Explore Cappadocia with our travel guide to find out how to get to Cappadocia, which places are best to visit, eat, drink, and stay in Cappadocia.
Cappadocia is easily one of the most magical places on earth, and on the bucket lists of many people for this reason. Nowhere else are the fairy chimneys this dense or this filled with history. This guide will assist you in planning your trip, and help you enjoy the most beautiful and out-of-this-world place Turkey has to offer.
Short History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys are not man-made. Cappadocia is around volcanic mountains that are no longer active. With the discharge that came from these mountains around 60 million years ago, Cappadocia’s earth became soft, ashy, and easily moldable. And it was molded indeed, by the rain, wind, and other natural causes. For millions of years, these natural causes slowly shaped the fairy chimneys into the shapes they have today.
Early humans knew there was something special about Cappadocia as well. The human inhabitants of Cappadocia date back to the Paleolithic era. During the Hittite Empire of the 12th century BC, Cappadocia became an important hub for commerce. During the 6th century BC, Cappadocia was part of the Persian Empire. The Persian emperor named the area hu-aspa-dahyu, meaning “land of good horses.”
After the death of Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian Empire, the Kingdom of Cappadocia was founded in 332BC, and it became a part of the Roman Empire in 17 AD.
During the 3rd century AD, Cappadocia became an important hiding point for Christians who were escaping from the Roman Empire. Its natural qualities made it possible for Christians to live a secret life. During the 11th and 12th centuries, the area saw the influence of the Seljuk Empire. When the Ottoman Empire took over, the area became more stabilized. The last Christians living in the area moved elsewhere after the Lozan treaty was signed.
Climate of Cappadocia
The climate of Cappadocia is continental. This means Cappadocia has hot summers and cold winters. During summertime, the temperature can go up to 38 degrees Celsius, but it is not humid.
During Spring and Autumn, the temperatures can be anywhere from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius, making it the perfect time to visit Cappadocia and hike around. Cappadocia’s hotels are usually in high demand during these times.
Winters bring a large amount of snowfall, whereas summers are usually dry. There is also a big difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures. So it is best to keep another layer of clothing with you in case it gets chilly at night time. If you are planning to visit Cappadocia during winter to see fairy chimneys under the snow, it is best to bring thick clothes since it is normal to see temperatures between 3-10 degrees Celsius.
When we visited Cappadocia, it was mid March and the weather was very nice and sunny. We didn’t even need our coats. But two days later, it was snowing heavily and the weather was freezing. We absolutely loved this crazy change since we got to see Cappadocia under snow, but we were also happy we brought winter clothes just in case.
How to Get to Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is part of a larger region called Nevşehir, and that is part of the Central Anatolia region. There are several ways to reach Cappadocia.
First and maybe the best way is to go to Cappadocia is by renting a car. The road trip is fun and the views are wonderful. You can also use the car for traveling around in Cappadocia as well, since the public transport in the Cappadocia area is lacking. If you prefer not to deal with public transport, or driving yourself in Cappadocia, renting a private car with a private driver is the best option. And doing so in Cappadocia is very affordable.
Flying from Istanbul to Cappadocia
If you are in Istanbul, you can find direct flights to Nevşehir, which would be the fastest option to get to Cappadocia. Flights to Nevşehir from Istanbul can be less frequent than other options. For this reason, you may wish to fly to Kayseri, which is only 75 kilometers away from Nevşehir.
Once you arrive at the airport, you can use an airport pickup service that will take you straight to your hotel from the airport without trouble. There are different options for airport pickup service, and you can choose a shared pickup service or a private one depending on your preference.
Taking a bus from a major city such as Istanbul is another option. If you are in one of the major cities in Turkey, you won’t have problems finding a bus to the Nevşehir area. It will probably be a long ride, but it will get you there in the end.
Where to Visit in Cappadocia
Cappadocia offers many places to visit and enjoy, and we’ll talk about the most important places you should see if you are visiting Cappadocia. With all these beautiful places to cover, Cappadocia definitely deserves a good chunk of your time. A five-day-trip would help you see most of the wonders of Cappadocia. But don’t worry if you don’t have too much time to spend here, a short weekend getaway would still help you get a taste of what this place offers. Here are some of the best places to visit while you are in Cappadocia.
Even though they occurred from the same natural phenomenon, each of the valleys in Cappadocia has different characteristic. Devrent Valley, for example, is famous for its fairy chimneys that look like animals, and it is one of our favorite places. The valley’s other name is Imagination Valley, because people walk around imagining what each fairy chimney looks like. This fun valley brings a lot of photo opportunities, especially the chimney that looks like a camel which is very popular among visitors.
