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Cappadocia is a playground for kids young and old. With it’s towering fairy chimneys, thousands of caves, and underground cities, it’s no wonder that this area is becoming increasingly popular.
You’ve probably seen pictures on social media of the amazing hot air balloons rising over the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia. This is just one of the MANY amazing things that you can do in Cappadocia, and we’re here to show you what needs to be on your must do list and what you can just skip over, to make your trip truly amazing!
Best things to do in Cappadocia with Kids
The stunning landscape of Cappadocia will make it an easy add to your bucket list. We were all thrilled when Cappadocia turned out to be even better than we had imagined (and yes, we had quite high expectations). If you love to explore, this place is for you. Naturally, this was an amazing fit for our families adventurous lifestyle. Y
ou could literally spend a week here just hiking around and I’m sure be totally happy, but there are so many other amazing things that you should plan on experiencing during your visit. We’re sharing with you our favorite places and the best things you can do in Cappadocia with kids (and what you can skip):
Sleep in a cave hotel in Cappadocia
If you do a little research, you’ll quickly find that Goreme is the main town in the Cappadocia area. Most of the hotels have the name cave in their name, but NOT all of them are actual caves so do your homework diligently (many are just regular hotel rooms). We scored big both in price and in the quality/size of our hotel room. We stayed at the Dervish Cave Suites in their family room, which had 2 king sized beds, a large couch, and a jaccuzzi tub for only 100 Euros a night including breakfast. The staff was endlessly friendly and helpful and we would highly recommend this room.
As you can see from the picture, our cave room had some pretty nice additions to it like polished columns, and tiled floors, but the walls were still rough and had a cave. If you look around, there is a huge variety in the cave hotels in Goreme. Some will look like 5 star suites and others are much more rustic with rough floors and ceilings and minimal modern additions. If you’re traveling with kids, I’d recommend doing something in the middle like we did. The kids truly felt like they were sleeping in a cave (which is the whole point), but we didn’t have to sacrifice comforts.
Explore Selime Monastery
While the word monastery may not immediately pique your interest, I assure you that this is no regular church. It’s the largest religious structure in Cappadocia, and it’s full of twisting corridors, tunnels and secret passageways galore. The Selime Monestery is a church that is cut out of the rock, like most iconic structures in Cappadocia, and is cathedral sized inside. Along the walls, you will see original frescoes lining the corridors. The monestary consists of three major sections including monks’ living quarters, stables and kitchens, so by visiting you’ll get a really well rounded view of what life would have been like here in the 8th or 9th century.
The Selime Monestery has a rich history that was originally created as a church in the 700’s and then around 900, it was converted into a refuge for travelers and tradesmen who were traveling the Silk Road. Around the 16th century, the church was abandoned until recent times.
To get to Selime Monestary, head south from Goreme about 1 hour and 15 minutes. We planned on stopping in for 20 minutes and came away 2 hours later wishing we had even more time to stay. Plan on spending between 2-4 hours there depending on how much you want to explore.
Discover the underground cities of Cappadocia
The two main underground cities are Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı.
Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia
What to know before you go visit Derinkuyu:
Entrance Fee: 25 TL
Location: 35 km south of Goreme
Time: Plan an minimum of 1 hour, though you can easily get through in 2 hours since a lot of the passageways are blocked off.
Derinkuyu is easily the most popular of the two major underground cities in Cappadocia. Entrance to the underground city will cost you 20 TL. It has several different levels underground and goes down to a depth of about 200 feet below the surface. As you explore the underground city, you will squeeze yourself through tight passages, find yourself guarding your head at the frequently low ceilings and see tunnels connecting different areas. If you’re claustrophobic, this probably isn’t the place for you.
It is anticipated that when the city was fully functioning it could accommodate up to 20,000 people in Derinkuyu and the city had most aspects of every day life available there (stables, chapels, oil press). This underground city was the most used during the Arab-Byzantine war in the 8th-12th centuries.
