With its unique landscape, superlative hiking, panoramic drinking spots, hot air balloons and cave hotels, Cappadocia simply rocks. Here’s our complete guide to spending 3 or 4 days in Cappadocia.
Our 4 day Cappadocia itinerary is an intoxicating cocktail of sights and experiences. Dramatic canyons are a playground to a mix of activities designed to energise the senses. Hot air balloon rides at the crack of dawn, hiking the beautiful valley trails, nursing a beer at a panoramic vista or visiting frescoed churches completely carved into the rock.
We loved visiting Cappadocia on our Turkey itinerary for the simple fact that it lived up to its online promises. While it’s very touristy, the experiences are truly amazing and the main town, Göreme has an otherworldly feel that’s unique, bold and enticing.
Working out how many days to spend in Cappadocia is tricky. You could see the highlights in two days and get a bit more under the skin of the place in three.
But if you want to explore the area more comprehensively, and allow time for an excellent day trip, then we suggest spending 4 days in Cappadocia.
Here’s how to see this iconic destination in a 4-day itinerary.
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IN THIS GUIDE
4-DAY CAPPADOCIA ITINERARY
Kaymakli Underground City
DAY 1 | EXPLORE CAPPADOCIA BY AIR AND FOOT
Begin this 3 or 4 days in Cappadocia by taking a hot air balloon over the surreal landscape for an unforgettable experience.
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Organise your hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia for your first day in case it’s cancelled due to poor weather. Book a tour in advance, alternatively, ask your hotel when you first arrive. Most tours will pick you up from your hotel around 4:30am and drop you back after the experience.
The feeling of slowly drifting over the sculpted canyons of the Cappadocian landscape in the early morning light is one you won’t forget in a hurry. It’s a definite highlight on any Cappadocia itinerary.
PIGEON VALLEY & UÇHISAR CASTLE
After recovering from the thrill of the balloon ride and while the temperature is still cool, set off on a hike through two of the valleys of Cappadocia. Start with the narrow canyon walls of Pigeon Valley, before rising up to the panoramic views at Uçhisar Castle. As the highest point in the area, the views are stunning and it was one of our favourite things to do in Cappadocia.
Leaving Uçhisar Castle descend to the phallic rock formations of Love Valley, one of the most iconic in Cappadocia. Our walk through Pigeon & Love Valley took us around 4 hours, 30 minutes of scenic bliss. All the details including maps are on our hiking in Cappadocia guide.
As the sunset approaches, drive up to Panorama Point – a stunning location to watch the colour fade from the Red Valley. Crazy Ali’s Café has couches and swinging chairs literally on the edge of the canyon walls. It’s the perfect place to wind down your first day in Cappadocia.
Back in Göreme, try dinner at Köy Evi Restaurant (Aydinkiragi Sok No:40) serving the traditional clay pot kebabs, which are a great lesson in the wonderfully fragrant spices of the Middle East.
DAY 2 | AN EXCURSION TO IHLARA VALLEY AND KAYMAKLI
On your second day in Cappadocia, it’s worth another sunrise wake up call to see the balloons drift overhead before taking off on a road trip to the picturesque Ihlara Gorge.
This morning, wake up at dawn and walk to sunset point; a few hundred metres from the centre of Göreme. As the sun rises over the valley walls and the sky fills with hot air balloons, it’s a truly memorable way to wake up. Sunset Point is the spot to be if you want the Instagram shot in front of the masses of balloons.
After breakfast, drive to Ihlara Village, about 1 hour south-west of Göreme. Ihlara Village is the starting point for a hike up the beautiful narrow canyon of Ihlara Valley. It’s a simple walk that follows a path along the valley floor beside the river. Rock-carved churches provide a few interesting places to inspect.
All the details are on our hiking in Cappadocia guide.
KAYMAKLI UNDERGROUND CITY
On the way back from Ihlara, stop off at Kaymakli Underground City. The construction of this cave city began in the 7th or 8th centuries BCE. Today the city descends 8 levels into the earth and has stables, a church and storage rooms connected by over a hundred tunnels. You can read more about it on our favourite things to do in Cappadocia.
