Turkey may have hundreds and even thousands of enchanting attractions, but of all these, none does it better than Cappadocia. Natural forces working for millions of years have sculpted the region’s landscape, creating one of the world’s most unique and breathtaking regions. Today, Cappadocia looks like a scene you would expect in a sci-fi movie, complete with exotic and stunning formations. These include spectacular fairy chimneys, towering rock citadels, impressive valleys, and so much more.
Humans have also contributed to the region’s irresistible charm. They have burrowed deep into the landscape, creating impressive underground cities, rock-cut homes, and churches decorated with beautiful frescoes. They have also established idyllic towns with charming architecture and culture.
Therefore, the region is a treasure chest of magnificent attractions with so much to see. If you are wondering where to start, here is our list of the top-rated attractions in Cappadocia.
1. Goreme Open Air Museum
Widely considered the gem of the region, this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to some of the best rock-cut churches in the region. The site dates back to the 10th century and was established by Christian monks and hermits looking for a place to lead a quiet religious life in the Byzantine era.
Astounding frescoes decorate churches in the open-air museum, and these are the best preserved in the region. Therefore, tourists flock to Goreme Open Air Museum in their thousands to get a glimpse of these famous churches and their impressive decorations.
The most important cave churches in the complex are the Elmali Kilise (Apple Church), famous for its Ascension fresco, the Yilanli Kilise (Snake Church) with a painting of St. George, the Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church) with incredibly preserved frescoes, the Azize Barbara Sapeli (Chapel of St. Barbara) with red ochre decorations and the Tokai Kilise (Buckle Church).
2. Goreme Town
If you were asked to picture the perfect cave town, what you envision will look something like Goreme town. This little town is one of the most picture-perfect villages in the world to the point that it has been voted amongst the most beautiful villages in the world a couple of times. It sits in the cutest of ways, half-buried into the side of a hill with lots of cave rooms hidden below.
And unlike most cave towns, which are usually abandoned, Goreme has a thriving human population. Therefore, it has transformed into a tourist hotbed, with hundreds of guest houses, hotels, and luxury spas carved directly into the wall. Many tourists visiting Cappadocia stay in this town as it forms an excellent base to explore the region’s other attractions. Plus, walking along the beautiful streets of Goreme is an attraction in itself.
3. Kaymakli Underground City
While Goreme may be a charming cave town sitting on the surface, numerous other rock-carved towns are sitting below the ground. Kaymakli Underground is arguably the most impressive in Cappadocia and possibly, the whole of Turkey. This massive ghost town goes down eight levels into the ground and is a maze of impressive rooms and tunnels. Of these, only four levels are open to the public, but tourists still flock to the city for a chance to experience life in an underground town. Inside there is everything you would expect in a typical village; churches, sleeping quarters, stables, wine cellars, and schools. With these, it could support a population of up to 2,000 people when full.
Kaymakli is speculated to date back to the Hittite era, but there is still some disagreement about this. Experts agree that the Byzantine Christians made the most use of the city as a haven from the invading Arabs and Persians. They also expanded the city, turning it into the most expansive underground city in Cappadocia.
4. Derinkuyu Underground City
While Kaymakli may be the widest in the region, Derinkuyu is the deepest, with 11 floors going 85 meters deep into the ground. Just like with Kaymakli, historians dispute the exact dates the city was carved out but agree that early Christians of the Byzantine era used it to hide from attacks. With its numerous tunnels and rooms, the town is an excellent location to explore. These tunnels become narrower as they travel deeper, and this can be a claustrophobic experience for some.
A fun fact is that it is believed that there exists a 10km long tunnel connecting Derinkuyu to Kaymakli underground city.
5. Zelve Open Air Museum
This open-air museum is another intriguing work left behind by the early Cappadocians. The area is honeycombed with dwellings and churches carved directly into the rocks in the area. A few centuries ago, it was home to one of the largest communities in the region who lived together in harmony regardless of religion. The last inhabitants of the village were evacuated in the 50s when living in the valley became dangerous due to the high risk of erosion.
Today, the museum is home to a ghost town that stretches across three valleys. Apart from the cave dwellings, a couple of churches, a monastic complex, and a pretty little rock-cut mosque in the valleys. Visiting here is an excellent experience, especially if you love hiking and trekking.
6. Ihlara Valley
If you find delight in nature, Cappadocia has the perfect spot for you. This deep gorge (about 100 meters) makes for one of the most chilled and refreshing tours in Cappadocia. The hiking trail here will take you 14km along a quiet river surrounded by lush green trees and fertile farming plots and, from time to time, a lovely riverside restaurant where visitors can grab refreshments.
