Many people come to Cappadocia for just one or two nights, not realising just how much there is to see and do! Often they leave with regret that they missed out on some of the best sites and activities.
Below are just some of the highlights and activities of the region. With so much on offer, I can guarantee you will not run out of things to do, and extending your stay by another night or two just might be worth considering! Let Goreme Jasmine House help plan your activities during your stay – and if you take advantage of one of our Balloon/Tour packages, we can help you save money too!
Cappadocia is considered to be one of the best places in the world to enjoy a hot air balloon flight, thanks to the magnificent and unique lunar landscape of fairy chimneys, rippled ravines and deep valleys. Balloons are launched early in the morning to ensure that you are in the air in time to catch the first rays of sunrise. This is one experience that you will not want to miss!
Underground Cities activities
There are over 100 known underground cities in Cappadocia dating back to the 4th century BC, when they were inhabited by the Hittites. Later in the 6th and 7th centuries, the Byzantine Christians used them to escape persecution from the Arabs. Of the many known underground cities with roughly 37 of them open to the public. The latest one was only recently discovered in 2014! Of those open to the public, Derinkuyu is the deepest one (believed to be 18 levels deep, 8 of which you can visit) and once housed up to 20,000 inhabitants and their livestock. Kaymakli is the widest, with 4 of the 8 levels open to the public.
Ancient volcanic activity followed by centuries of erosion has resulted in the incredible lunar landscape that makes Cappadocia so unique. Aside from a Hot Air Balloon, the best way to fully appreciate the land is to see it on foot. There are many valleys to explore, with relatively easy hikes ranging from one hour to 4-5 hours. From the hotel in Goreme, you are only minutes away from Red and Rose Valley, and not much further away are Love, Pigeon and Zemi Valleys to name just a few. Don’t forget the lush green Ihlara Valley which has the Melendiz Stream running through it. Bring your walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water and you’re good to go!
Uchisar castle, once the main point of defense for the region, is the highest point in Cappadocia and offers stunning panoramic views. For a small fee, you can enter the castle and clamber your way through the castle and out onto the top. Make your way back to Goreme through the picturesque Pigeon Valley (about 1.5 hours). The Ortahisar castle, known as the biggest fairy chimney in Cappadocia, was once used as a fortress during the Byzantine period. Climbing to the top is somewhat precarious but worth the views once you get there.
One of the more exciting and adventurous activities is to see the sights around Goreme in an off-road vehicle – either in an ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) 4-wheel quad bike or dune buggy. Follow along Red and Rose Valley, through Cavusin village, Pasabagi fairy chimneys then back to Love Valley to reach an amazing panoramic viewpoint – just for one suggestion! Please note that you generally need a drivers licence with you in order to hire these on your own.
Horse-riding through the Land of Beautiful Horses
Cappadocia (thought to have been derived from the Persian “Katpatuka”) is known as the “Land of Beautiful Horses”. What better way to explore the unique landscape of the Goreme region than on the back of a native Anatolian or Arabic horse? It’s eco-friendly and the horse does all the work for you!
There are two Open Air Museums worth checking out. The Goreme Open Air Museum started out as a Byzantine monastic settlement in 10th-12th centuries, and later becoming a pilgrimage site in the 17th century. It houses a collection of chapels, monasteries and cave-cut churches with impressive colourful and well-preserved frescoes. The Zelve Open Air Museum is spread across three converging valleys of abandoned cave homes, churches, a mosque and even an old mill complete with grindstone. It’s less crowded here and is a personal favourite!
For a unique cultural experience, you should check out the Turkish Night in the nearby town of Avanos. Feast on a 3-course meal, try the local Cappadocia wine and even try the Turkish raki (an anise-flavoured alcoholic drink) in a cave restaurant. Throughout your meal, be entertained by the mesmerizing movements and colourful costumes of belly dancers, whirling dervishes, fire jumping, knife throwing, a wedding ceremony, drum show and folk dancing. It’s a great night out – highly recommended!
The mystical Sema (Whirling Dervish) ceremony is an important component of Turkish culture, belief and history, particularly in the town of Konya. It an expression of remembrance of God, and is the inspiration of Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, the great Anatolian mystic, poet and the father of the Mevlevi Order. The ceremony represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to perfection. The spell-binding whirling dervish ceremonies are 1 hour long – and definitely a unique experience. The Saruhan Caravanserai provides the perfect atmospheric venue to watch the performance.