Cappadocia’s surreal landscape of fairytale chimneys, underground cities, rock-cut monasteries and sweeping vistas is the stuff of dreams. In recent years, more and more travelers to Turkey are flocking to the region that doesn’t just feel like it’s another country, but a whole different planet. Here are the top things to do in Cappadocia, a place you simply should not miss visiting when you find yourself in Turkey.

5 Awesome Things You Can Only Do In Cappadocia

1. Stay in a Cave Hotel

One of the most exciting things about traveling to Cappadocia is the chance to stay in one of the many cave hotels in towns like Goreme and Uchisar, both of which are great to base yourself in.

Hotel rates can vary to suit different budgets but it’s important to remember that you do get what you pay for. A mid-range to high-end cave hotel room can be super-comfortable with a T.V., good air-conditioning, heating, and hot water, all of which are a must, especially when you’re visiting in winter when it can get quite chilly. On the other hand, the cheapest possible room you can find might not have the same comforts or even a single window for ventilation. Trust me, you don’t want that.

If you want to truly enjoy the cave room experience, don’t skimp on the essentials to save a few dollars.

Cave hotel

2. Explore Rock-Cut Cave Churches

The Goreme Open Air Museum is home to fascinating rock-cut cave churches, complete with Byzantine frescoes and Christian symbolism on the walls and roofs of the caves.  If you’re staying in Goreme, you can also hike to the museum from the center of town.

Dating from 1,000AD, the churches served as a secret refuge for medieval orthodox Christian monks to turn to their faith in difficult times and hide from attacks. While some frescoes have undergone noticeable discoloration and damage, others are still quite well preserved. Photography of the frescoes and the interior of the churches is prohibited, so it’s a good idea to put away your camera and simply take in the amazing details of the frescoes. Don’t forget to wear comfortable walking shoes.

5 Awesome Things You Can Only Do In Cappadocia - Rock Cut Cave Church
photo by Qudsiya

3. Hike in Dramatic Landscapes

I believe that everyone who loves to hike should experience Cappadocia at least once in their lives. Hiking in Cappadocia means watching in sheer amazement as the trail winds through unique geological features complete with shapes and patterns so fantastical, it’s hard to believe that they were sculpted by natural processes.

One such hike is in the Love Valley, home to massive rocks that have undergone partial erosion with most of the softer rock at the bottom being eroded while the hard top layer remains, resulting in a peculiar shape that resembles a phallus or a giant mushroom. Of course this means that it’s really popular with tourists who love taking photos of these strange formations.

Other trails in the area are the Rose and Red Valleys, Ihlara Valley, Zemi Valley, Pigeon Valley and Sword Valley and each of these have a different but equally dramatic landscape. It’s possible to do the hikes independently but you’ll need at least a week in Cappadocia if you plan to do them all.

Hiking in Cappadocia

4. Explore the Underground Cities

When I was first told that Cappadocia is home to real underground cities, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Just two of the region’s many underground cities are open to curious tourists and the one I visited is known as Kaymakli, a city that extends eight levels underground, out of which only four are open to the public. There’s a tunnel that connects Kaymakli to Derinkuyu, the other underground city that’s open to public visits.

Kaymakli, built from volcanic stone, features a stable, living areas, bedrooms, kitchens, wine cellars, storage rooms, churches with religious symbols carved into the stone, and a community burial area. The city wasn’t permanently lived in but was used by communities to hide from looting and invading armies for several months at a time. Heavily armored army men would not be able to enter the narrow passageways or crawl through the maze-like dark tunnels and would find other ways to force the inhabitants out.

This is one of those places where it’s highly recommended to hire a guide so you’ll have a real understanding of what you’re looking at. Guides are available at the entrance but expect to negotiate a little on the price. A fair price for the guide would be anywhere between 40 and 60 Turkish Lira, depending on group size and whether it’s the peak tourist season. Be careful about keeping up with your tour group or guide, as it’s easy to venture off and be hopelessly lost. If you do find yourself separated from the rest of your party, look for arrows on the stone walls to find your way.

Kaymakli 1

5. Ride in a Hot-Air Balloon

Perhaps the most famous activity in Cappadocia is riding in a hot-air balloon over the region’s rugged and spectacular valleys, possibly mistaking for a while that the swirling rust-colored waves and folds are the face of another planet. It’s not surprising that pretty much everyone who goes to Cappadocia tries to get on a hot-air balloon ride, and it only stands to reason that it can take quite a while before you can actually make this happen, especially in peak season (when the balloons get fully booked) and in winter (when the weather is unpredictable).

If this is an activity that you absolutely must do, then do your research beforehand and book a ride before you arrive, unless you’re staying for a long time. Look for options to suit your budget but remember that going with a mid-range option is your best bet, at least safety-wise. You don’t want to get the cheapest balloon operator to put you in an overcrowded balloon that doesn’t feel safe.

If you can’t manage to get on one, don’t worry because Cappadocia is equally impressive from ground level!

5 Awesome Things You Can Only Do In Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
photo by LWYang

Have you been to Cappadocia? What would you add to this list?

This is a guest post by Natasha Amar.

1-1-DSC05729-002 Natasha is a Dubai-based travel writer and digital storyteller seeing the world in cultures, cuisines and hiking trails and blogging about it on Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.