Is it presumptuous to think people will have a Cappadocia Bucket List?

Perhaps, some people have one, but I expect most people just have a few things from Cappadocia on their worldwide/life bucket list. Regardless, feel free to use this post as a good check to make sure your bucket list includes everything it should.

CAPPADOCIA BUCKET LIST?

To the degree that bucket lists are supposed to capture all the once-in-a-lifetime things you want to do and see, Cappadocia should take up a good portion of every list.

I have lived here since 2011 and done/seen everything on this list and can, therefore, recommend each item without reservation. Be sure to spend enough time when you visit to finish the list or, even better, plan to make multiple trips!

Let’s get to it…

Cappadocia bucket list  hot air balloon
1. HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE – This is what draws many people to the region, and it doesn’t disappoint. I have written about all 25 companies in another post so click on it to get all the information you need. Also, you can click on this post to get some guidance on what to think about before booking. And, of course, some of you are asking whether it is safe. I’ve flown multiple times and had great experiences every time. Check out my safety post to help ease any fears you may have.
All the companies work hard to serve their customers, but I have found that the following stand apart: Royal, Butterfly, and Turkiye. The best bet is to book directly, but you can also go through your hotel. There are some sites online that give discount bookings, but I would urge caution as I have heard some sad tales from people who used such sites.

2. SLEEP IN A CAVE – You have a few options with this one. There are well over a hundred cave hotels in the area ranging from 5-star luxury to 1-star grunge. If you are more adventurous, you can put on your hiking shoes, grab some sleeping gear and explore the area (any valley will do) until you find an empty cave you like and then sleep the night away. I have some friends who have done this. I have not and don’t have plans to.
One word of warning on the cave hotels. Some of the hotels have both cave rooms as well as normal rooms. They have added onto the fairy chimneys and so some of the rooms are not actually caves. For this reason be sure to stress that you want to be in a cave room when you make your reservation. Also, recognize that the cave rooms tend to be darker and can be musty or almost damp/humid, especially compared to dry Cappadocia.

As I said there are many, many cave hotels and most are nice. I love Kayakapi in Ürgüp; Kelebek, Sultan Cave Suites, and Kismet Cave House in Göreme; Azure in Çavuşin; and Taşkonaklar in Uçhisar.

Cappadocia bucket list  underground city
3. EXPLORE AN UNDERGROUND CITY – Apparently, the Hittites started these thousands of years ago and then the Christians added to them. Reports say there are more than 200 in the area but only a few are available to the public. They go 100 meters underground and can hold up to 20,000 people. Visiting one of these needs to be on your list.
There are five in Cappadocia that most people will visit. You do not need to see more than one as they are quite similar. I do recommend seeing them with a guide since there is no signage to help you understand what you are witnessing. Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are the most popular with Özkonak, Gaziemir, and Mazı also open. A newly discovered “city” is currently being excavated in the center of Nevşehir that will draw most of the tourists, I expect, once it opens in the next couple of years.


4. VISIT AN ANCIENT CAVE CHURCH – This is another must on your list. As Jesus Christ was entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday over 2000 years ago he said that if the people weren’t praising God the rocks would cry out. Well in Cappadocia the rocks cry out. It seems like everywhere you turn you see a 1000 year old cave church with frescoes lining the walls.
However, for most people seeing a few is enough. For this reason I recommend including the Göreme Open Air Museum in your itinerary and spending the rest of your time checking off other items. The other option is to choose any of the many other churches you will see as you explore the region. Çavuşin village has a couple of excellent options and St. Jean in Gulşehir is wonderful. But there are many cave churches scattered around the area so if you are not that interested in the history and art, just stopping at any of them should do the trick for you as well. They will not be as nice as the restored cave churches, but you’ll form a picture in your head of ancient worship practices.

Cappadocia bucket list  valley hike
5. VALLEY HIKE AND FAIRY CHIMNEYS – Due to Cappadocia’s geological history it has some amazing valleys that have streams, trees, caves, views, and nice paths to make them perfect for exploring. There are countless valleys within an hour of Göreme, and hiking any of them will put you in a place that allows for the kind of solitude and inner peace in nature that you will rarely experience.
Picking a favorite is impossible, but to help you choose I recommend Ihlara (included on the Green Tour), Zemi, Love, or Pigeon.
Another option is to explore the valleys on horseback. And for those who prefer wheels to animals, an ATV ride at sunset or mountain bike adventure may be the way to go.

