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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 04 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jeremy Seal

Cappadocia is a fantasy land where the soft rock has weathered into a profusion of arches, caverns and eye-popping protuberances that resemble gigantic mushrooms or massive meringues.

The locals have followed nature’s example, hollowing the volcanic stone into homes, barns, fresco-painted Byzantine-era churches, and even so-called underground cities, enormous warrens where whole communities once sheltered from raiding Saracens and Mongols.

Of particular appeal to the culturally curious and to walkers alike, Cappadocia has in recent years acquired a wealth of architecturally distinctive and delightful hotels.

The natural beauty and culture of this World Heritage Site can now be experienced in levels of comfort and sophistication not associated with Turkey’s steppe interior.

Orientation

Cappadocia is a compact region about 50km wide at the very centre of Turkey, with a central hub provided by the neighbouring towns of Goreme and Urgup. The other small towns of particular interest – Uchisar, Ortahisar, Mustafapaşa and Avanos – all lie within a 15km radius. Many of the best sites and walking routes are concentrated in this central area, but there are more far-flung ruins and valleys, especially to the south.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Hot-air balloon flights over Cappadocia

Goreme, Central Anatolia, Turkey

One of the world’s great hot-air balloon flights, over a moonscape-esque landscape of arches, caverns, striking spires and eye-popping, giant protuberances resembling gigantic mushrooms.

Best for ages: 10+ | £75 | 4 hours

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Goreme Open-Air Museum

Goreme, Central Anatolia, Turkey

A remarkable natural amphitheatre of rock-hewn, fresco-filled churches and monastic dwellings dating back to Byzantine times. Cappadocia’s most visited site.

Best for ages: 13+ | £10 | 2 hours

Walk the Pigeon Valley

Goreme, Central Anatolia, Turkey

A spectacular 4km stroll through fantastical, magical landscapes. The trail links two of Cappadocia’s best-known towns – Goreme and Uchisar.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free | 1-2 hours

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Derinkuyu Underground City
Experience

Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu, Central Anatolia, Turkey

This extraordinary, 85m deep, multi-level underground city, carved into the soft bedrock, is the largest underground city in Turkey. A visit entails a descent via long lamp-lit tunnels, through chambers and store rooms, into the heart of an apparently endless warren that once sheltered over 20,000 people.

Best for ages: 18+ | £3

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Galerie Ikman
Experience

Galerie Ikman

Goreme, Central Anatolia, Turkey

An Aladdin’s cave of a carpet shop, a warren of rooms packed with flat-weave kilims both from the region and Turkey’s other renowned carpet regions, piled, hung and draped in picturesque profusion.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Guray Museum
Experience

Guray Museum

Avanos, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Huge underground ceramics museum, with impressive collections of ancient clay pieces and other archaeological artefacts displayed in illuminated halls, plus pottery demonstrations and sales.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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City Hammam of Urgup Town in Cappadocia Region
Experience

Hammam at Urgup City Baths

Urgup , Central Anatolia, Turkey

This recently-restored hammam occupies a fine old building and is family-run, for unisex visitors, with professional, only-male attendants. (Women-only times available with female attendants). The best place in the region for the quintessential Turkish Bath experience.

Best for ages: 13+ | £5 | 2+ hours

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Serinn House

Urgup, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Cosy cave hotel in a prime Urgup location, with modern facilities, outdoor terrace area and a highly regarded hands-on owner-manager.

Official star rating:

Esbelli Evi

Urgup, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Cappadocia’s original boutique cave, in a convenient Urgup location and as stylish as ever.

Official star rating:

Hezen Cave Hotel

Ortahisar, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Experience authentic Anatolia at this cosy boutique B&B, in a working Cappadocian community.

Official star rating:

Ariana Luxury Lodge

Uchisar, Central Anatolia, Turkey

Hyper-stylish eco-escape in a secluded location. with a fine restaurant, dramatic views – and a central setting between the towns of Uchisar and Goreme.

Official star rating:

When to go

High summer is low season, but increasing numbers of visitors put up with the heat and volcanic dust to combine Cappadocia with a Turkish beach holiday.

Despite an outside chance of rain, spring and autumn are excellent times to visit; October can be particularly busy. Don’t rule out mid-winter, when high pressure can bring crisp blue skies and Cappadocia can be at its uncrowded best.

Getting there and away

There are daily flights from Istanbul to Cappadocia’s main airport at Kayseri and also to smaller Nevsehir. It’s roughly a 45-minute drive from the airports to central Cappadocia, and taxi transfers can be arranged through your hotel.

Getting around

Taxis are easily available in larger towns such as Goreme and Urgup. Most destinations are served by frequent, cheap dolmus (minibuses), which pick up or drop off passengers at any point along their route.

On the back roads lifts are commonly offered, though it’s normal to make a contribution in such cases. Car hire is easy and cheap. Roads are generally in good condition and traffic mostly light.

Where to stay

With a few exceptions accommodation is in towns or villages rather than in the countryside. The majority of hotels in the region are ‘cave’ hotels – often, in fact, a mix of rock-cut and 19th-century freestanding masonry. Hugely characterful, most have only a small number of rooms and offer a unique insight into these historic dwellings.

Most visitors stay in the three main towns – Uchisar, Urgup and Goreme. Uchisar offers a superb central setting, a lovely low-key atmosphere, good shops and restaurants, great views and easy access to some of the region’s best walking trails.

Goreme is Cappadocia’s original tourist centre, set among the region’s signature ‘fairy chimneys’. It is a little busier than Uchisar and Urgup, but has bags of charm. Urgup is more of a proper town, rather than a tourist destination, with more in the way of markets and shops, but still feels nicely low-key.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination