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Visiting Cappadocia: Top 10 places you must see

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Cappadocia! Of all the places we have been to in the world and in Turkey, visiting Cappadocia really stands out! From fairy chimneys to cave hotels and underground cave cities there is something for everyone.  It is like nothing we have ever seen! When we first drove into Göreme we were blown away by the fascinating but unreal landscape that you will see in Cappadocia.  So when you are thinking about where to go in Turkey, Cappadocia just has to be on your itinerary.

The area of Cappadocia is absolutely huge and you could spend weeks exploring this alien landscape and still see only a small part. So why is this area so unique? Well, we have to go back a long way, right back to ancient volcanic eruptions. The strange rock formations were created through millennia of intense volcanic eruptions and activity.

The fairy chimneys that you can see all over this martian-like landscape are made of two types of rock. The hard rock which doesn’t erode easily and the ‘tuff’ rock (unlike its name) erodes fairly easily. The erosion of the tuff rock has left behind some truly unique landscapes that can only be seen in a few places around the world.

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The hot air balloons at sunrise

Not only is it an incredible place to visit and explore but it has been home to people for over 3,800 years! Dating back to 1800 BC when the first settlers came here, known as the Hittites. 

People have been carving away at the tuff rock to create and wonderland of human-created cave networks, living quarters, storerooms, churches and many more intricate cave-rooms. There are even complex towns under the surface going down eight stories below ground!

What is really interesting about this fascinating area in Anatolia is that many residents still live in these cave houses and you can even stay in one of the many ‘cave hotels’! It is a really unique experience and you are not short of choices of where to stay in Cappadocia, regardless of your price range.

10 top places to visit in cappadocia
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Most people visiting Cappadocia tend to only stay two to four days and cram in as much as possible. Of course, if you are short on time this is a good way to see ‘everything’. However, if you know us, we like to stay places a little longer to get a feel for the cities, towns or countryside we are visiting and Cappadocia is a perfect place to do this.

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The alien landscape of Cappadocia

You could spend weeks here exploring and still only see a small part of the 5,000 square kilometre area spanning three regions: Nevşehir, Kayseri and Niğde.

This is why we feel you should plan for a least five days to get to know some of the locals or find those little hidden gems that most people will miss out on with their hectic schedules being shuffled from sight to sight.

Top things to do when visiting Cappadocia

There are so many places and things to do in Cappadocia when you visit so we will just stick to the different areas that we visited during our time there. Please feel free to recommend any places that we have missed in the comments below so other people can also visit them.

1. Göreme Open Air Museum

Göreme Open Air Museum should probably one of your first stops when you arrive in Cappadocia. However, being the Timezone Junkies and seeing the bus loads of people going in when we arrived we decided to skip it and do our own Cappadocia trip and tour!

We arrived at 10 am and it was incredibly busy but if you were to arrive at opening time, 8 am, you may well have this outstanding open air museum all to yourself.

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Incredible view across Göreme...

Inside you will find a spectacular array of rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries. In the religious caves themselves you will also find beautiful frescos, some still in very good condition dating back to the 11th century! 

Other travellers we have met said we missed out by not going inside, so don’t make the same mistake we did! We will be going in next time we visit, that is for sure! That said there are still plenty of things to do in Göreme.

2. Uçhisar

You can see Uçhisar from almost every angle in the area. This is because of the precariously perched Uçhisar Castle sitting atop the village below. It We didn’t go up to the castle but to see it from below is already pretty impressive. If you were to head up to the castle you would definitely be rewarded with amazing panoramic views of the area especially for sunrise.

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Incredible natural sculptures...

From what we have read about the castle itself there seems to be a maze of criss-crossing underground passages which, unfortunately, many are now impassable. At one point there were 1,000 people living in this 60 metre high, carved-out, mountain castle. Incredible!

3. Paşabağ

Monk’s Valley, also known as Paşabağ, is quite possibly the most famous site in Cappadocia. Its fairy chimneys are remarkable and some of the most picturesque off all the chimneys in the area. 

