Most people head to Cappadocia to watch the infamous hot air balloons which flood the sky almost every single morning. Yet, what they don’t realise is that this region is a gold mine for hiking trails. With a UNESCO National Park that offers some of the most unique landscapes in the world, hiking in Cappadocia is absolutely incredible.
I recently headed to Cappadocia for a few weeks and ended up doing a tonne of hiking. I had already planned on doing a few trails whilst I was there, but discovered that what I’d had planned was just scratching the surface of what was available.
In this guide, I’ll share with you the very best trails to include on your Cappadocia itinerary. I’ll cover everything you need to know ahead of your trip such as the location of Cappadocia and how to get there. I’ll give you key details about each hike, the best time to do them, and add an FAQ at the end of the guide. In addition, you’ll also find some recommendations on where to stay.
Where is Cappadocia
Cappadocia is situated almost slap bang in the middle of Turkey. It’s a fairly remote region that up until recent years was predominately made up of agricultural land.
Today, the most well-known town is Göreme. It’s relatively small by comparison to the biggest city in the region – Nevşehir – yet far more densely populated due to the level of tourism as a consequence of the hot air balloons.
Below you’ll find an interactive map of Cappadocia in Turkey.
How to get to Cappadocia for a hiking trip
There are three ways in which you can get to Cappadocia. These are:
- By plane
If you’re heading to Cappadocia by plane, then you have two airports available: Nevşehir and Kayseri. The latter is slightly further away, but in my experience, seems to be cheaper to fly into.
If you’re coming from outside of Turkey, then you’ll unlikely to be able to get a direct flight to either of the aforementioned airports, however a connecting flight to here should not take longer than an hour.
Check prices: Omio
- By bus
The bus network around Turkey is relatively decent. I personally didn’t take any long bus journeys across Turkey, however I met plenty of people on my trip who were using these to reach other areas of Turkey. They said the busses had reclining chairs, tv screens and snacks on board.
Cappadocia itself is remote, and so the timetable doesn’t offer heaps of choice, but at least some are available for those on a budget.
For example, there is only a night bus which runs between Istanbul and Cappadocia. But look on the bright side, you get two for the price of one: transport and a bed for the night. And by bed, I mean a reclining seat.
Check prices: Busbud
- By car
Although driving across Turkey may sound a little sketchy, it’s actually far from it. I was surprised to meet quite a few people who had hired a car and were travelling across the country this way. It seems relatively cost effective and the roads are arguably better than what you find in the UK at times.
If you’ve already experienced Istanbul, it goes without saying that you’ll want to avoid driving around here. It is absolute chaos and I expect many of the other major cities across the country are likely to be the same.
Check prices: Rentalcars.com
Hiking in Cappadocia: 7 best routes
Göreme to Uchisar
Distance: 9 km | time: 3 hours | elevation: 265 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
Göreme to Uçhisar is an out-and-back loop that leads through the popular Pigeon Valley before arriving at Uçhisar Castle – another popular attraction in Cappadocia.
The route leads from the centre of Göreme and finds a small trail which leads all the way through the Pigeon Valley. On the outbound journey, it’s uphill for pretty much all of the way. To begin with, this is a gentle incline, however the further you walk, the steeper it gets.
But, don’t let this put you off as it’s very manageable – even at the steepest sections. Plus, the reward of Uçhisar Castle and the awe-inspiring views from the top are well worth the short-term and low-level discomfort.
On your way through the Pigeon Valley, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of interesting landscapes and pass along many locals who are working on their farms. Be very mindful not to pass directly through these farms by mistake, as they are often guarded by dogs who certainly look as though they could cause some damage.
Upon arrival at Uçhisar Castle, you’ll need to pay 50 Turkish Lira to explore. The opening hours are from 5 AM to 7 PM, making it the perfect spot to reach for sunrise or sunset.
If you’re worried about hiking in the dark, then there is a bus which runs from Göreme and past Uçhisar. The timetable for all buses in the area is a bit hit-and-miss, so the best bet is to head to Göreme Bus Station and ask for the latest time during your trip.
If you’re not heading here for sunrise or sunset, then the route back is the same way in which you came. It’s a great and gentle descent that you’ll be thankful for after exploring Uçhisar Castle.
Goreme Open Air Museum & White Canyon Loop
Distance: 4.6 km | time: 1.5 hours | elevation: 116 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
Göreme Open Air Museum is an attraction that’s on most people’s list when they visit Cappadocia. In fact, it’s part of the ‘Red Tour‘ that a lot of people book in order to tick off a number of popular attractions in one day. However, this can be incorporated as part of a great hike to a pretty cool hidden white canyon too.
