Chances are, you may have caught glimpses of gorgeous Cappadocia without even knowing her name. Think about the most scenic postcard you’ve seen of hot air balloons - if the background features rough rocky terrains, it is likely to be of Cappadocia!
Located in the central plains of Turkey, Cappadocia paints a rich tapestry of magnificent rock formations and golden hued hillsides that leaves the eyes feasting for more. Once you see the surreal lunar-like landscape of the region, it may be hard to believe Cappadocia does not come straight out of a fairytale?
So maybe an acceptance letter from Hogwarts may not be the only way for you to start experiencing some magic (although we’ll wait alongside you for the post owl
?). Here are the top 11 things to do in whimsical Cappadocia!
1. Graze the clouds in a hot air balloon
Bath in the morning light of sunrise as you ascend to greet the sky in a hot air balloon. Cappadocia is indubitably one of the most popular spots in the world to try this unorthodox mode of transportation.
Credit: @jinny_311 on Instagram
Drift gently over Cappadocia’s famous conical limestone rocks, called “fairy chimneys”, which were carved from two millennia worth of volcanic activity and sediment erosion. Float up over the twisted valleys and sandy dunes, above vibrant vineyards and honeycombed pigeon homes, and marvel over the lunar-like landscape that looks like a set of a Hollywood sci-fi movie.
At 150 euros for an hour’s worth of sun-soaking merriment in the sky, it may seem too luxurious a cost but this once-in-a-lifetime experience truly is priceless. Plus, you will probably have enough photos to live vicariously through until your next hot air balloon ride ?
Credit: @mahahalia on Instagram#HHWT tip
: Balloon tours vary in size and length depending on the company you choose. Do note a cheap bargain may not necessarily be your best deal, especially when you’re essentially trusting your life thousands of feet off the ground to a lone pilot. Be sure to pick reputable companies with clean flight records and positive reviews across multiple websites.
2. Hitch a horseback ride at Goreme
If you don’t fancy fast motorised vehicles but still want to capture those memorable #getoutdoors shots, opting for a leisure horseback ride would be just as impressive!
Did you know the name Cappadocia is derived from the old Persian name “Katpatuka”? It means “The Land of Beautiful Horses”! It was also said that in Roman times, broodmares from Cappadocia were so highly prized that a special tax was imposed on their sale. The region’s namesake is basically imploring you to sign up for a tour and the best location would be the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Goreme National Park. This widely-popular choice is even endorsed by television personality Martha Stewart!
Credit: luckyhorsescappadociaon Facebook
The park rests in the volcanic zone of Mount Hasan and Mount Erciyes so your horseback ride may include visits to some of Cappadocia´s incredible cultural treasures such as Byzantine cave churches or the area's traditional craft making centers. If there is a particular attraction you wish to cover, be sure to enquire on the routes from your tour agency before setting off. Do also let them know your level of comfort riding horses (beginner, intermediate or advance) and these knowledgeable trainers would select the right mare/stallion to suit your experience.
A two-hour horseback ride in Goreme National Park starts from 120 TL.
3. Scale the heights of volcanoes
On the topic of volcanic zones, did you wonder the significance of volcanoes to the region? Hint: fairy chimneys. Yes! The bewitching landscape of Cappadocia - fairy chimneys and all - was the result of volcanic eruptions of (presently dormant) Mount Erciyes, Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz millions of years ago?
Credit: Carole Raddato on Flickr
When these volcanoes were active and erupted, the surrounding area of present-day central Cappadocia was smothered with a torrent of lava. This lava cooled and solidified before floods and wind eroded the tuff (hardened volcanic ash) and created the valleys and fissures.
Geography lesson aside, how cool would it be to hike up these volcanoes??
Credit: @rukiyeulku on Instagram
The snow-capped Mount Erciyes (3917 m), cloud-piercing twin peaks of Mount Hasan (3268 m) and the boulder slopes of Mount Melendiz (2935 m) pretty much dominate the skylines around the region of south Cappadocia. Guides are highly recommended if you wish to ascend these dormant volcanoes. The jagged terrains and steep inclines may prove to be a challenging experience so gear up with professional tour companies that organise these climbs.