Here you will find plenty of tourists taking an uncountable amount of Instagram pictures! With reason of course, it is something very special. We were blown away when walking around Paşabağ.

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What a breathtaking view of Monk's Valley...
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Erosion of the 'tuff' rock has left these incredible fairy chimneys...

It also has some pretty interesting history behind it too. Apparently some of the monks used to live in the chimneys as hermits! They would hollow out the chimneys from the bottom to the top thus creating rooms up to 15 metres high! 

You can actually see this when you are there and even go in, assuming there isn’t a bus load of tourists waiting to climb up. Probably best to head to this spot early in the morning to avoid the crowds.

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Malin trying to strike a pose...

4. The Valley of Swords

We accidentally stumbled upon Sword’s Valley when we decided not to head into Göreme Open Air Museum. We walked off the road on the opposite side and realised there was a lot to see here for free. Right there, on the other side of the road from the museum you can find old chapels, passages between different rooms and even some frescos!

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Checking out the impressive Sword's Valley...
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The swords of Sword's Valley...

This is actually one of the smaller valleys in Cappadocia, but don’t let that fool you, it is still worth wandering around and making your own archaeological discoveries! We even read that there is a 300 metre tunnel but we never found it. You will also find plenty of fairy chimneys here, of course.

5. Pigeon Valley

As the name insinuates, this valley is famous for pigeons. Why pigeons you ask? Well, back in the day pigeons were useful to have around for several reasons. They were used as message carriers, of course, but not only that. Their droppings could be used as fertiliser and possibly even for making explosives!

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Check out the canyons in Pigeon Valley...

It isn’t too obvious where you should go to get to pigeon valley so we found this blog useful. Unfortunately, in true Timezone Junkies style, we took a wrong turn and ended up heading towards Uçhisar and missing out on all the dovecotes (carved out pigeon houses on the rocks and cliffs)!

6. Avanos (Pottery)

Our trip to Avanos was rather interesting, but we will get into that in a minute. So, what is Avanos? It is a small town on the banks of the river Kızılırmak (Red River). This river is famous for being red due to the huge amount of red clay. This in turn has made this town famous for one thing. Yes, you guessed it, Pottery!

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The amazing pottery of Avanos...

Back to the story mentioned before. We were leaving Monk’s Valley and trying to get a ride back to Göreme, when a car stopped with three guys inside. We told them where we were heading and in true hitchhiking style they told us to get in (language barriers unimportant) and off we drove. 

It wasn’t until we passed the junction for Göreme that we realised we weren’t going the right direction! We decided to go with it and it turned out to be a great decision.

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They took us to this little village...

They took us into Avanos and showed us some of the highlights and even took us into a pottery shop which tuned out to be a complete labyrinth! The pottery was VERY impressive and we would have loved to have bought some, however backpacking and hitchhiking would have made it kind of tricky to grab some souvenirs!

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You can find lots of interesting designs to take home...

7. İbrahim Paşa

This was not on our list of places to visit whilst in Cappadocia, in fact we hadn’t even heard of it! We were very lucky to have had the chance to visit this little village that very few tourists go to. It is definitely not on the list for all the tour buses. 

We happened upon this small village when we were picked up by Osman, who has since become a friend of ours, and he ended up giving us a little tour of some of the different places in Cappadocia that we hadn’t seen!

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Off the beaten path village...

İbrahim Paşa is still a fairly quiet little town two kilometres from the main road between Ürgüp and Nevşehir. Wandering around this quaint town you will see few tourists and get a glimpse into the old life of the Cappadocia region. 

However, in the last few years locals are realising that this sleepy little town could benefit from tourism so get there soon before it is too late!

8. Stay in a Cappadocia Cave Hotel!

This is something everyone visiting Cappadocia should do! There are so many options to choose from, but not only that there are rooms for all types of budget. If your looking for a simple cave room to sleep in you can find it! If you are looking to splurge on a beautiful room with amazing views of the area, no problem! 

