Cappadocia Holiday Planning Guide
The region of Cappadocia reveals fascinating tales of civilizations long past with its honeycombed hills characterized by geological rarities, including two World Heritage Sites. Sedimentary rocks formed in lakes and ignimbrite deposits from erupted volcanoes left soft rock formations scattered across the land, which inhabitants then carved out to create houses, churches, and monasteries in 300 CE. Explore these rock houses on your own or on a tour, or take in the topography from above on a hot-air balloon ride. Complete your Cappadocia holiday with a hike along the trails and marvel at the dusky orange panorama and accordion-shaped valleys.
Places to Visit in CappadociaGoreme
: This small area packs a punch for nature and history lovers with its moonscape setting, strange stone formations, and ancient settlements and underground sites dating back to Roman times.Urgup
: Serving as a starting point for Cappadocia sightseeing, the city boasts beautiful handcrafted rugs, exciting nightlife, and luxurious unique accommodation sometimes even offered inside the old cave dwellings for which the region is so famous.Uchisar
: Standing high above Goreme at the region's highest point, the area encompasses some of the best tourist attractions in Cappadocia including a rock citadel, cave dwellings, hot-air balloon rides, and posh restaurants with fantastic views. Avanos
: Ancient Avanos owes its popularity to its picturesque old town and its old pottery factories that practice a ceramic art form dating back to the Hittites.Derinkuyu
: Tourists flock here for the many multi-level underground cities carved into fantastical rock formations, with about 40 cities having at least three levels and enough space to house families, churches, and storage rooms.Mustafapasa
: Add this hidden gem to your Cappadocia itinerary to see Greek stone-carved mansions, churches carved into rock formations, and hotels established in ancient cave dwellings. Cavusin
: Find Cappadocia's largest cave church--decorated with faded frescoes of St. John the Baptist--in Cavusin, a town connected to Goreme by valleys of the region's strange volcanic landscape.Ortahisar
: Despite its central location, this farming village has surprisingly remained off the tourist radar but boasts charming small-town settings, ancient cave dwellings, and Middle Castle, a towering natural fortress.
Things to Do in Cappadocia
Popular Cappadocia Tourist AttractionsGoreme Acikhava Muzesi
: This jaw-dropping outdoor museum and World Heritage Site displays ancient stone-carved dwellings and establishments like churches and entire underground towns dating back to the 4th century, all beneath strange volcanic rock formations. Goreme National Park
: This park highlights the moonscape formations of Cappadocia; visitors can explore ancient churches burrowed underground, sleep overnight in a stone-carved hotel room, or even view the park from above on a thrilling hot-air balloon ride.Güvercinlik Vadisi (Pigeon Valley)
: Discover how pigeons were once Cappadocia's indispensable form of communication in this valley, where you can walk through the surreal landscape, spot numerous dovecotes carved into rock formations, and sip traditional Turkish tea at the onsite teahouses.Rose Valley
: A popular Cappadocia tourist attraction with a stunning landscape, the area's rose-colored rock formations hide caves, towers, and churches that visitors can explore on varying levels of hiking trails.Uchisar Castle
: Perched on the highest point of Cappadocia, this natural rock citadel hosts a treasure trove of old features to explore, including pigeon houses, tunnels, rock tombs, Byzantine graves, and a large water cistern--all surrounded by panoramic views of valleys and mountains.Zemi Valley
: Wander any of this valley's hiking trails to view rock pillars, caves, and fairy chimneys (quirky, thin rock spires topped with large rocks like hats) housing ancient carved structures like age-old houses, storerooms, and churches.Cappadocia Cave Dwellings
: Escape the heat and delve beneath in this ancient settlement once used by Christians escaping persecution, who created a chamber and tunnel system up to eight levels underground that features chapels and well-preserved Byzantine frescoes.Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri
: Once home to 20,000 people, this 7th-century subterranean city burrows eight levels down and allows visitors to explore the once-advanced system that included ventilation and water systems, schools, churches, stables, manufacturing facilities, and much more.Zelve Open Air Museum
: Learn about the odd-looking rock formations and stone-carved dwellings that you encounter during your Cappadocia sightseeing at this outdoor museum, which stretches over three valleys and teaches visitors about the lifestyles of past underground inhabitants.Ihlara Valley
: Teeming with local wildlife, this picturesque valley is dotted with small villages, farms, and rock formations housing cave churches and historical frescoes.
