Places to Visit in Cappadocia
Best Things to Do in Cappadocia – Must See Places 2019
Cappadocia is a Persian origin word which means “The Land of Beautiful Horses”. This name suggests an exceptional description of this unusual place and there is no wonder why Cappadocia is such a popular place among tourists from all around the world.
The most important feature of Cappadocia that makes it like a place from a fairy tale is its fairy chimneys. These chimneys, alongside other unique geographical formations, came to life following the eruption of Erciyes, Hasandagi, and Gulludag. A huge amount of lava and ashes created what Cappadocia is today.
A Short History of Cappadocia
Cappadocia is located right in the center of Turkey and it’s embroidered with works of art crafted by mother nature. Manmade churches and mausoleums on top of the hills and valleys and even underground cities make Cappadocia one of the most special places on earth.
City-states, empires, and religious groups rose and fell in this region. Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire and, Ottomans are important civilizations and figures that existed in this region for centuries.
Best Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey
Where is Cappadocia and Which Cities Does It Include?
Cappadocia is not somewhere that can be explored thoroughly in a few days and it is because of the fact that Cappadocia covers a wide range of area. The region known as Cappadocia consists of four cities, which are Kirsehir, Aksaray, Nigde, and Kayseri. Therefore, it takes time to discover Cappadocia completely as it houses tons of original architectural masterpieces and natural beauties within its borders.
The Movie You Need to Watch Before Visiting Cappadocia
Another good side of Cappadocia is that it can be visited any time of the year as winter is relatively moderate in this area. Moreover, Cappadocia is beautiful in different ways every season. And if you want to know how beautiful it is in winter time, I highly recommend you to watch Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s movie, Winter Sleep. In this movie, winter in Cappadocia is reflected perfectly and it makes every shot in the movie more beautiful.
Best Time to Visit Cappadocia
Best Things to Do in Cappadocia, Turkey 2019
Let’s have a look at the Best Things to Do in Cappadocia below.
Goreme Open Air Museum
The most important feature of Goreme Valley is its impressive valley-churches in Cappadocia. Christian monks who resided in this area in the Middle Age created these churches by carving these soft volcanic rocks. These churches were built on spots that are hard to reach since the monks wanted to isolate themselves from worldly pleasures and they wanted to be closer to god by secluding themselves. This is basically the function of monasteries.
The churches built during the Byzantine era are fine examples of Byzantine art that you can observe in the Chora Church and Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. We can easily say the best examples of Byzantine art can be found in Istanbul and Cappadocia. We should note that the Byzantine Empire was an advanced civilization in terms of mosaics and frescos with religious themes.
Although the traces of first settlements go back to Hittites period, the most noticeable examples in the area are from Byzantine era in the Middle Age.
If you visit Goreme in summer, you are recommended to visit it in the morning, as it gets harder to walk in the valley under the sunlight. And you will have a less pleasant experience as a result.
The frescos in churches were damaged due to the wind, water, and earthquakes in time. Furthermore, the damage inflicted by humans shouldn’t be underestimated. However, these images are still beautiful and worth seeing.
The best-preserved works are in the church named “Dark Church”. You should note that you have to pay an extra entrance fee (around 12 TL) to visit Dark Church.
I suggest you visit Goreme city center after Goreme Open Air Museum. Moreover, you will be able to visit Tokali Church, which is outside the valley but nearby Goreme.
Goreme Open Air Museum Entrace Fee
Goreme Open Air Museum entrance fee is 25 TL. The museum is open between 08:30 and 19:00 every day. However, visiting hours are shorter in winter and the valley is closed at around 17:00.
Gulludere Valley is an area that can be explored only on foot. It’s at the same time a place where you can enjoy a panoramic view of fairy chimneys. You can see fairy chimneys on both sides of the valley on a 4 km trail, which also includes a lot of churches.
Love Valley (Ask Vadisi)
Love Valley is the most ideal place to watch hot air balloon tours and do trekking in Cappadocia. It consists of a 5 km area between Goreme and Avanos.
Must See Places in Cappadocia > Goreme Open Air Museum
Ihlara Valley is located 45 km away from Aksaray. This valley is a rich historical source as it cuts Melendiz Creek right in the middle and brings life to it.
There are 60 churches, a chapel, and monastery that Byzantine monks carved in stones. Seclusion was a common practice in Christianity. Like any ordinary citizen in Istanbul, noblemen who belonged to the monarch in the Byzantine era would seclude themselves in the churches on the Princes’ Islands in Istanbul.
Byzantine monks, on the other hand, used to prefer places that were out of sight. Therefore, islands that are in the middle of nowhere in the Aegean Sea are full of such churches. And Ihlara Valley must have started a new movement among the monks because of its unique beauty and steep hills. This argument is also supported by the fact that a lot of Christians moved to the area and started a huge phase of construction between the 11th and 13th century.