You’ll need to set off from the centre of Göreme and follow the main road up to Göreme Open Air Museum. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this isn’t the best start to the walk, but it does get you to one of the best attractions. It also leads past the pottery shop if that’s your kind of thing.
The route leads uphill, before finally arriving at Göreme Open Air Museum. You can head inside – or rather, outside – and explore what’s on offer before you continue along the route.
You’ll then need to continue along the main road, where you’ll ascend a steep snake-like road before arriving at a layby. Again, this isn’t a glamourous part of the trail, but you will have great views over the valley.
Once you’ve spotted the network of trails that lead down into the valley, you’ll find the correct one and take the steep descent towards the canyon.
It’s not a well-trodden path so you may find this is overgrown at times, but trust me, it’s worth it to wander through this deserted white canyon – it’s a real hidden gem that will no doubt gain popularity in the coming years.
After a few twists and turns, the trail will reach the first section of the White Canyon. It feels slightly sketchy as you’ll need to clamber down rocks and there’s not always an easy spot to place your feet, but it’s all part of the adventure.
As you head deeper into the canyon which ultimately descends, you’ll find a couple of ladders to help you navigate down safely.
Once you’ve left the White Canyon, you’ll discover a small path which leads past what looks like an abandoned farm that ultimately leads to one of the main roads through the Red Valley.
The trail then follows various tracks through the Red Valley and wanders past many of the abandoned cave houses that remain in Cappadocia, before finding the main road which leads back to Göreme.
This trail is a little bit rogue, but it’s a good one to take if you want to tick off one of the major attractions, discover a hidden gem and don’t mind taking the less scenic route at times. This canyon was personally one of my favourites as I hadn’t seen anything about it and the eerieness of it made it quite exciting to find.
*note: the map linked above is a very loose route – this should give you a sense of direction to follow, but don’t worry too much about following it directly
Ilhara Valley to Selime Monastery
Distance: 10.5 km | time: 3 hours | elevation: 292 meters | difficulty: easy | map
The Ihlara Valley is about 1 hour from Cappadocia, but no best list of hikes in this area is complete without it. Plus, it’s part of Cappadocia’s ‘Green Tour‘, so it holds a well-recognised spot.
The Ihlara Valley is in Aksaray region and the well-known hike around here runs through a 150-meter-deep canyon. It’s completely different to the landscapes that you’ll find on any of the other walks, however, it’s no less impressive.
It offers a 10-kilometre walk alongside the water which is both peaceful and serene in equal measure. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a unique dining experience in the small huts which sit on the water.
In addition, there are a number of churches which have been built into the walls of the canyon that hikers can visit before arriving at another popular spot: Selime Monastery.
It’s worth noting that this is an out-and-back route, so you’ll be racking up around 20 kilometres if you haven’t hired a private driver for the day who can collect you at the monastery.
Alternatively, you can walk as far as you’d like through the canyon before turning back and heading to Selime Monastery afterwards. I’d recommend that you walk at least 3 kilometres so that you can enjoy a break at one of the restaurants on the water.
Overall, this hike is one of the best easy hikes in Cappadocia’s surrounding area since it’s flat for most of the way, but it’s worth noting that there are 400 steps that descend into the canyon. If you opt for the out-and-back route, you’ll need to climb these at the end of the hike.
Lovers Hill Balloon Circular
Distance: 1.75 km | time: 1 hours | elevation: 44 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
Lovers Hill is also known as the sunset or sunrise viewpoint. It’s where heaps of visitors flock to most mornings to watch the balloons, as well as in the evening to watch the sunset. It provides views over Göreme and Uçhisar in one direction and views over the Red Valley and Love Valley in the other.
This is a super short Cappadocia hike that almost everyone who’s visiting the town will embark on at some point during their trip if they want to see the balloons. The summit can be seen from the high street and is signified by a large Turkish flag. You’ll need to bear in mind that to visit this viewpoint during sunrise or sunset, you’ll need to pay 5 Turkish Lira in cash.
It’s a short and steep climb to reach the viewpoint, but it’s a spot with unmatched views that are well worth paying the price for. It takes no longer than 10 minutes to reach the top of the hill and when it comes to descending, you can take a diversion which leads around some of the pretty back roads that hover above Göreme.
No viewpoint in Cappadocia comes without locals jumping in trying to bring in some extra cash by setting up a stall with souvenirs or a cafe, so it’s always worth taking some extra cash to not only support the local community but also enjoy what is usually fresh produce.
