22 Things to Do in Cappadocia: Turkey Travel Guide & Photo Diary
Cappadocia has become one of the most sought after wanderlust destinations in the world.
You can easily tick off two adventures from your travel bucket list in Cappadocia: first, ride in a hot air balloon at the break of dawn then ending the night sleeping inside a prehistoric cave.
Thanks to social media, you get a glimpse of this beautiful ancient region in Turkey with just a click.
However, there truly is so much more to see. So allow me to help you out with a Cappadocia travel guide based on my family trip in April 2015.
1. Book a Tour Guide
Tour guides are heaven-sent when wanting to further appreciate a certain culture and place. If you match with one that jives with your personality (added to their street-smarts and expertise), then you’re set to have an even more enjoyable time.
Turkey Tours by Ertunga Ecir arranged and collaborated with my sister-navigator-researcher-extraordinaire our unforgettable three-week adventure around Turkey.
Cappadocia was one the places we visited where Ertunga had assigned Ms. Sibel Turkmen to be our wonderful, English-speaking guide.
Cool, funny and warm, Sibel was our go-to-guide and coordinator during our 4 day stay in Cappadocia.
2. Sleep Inside a Cave Hotel
Back in 2015, we were told there were nearly 1000 boutique hotels in Capadoccia. I am absolutely sure that number has changed due to its growing popularity.
Our hotel, Miras Hotel, only had 8 rooms (if I recall correctly) and like most hotels, are multi-level.
Each hotel and its rooms are uniquely designed according to the curvature of the natural caves.
Game of Thrones vibes if you ask me. Epic and unreal.
Which reminds me, have you read or watched that episode from Iceland on the vlog yet?
Anyway… there is no air conditioning as the natural temperature inside a cave is about 15C-18C.
We went in spring and I must admit, it was cold at night! But nothing like fuzzy socks and a sweater to keep you warm (which I had none of, lol).
Cappadocia is one of those places you will need a car to get around to see the sights. In our case, when we booked Sibel via Ertunga Ecir, we also arranged for a private van and driver.
Of course it’s up to you to either join a group tour or book a private one. Depending on your preference and budget, as with all tourist attractions, there are many options to choose from.
4. Uchisar Castle
When I was researching about cave hotels, this photo always appeared. Only to find out it wasn’t.
This is Uchisar Castle.
Out of the three prehistoric castles in Capadoccia, this is the highest one.
5. Monk’s Valley
In Capadoccia, you are encouraged to use your imagination as the volcanic rock formations can remind you of many things they look similar to.
Here at Monk’s Valley:
ME: Sibel (tour guide), if I may be honest, these rocks look like really large dicks. I mean, seriously massive penis’.
SIBEL: Yes, there are many valleys in Capadoccia and one of them is called the Love Valley! Take your pick, all sizes!
See, I told you she was funny, haha!
6. – 7. Imagination Valley and Love Valley
Speaking of love, some things photos just can’t quite describe. But videos and a little graphics, no pun intended, sure can!
25 millions years ago, volcanic activity produced beautiful rock formations in Capadoccia.
These are the Three Beauties or the Three-Headed Fairy Chimneys. Although if you look closely, there are actually 5.
The five represent a traditional family in the region: father, mother, child and grandparents.
9. Take a Chance on Touristy Meals
Nearly every tour one goes on, 9.9 out of ten times, you will be brought to a “partner” restaurant serving the local cuisine.
It isn’t called a tourist spot for nothing: it’s not always the most authentic, “local,” or even delicious. Most time it feels like a tourist trap.
Since we booked a private tour, we had the option to eat wherever. But we were also curious to know where and what lunch was in such an exotic city.
Surprisingly, the dining hall we were brought to for one of our day tours, Uranos & Sarikaya Restaurant was not bad at all.
The food was surprisingly good (there were meat dishes as only pictured is my seasoned grilled fish). The cave ambience and entertainment did not disappoint either!