Planning a Cappadocia Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Cappadocia with Kids
Cappadocia is full of outdoor destinations to capture the imaginations of children and adults alike. The landscape itself is a veritable playground with thousands of quirky rock formations like fairy chimneys towering overhead. Start your family's Cappadocia holiday in Urgup
, from which you can easily reach most tourist attractions while staying in historical underground hotel rooms. Head to Goreme
for the most visitor-friendly facilities to tour the landscape. English-speaking tour guides offer walk-throughs and museums display the area's history, so the family can learn about the creation of the unique setting as well as its caves and ancient underground cities. If your kids fancy exploring more subterranean cities, check out the most extensive and impressive networks in Derinkuyu
. For a fun cultural experience, head to Konya
to see the mystical performance of Mevlana Whirling Dervishes
--men dressed in long white robes spinning in time to an orchestra playing Islamic hymns.
Things to Do in Cappadocia with Kids
If your family delights in outdoor adventures, you can choose from a long list of Cappadocia things to do. Surpassing hiking and underground exploration, the most popular way to experience Cappadocia's moonscape is from the air. Colorful hot-air balloons take visitors flying over the rugged, pink-colored valleys, sometimes floating just an arm's length away from the tops of fairy chimneys. Numerous companies offer this high-flying service, including Butterfly Balloons
, which offers hotel pick-up and drop-off, and Kapadokya Balloons
, which offers sunrise flights.
Trek the rocky hills of Pasabag
and let the kids' imaginations run wild among the fairy chimneys, where hermits once lived at the hollowed tops. Rest your feet and ride horseback with Akhal-Teke Horse Riding Center
, which organizes routes through moonscapes and old villages, making occasional stops to learn about the traditional arts of carpet-making and pottery. Cool off with Kapadokya Jet Boat & Gondola
, an attraction on the water offering relaxing gondolas trips or, for the kids, thrilling jet boat rides at high speeds with 360-degree spins.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Cappadocia
Turkish hospitality extends warmly to children, and natives will treat you especially well if you are traveling with young ones. Virtually all hotels provide cots and cribs, and some even offer family suites with adjoining bedrooms--these may be limited in Cappadocia's cave hotels, though, so be sure to book in advance. If you do decide to stay in a cave hotel, note that many hotels have the word "cave" in their names, but not all are authentic caves; do your research. In terms of transportation, many families on holiday in Cappadocia prefer to rent a car once they've arrived, since attractions can be far apart and this helps you make the most of your time.
Be aware that although Western-style toilets are becoming more popular, squat toilets are still used throughout the region. Be prepared to help young children use them, and take plenty of Kleenex and wet wipes, as toilet paper is often not provided. Cappadocia sightseeing involves spending most of your time outdoors, so outfit your family with comfortable walking shoes, water, and lots of sun protection.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Cappadocia
Cuisine of Cappadocia
Known for its fresh ingredients and exotic spices, Turkish food is best experienced in its traditional form: simply created dishes with beautiful presentation. For a plethora of excellent dining options, spend a few days in Urgup
, where restaurants range from family-run establishments to a 250-year-old venue housed in an old cave. Try the slow-braised lamb from a traditional stone oven with green plums, or sole fillets in white wine sauce. No Cappadocia trip would be complete without a visit to Turasan Sarapcilik
, a winery housed in caves that offers complimentary tours and free tastings, plus an opportunity to buy your choice of Turkish white, red, and rose wines.
Shopping in Cappadocia
Remember your Cappadocia holiday long after it is finished with a beautiful, handcrafted souvenir from the region. Carpets and kilims (flat-woven tapestry rugs) are extremely popular and perfect for decorating floors, tables, and walls. Expect to be overwhelmed with choices of designs and colors from all over Turkey, with some of the most famous from the Yahyahli region. In Goreme
, the friendly and informative owners of Tribal Collections Nomadic Rugs and Textiles
and Sultan Carpet
make these top-rated places to shop for this product.
Do not miss Turkish pottery during your shopping, as Cappadocia has been famous for its ceramics since the Hittites. For the best options, stop in Avanos
, a town full of artisan families that fashion unique designs as well as recreated Hittite pieces. Keep an eye out for Sultans Ceramic
, a shop set in a cave complex that also offers tours, pottery-making demonstrations, and the chance to spin a bowl yourself.
Other traditional Cappadocia crafts include jewelry and Ebru art, an ancient Turkish tradition that combines creativity and chemistry with dyes and various media. Look for Ebru pieces demonstrated and sold at Naile Art Gallery- Ebru Art Center
, or browse the handmade jewelry at Shooting Star - Rose's Art studio
, where some items even incorporate bits of meteorites from all over the world.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Cappadocia
History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia's rich and fascinating history dates back to pre-modern times, when the region's grand castles and underground cities were created. Hittites settled Cappadocia until 1200 BCE, a few of the ancient subterranean cities visitors find today date back to this period. Although it was later expanded by Christians searching for refuge, Kaymakli Underground City
was originally a smaller Hittite city carved into the soft volcanic rock.