The Short Love Valley Loop
Distance: 5 km | time: 1.5 hours | elevation: 163 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
The short Love Valley loop is a route that leads to one of the most peculiar parts of Cappadocia which has been nicknamed the Love Valley. Its real name is the Baglidere Valley, however, the phallic rock formations which are the by-product of a volcano eruption and years of erosion have given it a fitting name.
The route leaves from the centre of Göreme and heads beside the main road towards Uchisar. But, way before Uçhisar, you’ll take a right turn and continue to climb until Göreme becomes a tiny town in the distance. It’s not a tough climb, but it does drag a little.
Once the route levels out, you’ll catch sight of the stunning Red and Rose Valley ahead. Besides being in the Red and Rose Valley, this is one of the best viewpoints to see it from a distance.
The route then quickly descends to find a country road that ultimately leads to the Love Valley where you’ll not only find these strange rock formations, but also a small cafe.
The trail leads through the Love Valley, although it will be difficult to know which trail you’re meant to be following since they all seem to overlap each other.
Before long, the trail begins to circle and finds the main road which leads back to Göreme.
This is one of the best short hikes in Cappadocia that leads past one of the popular tourist spots and can be enjoyed by all types of travellers.
Red and Rose Valley Circular Hike
Distance: 7.7 km | time: 3-4 hours | elevation: 258 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
The Red Valley and Rose Valley are two of the highlights in Cappadocia, that even those who aren’t keen on hiking will likely have on their Cappadocia itinerary to see.
The route begins from the Red Valley which is just over a kilometre from the centre of Göreme. Although it’s a main road between the two, there is a footpath which leads beside it for those who are willing to increase the distance of their hike by a few kilometres.
Once you arrive at the Red Valley, the route winds up and down around what’s commonly known in Cappadocia as the ‘fairy chimneys’. These are caves which have been carved into the rock and were previously used as homes by locals in the area.
Today, there is just one elderly couple who still inhabits one of the traditional cave homes, as tourism has since allowed others to build better-quality houses.
As the route continues, you’ll head through the valley before passing through a sweet tea garden run by locals who are harvesting what’s on offer themselves. I highly recommend stopping for some of their pomegranate juice and picking up some of the dried fruits to snack on later on.
The route steepens rapidly and you’ll head up to one of the most incredible viewpoints in the area. This is a tourist hot spot during certain times of the day as it is a location which is included on the popular ‘Red Tour‘. You’ll find lots of cafes and stalls selling souvenirs.
Once you’ve passed the viewpoint, the route heads down into the Rose Valley. Along the way, there are a number of abandoned ‘fairy chimneys’ to climb inside, as well as churches. The most notable church is Haçlı Church, which is beautifully decorated and one that seems to be on many others’ list as a number of people stopped me to ask for directions.
The remainder of the walk leads downhill through the valley and back to Göreme. There is one notable section which is tricky to navigate, however, a rope is provided to assist hikers. This shouldn’t put you off the trail, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re particularly unsteady on your feet as this may be problematic.
The Three Valleys & Uçhisar Castle Trail
Distance: 11.7 km | time: 3-4 hours | elevation: 388 meters | difficulty: moderate | map
The Three Valleys and Uçhisar Castle trail is undoubtedly one of the best hikes in Cappadocia and one of the most popular routes in the area because it covers three of the main valleys, as well as the popular attraction: Uçhisar Castle.
The route follows the same route as the Short Love Valley Circular initially, leaving from the centre of Göreme and proceeding to find an incline which leads to the perfect viewpoint of the Red and Rose Valley.
You’ll head down the path which ultimately leads to a plethora of trails which lead through the Love Valley. As already mentioned, if you get confused at this point, then take the small road which leads below, as this will take you to the White Valley, which is where you’re heading to next.
The White Valley is incredibly different to any of the other valleys and caught me by surprise with how fantastic it was. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll need to navigate your way through a bunch of canyons which can be fairly overgrown at times. However, if you’re hiking on a hot day, this will come as a welcome break from the heat.
All of sudden, you’ll then begin to ascend across the best part of the White Valley. The rock is so white that it almost looks like sand. The walls of stone on either side are layered white and golden in colour, which is quite different to what you’ll see elsewhere.
The final stretch through the White Valley is the hardest. It’s a steep incline, however, once you reach the top you’ll find a juice stall where you can purchase fresh pomegranate juice as your reward for the hard push.
It’s then time to head to Uçhisar Castle. The road to Uçhisar is almost completely flat, which is just what you’ll want after that tough section in the White Valley. You’ll most likely share the trail with a few cars and mountain bikers, but this doesn’t pose any hazard.
