If you've seen photos of Turkey, chances are you've seen a photo of Cappadocia and its hot-air balloons. With Cappadocia's unique rock formations jutting out from the Anatolian plains, you may think you've landed on another planet. And while a hot-air balloon ride across the otherworldly landscape is indeed a bucket list activity, there's so much else to see in the Turkish region. Here are the top things to see in Cappadocia.
The Top Things to See in Cappadocia
No surprises here... a hot-air balloon ride was obviously going to make the list of the top must-sees in Cappadocia! There is nothing like soaring above the surreal landscape to get your heart racing. With dozens of companies to choose from, you can opt for a sunrise or sunset ride. Either way, surrounded by other colourful balloons across the sky, you're sure to feel as though you've just stepped into a fairytale as you gaze at the moon-like land below.
Often cited as one of the world's top spots to experience a hot-air balloon, this activity should definitely be on your radar when you visit Cappadocia. Even if you don't want to get up in a balloon yourself, there are plenty of restaurants and hotels in Cappadocia that offer rooftop views of the beautiful display! There's also Sunset Point, a spot that allows for sweeping views of the land below.
2. Visit the Göreme Open-Air Museum
Listed as one of Turkey's UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Göreme Open-Air Museum in Cappadocia deserves at least a few hours of your time. As impressive as Cappadocia's landscape is, it's even more impressive to learn about how people have utilised the land to their advantage over many hundreds of years. Cappadocia's unique topography, comprised of soft rock, meant that people were able to easily carve houses, churches, and other buildings directly into the land.
This historic site is comprised of multiple churches carved into the rock, many of which have been around since the 9th to 11th centuries. Most fascinating are the frescoes that date back to these times, beautifully preserved for all these years.
3. Marvel at the "fairy chimneys"
One of the most famous must-sees in Cappadocia are its incredible "fairy chimneys", the result of millions of years of geology at work. A combination of volcanic activity and erosion led to the creation of these magical structures, some reaching as tall as 40 metres. Of special note is Pasabag, or Monks Valley, where there's a particularly spectacular array of rock formations.
Whether you choose to take a tour of the spires or witness them from above in a hot-air balloon, you can't miss seeing the "fairy chimneys" on your holiday to Cappadocia.
4. Wander the ethereal Devrent Valley
A tour of the Devrent Valley is a fantastic way to spend some time in Cappadocia. This valley is special in that it was never inhabited, so there aren't any buildings carved into the rock. What makes Devrent Valley a must-see in Cappadocia is its resemblance to the moon; with its white sand and red rocks, you'll feel as if you're stepping into another world. Devrent Valley is often referred to as "Imagination Valley" because you'll spot a lot of rocks that resemble other forms, including a camel, a dolphin, and even a penguin.
5. Head below the earth to the Derinkuyu underground city
While many of Cappadocia's must-sees are above ground, one of the most thrilling things to see in the region is its vast network of underground cities. Derinkuyu, one of Cappadocia's most famous underground cities and certainly its largest, is an ancient, multi-level city that dates back to at least the Byzantine era.
Extending to 60 metres underground, the city could have sheltered up to 20,000 people at one point. As a fully-functioning city, Derinkuyu once had stables, storage rooms, chapels, wine and oil presses, and perhaps even a religious school. Today it makes for a fascinating visit for a glimpse into Cappadocia's history, and is definitely one of the area's top must-sees.
6. Step back in time at the Güzelyurt Valley Monastery
Found near the Ihlara Valley, Güzelyurt is a small town with a lot of history. Often noted as one of the highlights of southern Cappadocia, heading to the panorama point of the monastery gives amazing views over the region. Much like other parts of Cappadocia, there are underground dwellings and churches carved into the rock, but the real reason for a visit to Güzelyurt is that you'll often have it to yourself.
Slightly off-the-beaten path, this town and its monastery is definitely worth a visit if you want to experience ancient Turkey without the crowds. It's also a great addition to a road trip if you choose to hire a car in Cappadocia!
7. Climb to the top of Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle is one of Cappadocia's most recognisable landmarks, mainly because you can spot it for miles! While it's certainly on the tourist trail, the castle is still well worth a visit for its unbelievable vantage point over the region. The stairs to the top will be rewarded with the jaw-dropping views of Cappadocia in all its magical glory.
8. See the horses of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is often said to have gotten its name from the Old Persian word for "land of beautiful horses". While that etymology is now debated, there's no doubt about it: Cappadocia does indeed have many beautiful horses. Whether you choose to try to spot some of the wild horses of the region or take a horseback ride with a local ranch to see a different side to Cappadocia, you'll be transported back in time to when horses ruled the plains.
There you have it: the top things to see in Cappadocia. With its surreal landscape and otherworldly views, Cappadocia is sure to be one of your most memorable stops in Turkey.