With its otherworldly landscape of fairy chimneys and unusual rock formations, Cappadocia, Turkey is one of the most fascinating destinations on earth. Although it is most famous for the dozens of hot air balloons that rise into the sky every morning at dawn (you can read about my experience here ), there are also other interesting activities to do in the area.
1. Stay at a Cave Hotel
Enjoy a unique experience in Cappadocia by staying in a traditional cave hotel! I stayed at Sultan Cave Suites. Its rooftop is a popular place to take photos at sunrise. You can use carpets, pillows, a breakfast table, and even dogs as props!
2. Visit Goreme Open Air Museum
In the town of Goreme, visit the UNESCO Heritage Site Goreme Open-Air Museum, a collection of cave churches. In the churches, you can find beautiful frescoes from the 10th-12th centuries.
3. Visit Uchisar
The most prominent landmark in the town of Uchisar is the rock-cut fortress known as Uchisar Castle. It protected villagers from invaders during Roman and Byzantine times. Climb to the top of the fortress for amazing views of the area!
4. Visit an Underground City
There are two main underground cities in the area – Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. I visited Derinkuyu, which was built in the 7th and 8th centuries B.C. At one time, the city’s population was 20, 000 and it had 16 levels! People lived there until the beginning of the 20th century, and today it is a museum. If you’re ok with crouching and walking in tight spaces, you can walk through part of the underground city.
5. Visit Pasabag
Pasabag (also known as Monks Valley) contains mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys with twin and triple caps. In ancient times, religious hermits hollowed out some of the chimneys to live inside them.
6. Visit Devrent Valley
Devrent Valley is also known as Imagination Valley. Here you can spot rock formations shaped like camels, seals, kissing birds, and even Napoleon’s hat!
7. Ihlara Valley
This deep valley surrounded by rugged cliffs is the perfect place for a hike. It used to be a retreat for monks, so you can spot carved churches in the cliff face. You can also dip your feet in the Melendiz River. The terrain is flat and the hike is leisurely.
8. Rose Valley
The rocks here were formed by volcanic explosion and thousands of years of erosion. There are three famous churches in the valley: Kolonlu Kilise (Columned Church); Haçlı Kilise (Church of the Cross), and the Uç Haçlı Kilise.
9. Selime Monastery
This monastery used to house 5000 people and was built during the 8th or 9th century. Its cathedral is the largest church in Cappadocia. In the 11th century, it was converted into a caravanserai- a hotel for traders and camels who were traveling along the Silk Road. It was abandoned during the 16th century and is now open to visitors. The area around Selime Monastery is often mistaken for being a Star Wars filming location. However, while it inspired the landscape for a few scenes, it was not actually used as a filming location. It is a steep climb up the hill to the monastery, so bring water.
10. Pigeon Valley
Pigeon Valley is named for the pigeon houses that are carved into the rocks and cliffs. These pigeon coves were used by farmers who collected droppings to use as fertilizer. As well, pigeons were used for delivering messages. Today only a few pigeons are kept in the valley. During your visit to the valley, make sure to stop by the evil eye trees, which have many blue pendants hanging from their branches. These pendants (nazar boncugu) are very popular among Turkish people and are believed to protect the owner from evil.
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