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Cappadocia, Turkey: A Complete Guide
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Cappadocia is a magical destination, famous for its stunning scenery, fascinating local history, and unique attractions. If you’ve seen it in pictures before, you may have decided to put it on your travel bucket list.

It is home to otherworldly landscapes, breathtaking rides in hot air balloons, fascinating cave hotels, and beautiful valleys. There is so much to experience and discover here!

However, traveling to a new destination for the very first time is always nerve-wracking, and it can be difficult to know where to start.

To help you plan your next trip, read our comprehensive guide below for everything you need to know before you visit Cappadocia, Turkey.

Everything First-Timers Need To Know About Cappadocia

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Pronouncing Cappadocia

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Cappadocia is a Persian word that means ‘Land of Beautiful Horses’. Generally, there are two pronunciations of the word that are considered acceptable by locals and frequent travelers.

Most English-speaking countries pronounce it ‘Ka-puh-dow-shuh’. But when you travel within Turkey, you will find it pronounced ‘Ka-puh-dow-kee-ya’ by your tour guide and local people.

Cappadocia Meaning

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Regions in Turkey are normally named after the biggest city in the region, which means that according to the Turkish geographical naming system, Cappadocia should be called Nevsehir.

The name was used in the past, but when tourism picked up in Cappadocia in the last few decades, the name changed to what it is called today. This was to avoid confusion, as tourists often thought locals were referring to the city itself, rather than the region.

Cappadocia is an adopted name that is used to describe the region which includes cities at each of the region’s corners. These cities are Aksaray, Kayseri, Nigde, and Nevsehir.

There are also many smaller towns in the region, including Cappadocia’s main tourist town, Goreme. Other towns include Aksaray, Avanos, Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, Uchisar, and Urgup.

Cappadocia Region Location

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Cappadocia is located in the heart of Turkey, nestled against eastern Anatolia. It is a diverse region with a wide variety of terrains, from open plains to mountainous areas. Istanbul is around seven hundred and twenty-five kilometers from Cappadocia.

Cappadocia History

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The Landscape

There are three mountains that surround the tourist region of Cappadocia, namely Mt Gullu, Mt Hasan, and Mt Erciyes – all of which have not erupted in thousands of years or have long since become dormant.

However, millions of years ago these volcanoes covered the region in thick layers of ash and lava and continued to do so for hundreds of years. Eventually, the cooled layers of ash, minerals, and lava turned into ‘tuff – soft, rocky layers.

It was then eroded over time by rain and wind, which created the otherworldly and magnificent landscape visitors have come to know in Cappadocia. The same can be said for the popular phenomenon called ‘Fairy Chimneys’, a big attraction in the region with structures that can reach up to one hundred and thirty feet high.

Due to the malleable nature of the soft ‘tuff’ layer, persecuted Christians carved into the rock to create a variety of structures, from houses and churches to storage rooms and the famous underground cities, during the Roman period.

These structures are part of many historic sites well worth seeing on any trip to Cappadocia.

Where To Stay

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Cappadocia is known for its rich and unique geographic and anthropological history. For this reason, it has become popular to stay in Cappadocia’s famous cave hotels.

Cave hotels are rooms that have been carved into the soft stone of the landscape and worked as a place to maintain the temperature in the extreme winters and sweltering summers.

They are a novel attraction and a must-visit on any trip to Cappadocia. Frequent visitors agree that they are a quintessential part of the experience, and some of the best accommodations in the region.

However, there are various other hotels to choose from, including backpacker hostels and luxury boutique hotels. This means that you’ll never struggle to find a place to stay and Cappadocia.

Most tourists look for hotels with a great view of the famous Cappadocia hot air balloon rides as they go past, or somewhere they can watch the sunrise.

Perhaps the most difficult choice is which town to stay in while you visit Cappadocia. If you are a first-time traveler, your best bet is the town of Goreme.

Cappadocia Cave Hotels

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If you’re on a tight schedule while visiting Cappadocia, and you will only be in town for a few days, we recommend staying in one of Cappadocia’s novel cave hotels. They are an excellent way to have an authentic experience and truly immerse yourself in the region’s culture- all while staying in your room.

Staying in cave hotels and watching the sunrise or balloon rides from your patio, has become synonymous with Cappadocia. However, keep in mind that this is an experience exclusive to hotel guests in Goreme, so you will need to book a room if you’d like this Instagrammable experience.

Many of the hotels in the area include a large, traditional breakfast. Goreme is the main tourist town in Cappadocia, which means it is a great way to mingle with like-minded travelers as well as local residents.

The town is home to various homes and hotels, including luxury cave hotels at the top of the slope. These are popular among social media enthusiasts and influences, however, so you may find that it is too crowded.

There are more budget-friendly cave hotels located lower down, that still gives visitors a great peek at the hot air balloons.

Best Hotel With a Balloon View

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Because watching the hot air balloons go by is such a magical and memorable experience in Cappadocia, many regular hotels in Goreme have begun creating rooms to mimic it. Guests can stay in cave-like rooms, with stone walls and an excellent view, but at a fraction of the price.

There are also many hotels near Uchisar Castle that offer the same experience, but they tend to be mid-range hotels located further away. This means you will pay a bit more, and won’t be able to see the balloons as closely.

Best Time to Visit

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The shoulder months from September to October and April to May, are the best times to visit Cappadocia. During this time, the weather will be sunny and bright, with the average daily temperature being around seventy degrees Fahrenheit. Nights are slightly more chilly, so be sure to pack some warm items to cover up in the evenings.

For this reason, these seasons are also ideal for sunrise hot air balloon rides.


November tends to be more cloudy, making it less ideal. Hot air balloon rides often get canceled during this time because the sunrise is obscured. The daily temperatures are still warm, however, making it a good month for exploring open-air museums and valleys. It is equally chilly during the night.


The Summer months in Cappadocia are July and August. These come with extreme temperatures, reaching a scorching average daily temperature of around eighty-nine degrees Fahrenheit. The area is also far more crowded, making your experience less intimate.


If you don’t visit during a shoulder season, Winter in Cappadocia can be magical and something all tourists should consider trying at least once.

Temperatures dip below freezing point, with an average daily temperature only reaching around thirty-nine- or forty degrees Fahrenheit. But going on a romantic hot air balloon ride and seeing the region covered in a glistening blanket of snow is something you’ll never forget.

If you opt for visiting during the winter, be sure to invest in a thick parka and some high-quality snow boots.

How Long to Stay

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It is recommended to stay in Cappadocia for at least four days. However, visitors have stayed for up to ten days without running out of things to do, so you may decide to book a full week or two.

Staying for a few extra days will ensure you manage to get a hot air balloon ride (as these often get canceled due to unfavorable weather) and give you the chance to experience Cappadocia in all its glory.

If you can’t stay for very long, be sure to check out our Things to Do section below, for everything this region has to offer its visitors. You can plan your itinerary ahead of time and find attractions and activities that are the best suited to your travel style.

Alternatively, you could consider going on an organized day tour that will take you to all the highlights in Cappadocia.

Get To Cappadocia

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There are many ways to get to Cappadocia, and how you get there will depend on your budget, location, and schedule. Because it is such a popular destination, there are several modes of transport, including bus lines, rental cars, and flights.

By Plane

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Cappadocia can be reached by plane from all major cities in Turkey, and some major cities outside of it. Cappadocia is a region with two airports, namely Kayseri Erkilet Airport and Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport. For this reason, it is easy to find flights to suit your budget and schedule.

The main airlines with flights to Cappadocia are SunExpress, Pegasus Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.

Closest Airport

Of the two main airports in the region, the closest airport to Cappadocia is Nevsehir Kapadokya. The airport is around forty minutes from western Goreme if you travel by car or airport shuttle.

If you opt instead for Kayseri Erkilet Airport, you will also find plenty of rental cars and airport shuttles available. The airport is around one and a half hours from Goreme.

By Rental Car

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One of the best ways to experience the country is by renting a car and driving through Turkey. The road conditions are perfect, with roads that are wide, smooth, and clearly marked.

Turkey Roadtrip

Going on a road trip in Turkey is made easy by the fact that cars can be rented at almost any airport. Many visitors rent a car at the airport in Istanbul, and journey on a road trip to Cappadocia.

From there, you can also head down to Turkey’s Emerald Coastline, and the ride between Antalya and Fethiye is especially beautiful. You can also drive north to visit the Pamukkale thermal pools, visit Ephesus, and turn back towards Istanbul Airport to return the rental vehicle. This makes for a great two-week road trip in which you’ll see all the best places in Turkey.

This is also an ideal way to save money because you can stop in smaller, budget-friendly towns for accommodation. It also avoids many fees when you use the same rental car for the entire trip.

By Bus

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If you’re not fond of driving on unfamiliar roads, or you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, you’ll be delighted to know that Turkey has an excellent Bus System. There are bus lines that run (directly or indirectly) to and from all minor and major cities. The system is also very easy to navigate.

There are also websites, like 12Go, that make booking bus tickets a breeze. These kinds of websites gather all the information you need about routes, prices, and carriers. You are also able to book using your credit card, in which case you just need to show the digital copy of your tickets at the station.

Istanbul to Cappadocia

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The most popular route to Cappadocia is from Istanbul, and most people travel this way during their Turkish vacations. Because it is such a popular route, visitors can make use of buses, rental cars, and flights to get to Cappadocia from Istanbul.

Istanbul is about seven to nine hours from Cappadocia when traveling by car, and an hour and fifteen minutes away by plane.


The best and fastest way to travel between Istanbul and Cappadocia is by plane. The main airport in Istanbul is Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) and it offers most of the domestic flights in Turkey.

All three main airlines operate from Istanbul, and there are many flights available throughout the day.

Car Rental

If you’re not on a tight schedule and you have some time to spare, you can rent a car at Istanbul International airport. This is a great way to see more of the country, and you can expect to drive around nine hours (excluding the stops you’ll inevitably make on your way there).

It’s also a good idea to check the availability and prices of rental cars beforehand and to have your car waiting for you when you land at Istanbul Airport.


In general, the most economic form of transport is the bus. There are several bus rides every day, departing from three different stations in Istanbul, namely Dudullu, Alibeykoy, and Esenler. These routes take visitors directly to the tourist center of Goreme.

The bus stations are all located around a half-hour drive from the center of Istanbul, so be sure to consider this while planning your travel schedule.

Each bus ride from Istanbul to Cappadocia will take about eleven to fourteen hours and cost you about ten USD. There is also the option of taking a night bus if you prefer to travel while you sleep.

Do note: if you ever need to find a bus in Turkey, look for the word ‘Otogari’- Turkish for ‘bus station’.


If you’re only planning on visiting Istanbul and Cappadocia on your vacation, you could take an organized tour. These are a great idea if you don’t want the stress of planning your holiday, as these two-day tours are planned for you.


An all-inclusive tour of Cappadocia provides return flights, a pickup at your hotel, accommodation in a cave hotel, a ride in a hot air balloon, and a tour of all the highlights in the region.

Many frequent visitors swear by this way or traveling between Istanbul and Cappadocia, especially if you only have a few days scheduled for your trip.


If you plan on traveling further once you have finished visiting Cappadocia, we recommend taking a one-way tour to Cappadocia. It includes flights and a pickup at your hotel. There is also an optional hot air balloon ride.

This is a great money saver, as you won’t need to return to Istanbul before continuing your journey through Turkey.

From Other Cities

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If you are visiting Cappadocia from Antalya, the best and quickest way is to travel by air. There is a direct flight (an hour and fifteen minutes) to Cappadocia from Kayseri Erkilet Airport, and then you will need to drive about an hour in an airport shuttle to reach Goreme.

You can also take the bus from Antalya if you’re looking for something more economic. Bus tickets cost around eight USD, and there is a direct route from Antalya to Goreme which takes around ten hours.


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Famous for its travertine pools, Pumakkale is a popular stop in any Turkish itinerary. Visitors often travel from Pumakkale to Cappadocia, and you can do so by bus or car. There are no direct flights or train rides from Pumakkale to Cappadocia.

Traveling by car takes around eight hours, and traveling by bus takes around ten hours. Keep in mind when traveling by bus, however, that Pumakkale is about 20 minutes from the nearest bus station. You will need to take a shuttle or a taxi from your hotel to the station, before traveling to Cappadocia.

Where Next?

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Because Cappadocia is so centrally located, you can travel in any direction and find amazing cities filled with Adventure.

