Cappadocia walking vacations

Cappadocia is one of the world’s most popular destinations for hot air ballooning. On any given day here, you might be floating through the sky alongside hundreds of other balloons, making for a pretty impressive spectacle. But while the valleys and rock formations of Cappadocia will mesmerise you when seen from above, it is when explored on foot that their beauty, scale and intricacies can best be appreciated. Cappadocia walking vacations may not be as rigorous as some of Turkey’s renowned long distance routes, but they are certainly more than equal when it comes to natural wonder.

Where to walk in Cappadocia

These landscapes can appear Dali-esque at times, formed of volcanic ash then carved by water erosion over millennia, leaving behind a series of picturesque winding valleys that are dotted with eye-catching cones and columns. The rock itself is soft enough that for centuries the inhabitants have carved deep into it. Vast subterranean cities such as Kaymakli and Derinkuyu have been excavated and are open for visitors to explore their churches, stables, wine cellars and water wells. They were created as sanctuaries for Christians to escape Mongolian and Ottoman attacks from the 14th century to as late as the 20th century, and some parts of them are still in use today. Watch your head – the ceilings can get quite low.
The Göreme Open Air Museum is a popular area to walk around when in Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and just a short trek from the town of Göreme itself, where most visitors base themselves. It’s essentially a sprawling monastic complex, Swiss-cheesed with ancient rock-hewn churches with walls often display colourful frescoes. The monastic boltholes and caves became pilgrimage sites and are now the essential stop on any Cappadocia vacation.
Cappadocia’s valleys are fantastical to wander, their soft volcanic rock honeycombed with caves where hermits would live. Paths are lined with hoodoos – tall and slender columns known as fairy chimneys. A Cappadocia walking vacation might tackle a different valley each day, pausing for lunch in a village.
The Pigeon Valley is named for the birds that were kept here and used as message carriers in those halcyon days before smartphones, their droppings used as fertiliser by farmers. Explanations of how the Love Valley got its name can raise a few blushes (hint: it relates to the huge, phallic-shaped rocks here). The Red and Rose Valleys are regarded as the best places to watch the sunset in Cappadocia, the pinkish hues in the rock beautiful in the dying light. The Imagination Valley earned its name from the intriguing shapes its rocks have taken: camel, snake, dolphin – a menagerie of sculptures.

Our top Turkey walking Vacation

Cappadocia walking vacation in Turkey

Cappadocia walking vacation in Turkey

Trek the unique and fairytale landscape of Cappadocia

From US $1549 to US $1979 8 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 26 Aug, 9 Sep, 16 Sep, 7 Oct, 21 Oct
2024: 13 Apr, 27 Apr, 4 May, 18 May, 8 Jun, 6 Jul, 24 Aug, 7 Sep, 14 Sep, 28 Sep, 5 Oct
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Walking vacations in Cappadocia are usually week-long small group trips of between five and 16 hikers led by an expert guide. Cappadocia lends itself excellently to center-based walking, so you’ll be staying in a local hotel in the region’s main town, Göreme, and embarking on daily hikes of around five hours, with maximum daily distances of 15km or so.
The terrain here is moderate, with the occasional scramble. Sturdy walking footwear is needed, and poles can come in useful too. If you’re a fairly regular walker, with a decent level of fitness, you should be fine. The minimum age for walkers is 16. Itineraries will frequently either include a hot air balloon trip, or at least set aside time for you to organise it on arrival. Typically, you’ll take an early morning flight, then walk as normal for the rest of the day. You might also combine your walking with a little wine tasting, or even a Turkish bath – excellent for reviving tired feet and muscles.
Spring, which falls between April and May, and the autumnal months of September and October, are the best time to go on a Cappadocia walking vacation. In July and August the climate is bone dry and the temperatures are just too high to make walking all that enjoyable – it can easily reach 32°C with little shade to be counted on. You also tend to find the trails are busiest in the summer, with day-trippers coming in from the Turkish coast. Stick to autumn and spring, or even winter, when this incredible landscape is often brushed with snow. If you’re ready for the cold with layered clothing, you will have it largely to yourself.
Anthony Horrobin from our adventure specialists Encounters Travel says:
“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 and muddy paths and potentially snow in the winter.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Gerardo Lazzari] [Where to walk: momo] [Practicalities: Tony Lee] [Anthony Horrobin quote: Danwithnoname -]