Most tour groups visit Derinkuyu so we anticipated that it would be better than Kaymakli underground city. While it is deeper, we found that it was very crowded and there were fewer options for us to explore on our own (there is a pretty set route through it with most side tunnels blocked off). If you love to explore and get off the beaten path, Derinkuyu probably isn’t for you. However, if you like to go on tours and learn about history, this would be an excellent fit, though hiring a guide is highly recommended since there aren’t many signs to explain what you are seeing.
Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia
What to know before you go visit Kaymakli:
Entrance Fee: 25 TL
Location: 26 km south of Goreme
Time: Plan an minimum of 1 hour, though if you like to explore (or have kids with you),you can easily spend 2.5 hours exploring the caverns and tunnels.
For kids, the Kaymakli underground city is much better than Derinkuyu. Here, everything felt alive as the kids got to crawl through tunnels that connected dwellings, squeeze through passageways, and get dirtier than I’ve seen them in a long time. They felt like they were actually experiencing what it would be like to live, and play, there. Unlike Derinkuyu underground city, Kaymakli doesn’t have as many passages blocked off and didn’t feel nearly as restricted. This underground city feels a lot like a giant honeycomb or maze as we explored through it. Not nearly as deep as Derinkuyu, there were many more options for exploration.
Kaymakli was originally inhabited around 8th century BC, though it was at its peak from the 8th-1th centuries AD, as Chrisitans used the city as a refuge and hideout from Muslims during the Arab-Byzantine war.
At one point both Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities were connected by miles and miles of underground tunnels.
If you have time, visit both underground cities, but if you can visit just one, make sure not to miss Kaymakli.
Fly in a hot air balloon over Cappadocia
Cappadocia Turkey is thge most popular desitination in the world for hot air ballooning. In fact, over half of all balloon rides in the world take place here.
Every morning that the weather cooperates, you’ll see over 100 balloons up in the air, flying over the fairy chimneys as the sun pops up over the horizon. Stunning, doesn’t even begin to describe the scene.
Hot air ballooning can be quite expensive, especially when you’re looking at taking an entire family, but this is absolutely one of those experiences that it’s worth splurging on. When we went we took our two oldest kids and they still talk about it 4 years later! I could go on and on about it, but you should probably read my post all about it to get convinced.
Every year over 500,000 visitors ride balloons in Cappadocia. While there are many tour opperators, I recommend booking your flights as soon as possible so you don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime experience. Also, make sure to book your flight early on in your stay in Cappadocia. There were several people that we met who had their tours postponed because of a few days of bad weather, so it’s certainly not something that you want to wait until the last minute to do. Give yourself an extra day or two just in case.
Hike the Ihlara Valley, Turkey
For a little change of scenery, head south to the lush Ihlara valley. It’s about an hour from Goreme, but well worth the drive(and you can combine it with other sites like Derinkuyu and Selime for a long day). Drop into this river fed gorge and hike up and down as you explore ancient dwellings and churches carved into the rocks. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll get a chance to see plenty of frogs and even tortoises along the way (we saw 4 tortoises).
Visit the Goreme Open Air Museum.
This open air museum is really a group of cave churches just outside Goreme. There are a few cool things to see there, but the crowds were busy whenever we went past and there are not a lot of places to explore. As the name suggests, it really is like a museum (along with a lot of the same rules). If you want some fun, skip the museum with the kids and play on the hills across the street where you’ll experience even more of what cave dwelling was like, along with some breathtaking views.
What to avoid in Cappadocia:
When you visit, one of the biggest factors in how much you enjoy your trip will be the time of year you go. Avoid traveling to this area from June-August as the temperatures get very hot and air conditioning is rare (and it can get quite hot and stuffy in the cave hotels then. The ideal time to go is from mid-March through May and again in September and October, though visiting Cappadocia in winter with snow on the ground is pretty magical as well.
How to get to Cappadocia:
Istanbul has become a major hub connecting Europe and Asia. As such, its easy to find a good deal on tickets to fly there. Once there, both Pegasus and Turkish airlines provide quick (1.5 hour) flights into either Kayceri or Nevishir that can often be found for around $20 each way. Once you’re there, we highly recommend getting a car. Most attractions are quite spread out and without your own transportation, you are either subjected to joining a tour group or missing out on a lot of sites.