Cappadocia is also an Instagramer’s dream with many hotels perfectly set up for those cliche pictures with balloons in the background!

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Stay in a cave hotel!

So, where should you stay in Cappadocia? Well, first of all, we want to be totally honest about our time in Cappadocia. We actually stayed here with a Couchsurfing host that worked at one of the cave hotels. They had a quaint garden area in one of the small valleys in Göreme and we were allowed to stay in a really unusual place. 

With that being said, we did hang out A LOT with our host at the hotel he worked at. We were welcomed by the owner and his father and felt like family right away. 

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All carved out by hand...

The hotel is called Antique Terrace Hotel and we can totally recommend it. The rooms are very stylish (we were given a tour) and the staff are incredibly friendly. Don’t take our word for it though, check out their rating on! If you make it there, say hello to Apo from Alex and Malin!

9. Visit an underground city!

There are plenty of choices when it comes to underground cities in the area and we don’t imagine any of them will disappoint you as they are impressive feats of engineering and allowed for cities to live underground! What’s not to like?!

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Looking like a local?

We decided to visit Derinkuyu Underground City as it is apparently the largest excavated underground city in Turkey! It extends to an approximate depth of 60 metres and could have sheltered as many as 20,000 people with their livestock and supplies! Not bad! Unfortunately, you can only go in about half of the tunnels as the rest are not accessible.

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Would you go down?

There is so much history behind Derinkuyu Underground City and you can read more about it here.  We had a great time exploring the underground city and would love to visit more in the area next time we are in Cappadocia!

10. Go in a hot air balloon or watch the balloons at Sunrise?

The most recognisable pictures of Cappadocia will, of course, include hot air balloons and most people coming will have planned to do a hot air balloon ride and why wouldn’t they? Well, recently the prices went up. The Cappadocia hot air balloon prices are currently between 120$ and 200$ (2019) depending on what kind of experience you would like.  The more expensive flights would involve less people per balloon and you might even get a glass of champagne upon landing!

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Should you go on Cappadocia balloon ride or watch from below?

Instead of going on a hot air balloon we decided to watch the sunrise and balloons take off from the sunrise spot just outside Göreme. It was an interesting experience and it was quite funny to see the lengths people go to just to get that perfect Instagram shot. 

People took blankets up there as well as their quilts from the hotel and posed so gracefully. Others were wearing skimpy dresses, which was particular impressive considering it was really cold at 6 am! 

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Either way the view is something special!

Back to the point, it was something very special and we really enjoyed being up their witnessing the sun coming up from behind the mountain and all of the hot air balloons firing up below in the valley! Just take a look at some of the photos to see how amazing it is!

Organised tour or a D.I.Y. Tour when visiting Cappadocia?

So you have arrived in Cappadocia and aren’t sure where to start. Most people will opt for one or more of the three tours available. All these tours are available from all of the tour agencies around Göreme and the other towns in the area. The tours are labelled by colours; red, green and blue.

The Red Tour Cappadocia mainly focuses on the Central part of the area (northern region) and covers the must see spots in Cappadocia; the Open Air Museum, some of the valleys and of course the famous mushroom shaped fairy chimneys mentioned above. You would also be visiting Göreme, Uçhisar and Avanos.

The Green Tour Cappadocia is a longer tour covering the southern part of Cappadocia. Many people chose this tour as it visits Ihlara Valley which is famous for a large amount of ancient churches carved in the volcanic rocks as well as visiting Derinkuyu Underground City.

The Blue Tour Cappadocia is a little different as it goes to more villages and tends to cover a more ‘off-the-beaten-track’ side of Cappadocia. It goes to Mustafaşa and Soğanlı valleys which are apparently some of the most beautiful hiking spots in the area and are home to domed churches and caverns.

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Should you go on an arranged tour or do it by yourself?

You can also find bicycle tours and hiking tours arranged through hotels, guest houses and tour agencies. No doubt all of these tours are great and you will meet other travellers whilst doing it and have a good time exploring the area with a guide. 

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