Don’t be intimidated by these beautiful giants though! Get motivated climb by imagining the magnificent views waiting for you at the summit (and the copious photographs that could ensue).
Credit: @amerikali01 on Instagram#HHWT tip
: If skiing is what you love, Mount Erciyes has a ski center to fulfill your playdate in the snow.
4. Abseil down a medieval castle
Continuing on to expand your #getoutdoors photo collection, take this most opportune vacation in Cappadocia to abseil down the medieval Uchisar Castle. Truly, where and when else could you say you’ve repelled the sides of a real castle legally
Credit: @jonreid on Instagram
The climb up Uchisar Castle is equally wonderful as the surreal landscape spreads out below. As you start your descend, peering down at the 200m drop would definitely start satiating your adrenaline craving. Don’t forget to soak in the sights of adjacent fairy chimneys while you’re at it!
To have a go at abseiling Uchisar Castle, drop by an outdoor activity agency to consult on a schedule.
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5. Rough it out on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV)
If you are inspired to #getoutdoors in Cappadocia, cruising through the valleys and villages in a labyrinth of dirt roads on an ATV may just be perfect for you!
Credit: @vingabond on Instagram
The ATV is a two-seater, fully automatic vehicle that is easy enough for even novice drivers to manoeuvre. Embark on the ultimate road adventure behind the wheels of a quad bike and get that surge of adrenaline through your veins!
On this off-the-beaten track, you may opt for a guided tour where the typical ATV route includes winding around Love Valley and Rose Valley as well as charming old villages in between. Cappadocia’s intricate landscape, with its sandy dunes and rocky facades, poses a challenging terrain but what’s an outdoors adventure without getting some dirt on yourself, am I right?? At the right timing, you can head over to Swords Valley and catch the sunset over the pristine fairy chimneys.
Credit: @abdurrahim.okce on Instagram
While rental rates for an ATV vary across companies, it generally costs about 40 Tl (Turkish Lira) per person for a two-hour joyride.
6. Stay over in a cave hotel
On the interest of sophisticated architecture, why not check into a cosy cave hotel and be fully immersed in the Cappadocia experience? You can even stay in one of those fairy chimneys you marveled over whilst on the hot air balloon!
Credit: @sultan_cave_suites on Instagram
One popular tourist hotspot for cave hotels is in the village of Goreme. This quaint village houses the largest selection of cave hotels to suit your budget. It is also the best place to catch the sunset and home to one of the most breathtaking views of these stunning rock formations. As you step into this wonderland, be sure to keep a lookout at how this city has become one with nature.
Depending on your chosen hotel location, the rooftop may come with the unobstructed panorama of nearby mountain cliffs such as this:
Credit: @sultan_cave_suites on Instagram
Fret not claustrophobics, for these cave rooms are luxuriously spacious and equipped with the usual amenities of regular hotels! Featuring old kilim rugs over polished teak flooring, with wooden chests and handcrafted paraphernalia to embellish the rooms - these cave hotels are given that magical touch of elegance.
Credit: Kelebek Hotel
7. Hiking meandering valleys
Still not convinced to #getoutdoors in Cappadocia because extreme sports just do not appeal to you? Well, take a hike - literally!
Credit: @silvia_hui35 on Instagram
Cappadocia is photogenic from a hot air balloon but the ground is the locus from which the weaving valleys can be truly enjoyed. A Cappadocia valley is worth spending at least a day on foot, hiking through the many crevices and finding breathtaking views at every turn.
Credit: Moyan Brenn on Flickr
There are five easily accessible valleys (Zemi, Rose, Red, Pigeon and Love) from central Cappadocia, each varying in difficulty level so expect to spend 2 to 4 hours exploring one. Pack some water and a light snack before heading out for an exciting hike. You may come across cave churches whilst hiking in some valleys, but be reminded that some of these cave churches do warrant an entrance fee, so be sure to carry some notes with you on your hiking expedition!