Most of the churches in Ihlara Valley are in ruins today. However, if you are a thrillseeker, it offers a great opportunity to take a walk. You can as well spend your whole day by walking in the valley and take great photos.
In terms of a touristic trip, Ihlara Valley can be divided into three parts. These are Ihlara Village, Belisirma Village, and Selimiye Village. Most of the churches mentioned above are in Ihlara and Belisirma.
If you don’t want to spend your whole day here, there is a shortcut to see the most important churches at Ihlara Valley. In order to see these churches, you need to go down the stairs that are inside Ihlara Valley Touristic Facility. But remember that you have to use the same way back! However, it is worth climbing up the stairs as Ihlara Valley is really worth visiting.
Things to Do in Cappadocia > Byzantine Churches
Underground Cities in Cappadocia
The beauty of gifts by mother nature in Cappadocia is undisputable. However, manmade works are as impressive as those of nature. I mentioned above that the monks made use of the soft texture of the rocks while building their churches.
These underground cities date back to times before Christianity appeared and they reached a very deep level under the ground. You may ask yourself, “Why did these people take the trouble of building underground cities in an area that has an amazing beauty?” Ruthless and devastating wars that took place in the past forced these people to take precaution.
Never-ending wars were fought in Europe, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia, which were the most active settlement areas in the Ancient Age. Greeco-Persian Wars, Alexander the Great, and Roman Empire terrorized these regions and armies passed by villages quite often. At such times, villagers found a way to hide and save themselves from being sold as slaves and plunders. And these underground cities were made of stones, which could be moved. Therefore, it was impossible to find these places.
We should also note that these places deserve to be called as a city since they functioned as one. The tunnels and rooms in these cities were used by the Christians too. That’s because the Roman Empire oppressed Christians for centuries until Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity and allowed Christians to practice their religion freely in 325.
The most famous of these underground cities are Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. As in cave hotels, the temperature is set to 13 degrees in these cities. Therefore, bringing a shawl or a light jacket along may be a good idea.
You should bring water with you when you go down to an underground city because you won’t have a chance to buy anything in underground cities. Moreover, it’s a good idea to wear a pair of comfortable shoes since the ground is a little rough. And you need to watch your head as the height of cities is around 170 cm.
Kaymakli Underground City
Kaymakli is the most visited underground city in Cappadocia and it was built by Hittites in 3000s B.C. This underground city that could accommodate 5000 people included everything a city needed and you may feel like in a more organized city than modern cities today. There is even a meeting room and wine cellars in this city.
Ancient Places to Visit in Cappadocia
Pasabag Monks Valley – Avanos
Pasabag Valley is a really suitable place to observe the landforms of Cappadocia. You can watch the unique geographical shapes here as if you were on Moon’s surface and observing it.
While you walk in Pasabag, aka “Monks Valley”, it’s possible to find places to take a break and have some drink. As you discover this beautiful valley, you will also see the best and most beautiful examples of Hat-Shaped Fairy Chimneys.
Devrent Valley – Avanos
Devrent Valley is famous for its mysterious landforms. Fairy chimneys at Devrent Valley are especially interesting as they resemble human and animal forms.
When you are at Devrent Valley, you should definitely see its fairy chimneys that look like a camel. Additionally, there is a fairy chimney that looks like a nun in a praying position with her hands wide open. Due to such fairy chimneys that have such fantastic shapes, Devrent Valley is alternatively called “Imagination Valley” or “Fairy Valley”. And, naturally, this is the valley most legends are told about.
Guray Ceramic Museum – Avanos
Guray Museum is located in Avanos and it’s a place where the finest ceramic works of art are displayed. It’s also the first rock-carved underground ceramic museum in the world and it’s an ideal place to learn the art of ceramic and observe how ceramic is made. Therefore, I recommend you to add Guray Ceramic Museum to your list of places to visit in Cappadocia.
Zelve and Fairy Chimneys
Zelve is located 1 km away from Pasabag Valley. What makes Zelve different is its fairy chimneys that have a wide body and pointed hats.
Another feature of Zelve is that it’s the first settled and last deserted place by Christians. Churches and monasteries that built at Zelve became the center of important education centers back then. The most three popular churches at Zelve are Balikli, Uzumlu, and Geyikli Church.
Incredible Fairy-Chimneys in Cappadocia
Uchisar Castle and the View of Cappadocia
Uchisar is a natural castle on the highest point of Cappadocia. It’s on such a high point that you can see far distances such as Urgup or Avanos from Uchisar clearly.
Uchisar is located nearby Goreme and it’s highly popular among tourists. Therefore, you can also find a lot of souvenir shops at Uchisar.
No doubt, enjoying the breathtaking view of Cappadocia from Uchisar is an unforgettable experience. The only way to match the view Uchisar offers is participating in a hot air balloon ride. Thus, we can easily compare Uchisar to Galata Tower in Istanbul as they both offer magnificent scenery.
