If Cappadocia in Turkey is not on your bucket list, maybe it should be. Cappadocia ranked 5th in the “New 25 Wonders of the World” list published in the London Times and has also been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List since 1985. The area is particularly known for its “fairy chimneys” or hoodoos which are spires of rock. In Cappadocia, many of these spires have been hollowed out since ancient times to create churches, homes, or these days, hotels.
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- A Quick Brief About Cappadocia
- Places to Visit in Cappadocia
- Things to Do in Cappadocia
The region (I say region because it’s not a city, it’s a specific region of Nev?ehir) is a geographical wonder where the lava layers have emerged in an interesting and beautiful way that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world, as they have been eroded by rain and wind for millions of years.
A Quick Brief About Cappadocia
- Cappadocia is also known as the “Land of the White Horses”.
- The traces of human life in this region date back to the Paleolithic period. It was once a region where the Hittites lived and later became an important center of Christianity.
- The underground cities, fairy chimneys, and caves in the region allowed the Christians in the region to live in secrecy during the early Roman Empire period when Christianity was forbidden.
- There are many churches and cemeteries carved into rocks in the region and built-in underground cities.
Places to Visit in Cappadocia
Cappadocia consists of 5 main areas; Avanos, Çavuşin, Göreme, Uçhisar, Ürgüp. I traveled these 5 regions in 3 days by renting a motorcycle (renting vehicles is very common in the region), but if you are not a motorcycle lover like me or if you don’t have a motorcycle license, the area is usually traveled by renting a car and you’ll be surprised how cheap it is.
If you have only one day to visit Cappadocia, the best and most efficient way to visit the region would be in this order; Göreme, Çavuşin, Avanos, Ürgün, and Uçhisar.
Göreme is one of the places that promise the best Cappadocia experience in Nev?ehir. The monastic life lived from the 4th century to the 13th century in this region offers a fascinating look into the history of early Christianity. The most well-known rock hotels and restaurants in the Cappadocia are in this region. If you have seen photographs with hot air balloons rising in the first light of the morning, then you have likely seen pictures of Göreme.
Göreme is a great place to stay because of its beautiful geography and its central location in the middle of places to visit in Cappadocia (as you can see on the map above).
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Cappadocia is also very famous for camping adventures and there are several places to camp in the region but most of them are located near Göreme (I stayed at the Kaya Camping on my second trip to Cappadocia). If you’re planning a winter trip to Cappadocia to go camping I would recommend packing a proper cold weather sleeping bag. Overall Turkey is a hot country, but the temperature gets down to 30 °F during the winter in the region.
Even if you’re planning a camping trip, I strongly suggest staying in the stone hotels at least one day to feel the ambiance.
Lovers Valley (A??klar Tepesi)
The most enjoyable and romantic valley of Cappadocia is Lovers Valley. The reason why it is called Lovers Valley is that marriage proposal are made here. If you are planning to go with your girlfriend and if you have it in your mind to propose, this is one of the few places where you can make an unforgettable marriage proposal under hundreds of hot air balloons.
There is also a viewing section called A??klar Tepesi (Lovers’ Hill). Since it is very difficult to get into the valley by car, you can go to A??klar Tepesi to see the beautiful view.
Göreme Open Air Museum
Göreme Open Air Museum is the first place where monastic education began. Now it’s a museum consisting of churches, cemeteries, chapels, dining halls, wine cellar, and a monastery. I would recommend sparing two hours to visit the whole area.
Paşabağ is the region of Cappadocia that has giant fairy chimneys. After you arrive here, you can walk among the fairy chimneys by passing through sandy and dusty roads. It is also possible to enter some fairy chimneys, take photos, and explore them.
If it’s a windy day, you may encounter a small sandstorm. I recommend to be cautious against this situation and carry a hoodie or sweatshirt in your bag.
Güllüdere Valley (Güllüdere Vadisi)
Güllüdere Valley is one of the most suitable places for hiking in Cappadocia. This is a place full of wineries and churches carved into the rocks. The valley is 4 kilometers long, and hiking the whole valley takes approximately 1 hour. It is located between Çavuşin Village and Göreme.
In most of the churches here, there are also cemeteries. It is possible to see the cemeteries in Çavusin Church too. The owners of these graves are generally important people. You can read about their lives and visit the rooms specifically made for the deceased. These chambers are designed for visitors to pray comfortably.
Çavuşin Church is one of the iconic symbols of this village and by participating in guided tours in Çavuşin, you can understand the history of the village and church better. Guides also explain the stories of the wall paints in the church.
Avanos is one of the most important regions of Cappadocia with cultural values such as pottery, various handicrafts such as carpet weaving, Seljuk and Ottoman artifacts, historical monuments, fairy chimneys, an open-air museum, churches, valleys, and underground cities.
Devrent Valley, also known as Dream Valley, is the place where the camel-shaped fairy chimney is located, you can encounter this famous fairy chimney in most of the promotions of Cappadocia.