We recommend traveling to the Antalya coastline or the famous Pumakkale thermal pools. Antalya is filled with quaint seaside towns that are well worth exploring.

Getting Around in Cappadocia

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Rental Car

Because the attractions and tourist sights in Cappadocia are fairly spread out, the best way to get around is via rental cars. Rental cars are easily accessible at the airport, can be used for the duration of your trip, and then returned to the airport when you fly home.

It’s also a great way to travel if you enjoy the flexibility of planning your Turkey itinerary for yourself. It gives you the freedom to travel wherever, whenever you like, and you don’t have to travel with passengers you don’t know.


Alternatively, you can travel through the region of Cappadocia on one of the available day tours. There are three main tours, each named a different color to correspond with different areas in the region. There is the Blue tour, the Green tour, and the Red tour.

Keep reading to discover more about these tours in the section below.


Finally, you can also make use of minibusses to travel within Cappadocia. There is a local service, with minibusses running every two hours, that travels to the main towns in the region – including Goreme, Avanos, Nevsehir, Cavusin, and Uchisar.

You can expect to pay anything between forty cents and two dollars per minibus ride, depending on your destination.

Keep in mind, however, that traveling by minibus can be time-consuming. If you have a limited amount of days available in Turkey, opt instead for a car rental or organized Cappadocia tour.

Hot Air Balloons

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Best Hot Air Balloon Tour

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As you may already know, Cappadocia’s hot air balloons are famous. There is nothing quite as stunning as watching them float lazily over the fascinating landscapes while the sun rises from the golden horizon.

Keep in mind that going on a hot air balloon ride includes waking up very early, around four-thirty AM or seven-thirty AM depending on the weather conditions and when you visit. Visitors are then picked up in a luxurious transportation van and taken to enjoy a small breakfast, before heading to the launch site. Here, you will also be able to see how the crew members blow up the hot air balloon in preparation for this iconic experience.

Most hot air balloon rides last around an hour to an hour and a half. They typically take off just before the sun rises, so that guests can watch it from the sky. The route is also determined by the weather and wind patterns, so it is likely that each day will include different highlights on the hot air balloons.

Once landed, tourists will enjoy a glass of champagne and cake, and receive a flight certificate to commemorate the experience.

Be sure to visit for at least three days if you plan on taking a hot air balloon ride, as they are often canceled unexpectedly due to bad weather conditions.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Prices

Visitors can choose between private rides and group rides of up to thirty-six people in one basket, and prices differ between companies. However, you can expect to pay around seventy-five to one hundred and fifty USD per person for a hot air balloon ride.

Cappadocia Tours

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One of the best ways to experience the region is by booking an organized tour. These tours are well worth it, because of the vast knowledge you gain from your tour guide. It also eliminates the stress of planning your trip by yourself, and the fun facts you learn along the way just enhance your experience.

There are three main tours offered by most operators, named after the different areas of Cappadocia. They are broken down into three tours, namely the Red tour, the Green tour, and the Blue tour.

Each of these tours is all-inclusive and offers a pickup at your hotel, a complimentary lunch, and entrance fees for attractions. You will have to pay for your own drinks, however, and groups can be no bigger than fifteen people.

Red Tour

The Red Tour focuses mainly on northern Cappadocia. It features attractions such as:

  • Pottery-making in Avanos
  • Goreme Open-Air Museum
  • Pasabagi Valley and its Fairy Chimneys
  • Devrent Valley (Also referred to as Imagination Valley)
  • Uchisar Castle

Green Tour

The busiest day tour is the Green Tour. It includes panoramic views while hiking through valleys, and visitors can expect to hike up to four kilometers or more. It is named for exploring areas in Cappadocia with lush greenery and is well worth it if you’re a lover of nature and the outdoors.