A Mystic Village, Ortahisar
Ortahisar is the best place to observe the life of common people in Cappadocia. Ortahisar used to be a quiet village, but it started to become popular since tourism spread all around Cappadocia in time.
Foreign visitors who fell in love with countless beauties of Cappadocia began to buy properties here. And we can easily say Ortahisar is one of the most heavily populated places by the Westerners in Turkey. If you visit Ortahisar, you will also have a chance to see great stone houses with amazing architectural features.
The most noteworthy building at Ortahisar is its castle that is located on steep rocks. Visitors have to take some tunnels and rooms carved in the rocks to reach the top of the castle. Ortahisar Castle is known as one of the most important cold air storages in Turkey and its history dates back to the Roman Empire era.
Panoramic Views of Cappadocia, Turkey
Mustafapasa and Stonemasonry
Mustafapasa Town used to be a settlement area where the majority of the population was the non-Muslim community of the Ottoman Empire until 1924. However, the Greek origin residents who lived here had to leave Mustafapasa due to the Population Exchange Agreement in 1924 between Turkey and Greece. At Mustafapasa, you can visit around 30 churches in varying sizes and they reflect the finest examples of stone craftsmanship.
Traces of the Ottoman Empire in Cappadocia: Wish Hill
The impact of the Seljuk Empire, in addition to the Ottoman Empire, can be seen on Wish Hill, where you can visit a mausoleum from the Seljuk era. Moreover, two other mausoleums from the Ottoman Empire are among other historical works. Additionally, the tomb that once served as Tahsin Aga Public Library is located right in the center of the hill.
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tours
It’s a must-do activity to participate in a hot air balloon tour if you visit Cappadocia. Most of the photos that make you want to visit Cappadocia are the ones taken during such tours.
Companies that offer these tours pick tourists up from their hotels and take them to departure points. Tourists can have a delicious Turkish breakfast while watching the the balloons prepared for their ride.
Once the balloon is ready to fly, participants are boarded after security measures are taken. As most of the balloons depart usually the same time, a unique view is created on the sky.
For more information, I recommend reading Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Tour post.
Must Do Activities in Cappadocia
Where to Take the Best Photos in Cappadocia?
A hot air balloon ride takes approximately 2 hours and it gives you the chance to enjoy the best Cappadocia view. If you are afraid of taking a balloon ride and want to watch them from a distance, “sunset point” is an ideal spot to do so. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset in Cappadocia. Definitely one of the best things to do in Cappadocia.
Best Photography Spot in Cappadocia
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
Choosing the place to stay in Cappadocia is as equally important as visiting its beautiful spots. As most of the hotels are located inside caves, you will definitely have a unique accommodation experience during your stay in Cappadocia. Additionally, some boutique hotels that resemble mansions reflect the soul of Cappadocia perfectly.
Museum Hotel is probably the most well-known and popular boutique hotel in Cappadocia. It was awarded the Best Boutique Hotel Award in 2015 and its location offers a cool Cappadocia view too.
It boasts 30 rooms made with stonemasonry craftsmanship and it’s safe to say Museum Hotel is the most luxurious hotel in Cappadocia. It’s especially suitable for honeymoon, but you are recommended to make a booking in advance in order to find an available room.
Sacred House Hotel
Sacred House is a hotel that makes its visitors have mixed feelings. When you look at the hotel from outside, it looks like one of the stone houses in Cappadocia, but inside of the hotel offers a Middle Age Castle atmosphere. The hotel also consists of Neo-Classical and Baroque features.
At the beginning of the post, I compared Cappadocia to a fairy world. If you want to feel this atmosphere in your hotel too, I recommend you to have a look at this hotel before making a reservation elsewhere.
Grand Cave Suites
Grand Cave Suites offer a different accommodation experience thanks to its cave hotel concept. The hotel offers a concept that is in line with the geographical formations of Cappadocia. Moreover, it offers a unique experience with its comfortable and spacious rooms.
Yunak Hotel is in the heart of Cappadocia’s magnificent nature and it’s like a part of its natural beauty. The hotel is located on the skirts of a hill and it is impressive with its rooms hidden on the slopes of the hill. Moreover, the hotel boasts a big yard and common areas to spend a good time.
Another good choice to stay in Cappadocia is Kapadokya Hill Hotel. Apart from its rooms on the attic, it offers stone or cave room suites. Moreover, the hotel has a spa center to make you feel privileged. Additionally, Kapadokya Hill Hotel is at a short distance to underground cities. Its success has been proved on numerous occasions with the awards Kapadokya Hill has won. Therefore, you can expect nothing but the best from this hotel.
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Must Things to Do in Cappadocia Blog Article by Serhat Engul