Reaching Devrent Valley requires a private vehicle or taxi, because there are no public transportation options to get here. The entrance is a bit steep, so it is best to visit with comfortable shoes. Other than that, it is a very nice walk. The time you’d spend here depends entirely on how many photos you’d like to take, from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.
Avanos Hair Museum
Avanos Hair Museum is not your usual museum. In fact, it is so unusual that it ranked in The Guinness Book Of World Records as one of the weirdest museums you can visit. It is actually a pottery museum and shop, and the hair aspect occurred very romantically. The owner of the museum once fell in love with a foreign woman. Before his girlfriend left for her country, the owner asked her to leave a lock of hair and pinned the hair on the wall of the museum. When the other visitors asked about the meaning of the hair, they were moved by the story so they left their own hair. Today, the corridors and rooms of the museum are filled with locks of hair left by visitors from all over the world.
Twice a year, the owner of the museum does a raffle among the people who left their hair, and the winners gain an all-expenses-paid holiday for one week.
It is forbidden to take photos inside the museum because people leave their personal information along with their hair for the raffle. But I was allowed to take a picture of my own hair just before it took its place on the museum wall.
Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open-Air Museum is located in an old cave village where Muslims and Christians lived together. You can see the churches and the mosque located close to each other. It was one of the places in Cappadocia that people inhabited very early on, and it was also one of the last to be abandoned.
Zelve Open-Air Museum is not only significant, but also breathtakingly beautiful. It offers some of the best panoramic views and a great hike surrounded by birdsong and the smell of flowers. There were hardly any other people when we visited, so it was a very calm and peaceful experience as well.
Zelve Open-Air Museum’s entry fee is 20 liras in 2020, but if you have a museum card, you can enter for free. Same goes for most of the other museums and underground cities around this area.
Çavuşin Old Mosque
Çavuşin Old Mosque is one of the oldest buildings in the area, dating back to the Seljuk Empire. It was closed off in the 1950s. After some restoration work, Çavuşin Old Mosque was reopened to the public in 2011.
If you’d like to have a walk during your visit, this is the place to do it. The valley is located between Göreme and Çavuşin, and the path is filled with beautiful scenery, and wineries. The walk will take about an hour, and the path is 4 km long. If you are visiting during hot months, please make sure to stay hydrated and protected against sunburn.
Rose Valley, or Kızılçukur Valley in Turkish, is one of the best spots to watch the sunset and take amazing photos. It has a particular red hue under sunset that is mesmerizing. It looks very pretty under snow as well. If you want to explore the valley, you can only do so by walking or cycling. If you only want to visit the sightseeing point, vehicles are allowed there. The entrance fee is around 3 Turkish liras in 2020, but if you arrived as a part of a tour group, you don’t need to pay any fee. If you’d like to be a part of a hiking tour, you can visit Rose Valley along with other most-loved locations.
Love Valley offers some of the best panoramic views. The reason it is called love valley is that the fairy chimneys are in phallic shapes, and many people propose to their loved ones on this spot. If you’d like to see this destination without being part of a safari group, you might find the roads are not in the best condition. It is quite narrow and frightening to drive the road with your own car, so walking is the best option to get there. It is about five kilometers, and takes an hour to walk. If you like to join a safari group, you can find many options that include this valley in their itinerary.
Göreme Open-Air Museum
Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the things you can’t miss in Cappadocia. The museum consists of an old monastery with churches, wine cellars, and cemeteries. The most famous church in the complex is called Karanlık Kilise (Dark Church) and takes its name from not having many windows. Lacking sunlight helped to protect the colors inside the church, and frescoes in this church are full of vibrant colors. Keep in mind that Karanlık Kilise requires an additional ticket, which is around 10 Turkish liras and it is not included in museum card free-pass locations. The regular entrance fee for the whole museum is 30 Turkish liras in 2020, and it is free with a museum card.
It definitely worth paying the additional fee in my opinion. It’s hard to see the same level of untouched colors anywhere else and it gives you an idea of how the whole thing must have looked back in the day. In many interior parts of the Göreme Open-Air Museum, Dark Church being one of them, it is forbidden to take photos. You can only take photos and videos in these parts after getting special permission from officials.
