Cappadocia Turkey: Travel Guide, Map, Tours, & Best Cave Hotels
Cappadocia Turkey is the most popular hot air ballooning location in the world, and for good reason — the prices are affordable, and you get to see some unique fairytale landscapes.
More than half of the world’s balloon trips happen here. And even if you’re not interested in the famous Cappadocia hot air balloon rides, it’s still worth coming here for the good food, cave hotels, history, and photogenic hiking trails.
This travel guide will explain how to get to Cappadocia, where to stay, and all the best things to do, complete with a Cappadocia map and everything else you need to know before you go!
What Is Cappadocia? What Is The History?
The Cappadocia area has been settled by humans since prehistoric times, and over the centuries it’s been occupied by the Hittites, Persians, Romans, early Christians, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks and Ottomans.
Historically, Cappadocia Turkey is probably best known for being a place where Christians settled and sought refuge from the hostile Roman Empire, secretly carving thousands of houses, churches, and caves into the hills.
Most of these rock buildings and underground cities can still be seen today, and they look just like Star Wars movie sets. Supposedly George Lucas wanted to film parts of the original Star Wars movies in Cappadocia, but the Turkish government turned it down.
As of 2020, Cappadocia has become one of the tourism hotspots of Turkey. It draws millions of tourists every year (3.8 million in 2019!) who come to enjoy the unique landscapes, cave houses, and hot air balloon rides.
Where Is Cappadocia?
Cappadocia is located in central Turkey, and the nearest major city and airport is Kayseri.
The Cappadocia tourist area includes the small towns of Goreme, Uchisar, and Urgup, but almost everyone bases themselves in Goreme since it has the best hotel and restaurant choices.
How To Get To Cappadocia Turkey
The best way to get to Cappadocia Turkey is to fly domestically from Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport (SAW) to the Kayseri airport (ASR).
There are a bunch of flights doing this route every day and it only takes 1.5 hours. A one way ticket can cost as little as 150 Liras ($20 USD)!
After you arrive in Kayseri, you’ll need a van transfer since it’s a 1 hour drive to the Goreme town center Cappadocia. You can arrange this with your hotel, or book it online.
I recommend pre-booking this top rated Cappadocia shared airport transfer for as low as $7 USD per person. They also have private airport transfers for $30 USD. We’ve used this company ourselves and had a great experience!
Here’s a Cappadocia map below showing the main towns and some of the top tourist sights (click to enlarge).
Best Things To Do In Cappadocia
• Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
You can’t miss the famous Cappadocia hot air balloon rides. More than half a million tourists do this every year. The balloons are fun to watch from the ground, and even more fun to fly in!
You can wait and book your balloon ride once you arrive in Cappadocia, but I would recommend pre-booking online because it’s a very popular activity that can sell out.
Here’s a top rated 1-hour Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride with free hotel pickup starting at $70 USD. We’ve used this company ourselves and had a great experience!
Book Now: Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Ride
• Devrent Valley
This is a neat valley with a lot of uniquely shaped natural rock formations.
Some of them look like the typical chimney rocks, while others are shaped like animals or humans. The most popular one is Camel Rock, which has a neck and humps like a camel!
Devrent Valley is part of the Cappadocia Red Tour.
• Monks Valley (Pasabag)
This was one of my favorite stops on the Cappadocia Red Tour.
Like the name implies, Monks Valley was inhabited by monks in ancient times who carved their own homes and windows into the steep chimney shaped rocks.
This is a historic town just a short distance north of Goreme, and a lot of Cappadocia visitors stop here as part of the historic Red Tour.
Avanos is known for its pottery and artistic plates and mugs, and even if you don’t plan on buying souvenirs it’s definitely worth a visit to see their wares being made. Lots of talent!
• Love Valley
This valley gets its name from the natural phallic shaped rocks. There are a bunch of short, easy trails in the valley if you want to do some easy hiking!
Love Valley is part of the Cappadocia Red Tour.
• Goreme Open Air Museum
This area is full of interesting cave churches from the 11th and 12th centuries. You can go inside them, and some of the frescoes on the walls are fantastic.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is part of the Cappadocia Red Tour.
• Uchisar Castle
Uchisar is a town just a short distance southwest of Goreme, and the central landmark is a 60-meter tall ‘castle mountain’ carved into rocks.
It’s the highest point of Cappadocia Turkey, and you can get some amazing panoramic views from the top of the tower.
Uchisar Castle is part of the Cappadocia Red Tour.
• Derinkuyu Underground City
There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia and the deepest one is Derinkuyu.