If you’ve got any energy left in you and you haven’t yet seen Uçhisar Castle, then now’s your opportunity to take the accent up and explore. It will cost 50 Turkish Lira to enter and if you can time it so that you arrive here for sunset, then you’ll be pleased, as the views over Cappadocia with the sun setting in the distance are spectacular.
If you do this, you’ll need to bear in mind that it’s another 30-40 minutes back to Göreme. However, you can always catch the bus back if it becomes too dark to continue along the trail safely.
If you continue along the trail, then you’ll end up in the final of the three valleys: the Pigeon Valley. This is a lovely section of the walk as it’s a gentle descent all the way back to Göreme.
Best time to hike in Cappadocia
The best time to go hiking in the Love Valley in Cappadocia is during the shoulder season, which is April, May, September and October. This is when temperatures will be warm, but not sweltering and hiking will be comfortable. However, if you’re tied to a certain time of year, then below is what you can expect:
Winter | December, January and February will see snow on the ground in this region of Turkey. It’s undoubtedly incredibly picturesque, but you’ll need to be prepared for temperatures which can reach -20 degrees in the height of winter.
Spring | March, April and May see significant shifts in temperature as you move through the year. In March there will almost certainly still be snow on the ground. As April comes around, it’s still cold with temperatures around 15 degrees and occasionally a dusting of snow overnight. As we move into May, things start to warm up rapidly, with average daytime temperatures of 22 degrees.
Summer | June, July and August is the peak season in Cappadocia with temperatures soaring above 30 degrees in July and August. Towards the tail end of the month, things start to cool down slightly, but not significantly. You’ll need to head on your hiking trip with plenty of fluids and food if you’re planning to be here during this time.
Autumn | September, October and November is another season which sees a significant change from the start to the end. September and October will see some comfortable hiking temperatures, yet November drops down to an average of 13 degrees during the day and falls below 0 degrees at night. With a few layers, it’s still doable to plan a hiking trip during this time.
What to wear for hiking in Cappadocia
The time of year that you decide to head on a hiking trip to Cappadocia will determine what you need to pack and hopefully from the weather indications given in the section above you should be able to understand what needs to go in your suitcase.
However, regardless of the time of year in which you’re heading to Cappadocia with a plan to do some hiking, you’ll need to pack the below items. I’ve given some recommendations on some of the products which I personally use (some of which I have been using for years!) and absolutely love.
- Hiking Boots
Nearly all the trails around here are desert-like at times and will require a decent pair of hiking boots to keep you upright.
The boots which I’m currently wearing are these Karrimor hiking boots. For someone who does A LOT of hiking, these are cheap boots. But, they’re just SO comfy. These were my first hiking boots and since I loved them so much, I’ve just replaced them with the exact same pair ever since. Nothing fancy and super budget-friendly. If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it!
No matter what time of year you’re hiking, you’ll need to head out with a backpack stuffed with plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit.
My go-to backpack for as long as I can remember is the Osprey Daylite. It’s a perfect size and fits really well on almost anyone with the adjustable straps. For a premium brand, I think the price point is pretty decent and I love that it comes in a variety of colours.
- Waterproof Jacket
Regardless of what time of year you’re heading to Cappadocia, it’s always worth carrying a waterproof jacket, as even these desert-like surroundings can get a sprinkle of rain, particularly in the shoulder season.
I’ve been wearing my North Face Lightweight Waterproof Jacket since around 2016 and it’s still going well. It rolls up to be really small which means I can shove it in my backpack easily and since it’s so lightweight, I barely notice it’s there when I’m not using it.
The only thing I regret is buying it in white as it gets filthy at times. Again, the price point on this is very good for a premium brand and I can vouch for the fact it lasts forever!
Alright, you can’t head here and not take a decent camera. It would be sacrilege. The landscape is like nothing I’ve seen before and I reckon you’ll be in the same boat.
This is a big ticket item, but it’s worth every penny. I splurged and bought the Sony A7Riii and the 24-105 mm F4 a while ago and it was the best decision I ever made.
The capabilities of this combination are insane and whilst I’m still learning the ropes, each time I go on a trip, the images are coming out better and better.
I also love the fact that the camera is fairly lightweight by comparison to others out there, which makes it the perfect camera to take hiking.
Cappadocia hiking FAQ
- Are the trails busy?
Some trails are busier than others, but I wouldn’t say that Cappadocia is a well-known destination for hiking and it’s a remote part of Turkey. You will likely see a few locals and some tourists along most routes at some point, but don’t expect to be around people at all times.