Üçhisar castle is one of the highest points in Cappadocia, making it a perfect spot for watching the sunrise or sunset. It is one of the most well-known places in Cappadocia, and it is visible from around for miles with its high altitude. It is best to be mindful of the steps to climb there since not all of them are in the best condition. The entrance fee for the castle is 6 Turkish liras for adults and 3 Turkish liras for the students. There are daily tours that include Üçhisar castle in their itinerary along with other beauties of Göreme.
Three Graces (Beauties)
Three Graces are the symbol of the Ürgüp region in Cappadocia and very well known with their distinctive appearance. There is a legend about them that everyone knows in the Cappadocia region. According to this legend, there was a king living peacefully with his daughter. Though as time passed, he became overprotective towards his daughter, worried about the consequences of her beauty and charm. All the men of the kingdom were in love with the princess, but she fell in love with a shepherd. The king was furious and wanted her to marry someone more suited to a princess. The princess ran away with the shepherd and had a baby. Thinking the king might forgive this new family, she returned to the kingdom. The king wasn’t feeling as forgiving as she’d hoped; he asked the soldiers to kill the family. The princess prayed that they could either be turned into birds or stones when they were about to be captured. Her prayer was granted, and they were turned into the Three Graces.
The Three graces is also a viewing point and it has a beautiful view. If you are there in the winter or late autumn, you might notice it feels quite a bit colder than the rest of the Cappadocia. I’d recommend to bring some extra clothes while visiting this location in case it is a freezing day.
Paşabağ Valley (Valley of the Monks)
Paşabağ, Valley of the monks, has some of the chunkiest, nicest looking fairy chimneys and beautiful trees blossoming in the spring time. St. Simeon Church was built inside one of the chimneys here. According to the legend, Simeon lived a reclusive life near Aleppo in the 5th century. In time, people started saying he was able to perform miracles and this brought a lot of attention to Simeon. He wasn’t happy with this, so he escaped to this valley and started living in a column. First he was in a 2-meter-high (6 ft) column, but then he moved to a higher one that was 15 meters high (50 ft). It is said he lived there for 37 years, only coming down occasionally for supplies.
Paşabağı’s entrance fee is 20 liras in 2020 and it is free with a museum card. There is also a large shopping area for souvenirs by the entrance.
Ortahisar Castle is the biggest fairy chimney in Cappadocia at a towering 18 meters in height. It was used as a castle in Byzantine times. In time its structure got damaged, but today with the restoration work, it is reopened. Now you can climb the ladders till you reach halfway up and enjoy the breathtaking view.
Although it is restored and reopened, it can be quite a steep and narrow climb at times. If you are scared of heights, you might want to skip this one. Instead of me, my boyfriend climbed the ladders in our case. Here I’m adding the pictures my boyfriend took, who later on said that I’d probably have a heart attack if I tried, and he wasn’t too far from it either.
Cappadocia is not only filled with magical fairy chimneys, but also elaborate, large, carved underground cities you can explore. They are a big part of Cappadocia’s history and it is amazing to walk on the narrow paths of these structures.
Underground cities has a very interesting history. They started as a protection measure. People of Cappadocia were constantly threatened by attacks from various outside forces. Villages who were fed up with living in fear, decided to carve a secondary village, to escape to, under their own villages. Each house of the village had a hidden passage to the underground village. Every village in Cappadocia followed this method and in time, the underground villages were connected with each other and turned into underground cities.
Another fascinating aspect of the underground cities is their level of development and sophistication. They had sewer systems, ventilation system, and even mental hospitals inside the cities.
Today there are 36 underground cities excavated, but it is estimated that there are more than 150 underground cities in Cappadocia, waiting to be discovered. Here are some of the most visit-worthy ones.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu underground city is the biggest underground city you can visit in Cappadocia. It could be home to 20,000 people along with their livestock. It has 8 levels, a missionary school, and a christening pool. It also has a well inside and its name comes from this, Derinkuyu means deep well in Turkish.
It is thought there are many more underground cities under Derinkuyu, and there are 600 doors to these unknown cities. Some of these doors open to the currently used houses in Cappadocia. Today, people use these underground city entries as storage rooms.
The entrance fee is 50 liras in 2020, but it is for free with a museum card. By the entry, you can find a guide, which would cost you about 100 liras. You can also visit Derinkuyu as part of a tour group with a skip-the-line ticket.
Kaymaklı Underground City
Kaymaklı Underground City is about half the size of Derinkuyu and it can house 5000 people at once. Even though it is smaller, it’s kept in great condition and the lights that show the connections and paths make this a very neat place to visit. Kaymaklı also has 8 levels, but today you can visit the upper 4 levels only.