The Green Tour includes attractions like:

  • Kaymakli Underground City
  • Selime Monastery
  • Pigeon Valley
  • Goreme Panorama
  • Yaprakhisar Panorama (Where Star Wars was filmed)
  • Nar Lake
  • Ihlara Valley/ Canyon (Which includes a nearly four-kilometer-long hike)

Blue Tour

If you’d like to visit the southern and central parts of Cappadocia, your best bet would be the Blue Tour. While it still includes some hiking, it is far less intense than the Green Tour, and less focused on lush scenery. Some of the attractions include:

  • Casual Hike along the Red and Rose Valley
  • Pigeon Valley
  • Old Greek houses of Uchisar
  • Ortahisar Castle
  • Underground City
  • Cavusin Cave Village

ATV Tour

Another fun way to explore the rugged Cappadocian terrain is by going on ATV tours. These two-hour-long tours include riding four-wheelers at sunset or during the day. There are helpful staff members to ensure that you are comfortable and able to drive the little vehicles before you take off, and it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Some of the valleys explored on ATV tours are:

  • Red and Rose Valley
  • Love Valley
  • Sword Valley

Private Tours

If you’re not fond of the idea of touring in a group, you can also opt for a private tour of the region. Private tours include all the highlights mentioned above, a pickup and drop off at your hotel, a historian with a vast knowledge of the area, entry fees for attractions, a luxury vehicle, and a personal driver.

Things To Do

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If you’ve never been to Cappadocia, the vast number of activities and attractions available can be overwhelming and it may be difficult to decide which ones to prioritize on your trip. To help you choose between them, here’s our list of top attractions to enjoy on your next visit to Cappadocia, Turkey.

Watch the Sunrise

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Perhaps the most popular activity in Cappadocia is watching the sunrise. It may seem simple, but with the stunning landscape, gorgeous architecture, peculiar rock formations, and hot air balloons traveling by, it can be a truly magical experience.

This is especially fun when you have a great view from your hotel terrace or balcony. Be sure to find out beforehand which rooms have balconies with balloon views and book your room accordingly.

Keep in mind that this will mean waking up early (or going to sleep very late). Be sure to bring a jacket or something warm, as mornings in Turkey can get quite nippy. You will also need to check at what time the sun rises locally.

Visit the Famous Valleys

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Because of Cappadocia’s volcanic landscape, there is no shortage of gorgeous valleys worth seeing. Each valley offers an entirely different experience, which means you won’t be disappointed when visiting them.

For example, there are thousands of pigeons who have carved homes for themselves in the rock faces of Pigeon Valley, and famous phallic stone structures in Love Valley. The Rose and Red Valley are named for their stunning panoramic view during sunset.

Pigeon Valley

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Guvercinlik Valley, more commonly referred to as Pigeon Valley, is one of Cappadocia’s most popular attractions. It is home to thousands of small homes, carved into the rock surface by pigeons, and is ideal for exploring.

Once inside the entrance, visitors are met with a stunning panoramic view of the whole valley and the beautiful Uchisar Castle. There is also the Evil Eye Tree, a great place to stop for photos.

Visitors can then head down the stairs to start the casual hiking trail, which leads them through the Valley and to Uchisar Castle.

Love Valley

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Love Valley is named for its natural rock structures that resemble phallic shapes. However, it has a lot more to offer!

It is one of the best areas to watch the sunrise, and visitors have a great panoramic view of the entire Valley and the floating hot air balloons going by. And, if you enjoy hiking, the Valley is home to an excellent trail.

Red Valley and Rose Valley

Cappadocia Aktepe Panorama

The Red and Rose Valleys are located about ten minutes outside of Goreme, and they are connected. Both Valleys are named for their pink-tinted stone, which changes colors as the sun rises and sets throughout the day.

They are some of the best places to watch the sunset, with the valleys turning a brilliant red as the sun shines on them. Visitors can take tours on horseback or ATVs.

Be sure to stop for a glass of wine at Gulor Wine Cave before heading to the panoramic viewpoint.

Devrent Valley

Devrent Imagination Valley

Devrent Valley, also often called Imagination Valley, is known for the unique and interesting rock formations that dot its landscape. It offers visitors a similar experience to finding shapes in clouds, with rocks resembling everything from animal to human shapes.

When planning your Cappadocia itinerary, frequent visitors also recommend combining a trip to Devrent Valley with Pasabag Valley’s fairy chimneys and the Zelve Open-air Museum.

Explore an Open-Air Museum

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Cappadocia is a region with a rich and fascinating history, and one of the best ways to learn more about local culture is by visiting open-air museums. The soft rock of the hills has been carved for centuries to create churches, kitchens, storage spaces, and living areas. These have been preserved by Turkish residents and today function as outdoor museum spaces.

