Cappadocia is famous for its landscape, formed by thousands of years of volcanic eruptions and erosion that has resulted in gorgeous valleys and stunning rock formations. Although you can certainly get a taste of this natural beauty from a car window, to fully experience it you should consider one of Cappadocia’s many hiking trails.
Luckily, there are a number of established trails throughout the region, with well-worn paths but no fences, allowing you to explore just about anywhere you want. Each valley offers stunning panoramic vistas, ancient cave churches, rock formations and varied wildlife, and the mildness of most trails make them ideal for all ages.
If you hike from June to early September, try to begin hiking in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat. If you hike during winter, be prepared with suitable clothing and be sure to arrange your transport beforehand, as many service shut down during the off-season.
Be sure to bring a bottle of water and a camera. You should also wear sturdy hiking or walking shoes, as the trail is a combination of rocks, dirt, grass, sand and stone steps. A sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen are essential if you plan to hike in the middle of the day.
Situated between Goreme and Uchisar in Cappadocia, the Pigeon Valley is not only a fairly easy trek, but also one of the region’s most beautiful. Named for the hundreds of pigeon houses carved into the sandstone cliffs, the Pigeon valley has 2.8 miles of well-marked, mildly challenging trails — all free of charge. Throughout the valley you’ll find plenty of fairy chimneys, formed from wind and water erosion on Cappadocia’s soft volcanic rock. Some even reach up to 130 ft (40m)!
There are a few options concerning where to begin and where to end your hike in the Pigeon Valley. If you begin in Göreme, the trail leads uphill and is a little more strenuous, while the downhill trek from Uçhısar is easier. Whichever one you take, expect to spend 3-4 hours if you wish to hike the whole thing.
Also known as Devrent Valley, Imagination Valley doesn’t have cave churches like the other Cappadocia valleys, nor are there any castles, tombs or underground cities. Rather, the valley is best known for its crazy rock formations and fairy chimneys, which (if you let your imagination roam) could resemble just about anything, from camels to turtles to dolphins to the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus. Imagination Valley is a 10-minute drive from Goreme and takes a few hours to explore.
With a depth of some 100 meters, Ihlara Valley has the deepest gorge in Asia Minor and was once the home to around 80,000 people, many of them Christian monks. It is believed that more than 4,000 dwellings and 100 cave churches existed here at its height, and many of the churches can still be visited today, including Kokar Kilise, Purenli Seki Kilisesi, Agacalti Kilise, Egritas Kilise, and Sumbullu Kilise, among others.
The best part of the valley is the three-mile stretch from Ihlara Village to Belisirma Village, where most of the churches are to be found. The whole trail is around seven miles long and takes two to six hours.
The breathtaking Zemi valley runs 3.3 miles from Göreme to the road between Ürgüp and Nevşehir, with an alternative option to do a loop through Görkündere along the way. The trail is mostly dirt, with one stretch that is quite steep and requires holding onto a rope (wear good boots or athletic shoes). There are a few churches and rock formations along the way, but most choose Zemi for its natural beauty, especially in the late summer/fall. Expect to spend 3-4 hours hiking this trail at a leisurely pace.
Besides those listed above, there are plenty of other valleys in Cappadocia that offer some great hiking. These include Love Valley, an easy mile-long hike in a picturesque valley full of fairy chimneys; Rose Valley, a 4.3-mile valley that gets its name its rose-colored rock; Honey Valley, a two-mile walk from te Goreme-Cavusin road to Uchisar, with many breathtaking views along the way; and Uzengi Valley (two miles), a lush, green valley that runs from Ortahisar to the Urgup-Mustafapasa road.