Kaymaklı Underground City is about 20 km away from Nevşehir. The entrance fee is 50 liras as of 2020, and it is again free for museum card holders. There are also hiking tours that include Kaymaklı in their itinerary.
Özkonak Underground City
Özkonak Underground City is thought to be built by Hittites, because an eagle statue, their symbol, was found within the city. Özkonak has 4 levels and some unique properties. For one, this city has long holes between the levels, allowing each level to communicate with one another. Another one is that the entrance sections have holes on top, allowing the citizens to pour hot oil on top of unwelcome visitors.
This slightly more vicious underground city’s entrance fee is 25 liras in 2020, and museum card can be used as well.
Other Activities in Cappadocia
If you’d like to fill your days with adventure, you have countless memorable experiences waiting for you in Cappadocia. From world-famous hot air balloon trips to horseback riding tours, there is something for every visitor. If you’d like to find out more about these options, please read our “Top 10 Things to Do in Cappadocia” post.
What to Eat in Cappadocia?
With its rich food culture, Turkey offers its visitors a wide variety of regional cuisines and Cappadocia is not different. Cappadocia offers some delicious options for food, and some of the dishes they serve can’t be found anywhere else in Turkey.
Testi kebab is a brew of meat and veggies slow-cooked inside a sealed pot. This method makes the meat so tender and mixes all the deliciousness together. With bread to dip inside the yummy sauce, you are all set. This is the perfect, hearty meal after a long day of hiking and sightseeing.
Dried cream is a very different food from cream that you can find anywhere else in Turkey. Normally soft and spreadable, this cream is a bit tougher and crunchier since it’s dried. It can be consumed with jams and bread or just by itself.
Also called Turkish jellybean, koftur is somewhere between Turkish delight and grape molasses. Since the only ingredients are dried grape molasses, starch, and flour, it is a healthy-ish alternative to the desserts with sugar.
Stuffed Grape Leaves
Called yaprak sarma in Turkish, stuffed grape leaves are an extremely delicious Turkish delicacy, especially if the leaves are thin and nice. If they are not, it might slightly feel as if you are eating leather with saucy rice in it. The good news is, Cappadocia is one of the best places to have stuffed grape leaves with fresh leaves from many wineries nearby. A must-try that you can find in many restaurants.
Where to Eat in Cappadocia?
We talked about some of the food you can try in Cappadocia. Now let’s take a look at some of the best restaurants in Cappadocia.
No: 10 Restaurant
No: 10 Restaurant is the restaurant for Elika Cave Suits hotel and its menu has old Ottoman recipes and some other Turkish classics. Their starters are also very successful, their hummus was one of the best we’ve ever had. The staff is also very friendly and polite, and the view is wonderful.
Ziggy Cafe has a wonderful menu, view and vibe to visit on a late afternoon. Here you can nibble on different starters and drink some wine. The cafe is named after their dog, Ziggy, and you can see Ziggy also influenced their interior design quite a bit.
Seki Restaurant offers one of the finest menus, along with one of the finest views. Overlooking a valley and fairy chimneys, the restaurant is in the Argos hotel. They also have wine tastings in their historical wine cellar with their special wines. They charge Euros and are a bit pricey (about 70 Euros per person), but it is also a very unique experience. If you choose to go to the wine tasting, you should call them ahead and make a reservation during the day.
Old Greek House Restaurant
With a charming location that once was a residence, Old Greek restaurant offers a great ambiance. The food is fresh, homemade, and delicious. A great place to try some mezes and cold dishes.
If you want to treat yourself with some fine dining, Lil’a is the place for you. With a dress code, ever-changing hip, and always delicious menu. Lil’a is a perfect spot for celebrations and special occasions. Best to be prepared for higher prices on the menu!
Frequently Asked Questions About Cappadocia
Where Is Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is in Central Anatolia, Turkey, between the cities Niğde, Nevşehir and Kayseri.
How Do You Pronounce Cappadocia?
How To Get To Cappadocia?
You can get to Cappadocia with a short flight to Nevşehir or Kayseri from any of the big cities in Turkey. You can then take another short bus ride from Nevşehir or Kayseri to Cappadocia, or you can rent a car.
How Much Is A Hot Air Balloon Ride In Cappadocia?
Hot air Balloon ride prices start from $200, but it can easily reach to $250 and more depending on the services included.