- Is it safe?
The likelihood of anything bad happening is slim, but this is definitely one I battled with before heading out on a solo hike myself. I did a couple of solo hikes around here and saw other solo hikers, but I’d recommend hanging around near the start of the trail and waiting for other hikers who look like they might be doing the same trail if you feel uncomfortable.
In the least weird way possible, try to follow them along the trail whilst leaving a good distance so that you’re not acting strange, but have someone nearby in case anything does go wrong.
I’d also recommend that you download the map ahead of time as even with a Turkish sim card, you will lose your phone signal on these walks and it is very easy to get lost since the trails are not particularly well-marked.
- Are the facilities along the trails good?
Surprisingly, the facilities along most of the hiking trails in Cappadocia are extremely good. There are more cafes than anything else and you’ll often find a toilet. These aren’t always very nice and you will often have to pay a few Turkish Lira, but something is better than nothing.
- Are there any hiking tours in Cappadocia?
Yes, you can book onto a guided hiking trip by using the below link
Check prices: Full Day Hiking Trip
- If I only have a few days in Cappadocia, which hikes should I do?
If you’ve only got a couple of days in Cappadocia then you should pick hiking trails that cover the Red, Rose, Love and Pigeon Valley. The Three Valleys hike and the Red and Rose Valley would be my suggestions.
- Can I use my drone in the valleys?
Yes, you will see plenty of drones flying about everywhere in Cappadocia.
- Are all of these trails suitable for children?
All of the trails mentioned in this guide are suitable for children.
Where to stay for a hiking trip to Cappadocia
If you’re heading to Cappadocia, then there really is only one town that you will want to consider staying in and that’s Göreme. There are some smaller towns nearby such as Uçhisar, but they’re not really well equipped for tourists at the moment. That’s not to say in the future that they won’t expand, as this region is becoming incredibly popular and even Göreme is constantly being developed.
Below are some recommendations of places to stay in Göreme, however, you can find an extensive guide on where to stay in Cappadocia here:
Check out the full guide: Best hotels in Cappadocia
Budget | The Dorm Cave By Travellers
The Dorm Cave By Travellers is where I stayed for my trip to Göreme and it was pretty decent for budget accommodation. It’s both a hotel and a hostel and for most of the time I stayed in the dorm room, but for 2 nights I stayed in a hotel room.
The dorm rooms are big with a capacity of 14, but they’re really nice and you get to experience staying in a cave. There are plenty of bathrooms that are detached from the room and the breakfast is as good as it gets for a hostel. Of course with a room of this size, it can be quite disruptive, particularly as there are always a few people who are getting up early to watch the hot air balloons. It’s also luck of the draw as to who you get in your room.
The hotel rooms are really sweet and traditional and come equipped with everything you’d need for your stay. The room I was staying in also have a huge terrace which was perfect for watching the hot air balloons early in the morning.
It’s just a few minute’s walk to the centre of Göreme and even though it’s tucked away on a side street, it felt very safe walking back at night as a solo female traveller.
Check prices: The Dorm Cave By Travellers
Mid-range | Caftan Cave Suites
Caftan Cave Suites offers travellers the opportunity to stay in an old cave whilst still having the luxury of modern facilities at a fair price.
They’re situated at the top of the main street that runs through Göreme, meaning they’re away from the hustle and bustle whilst still being just a few minute’s walk from where the atmosphere is.
Whilst they’ve got their own amazing terrace to watch the balloons at sunrise, they’re also less than ten minute walk from the main viewing platform that everyone heads to in order to witness the magic.
Check prices: Caftan Cave Suites
Luxury | Aza Cave Cappadocia
Aza Cave Cappadocia is hard to beat when it comes to finding a luxurious hotel in the area. Their King Suites are absolutely dreamy and come equipped with fancy baths, top-quality linen and a private balcony which overlooks the valley.
They’re situated a little further away that my other two recommendations, but still within walking distance to the main centre. They’re one of the few hotels in Cappadocia that have a swimming pool whilst still maintaining excellent views of the hot air balloons each morning.
Check prices: Aza Cave Cappadocia
Explore Cappadocia further
If you loved this guide on hiking in Cappadocia and want to explore some of the other activities on offer, then you can find a complete list of guides by heading to the menu and navigating to Turkey.
If you’re looking for some inspiration, then I highly recommend doing a sunset ATV tour in Cappadocia. Aside from hiking, this was my favourite activity. During peak season, there are hundreds of quad bikes following the same route through the Red and Rose Valley which is an amazing sight in itself.
Stay Wild Travels.
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