If you have Turkey on your mind and are overwhelmed by the myriad of Cappadocia attractions to visit, consider a guided tour to explore the region’s crown jewels. A guided excursion will be served with the historical and cultural context that will truly bring them to life.
A trip to Turkey wouldn’t be complete without the Cappadocian experience. There are only so many superlatives in the English language that can describe this region in central Anatolia, a historical and geological treasure that will leave you breathless. Some know of its surreal magnificence; others are lucky to have experienced it for themselves.
There’s a plethora of places to see in Cappadocia but, when time is scarce, these are the essential Cappadocia attractions to visit:
Göreme Open Air Museum
The town of Göreme serves as the base for most visitors and is home to the Göreme Open Air Museum, a national park that has rightfully earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Byzantine churches decorated with elaborate frescoes will leave you awestruck. The cave dwellings inhabited since the 4th century and underground cities were both remarkably carved from the town’s volcanic topography, and once served as an escape and shelter for Christians during the Roman era.
Add the fairy chimneys — unusual, cone-shaped rock formations shaped by eroding rain and winds — and you have one of the most spectacular cultural and geological wonders in the world.
The entrance fee is 20 TL. The audio tour is another 15 TL and entry to the Dark Church an additional 10 TL. Note: photography is not permitted inside.
Dominating Cappadocia is Uchisar, a village at the highest point of the region with an unparalleled panorama of the valleys below. Its main attraction, Uchisar Castle, is a towering fortress dating back to the 12th century BC, once home to the Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. With its strategic location, the citadel provided defence against enemy attacks and functioned as a centre of trade by way of the Silk Road.
Those willing to climb the 120 steps to the top of the 300-ft. castle are richly rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Cappadocia’s moonscapes.
Explore the centuries-old cave homes in the fairy chimneys surrounding the castle as well.
Better yet, book yourself into a cave hotel like the majestic Museum Hotel (read more about this luxury property in this post).
Take advantage of its location above the lunar landscapes below by waking up for sunrise to witness up to 150 hot air balloons floating through the sky or take flight in one of them yourself. Cappadocia is arguably the top destination in the world for hot air balloon rides (read this post to find out just how spectacular it is).
Between Uçhisar and Çavuşin villages lies Honey Valley, more aptly known as Love Valley for its concentration of towering, phallic-shaped pillars. It’s the most erotic and, er, erect valley in Cappadocia but it’s not to be mistaken as a place of worship for male fertility. Love Valley is entirely the work of Mother Nature; all the structures have been sculpted by geological erosion.
For one of the best collections of fairy chimneys, head to Pasabag (translation: “Pasha’s Vineyard”), a name given after the Byzantines were defeated by the Ottomans (“Pasha” meaning “General”) and for the small vineyards surrounding the area. Located just outside Goreme, Pasabag is also known as the Valley of the Monks or Monk’s Valley for the refuge it once provided to hermitage monks.
The rock formations in Pasabag are no less phallic than they are in Love Valley. They resemble mushrooms too (the hard stone caps protect the softer rock below from eroding) but calling them a type of fungus instead of a phallus isn’t as titillating, is it?
You’ll find a Christian hermit’s shelter and chapel dedicated to St. Simeon in the three-headed chimney.
Fun fact: centuries ago, pigeons in Cappadocia provided sustenance and were used as message carriers. More interestingly, however, it was discovered their droppings were an effective soil fertilizer and useful for the preservation of frescoes.
How did the local inhabitants attract and keep their feathered friends happy? They built them shelters. Pigeon Valley, which stretches from Göreme to Uchisar, was named after the many pigeon houses that were chiselled into the sandstone cliffs and fairy chimneys. People lived in the cave houses while the birds took up residence in the coves where farmers harvested their poop.
Pigeons don’t play the same role in Cappadocia as they once did but their houses have been well maintained.
Devrent Valley, between the towns of Avanos and Ürgüp, is more commonly called Imagination Valley for its wonderland of odd, naturally shaped rock formations. What the valley lacks in castles, churches or caves, it makes up for with giant stone structures resembling both objects and sentient beings. While some of the shapes are easily distinguishable — the Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ, a dolphin, snake, seals and the famous camel — others will inspire your imagination to run free.
As fascinating as these geological marvels are, visitors are asked to appreciate them from a distance in order to preserve them. Don’t be the ignorant fool who snaps photos beside or, even worse, on top of them.
The Red Valley behind Urgup is characterized by stunning waves of sedimentary rock layered with different hues that change colour throughout the day with the changing angles of the sun.
The red tones are the most striking. To fully appreciate the kaleidoscope of Red Valley, consider hiking along the trails that meander through the area, especially during sunset.
These Cappadocia attractions are masterpieces of nature that are relatively close to one another, easily accessible by car. Make it a day or multi-day trip and you’ll be swept away to another world.
If you’ve been to Cappadocia, share your favourite spots in the comments below!
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