In the Byzantine period, monks and hermits carved out churches into the cliff face. Visitors can explore these historical locations by hiking the rugged cliffs through a series of stairs carved into the valley. The best cave churches in the valley are the Kirk Dam Alti Kilise (St. George Church), the Kokar Kilise (Fragrant Church), and the Yilanli Kilise (Snake Church).
7. Pasabag Valley
In the whole of Cappadocia, there is nowhere as stunning and alien-looking as Pasabag Valley. This incredible location is home to the highest concentration of Cappadocia’s most iconic formations- fairy chimneys. Here, thousands of fairy chimneys line the landscape making it one of the most unusual sights.
Many tourists love exploring this forest of pillars that also hide a few historical structures. In the dark ages, monks looking to lead a hermitic life found the perfect isolated spot in Pasabag valley. Led by St; Simeon Stylites, they carved impressive homes into the fairy chimneys. As you explore the area, you can visit some of these houses and chapels.
Cavusin is another neat village in Cappadocia, but its main attractions are two lovely Byzantine churches. The first is named after the town; Cavusin Church. In the early 20th century, the church was used as a local pigeon house, which is also called a big pigeon house. Despite that, its interior retains the stunning frescoes used by the builders to decorate the church.
Higher up the ridge above the town is the other church (the Church of St, John the Baptist), which is thought to be the oldest in Cappadocia. It doesn’t have much in decorations, but its size and columns are an impressive sight.
9. Red and Rose Valleys
This breathtaking valley sits between the towns of Goreme and Cavusin. From above, the valley looks like a giant palette thanks to the differently colored (pastel pink, yellow, and orange) rock faces rippling across the surface. These were formed by millions of years of erosion due to exposure to the elements.
In between the cliffs, local farmers grow lush green orchards that add to the valley’s rich color. Inside the canyon, there are dozens of churches and dwellings hidden in the rocks. To get to these churches and enjoy the rich frescoes in some of them, visitors have to follow hiking trails marked in the valley.
The small town of Uchisar is another greatly visited location in Cappadocia. The town sits at the base of the highest point in the region, the rock citadel of Uchisar. This massive fortress was used to spot enemy attacks from far and thus, guard the village against surprise attacks. Today, the castle is riddled with tunnels and caves, and some of these are used to accommodate visitors.
Its main attraction is the panoramic view of Cappadocia from the summit of the citadel. Visitors especially love witnessing the sunset from this summit, making it one of the region’s most visited sites.
Another fascinating town in Cappadocia is Urgup. The lovely village attracts its own share of lodgers thanks to the excellent restaurant scene and numerous boutique hotels built in the area. Many of these hotels are lovely old Ottoman-style stone houses that have undergone extensive restoration. Other relics to see in the village include the Karamanoglu Mosque from the Seljuks and the Alti Kapi Turbesi tomb.
Avanos is a small town by the Kizilirmak River (Red River) that has charmed its way to fame by producing the finest pottery in Turkey. This village has a long-standing history with art, dating all the way back to the early Hittite period. Today, thousands of tourists flock to the city each year to witness fabulous pots being created and try creating some of their own. Also, Avanos has a rich tradition of wine and winemaking, and tourists enjoy the finest wines of the region in this small village.
13. Hiking & Horseriding
Apart from visiting the numerous physical attractions in the region, visitors can do other fun and exciting activities. One of these is hiking and horse riding. In the valleys and formations of Cappadocia, there are lots of winding hiking trails that you can trek, and some even allow you to ‘hike’ on horseback. But due to the rocky terrain, you will have to have some level of experience before jumping on a horse.
14. Hot Air Ballooning
Of all the activities in Cappadocia, none is as exciting and breathtaking as Hot Air Ballooning. This activity attracts millions of tourists each year, who get to enjoy the stunning bird’s-eye view of the Cappadocian landscape from the skies. Every early morning, hundreds of hot air balloons rise against the sky’s backdrop and the rising sun, creating one of the most spectacular sights of any atmosphere in the world.
How Can One Explore All These Attractions?
The most convenient way to explore and experience the best of Cappadocia while getting the most out of it is by booking a tour with a professional tour company. At Made in Turkey Tours, we offer the best tour packages covering the Cappadocian region at competitive rates if you are after value for money service. For these and more exciting packages, please contact us today.