This city is 85 meters deep in the ground, and it has stables, churches, storage rooms, and thousands of ventilation ducts that gave it fresh air when people were living in it. It’s a fascinating place to explore!
Derinkuyu is part of the Cappadocia Green Tour, but some companies go to Kaymakli instead. Kaymakli is the deepest underground city, and Derinkuyu is the widest.
• Ihlara Valley
This is a 100 meter deep valley formed by the Melendiz River.
At one time, this valley was home to 80,000 people, and thousands of their cave houses and churches can still be seen in the rock walls. It’s an amazing area that can be seen on a day trip with some light trekking.
The Ihlara Valley trek is part of the Cappadocia Green Tour.
• Melendiz River
This is a peaceful clear river that runs through the Ihlara Valley, and most day tours stop by the river for lunch.
In the autumn season (mid-October), you can see bright yellow fall colors here.
• Selime Monastery
This is the biggest religious structure in the Cappadocia area, and it’s one of my favorites.
It looks just like a Star Wars set, and you can go inside most of the buildings, which date back to the 8th or 9th centuries.
Selime Monastery is part of the Cappadocia Green Tour.
• Pigeon Valley
This is a great hiking valley near Uchisar with lots of easy walking trails that wind through the chimney rocks and cave houses.
Pigeon Valley is part of the Cappadocia Green Tour.
How To Get Around Cappadocia
- Walking: If you’re staying in Goreme and want some exercise, a bunch of nice sights will be in walking distance from your hotel. Some ideas would be Rose Valley, Lovers Hill (sunrise point), and the countless cave houses and churches.
- Horseback: This is another fun way to go sightseeing in Cappadocia. You can find 2-hour horseback riding tours online starting at $50 USD.
- Car + Driver: The most comfortable and efficient way to explore Cappadocia is to hire a private driver. Prices for a 4-8 hour tour start at $60 USD. If you have a couple of friends joining you, this can be very economical. If your group is bigger than 3, you can even hire a private van for even better savings.
- Scooter: As a solo traveler, renting a scooter in Goreme can be cost effective sometimes. Prices run about $30-$40 USD for the whole day.
- ATV: Quad biking can be another fun way to see Cappadocia, and the terrain is perfect for it. You can find Cappadocia ATV tours online starting at $25 USD for 2 hours.
- Group Tour: There are lots of Cappadocia group tours that you can join if you’re a couple or solo traveler. These normally include hotel pickup, lunch, and a full day of sightseeing. Read the section below for some more info on recommended Cappadocia tours!
Best Cappadocia Tours
The Red Tour covers sights like Devrent Valley, Monks Valley, Avanos, the Goreme Open Air Museum, and Uchisar Castle. The Green Tour covers Ihlara Valley, Melendiz River, Selime Monastery, Pigeon Valley, and the Derinkuyu Underground City.
The Blue and Orange tours are less popular, and they cover sights like Ortasihar and the Gulsehir Open Air Museum. I didn’t do these tours, but we plan to try them next time we visit Cappadocia.
For the Red and Green tours, you can book them with a tour agency on the street in the Cappadocia, or you can pre-book the same tours online, which is what I did.
Klook has the Cappadocia Red Tour for $35 USD, or the Green Tour for $55 USD, with free lunch and hotel pickup included. We’ve used Klook for lots of tours and activities around the world, and they’re great! Highly recommended.
Where To Stay
Most Cappadocia hotels are located in the towns of Goreme, Uchisar, or Urgup.
Goreme is generally the best area of Cappadocia to stay in because it has a huge variety of restaurants, tour shops, and cave hotels for all budgets — from backpacker to luxury hotels.
The Cappadocia cave hotels below are some of our top recommendations! You can see more options here.
Best Cappadocia Cave Hotels
How Long To Stay
At least 2 full days in Cappadocia are needed if you want to do both Red and Green tours and see the highlights of the countryside.
I’m sure you could spend longer too if you want to hit up more of the hiking paths and leave no stone unturned. Besides, Goreme town is a great place to get stuck, with loads of good Turkish restaurants!
If you plan to do the Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon ride, I would add at least 2 extra days to your itinerary in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. The balloon rides can get canceled on windy days, so it’s good to have a little extra time as a safety buffer.
Best Time To Visit Cappadocia
The best time to visit Cappadocia Turkey just depends on what you’re looking for. It’s a nice place all year round, but the temperatures go up and down quite a bit with the seasons.
Cappadocia has hot summers, and cold winters with snow. In either season, the landscapes will be stunning and photogenic, and hotels have air conditioning and heating so you’ll still be comfortable.