6. TURKISH NIGHT AND WHIRLING DERVISH – Rumi, also known as Mevlana, developed the spinning form of worship we call the whirling dervish in Konya in the 13th century, just a few hours from Cappadocia. Today you can witness the dervishes doing their thing each evening at various locales in the region. In addition, some establishments offer a variety of regional folk dances as well. Some of these include all you can eat and drink dinners while you watch.
Seeing the dervishes in Konya is extra special, but most visitors don’t have the opportunity to get there so you should take advantage of your chance in Cappadocia. Check out these posts on the Whirling Dervishes and the Turkish Nights for more information.

Cappadocia bucket list  pottery ceramic
7. THROW A POT – Cappadocians have been making pottery and ceramics using the rich clay of the red river (Kızılırmak) for thousands of years. Today the art is centered in Avanos, but you can sample the goods at every tourist stop.
But seeing the pottery is not worthy of a bucket list item unless you visit one of the masters and take the time to try your hand at this ancient art. Sit behind the wheel and “throw” your own pot. Most likely you’ll create something resembling a bowl or ugly ashtray. Regardless, there will only be one in the world, and your mom will act like she loves it when you present it to her on her next birthday. Try to go early in your trip so the pottery shop can cook it for you to take home.
We recommend a Chez Bircan and Ömürlü Ceramics as well as the Women’s Art Coop and the unique Bayankuş, but all of them will be happy to take care of you.

8. HAMAM (TURKISH BATH) & HOT SPRINGS – Now this is not for everyone, but if you are reading a bucket list post, I expect it is for you. There are a few different packages including massages and being washed with a rough scrubber by a gruff Turkish man clad in shorts and covered in soap suds (men do men and women do women so I can’t say what the women are like). I recommend getting scrubbed (Turkish: kes). Also, enjoy the sauna and the different pools (cold and hot) that are available.
You have a few options in Cappadocia at different levels. The Göreme Elis Hamam is made for tourists whereas the hamams in Avanos, Ürgüp, and Nevşehir service more locals. They are more authentic and austere and do serve tourists as well. And if you want to get away a bit more, an overnight trip to Kozaklı one hour away may be for you.
Check out this video to see Christian get tortured at the Nevşehir hamam.

9. EXPERIENCE EBRU – Ebru is a fascinating process in which paint and water are mixed, designs are created, and materials are dipped to produce beautiful art. There are a few galleries that practice and share this art and may even allow you to try your hand. We recommend visiting Cappadocia Ebru Art House in Ortahisar and Ürgüp. (See the link for contact info.)
Check out two of our most popular videos to observe the Ebru process using Paper and Silk.

10. ENJOY TURKISH FOODTESTI KEBAB – Turkish food is delicious and Istanbul is a culinary dreamland. Cappadocia has its specialties as well, but the most famous is the Testi Kebab. Testi is the Turkish word for the pot in which this dish is cooked and served. It is like a stew stuffed into the testi pot, closed with bread dough, and then cooked for a couple of hours. Once ready the pot is brought to your table and broken open in front of you. The contents are poured onto your plate for you to savor.
Check out this videos to learn more: Cappadocia Testi Kebap

11. DRINK TEA WITH A CAPPADOCIAN – This one should be number one on the list and will definitely have the greatest impact on you moving forward. If you stay at Kismet Cave House with my friend, Faruk, or another locally owned boutique cave hotel in which the owner speaks English, grew up in the area (probably in the hotel when it was his house), and has time to share life over a few cups of tea, then you will have experienced one of the greatest pleasures in life. To connect with another human from a different culture and listen to each other, especially in the world as it is currently functioning with war and hate running rampant, is to fire a cannon shot against the spirit of the time and to move towards hope and healing.
I can’t recommend this enough.

12. SKI A VOLCANO – I can’t say the slopes are world class but how often do you get to ski on a dead volcano. Head down to Kayseri and then up Erciyes to the ski area. They have all the equipment there for rent so no need to worry about bringing all your stuff. And if you aren’t a skier, you can go sledding or just take the gondola to the top of the mountain.
Cappadocia bucket list  erciyes

And with that you have experienced the best of Cappadocia, and crossed off 12 items on your Cappadocia bucket list. Chances are your life has been changed a bit, and you have hours of stories to share with family and friends upon returning home. Or perhaps like many people I have met here you decide to extend your stay and enjoy Cappadocia indefinitely.
Regardless, let us know which of these are on your bucket list in the comments below.

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Duke Dillard moved to Turkey with his wife and 6 children in 2007. He got an MBA at Bilkent University in Ankara, where they had their 7th child. After 4 years in Ankara the whole family moved to Cappadocia, and this blog was born. We love Cappadocia and Cappadocians and want to help visitors make the most of their time here. You can connect with Duke on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, and/or link circles on Google+. Click here to read more about Duke and his family.