10. Buy Local
From Persian carpets to leather goods and other Turkish paraphernalia, there are loads of souvenir shops scattered all around Cappadocia.
The area we stayed at was Göreme. The lovely central square had cafes, restaurants and shops all lined up together.
Perhaps, you can also enjoy some good old-fashioned people-watching while sipping on some Turkish tea.
11. Taste Some Turkish Delights
Speaking of tea, Sibel took us to one of the oldest mom and pop shops: Hunkar Delights and Nuts. Here you’ll be overwhelmed with the vast array of Turkish delights: Dried fruits, nuts, flavored teas, aromatic spices and other hundreds of exotic treats.
We were floored by the absolute sublimeness of the dark chocolate covered figs, apple tea and a delightfully extensive degustation tutorial on all things Turkish teas and treats! Another episode on Turkish delights, spices and cuisine soon!
The family owners made us feel so welcomed and stuffed us with all the free tasting, haha!
12. Zelve Valley
The Hittites were the first cave dwellers who carved their homes out of these volcanic rocks.
Up until 1953, people were still living in these caves at Zelve Valley until it was turned into an open air museum. Now, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
13. Goreme Open Air Museum
Another Unesco World Heritage Site, the Göreme Open Air Museum is usually the first stop in any Cappadocia travel guide.
What may look line ordinary caves but is actually a large complex of prehistoric monasteries, churches and fresco or wall painting ruins (similar to the fresco photo from Zelve Valley).
Unlike the traditional churches we know of today, they had names such as Apple Church or Snake Church with interesting back stories.
14. Watch a Turkish Folk Show
While this may be as touristy as it can gets, it is also still the most traditional, entertaining (and easiest) way to learn about any culture.
I even shared a snippet on Instagram that evening.
Here I finally got to see Whirling Dervishes or the Meveli perform in person. It is a religious dance where the whirling is considered a spiritual form of meditation.
It was so fun and easy, I even won myself a cute husband and gave him back after dessert, haha!
Watch the video to highlights from the show meet bae!
15. Savor Authentic Ottoman Cuisine
If you recall your high school history lessons, you may have heard of The Ottoman Empire. It is also known as the Turkish Empire. It was founded by the Turkish tribal leader from the 13th century, Osman.
One of the most popular restaurants serving authentic home cooked Ottoman cuisine in Cappadocia is Dibek. It’s located right at the center of Göreme town.
Turkish cuisine from my observation is a mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern depending what province you’re at.
With a homey, old-world atmosphere where guests dine on pillows and Turkish mats, it was even made lovelier by the friendly owner, Mehmet Sisman. He not only served our dishes himself but also dished how much he loves diving in our very own Palawan islands!
I wish I had more photos to share from Dibek but the company and food were just so enjoyable. When I think about it, it’s often a good sign when I forget about my phone!
But what I can show you next is this…
16. Explore the Kaymakli Underground City
From multi-level caves above the ground to whole ones underneath it, the Kaymakli Underground City is another Cappadocia cultural highlight.
It is like going through a labyrinth of sorts while learning about the prehistoric life of its ancient dwellers and more.
I must admit, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re claustrophobic, have bad knees or insanely tall, this may not be the best for you.
However, you can choose to go as deep inside the intrinsic, maze-like city or merely have a quick gander on the easier paths.
If you’ve ever been inside the Cu Chi Tunnel in Vietnam, this is somewhat similar but a grander scale.
17. Take Home Some Turkish Ceramics
While I love shopping for shoes, I must admit, I fell in love with Turkish ceramics! If only they all fit in my suitcase – without breaking!
Turkey is ranked as one of the top five ceramic tile and ceramic sanitary ware exporters of the world.
You can find Turkish ceramics at every souvenir shop in the country. As with most souvenirs, they may look the same but the quality have great disparities.
At Kapadokya Seramik, the factory shows tourists how these intricate pieces of art are made from start to finish.
