Detail from Carikli Kilise at Goreme in Turkey
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Six remarkable things to do in Cappadocia, Turkey

Roxanne de Bruyn

Founder and contributing editor

Known for its fairytale landscape and hot air balloon rides, Cappadocia has fascinating history. As a result, there's a lot to explore in this beautiful region, from underground cities and cave churches to hidden valleys caravanserais.

There's a lot to see and do in Cappadocia and organised day tours are a popular way to explore the region, however it's also easy to do these activities independently if you have your own transport. Here are just a few things you should do during your trip to Cappadocia.

Balloons over Cappadocia

1. Watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon

For the postcard view of Cappadocia, fly over this surreal landscape in a hot air balloon. Up in the air you’ll get an unparalleled view of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys and valleys, as well as the other balloons. If flying in a balloon isn’t for you, still get up early one morning to watch them hover over the valleys as the sun rises. It’s a spectacular view.

Book your balloon ride before you go, otherwise get recommendations from your hostel or hotel to be sure you choose a reputable company.

The Derinkuyu underground city is an ancient multi-level cave city in Cappadocia, Turkey.

2. Explore an underground city

Thought to have been initially created by Phoenicians in the 8th-7th centurIes BCE, these underground caves were enlarged by early Christians under the Roman Empire. In subsequent centuries some cities were used as sanctuaries for Arab Muslims in the Arab–Byzantine wars and later by Christians during the Mongolian invasion and by locals during the Ottoman Empire.

There are over 200 underground cities in Cappadocia. The largest is Kaymakli with a large variety of rooms and underground passage, while Derinkuyu has multiple levels and was thought to have housed up to 20,000 people, along with their food stores and livestock. Most people visit the underground cities as part of one of the Cappadocia day tours, however, you can also visit independently.

Book a full day tour of Southern Cappadocia, including a visit to an underground city or a half-day tour to the underground city only

Detail from Carikli Kilise at Goreme in Turkey

3. See ancient churches at the Goreme Open Air Museum

Visit Goreme Open Air Museum to walk through a range of churches, chapels and monasteries carved into the fairy chimneys from the 10th to 13th centuries. Many of these churches have beautiful frescos painted on the walls. If you don't want to do the popular full-day Goreme tour, you can just take a walk to the museum and buy tickets at the door.

If you go for hikes through Cappadocia, you're likely to see more cave churches, often with colourful frescos still visible.

Rose Valley in Cappadocia

4. Hike through a valley

Wander through valleys studded with fairy chimneys, interesting rock formations and hidden churches. There are many hiking trails in Cappadocia and each comes with beautiful views and special characteristics.

You can do a guided hike through the Red and Rose Valley, however, hiking independently is also easy.

Whirling Dervishes show in Cappadocia, Turkey

5. Watch a whirling dervish show

If you aren’t going to Konya, take the opportunity to see a traditional Sema or whirling dervishes ceremony in Goreme. These ceremonies incorporate dance, symbolic dress and music, and represent the spiritual journey to reach perfection. Just keep in mind that no photography, cheering or applause is allowed during the ceremony.

If you’re looking for a shorter glimpse of the whirling dervishes, they perform at the tourist Turkish Nights in Cappadocia. These shows feature folk performances from the seven regions of Turkey and usually include dinner, drinks and belly dancing. It's completely different to a traditional Sema, but guests often find it entertaining and very accessible.

Opening a testi kebab in a restaurant

6. Try a testi kebab

A traditional dish in this area, the testi kebab is a rich stew cooked slowly in a small clay pot (“testi” means clay). The dish is served in the sealed pot, which your waiter will crack with a little hammer, and lift the “lid” to reveal your dinner.

Traditionally, testi kebabs are cooked slowly in the coals of a tandoor oven, the filling usually containing lamb or beef and vegetables. While testi kebabs are available throughout Turkey, it’s worth trying it in Cappadocia.

While some restaurants will make it to order, you really want the stew to simmer slowly over several hours. Busier restaurants in Cappadocia will prepare the dish early, others will let you order it advance – if in doubt, give them a call to check before you go.

Planning a trip to Cappadocia? Read our Cappadocia travel guide.

If you're interested in doing a tour, read our overview of the different Cappadocia tours.

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Roxanne de Bruyn

Author - Roxanne de Bruyn

Roxanne is the founder and contributing editor of Faraway Worlds. With a background in communications, she has studied ancient history, comparative religion and international development, and has a particular interest in sustainable tourism.

Originally from South Africa, Roxanne has travelled widely and loves learning the stories of the places she visits. She enjoys cooking, dance and yoga, and usually travels with her husband and young son. She is based in New Zealand.

Last Updated 15 April 2022

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