After returning to Göreme, head to Paşabağı. It contains a collection of some of the most striking fairy chimneys and mushroom topped formations in Cappadocia. It’s compact and close to the highway so it can get inundated with bus groups. But it only takes 30 minutes to see everything and it’s a worthy addition to your Cappadocia itinerary.
DAY 3 | THE VALLEYS & CHURCHES OF GÖREME
On the 3rd day of your Cappadocia itinerary, explore the most beautiful valleys and the intriguing churches carved into the rock.
RED & ROSE VALLEY
Clock in another early morning to start a hike through the Red and Rose Valleys while the balloons are still drifting overhead. There are several excellent viewpoints perched over oceans of rippling red, rose and white rock.
The only downside is the challenge of finding the trailheads and following the paths, which in spite of a profusion of signs, is not particularly easy. The walk took us about 5 hours and all the details are on our hiking in Cappadocia guide.
GÖREME OPEN AIR MUSEUM
In the late afternoon, drive to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This museum surrounds an area of many of the best-preserved frescoed churches in Cappadocia. Three of the churches are included in the entrance fee, however, the best is Karanik Kilise which has an additional charge, that’s well worth paying.
After the museum, head back to Sunset Point to watch the sun set over Cappadocia. There’s a stall selling beer with benches spread out across the top and it’s a beautiful spot to enjoy a sundowner and a magical thing to do in Cappadocia. For dinner, walk back into Göreme and try My Mother’s Café. It’s honest, hearty Turkish cooking without too much fuss.
DAY 4 | VILLAGE LIFE IN CAPPADOCIA
On your final day in Cappadocia, explore a less visited and very local area with towns untouched by tourism and interesting out-of-the-way valleys.
Drive to the small village of Mustafapaşa, just 10 minutes south of Göreme. It’s halfway between a rural village and a town coming to terms with tourism. Tractors roam the streets where a few tourist shops, cafes and hotels have slowly started to pop up. It’s an interesting village to stroll around and there’s a few carpet sellers who will be happy to chat to you.
Cemil is completely untouched by tourism. It looks like it’s been untouched by everything for a few hundred years. The town is crumbling down the side of a valley with chickens and cows lining the roads. There’s not even a chance of a cup of tea, but it’s a very photogenic place. Cemil is another 10 minutes past Mustafapaşa.
Read Next — The best ancient ruins in Turkey
About an hour from Göreme, Soğanlı is a town that has been occupied since Roman times. It was a centre for Christianity in the Byzantine Empire. Check out the pretty Tahtali Church, before making your way to the second valley which has several carved churches. The best are Snake Church, Domed Church and Hidden Church. At the end of the valley, have lunch in the café set up by the river before returning to Göreme.
GORKUNDERE VALLEY & ZEMI VALLEY
After returning to Göreme, have a late afternoon stroll around the Gorkundere Valley. It’s a shorter valley than some of the others in the area but it has some very impressive phallic rock formations that make great photo opportunities. Nearby, in Zemi Valley, it’s worth visiting El Nazar Kilise – a 10th-century church carved from a single piece of rock. The frescoes inside are very impressive.
For dinner try Organic Cave Kitchen (Isali Mahallesi Ali Cavus Caddesi No 15) for very tasty food on their outdoor deck.
Read Next — What to do in Istanbul
HOW MANY DAYS IN CAPPADOCIA?
Cappadocia is a beautiful region that we loved visiting on our Turkey itinerary. You need at least 2 days to see the main highlights of Cappadocia, allowing for 2 mornings to take the balloon ride in case there are cancellations for weather. Staying for longer will allow you to get a lot more out of Cappadocia.
We’ve constructed this Cappadocia itinerary so that the experiences we think shouldn’t be missed are at the front. Therefore, if you need to amend this itinerary, simply do as many days as you can fit in.
2 DAYS IN CAPPADOCIA
This is a great introduction to Cappadocia and in our opinion is the minimum amount of time you should spend here. This will allow you to do a balloon ride and get a taste for the surreal landscape.
