people for up to three months, was discovered by a local farmer in the 1970s. And it was secure: it’s thought that there were holes in the rock used to dump hot oil on enemies. Only four floors of the complex are open to visitors but it has a further six, reaching a depth of 40m.
Uchisar

8. Uchisar

Just outside Göreme, the hilltop citadel of Uchisar is like something drawn from the pages of Tolkien. The hill is pockmarked with caves, many of them connected to each other, and some now in use as pigeon houses. It is thought tunnels would once have reached far underground, while the surrounding fairy chimneys were converted to tombs in Roman times.
Joanna Zlobikowska from our specialist operator Exodus:
“Kaymakli is an elaborate system of illuminated tunnels and caves. We spent around an hour there. The ceilings are quite low and the rooms have different sizes (depending on their use - there are communal living spaces, kitchens, stables, etc). There are no guide ropes. There are some narrow passages with very low ceilings so you have to bend quite a lot when moving from one place to another. Definitely have to be careful if you're tall, I hit my head few times. It is best to have a guide with you - our guide brought the place to life for us with all the amazing stories and history we wouldn't know otherwise. One hour is probably enough as you're underground with no natural light, no fresh air, in a small space.”

Our top Cappadocia Vacation

Cappadocia walking vacation in Turkey

Cappadocia walking vacation in Turkey

Trek the unique and fairytale landscape of Cappadocia

From US $1179 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 26 Oct
2020: 18 Apr, 2 May, 23 May, 29 Aug, 12 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 3 Oct, 10 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Cappadocia or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Responsible tourism

Cappadocia’s unique landscape is catnip for trekkers, but the soft rock is sensitive to erosion. If you want to hike responsibly then visit outside the main summer months when there are fewer people around and footfall on the trails is lessened. Equally sensitive is the culture of Cappadocia. This is a ‘living museum’ highly dependent on tourism, and where traditional skills and ways of life are at risk. Purchasing locally made handicrafts and staying in locally owned accommodations such as ‘cave hotels’ is the best way to contribute to communities here.

With its huge and often bizarre rock formations, Cappadocia is an immensely popular destination for hot air balloon flights. During peak season the sky gets very crowded as it’s the one activity everyone wants. Even though this is among the safest modes of transportation, flying with a responsible balloon company, one that doesn’t take unnecessary risks such as going up in winds that are too strong, is vital. The best way to ensure that, is to book a vacation with a responsible operator.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Moyan Brenn] [Cappadocia guide icon: Candre Mandawe] [Is/isn't: Zeynei Cebeci] [Derinkuyu: Nevit Dilmen] [Devrent (Imagination) Valley: Ekke] [Goreme: RE Hawkins] [Kaymakli: Ricardo Tulio Gandelman] [Love Valley: Jose Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro] [Monk's Valley: I, Noumenon] [Ozkonak: Katpatuka] [Uchisar: Massimo Peruffo]
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