One of the most popular museums to visit is the Göreme Open-Air Museum. It is home to rock-walled churches with well-preserved religious paintings.

Another open-air museum well worth visiting is the Zelve Open-Air Museum, home to several small cave rooms.

Explore Underground Cities

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Other famous attractions in Cappadocia that should not be missed are Kaymalki Underground City and Derinkuyu Underground City.

Throughout the centuries, local people were able to carve entire cities in the soft rock underneath the surface of the region. These cities are large and can house up to ten thousand people, going down as deep as ten stories.

There are over one hundred cities scattered throughout the region of Cappadocia. They may not be ideal attractions for visitors with a fear of small spaces, but they are maintained well and perfect for history buffs.

Explore Cappadocia Castles

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In the heart of Uchisar town lies a large, prominent rock formation. Local people converted this into Uchisar Castle, home to the highest viewpoint in the region. Here, visitors can enjoy stunning panoramas.

Another rock castle with a great panoramic view of the surrounding landscape is Ortahisar Castle.

Explore Pasabag Valley and Look at Fairy Chimneys

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If you’d like to add a UNESCO World Heritage Site to your Cappadocia itinerary, be sure to stop by  Pasabag Valley. Often referred to as Monk’s Valley, the site is home to rock formations that contain ancient dwellings, once home to persecuted Christians.

This is a popular attraction that can get crowded easily, so make sure you visit early in the day.

Explore Cavusin Cappadocia (Old Greek Village)

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In the town of Cavusin, about ten minutes from Goreme, there is a stunning Church of St John, a few small Greek rock houses, and rooms carved into the stone of the landscape. Inside the church, visitors can take a look at religious frescoes that were painted centuries ago and have been well-preserved.

There is also a village to be explored after climbing up the hill.

Go Carpet Shopping

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Turkey is often associated with images of colorful carpet shops, and for good reason. If you’re looking for an authentic Turkish rug, there is no better place to go shopping than Cappadocia. The city of Goreme is especially popular and home to many carpet stores.

If you’re looking for somewhere to snap a few Instagram-worthy pictures, be sure to stop by Galerie Ikman Cappadocia. There is a fee to pay for taking pictures, and a slot needs to be reserved ahead of time.

However, if you’re only interested in carpet shopping, you can stop by Sultan Carpets.

Day Trip to Pink Salt Lake

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Lake Tuz, or Tuz Golu, is a stunning pink salt lake located about two hours from Goreme. It is one of the best places to visit if you’re traveling in Cappadocia during the shoulder seasons when the landscape is wetter. It is a great place to go walking or to take pictures.

However, as it’s so far from Goreme, we recommend only taking a day trip to the Pink Salt Lake if you have at least four days in Cappadocia, and you are traveling by rental vehicle.

Where To Eat

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Goreme, and the rest of Cappadocia, is filled with restaurants that cater to tourists and offer delicious, local dishes. Some of our favorites include Pumpkin, Turkish Ravioli Restaurant, and Omurca Art Cave. They are a great addition to an itinerary if you have a bit of extra time to visit Cappadocia.


This highly recommended restaurant in Cappadocia makes some of the best specialty dishes, including things like salad, soup, desserts, and Kebabs in clay pots. They pair exceptionally well with a bottle of local wine.

Turkish Ravioli Restaurant

As its name may suggest, this restaurant specializes in a dish called Manti- a sort of Turkish ravioli. It is a must-taste on any trip here, and many visitors stop by the restaurants several times over the course of their trip.

Omurca Art Cave

If you’re looking for somewhere eclectic to stop for lunch, you can stop by this quaint family-run eatery on the second floor. One of the fun things about the restaurant is that it’s home to several cats, and guests are often visited by a furry friend during their meal.

The food is delicious, and the restaurant only accepts cash. Be sure to try the soup and local bean salad.

Cappadocia Travel Guide FAQs

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Are Turkish Delight sweets really from Turkey?

While the exact origin of Turkish Delight sweets is unknown, they are known to have been produced in Iran (Persia) and turkey as early as the eighteenth century. It is known by locals as Lokum.

hot-air balloon during golden hour