As you can see from my picture above, the ancient fairy chimney is surrounded by fences to prevent any damages from the visitors.
Actually, all the valleys in Cappadocia have their own characteristics, but what makes this valley special is that the fairy chimneys are likened to animals or different objects.
You will also see camels brought by the villagers in this area. You can take pictures with a camel for a fee. Since the distance of Devrent Valley to Avanos is approximately 10-15 minutes, you have to use a private car or taxi to get to the valley because there is no public transportation available.
Underground Ceramic Museum / Güray Museum
This museum is the first and only underground ceramic museum in the world. The most important feature of this museum is that it is a place that combines this traditional handicraft with a contemporary understanding of museology.
This museum not only exhibits their own works but also presents modern and traditional works of world-famous Turkish ceramic artists. Very important international events, exhibitions, and concerts are also held in the museum. If you visit Cappadocia in summer, you are likely to catch concerts here.
The museum is open to visitors between 9 am – 7 pm, 7 days a week. My favorite part of the museum is that you can also experience making pottery.
Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) church in the Gomeda Valley
The Gomeda Valley is a valley that extends over an area of 6 kilometers and is famous for its dovecotes that resemble a castle when viewed from the outside.
During the Roman Empire, there were about 600 houses, 2 churches, 2 necropolises, and 1 underground city in this valley.
Asmal? Konak actually attracts the attention of Turkish tourists rather than foreign tourists because it is one of the most famous Turkish TV series ever made. The series was shot in this mansion in 2011 and is also named after the mansion itself. Although this mansion appeals to Turkish tourists, it offers a nice experience for foreign tourists to see the traces of old Turkish culture.
You can see the whole area (360 degrees) from Uçhisar Castle, which is the highest fairy chimney in the region. You can also see the whole Göreme Valley and fairy chimneys from the castle. If there are balloon flights at sunset, you can watch the balloons from the castle or watch the most beautiful sunset view in the region here.
Pigeons Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi)
If you are coming to Cappadocia not only for touring by car but also for hiking and if you have enough time, I recommend going to the Pigeons Valley.
While hiking with the fluttering of the pigeons, you will be able to see rich vegetation and a 15-meter high waterfall where the small river called “Vasil River” flows.
When you arrive in the middle of the valley, you will see “Yellow Castle” which is one of the Byzantine churches in the area.
Things to Do in Cappadocia
There are many guided tours in Cappadocia, but there are some specific experiences I recommend.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Tour
You should definitely join a Cappadocia balloon tour, it is great enough to be a marriage proposal or a honeymoon gift, and it adds a unique and permanent moment to your life. Passing through the clouds in Cappadocia, seeing the valleys below the fairy chimneys, flying with the joy of the wind will be one of your favorite memories from your visit.
Although the price changes from one company to another, it’s approximately 100€.
Take a Pottery Lesson
Pottery is a very old tradition in Cappadocia and you can find lots of places to make pottery, and it’s incredibly cheap, in 2017 I paid only 10€ for a lesson.
Also, pottery made yourself is the best souvenir you can take back home.
Take a Gondola or a Jet Boat Tour in K?z?l?rmak
What makes Cappadocia even more interesting is it’s not just an ancient region of cultural things, it’s also a place where you can do water sports, there’s a river (K?z?l?rmak) passing through the city, therefore there are plenty of water sport activities, but for tourists, the most famous ones are gondola and jet boat tours.
I recommend the jet boat tour for the more adventurous ones. If you like a more romantic or quiet trip, I recommend the gondola tour, the gondola tour takes about 15 minutes, but you get a lot of memories for these 15 minutes.
The gondola can carry six people at a time and the payment does not vary according to the number of people, so whether you take the tour with one person or six people, you pay the same amount. So if you are a single person, it can be a bit expensive, but if you are going with your family, you can have a pleasant gondola tour at a very cheap price.
Join a Cappadocia ATV Tour
In Cappadocia, there are many companies that both rent ATVs and organize tours for you to visit the unique valleys, fairy chimneys, and historic beauty.
If you like adrenaline, or if you are looking for an alternative to get away from the tiring pace of work and to relieve stress, you can have a pleasant time with the route these companies have drawn and the guidance service they provide.
You don’t need to know how to drive and have a driver’s license to drive an ATV, which is called a four-wheel motorcycle. The guides generally give a 5-minute briefing of the vehicle and you’re good to go.
ATVs are designed to go on the sand, snow, and asphalt, they are ideal vehicles for nature exploration with a maximum speed of 60 km. The adrenaline part of the job is not the difficulty in using it, it is that you get muddy and wet while traveling, on uneven surfaces.
See the Stone Statues of Andrew Rogers
This one is not a necessity but if you’re into sculpture, you should definitely see the work of Andrew Rogers. Andrew Rogers made sculptures bearing traces of human life in different countries within the scope of the “Rhythm of Life” project, which covers 13 countries.
Rogers worked in the Goreme region of Nev?ehir in Turkey under the project, and he reflected the historic and natural beauties of the region in his works.