There is a room where you can touch everything and are the most affordable. Then there is another room where no photos are allowed and is a haven for the most beautiful ceramic art there is – at a hefty price of course.
It reminds me of those typical Asian silk, jade or ceramic factories. Even if you don’t intend to buy, it’s free anyway to see how they create such pieces of art. A free history lesson!
We were told that the ceramic you buy at a regular tourist shop, you cannot and should not expose to heat because the paint is toxic.
While the high quality Turkish ceramic is the kind you can cook with and reuse without the colors fading.
These glass coasters are the high quality ones and cost around 8-12Euros or P450-P700 depending on the size.
The practical girl that I am, I opted to buy the cheaper versions from those regular souvenir shops. With dad’s help at haggling, lol, I was able to buy several in similar prints for 2Euros or P115 each (2015 exchange rate)!
But be warned: They are heavy and very fragile.
18. Go Strolling Around Göreme
Nothing like a nice, relaxing stroll around Göreme town to burn off some calories or work up an appetite.
Okay maybe not soooo relaxing because it’s got a whole lot of up and downhill roads, lol.
The view is just lovely! A mix of old and new. Seeing how different boutique hotels designed their spaces is sure to inspire, especially if you’re into architecture and design.
19. Go On a Road Trip
Seeing the different valleys and towns of Cappadocia is not to be missed.
In addition to that, the one request we did have in Cappadocia was we wanted to go out of the city proper and see the outskirts. Places that are not as touristy or at all.
Sibel took us to a quaint, remote town of Mustafapasa or Sinasos.
Filled with ruins, history and my kind of solace: no hint of commercialized tourism and preserved authenticity. Understatedly beautiful!
20. Eat Local with the Locals
When my family and I tour anywhere in the world, we prefer to eat at the most local of places. We don’t need fancy restos. We want to savor local flavors that the locals themselves, love.
So it always helps to have tour guides who know the language and ways to get around.
It’s run by a sweet mother and son team, where the mom cooks all the traditional Turkish dishes served. The food was so fresh, delicious and felt like a home-cooked meal paired with such warm hospitality from the son.
21. Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
I am almost certain anyone would say that it would only be a complete trip to Cappadocia if you rode in a hot air balloon.
That’s why I chose to list this as the last – well almost.
For someone who used to be so afraid of heights, I had miraculously conquered that fear, thanks to riding in one last January 1, 2015.
It was actually my very first episode for the VLOG! You can learn more about both hot air balloon adventures in Bagan and Cappadocia. Then there’s also overcoming fears in that very immensely personal episode:
22. Enjoy Breakfast with a View
If you’re really afraid of heights or simply just aren’t into hot air balloons, there is still a way to enjoy them: watching them all fly over breakfast at sunrise.
Almost every cave hotel has balconies you can choose to have breakfast in or even just a cup of signature Turkish coffee.
Google Cappadocia and it will show you countless photos of travelers enjoying al fresco dining to catch the first peek of sunrise in a hot air balloon-filled sky.
As you saw in my very first episode, I took flight with the most popular HAB company, Royal Balloon.
Oh, did I mention I am not a morning person? Lol! So I had breakfast just as regular folks do – inside the hotel at 9am!
Given that this was a family trip, we don’t usually indulge in the night life. So I am sure by the amount of shisha cafes and bars we came across during our trip, there is an interesting night life to say the least.
Okay, my fingers are cramped from typing and my brain hurts! This is the longest post I’ve ever written and honestly not my favorite, haha! I felt like I was taking a test on every single thing I learned from Sibel after two years! I hope you’re proud!!!
Hope you enjoy this week’s episode sharing the highlights and get inspired to book that next trip to Cappadocia!
Anything you need help with regarding Turkey, Ertunga Ecir is a one-stop-shop as he’s highly connected & respected in his field, althrougout the country. Since that trip, he and our driver, Mustafa Adali have become our honorary brothers in the family. Superb services and quality of human beings.