Cappadocia is a beautiful region in central Turkey famous for its fairytale scenery, cave dwellings, remarkable rock formations, and, of course, the hundreds of hot air balloons that soar in the sky during sunrise each morning. There is also so much awesome hiking in Cappadocia, that it will take you at least a week to explore all the diverse hiking trails in the region.
Before we discuss what can be done at Cappadocia.
A little history never hurt. Cappadocia was known as Hatti in the late Bronze Age and was the homeland of the Hittite power centered at Hattusa. After the fall of the Hittite Empire, with the decline of the Syro-Cappadocians Mushki after their defeat by the Lydian king Croesus in the 6th century, Cappadocia was ruled by a sort of feudal aristocracy, dwelling in strong castles, and keeping the peasants in a servile condition, which later made them apt to foreign slavery. It was included in the third Persian satrapy in the division established by Darius but continued to be governed by rulers of its own, none apparently supreme over the whole country and all more or fewer tributaries of the Great King.
After ending the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great tried to rule the area through one of his military commanders. But Ariarathes, a Persian aristocrat, somehow became king of the Cappadocians. As Ariarathes I (332–322 BC), he was a successful ruler, and he extended the borders of the Cappadocian Kingdom as far as to the Black Sea. The kingdom of Cappadocia lived in peace until the death of Alexander.
Cappadocia is a must-go place for anyone wanting to visit Turkey, and here is a list of the many things you can do there.
RED VALLEY HIKE & SUNSET VIEWPOINT
When it comes to hiking in Cappadocia, it is hard to go past Red Valley. The Sharp sandstone ridges glow a deep, vibrant red as the sun burns into the unique landscape in the last moments of the sunset each night.
ROSE VALLEY HIKE AND SUNSET SPOT
The Rose Valley hiking trail in Cappadocia winds through an incredibly unique area with sharp ridges, tinted in pink especially during sunset! Over thousands of years, the ridges have formed to create a unique corrugated landscape. Almost all the time, one side of a ridge is in the sun while the other in the shadow, further accentuating the sharpness and scale of these sandstone formations.
FLYING IN A HOT AIR BALLOON AT SUNRISE
The Cappadocia hot air balloons are fast-becoming one of the most common travel bucket list items in the world. It is not hard to see why as you seamlessly float above the historic cave dwellings of Goreme Town with over 100 other balloons at sunrise in what can only be likened to a fairytale scene.
PIGEON VALLEY HIKING TRAIL
Pigeon Valley (also known as Guvercinlik Valley) is among the most popular hiking trails in Cappadocia, especially because it stretches between Goreme to Uchisar. Along the route, you will find cave dwellings, ancient paintings, earth pillars, and of course… pigeons.
ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
The Zelve Open-Air Museum is an incredible site that once housed one of the largest communities in Cappadocia. In this incredible cave town, you can walk amongst historic dwellings, churches, and religious chambers as well as the town square.
They have done a great job at this location by creating an easy path to navigate but also given adventurous people paths and trails to explore a bit further. There is nothing worse than being stuck on the tourist track when there is so much more to see but you can really immerse yourself in amongst the scenery here. It is actually much more interesting than the Goreme Open-Air Museum, which has 20 times more tourists visit per day and is very crowded.
EXPLORE DEVRENT VALLEY
Devrent Valley in Cappadocia (also known as Imaginary Valley) is a beautiful valley full of unique rock formations, many of which are said to resemble animal shapes.
The beauty of Devrent Valley is that unlike other sites in Cappadocia, you can immerse yourself amongst the earth pillars and rock formations. You can explore and discover as you wind your way up the steep, slippery hills. If you are willing to get off the beaten path, you will enjoy wandering through Devrent Valley and adventuring amongst these unique natural structures.
The Meskendir is a short trail in Goreme that leads you past numerous cave dwellings and historic sites as well as through multiple tunnels. It is quite a shady trail, which makes it a top suggestion for during the middle of the day. I combined the Meskendir Trail, Rose Valley Trail, and Red Valley Trail all into one super hike as the paths all connect. However, if you prefer a short walk, you can just venture out on the Meskendir Trail and do an out and back hike.
The Trail has a series of sandstone tunnel that was super cool. Some of them were like the tunnels on the Love Valley Trail but these tunnels were longer, and the roofs were much higher. Around every corner would be a little opening that would expose some amazing cave dwellings and historic sites. Huge walls of windows and pigeonholes towered over us as we imagined what the tunnel and stair system looked like on the inside. It is amazing to try and imagine all of Cappadocia living in this style of dwelling hundreds of years ago. There were even rock paintings high up on the wall.
LOVER’S HILL SUNSET POINT
There are a few great sunset points but the most popular place to watch the sunset in Goreme Town, Cappadocia is Lover’s Hill, which is also known as Asiklar Tepesi. You may also hear it referenced as ‘Sunset Point’, which is a good indication that it is THE spot to go for sunset if you are staying in town.
The beauty of Lover’s Hill Sunset Point is that it is within walking distance of most hotels in Goreme, which is where most people stay in Cappadocia. Most people looking to catch sunset either do it at Lover’s Hill, Red Valley Sunset Point, or from the terrace of their hotel. Therefore, as you can imagine, Lover’s Hill is quite busy being the closest sunset spot.
ORTAHISAR CASTLE VIEWPOINT
Ortahisar Castle is one of the best viewpoints in Cappadocia with great views stretching all the way to Uchisar and Goreme!
At the base of the castle, you will first walk through a series of cobblestone alleys and paths, possibly getting distracted by a cafe, wine cellar, or both. The climb up only takes about 5-minutes as you are not going all the way to the top just to the middle of the castle. The way leads you through the inner caves, ladders, and exterior stairs of the castle. Just before sunset golden light is beginning to look great on the castle and you could enjoy the views in all directions with the platform having a lookout spanning 3 different angles. There are lots of awesome things to do in Goreme but also Ortahisar and Uchisar have a lot to offer as well with their epic castles and nearby trails.
DISCOVER THE DERINKUYU UNDERGROUND VILLAGE
Derinkuyu Underground City cave system is one of the most remarkable things to see in Cappadocia. Walk down through more than five levels of the cave system, which once housed over 20,000 people and their livestock!
Derinkuyu Underground City was a secret for a long time! It was not until a local man in the Nevsehir Province decided to renovate in his home that the ancient city was discovered. After knocking down a wall he discovered a strange room and continued to dig further, exposing an intricate tunnel system with a series of cave rooms.
Exploring these ancient tunnels and cave systems was one of my favorite things to do in Cappadocia and I highly recommend it as this experience is quite unique.