3 DAYS IN CAPPADOCIA
Adding the 3rd day to this itinerary will allow you to get a little further out of Göreme and see another beautiful valley which has a very different feel. It also means you can see the impressive underground city.
4 DAYS IN CAPPADOCIA
Spending 4 days in Cappadocia will allow you to explore a more local and much less visited side of the area, including the historic cave churches in the Soğanlı Valley.
Read Next — Our 2-week Turkey itinerary
WHERE TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA?
Cappadocia is a large area, but we suggest you stay in Göreme. It’s a unique place with buildings carved into the rock and rooftop terraces overlooking the fairy chimneys and surrounding valleys. Moreover, many of the best hiking trailheads are nearby, sunset and sunrise viewpoints are easily accessible, and the town has plenty of facilities and restaurants. While its sole purpose is tourism, it actually maintains something of a local feel without too much annoying selling.
Here are some recommendations from us.
SULTAN CAVE SUITES
Perfectly located high on a hill with one of the best vantage points for the morning hot air balloon show, Sultan Cave Suites is both quirky and luxurious with traditional stylings from around Turkey.
BOOKING.COM // HOTELS.COM
KAYAKAPI PREMIUM CAVES
Restoring the original man-made caves, Kayakapi Premium Caves provides a unique stay where no two rooms are the same. The breakfast is excellent, and the pool has some of the best views in Cappadocia.
BOOKING.COM // HOTELS.COM
ARTEMIS CAVE SUITES
Tucked under Sunset Point, Artemis Cave Suites is an upmarket hotel with an outdoor terrace and excellent views over town. The rooms are comfortable and maximise the cave vibe.
BOOKING.COM // HOTELS.COM
Set in one of the most scenic valleys of Cappadocia, Hotel Taskonaklar is a magical stay with outdoor hot tubs overlooking the view. The staff are very helpful and it’s only a short drive to Göreme.
BOOKING.COM // HOTELS.COM
HOW TO GET TO CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia is in the middle of Turkey with two airports nearby. One at Nevşehir (40 mins drive to Göreme) and the other at Kayseri (60 minutes’ drive to Göreme). Both have flights from several popular locations in Turkey.
AIRPORT TRANSFERS TO GÖREME
If you’re not hiring your own car to explore Cappadocia, private or shared transfers are available from both airports to Göreme in air-conditioned minivans. Your hotel will be able to organise transfers for you, or you could book a shared airport transfer or private airport transfer in advance.
HIRING A CAR IN CAPPADOCIA
We recommend booking your hire car through rentalcars.com who compare prices across most of the dependable car rental companies. Both airports have car hire facilities although Kayseri has more choices.
Driving in Turkey is also not as hard as many people think and it’s a great way to see the country. Read our tips for driving in Turkey to help plan your road trip.
MAP / CAPPADOCIA ITINERARY
To help you plan your Cappadocia itinerary, all the excellent things to do we have listed in this guide can be found on the below map. To save the map, make sure you are logged in to your Google account, then click on the star to the right of the title. This will save the map to your Google account.
BEST TIME TO VISIT CAPPADOCIA
The best time to visit Cappadocia is the shoulder seasons from April to June, and from September to October.
Cappadocia sits on a plateau over 1,000 metres high, so in winter the temperature can drop to around 0°C and in summer it’s often upwards of 30°C.
Rainfall is higher in Spring than in Autumn, and being a little windier, this makes balloon riding a bit more susceptible to cancellations. The upside is the landscape is greener, flowers more abundant and the days longer.
We travelled during Ramadan which meant the valleys were much less busy as locals don’t take holiday during this time. We also had no problems booking hotels late (so we could keep some flexibility) or getting into good restaurants with the best viewpoints.
PLANNING YOUR TURKEY TRIP
Turkey is a fascinating destination with ancient ruins, magical landscapes and one of our favourite cities in the world. Here are more of our guides about this wonderful country.
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OUR CURATED GUIDE TO THE MOST AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
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DRIVING IN TURKEY – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR YOUR TURKEY ROAD TRIP
UNCOVERING ISTANBUL’S MIGHTY PAST & UNCERTAIN FUTURE
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