8. Explore mystical underground cities
With hot air balloons dotting its azure sky and mythical fairy chimneys sprouting on its ground, Cappadocia is grand and lofty. But its rich history is deeply rooted beneath the earth where a network of connecting caves and cities transpire right under our feet. The Nevşehir Province houses several underground cities like Derinkuyu and Kaymakli which, incidentally, is connected by an 8km tunnel. As a geographically strategic location linking Europe and Asia, Cappadocia was historically met with relentless conquests and these cities were thus developed to help hide its people during times of warfare.
Credit: JYL4032 on Flickr
It is recommended to join a guided tour of these vast cities, lest you get lost in these mazes. Derinkuyu is said to be able to house 20,000 people plus their livestock and food stores? It is the deepest underground city in the Nevşehir Province: plunging 60m deep with webs of narrow low tunnels and steep steps. Time to get your feet muddy and some dirt under your nails!
Credit: @yyasminella on Instagram
Whichever underground city you choose to explore, the sophisticated architecture, design, and careful organization are the features to look out for as you sink deeper in the historic soil.
The entrance typically opens at 9AM and the temperature underground is at a uniform 13°C.
9. Spin the potter’s wheel at famous Avanos
In the town of Avanos in northern Cappadoci,a you can impress your friends back home by bringing them a handmade souvenir!
Located on the banks of Kizilirmak (the Red River), Avanos is famous for its ceramic in the Cappadocia region. The reddish-brown clay harvested from the river gives the final products its characteristic almost-maroon hue.
Witness the craftsmanship of the earthenware made in Avanos by the masterful potters in the many family-run pottery shops and create your own handiwork under the guidance of the experts☺️
Credit: @ramazan.okce on Instagram#HHWT tip
: If you happen to be in Avanos on a Friday, be sure to catch the travelling market that only visits once a week! An array of fruits, spices, vegetables and clothing would be available in the tented market so have a taste of Avanos has to offer.
10. Dishing out on pottery kebab
Arguably the quintessential dish of Turkey is the kebab; hearty, juicy meat stuffed in pitas or rolled in wraps or on top fragrant saffron rice. Take this same deliciousness but have it slow-cooked inside an enclosed claypot and have the pot broken only when it is served at the table. Now imagine the aromatic fragrance whiffing in the air.
Credit: @eseo_lee on Instagram
Credit: @baeintak on Instagram
This tasty spectacle is definitely a level up from the usual kebab fare! Keyif Cafe is reviewed to be one of the best halal restaurant serving delectable pottery kebab. Conveniently located in Goreme, this family-run business would sure to satisfy?
Orta Mahalle Karsibucak Caddesi No:16/A, Goreme 50180, Turkey
+90 384 271 2353
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11. Travel the Red River in gondolas & jet boats
In the ceramic haven of Avanos lies an unexpected activity right in the Red River itself: gondola rides!
Glide down the tranquil waters in a flat-bottom, elongated banana-shaped Gondola and soak in the sights of adorable waddling ducks swimming along. Have your gondolier share his knowledge of Avanos and the Kizilirmak River as you relax and relish in this dream-like serenity?
Credit: Andrew Stawarz on Flickr
If slow and steady is not what you came for, then ditch the romantic cliche and take a jet boat instead!
Credit: @kapadokyajet on Instagram
Experience the ultimate heart pumping, adrenaline-inducing jet boat ride complete with high speed 360° spins. Expect to - yes - get thoroughly wet and enjoy the river view through new perspectives. For a 20-minute soothing or exhilarating adventure (you choose!), it costs about 10 euros for a gondola ride and 40 euros for a jet boat ride.
And there you have it! Bask in the beauty of this ethereal region from high above as you take flight in one of the colourful hot air balloons and allow yourself to plunge deep into its history as you explore the underground cities. Navigate through the surrealistic fairy chimneys by an all-terrain vehicle, on the back of a horse or by foot and explore its comforts in a cave hotel. Magical encounters awaits you in Cappadocia so get up and #getoutdoors!
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