After the Persian Empire's subsequent rise and fall, the area became a Roman and Byzantine province in which communities thrived and created many of the popular Cappadocia destinations found today. Learn more about this period at Zelve Open Air Museum
, an outdoor museum displaying remains of an ancient community that existed from the Byzantine era up to the 20th century. Visitors can also visit Uchisar Castle
, an impressive rock-hewn Byzantine castle at the highest point in Uchisar.
Before Christianity became an accepted religion, Christians sought haven in Cappadocia, where they remained from the 4th to the 11th century. They used and expanded existing underground cities in the area and created new ones to protect themselves from Roman persecutors. View these networks today at attractions like Cappadocia Cave Dwellings
, where you can wander the deep halls used as homes, churches, storage rooms, and more. Due to the large numbers of Christian occupants, the religion grew in Cappadocia and churches and monasteries cropped up all over the region. Look for El Nazar Kilise
, a 10th-century church carved into a rock formation and decorated with colorful frescoes, and enjoy the magnificent views from Church Of St. John The Baptist (Vaftizci Yahya Kilisesi)
, one of Cappadocia's oldest churches.
Turkish clans under the leadership of the Seljuks began settling Anatolia, including Cappadocia, in the 11th century, establishing dominance. Some Christians converted to Islam during this period, while others formed the Cappadocian Greek population. In the 15th century the Ottoman Empire claimed Cappadocia, which remained under its power until the empire's decline in the 20th century. As part of modern-day Turkey, Cappadocia preserves its rich and diverse heritage in an array of unforgettable attractions that make it a center of tourism. Learn more about life in this region, including professions, culture, and daily lifestyles, at Cappadocia Art & History Museum
, housed in a restored 170-year-old house.
Landscape of Cappadocia
As you stand in the midst of Cappadocia's otherworldly landscape, it is easy to imagine that you're actually on a different planet. In fact, the setting is so alien that it is aptly termed a moonscape due to its rocky and barren lunar characteristics. One step into Goreme National Park
surrounds visitors with strange rock formations and looming stone pinnacles reaching up to hundreds of feet high. Some of these spires are topped with a single basalt boulder, sitting over the thin column like a hat. These phenomena, called fairy chimneys, are best seen at Pasabag
, where hermits once dug out the columns and lived in the tops.
Before the moonscape appeared, intense volcanic eruptions covered the region in thick ash and mud that eventually solidified into soft rock called tuff. Over the years, wind and rain slowly eroded the softer sections of tuff, leaving only the harder elements behind. These remnants are among the fantastical places to see in Cappadocia, including the reddish-pink formations at Rose Valley
, the lush countryside and fruit trees amidst fairy chimneys in Gomeda Valley
, and the peaceful hiking trails meandering through pinnacles in Soganli Valley
Holidays & Festivals in Cappadocia
It is no surprise Cappadocia's colorful and warm culture hosts a number of lively festivals every year, with an emphasis on food and crafts. Take your trip to Cappadocia in the summer to catch the annual art festival every June in Uchisar
or the handicrafts festival each September in Avanos
, a town known for its excellent pottery-making dating back thousands of years. Wet your tongue at the grape harvest festival in Urgup
in the fall, when visitors are encouraged to indulge in Turkish wines. Foodies will enjoy Forgotten Flavors of Goreme, the local food festival that celebrates traditional Cappadocian dishes every September.
Cappadocia Travel Tips
Climate of Cappadocia
Cappadocia enjoys a continental climate, which means hot, dry summers and cold, snowy winters. Springtime, lasting from May to early July, is very pleasant with comfortable temperatures and some rain, although unpredictable weather conditions sometimes result in hot-air balloon tour cancellations. Summertime temperatures, however, reach well above 32 C (90 F) with little chance of rain. If your Cappadocia trip falls between October and March, jackets and warmer clothing are suggested. Although winter weather makes trekking difficult, the snow-covered moonscape turns into a unique winter wonderland.
Transportation in Cappadocia
Buses, locally called domuses, travel between all major towns and villages in Cappadocia and are an inexpensive way to get around. Keep in mind buses travel less frequently during the low season, and during the high season in summer, seats fill up fast so arrive early. For a more comfortable and predictable way to reach Cappadocia tourist attractions, consider getting a taxi instead. All taxis use meters, but you are welcome to bargain and settle on a price before your trip as well.