For those who believe that two days are not enough to explore Cappadocia and for those planning a 3-day holiday and travel itinerary in Cappadocia, our ideal 3 Days in Cappadocia itinerary and guide can be a valuable resource. By considering our recommendations, you can tailor your own holiday plan.
Know Before You Arrive in Cappadocia
Note that majority of the travelers visit Cappadocia from Istanbul. You can reach the Cappadocia region via Nevşehir or Kayseri by plane or bus.
If you plan to use the bus, it is more convenient to go to Nevşehir, as Kayseri is farther from the Cappadocia region. While bus travel might not significantly save costs over a flight, it could be a budget-friendly option, particularly if you’re willing to endure a longer journey (approximately 10 to 12 hours). If you’re not traveling during a peak holiday period in Turkey, you can purchase a bus ticket at the Istanbul bus terminal on the day of travel.
If you are flying, you need to fly to Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport or Kayseri Erkilet Airport. The distance between Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport and Cappadocia is approximately 30 km, while the distance between Kayseri Erkilet Airport and Cappadocia is around 100 km.
Opting for a flight is the most efficient way to travel from Istanbul to Cappadocia, taking just about an hour. Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines offer multiple daily flights, although they tend to fill up quickly, so booking in advance is advisable.
Given the multitude of places to visit during your Cappadocia trip, we recommend renting a car from the airport based on your budget. This will provide you with great convenience and comfort.
If you do not plan to rent a car, no problem. You can also use the shuttles and buses departing to the Cappadocia region from the airports.
Assuming you are arriving on a late-night flight, we expect that you will settle into your hotel in Cappadocia later in the evening. If you prefer a morning flight and plan to check into your hotel around noon, you can consider that you are in Cappadocia on the same day. If you are coming by bus, we assume that you boarded the bus the previous evening and arrived in Cappadocia the next morning, checking into your hotel.
If you haven’t chosen your hotel or hostel and it’s your first time in Cappadocia, you can find our recommendations on our where to stay in Cappadocia page.
Visitors to Cappadocia usually prefer staying in Göreme. Therefore, assuming you are staying in the Göreme region (no problem if you are staying in other regions, as they are all very close), we’ll now provide you with our recommendations on how to plan the most ideal 3-day itinerary.
Tip: If time constraints or the desire to avoid planning logistics yourself are factors, you might consider booking a 2-day or 3-day tour from Istanbul to Cappadocia.
Day 1 in Cappadocia: Explore the Wonders of Göreme
Assuming you’ve checked into your accommodation in Göreme, we suggest wasting no time and embarking on your exploration. Consider having a pre-excursion snack before delving into the wonders of Cappadocia.
Since we’ve planned for your afternoon and evening in Göreme, it makes sense to prioritize a visit to Uçhisar.
However, if catching the sunset in Uçhisar is your preference, you can adjust the itinerary by first exploring the Göreme Open-Air Museum and then heading to Uçhisar afterward, canceling the sunset program at Göreme’s Lover’s Hill.
10:00 – 12:00 Uçhisar Castle and Pigeon Valley
Uchisar Castle, situated at the highest point in Cappadocia, offers breathtaking views of the most beautiful fairy chimney formations in the region. The castle is constructed around a massive fairy chimney.
From the top of the castle, you can witness extraordinary panoramas of Pigeon Valley, Avanos, Ortahisar Castle, and Göreme National Park. Although reaching the top of the castle requires a bit of effort, the sweeping views of Cappadocia from above make it worthwhile.
If time allows, you can also explore Pigeon Valley, located near the castle. This valley, renowned for its scenic beauty and resident pigeons, is among the top and most captivating valleys in Cappadocia.
Walking along the valley, you can ascend to the hilltops, admire the famous evil-eye tree, and even feed the pigeons.
Afterward, whether in Uçhisar or back in Göreme, enjoy a delightful lunch in a picturesque setting. Following lunch, head to the Göreme Open-Air Museum.
14:00 – 17:00 Göreme Open-Air Museum
Your first stop is the Goreme Open-Air Museum, easily accessible on foot from Göreme. Included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1985, the museum stands out as one of Cappadocia and Turkey’s most significant and visited open-air museums. The area exudes a captivating atmosphere.
Within the museum’s grounds, you’ll find well-preserved cave monasteries, churches, and chapels, along with a valley comprised of rock blocks containing living spaces. Many of these structures showcase 10th-century wall paintings and examples of Byzantine art.
17:00 – 21:00 Sunset from Lover’s Hill (Aşıklar Tepesi)
In Cappadocia, the sunset occurs around 17:20 during the winter, when nights are longest, and around 20:00 during the summer, when days are extended. Plan your sunset-watching accordingly.
After exploring the Göreme Open-Air Museum, we recommend ascending Lover’s Hill for the renowned Cappadocian sunset.
You can reach Lover’s Hill from Göreme center by climbing a path next to Göreme Mosque.
Cappadocia offers two exceptional spots for witnessing the sunset: Red Valley (Kizilcukur) near Göreme and Uchisar Castle in Uçhisar. Lover’s Hill in Göreme is also a popular choice.
Tip: If you have a vehicle, we suggest heading approximately 6.2 km from Göreme center to Kızılçukur Valley Viewpoint, about a 15-minute drive, for an alternative sunset experience.
After the sunset, return to Göreme and relish a delightful dinner in a charming locale.
Post-dinner, spend some time in the center of Göreme. Explore the tourist shops and souvenir stores, indulge in some shopping, and then retire early for the night, allowing yourself ample rest for an early start the next day, as an early wake-up will be necessary.
Day 2 in Cappadocia: Embrace the Magic of Sunrise
We recommend setting your alarm for an early morning rise. In Cappadocia, sunrise occurs around 05:00 during winter’s longest nights and approximately 06:00 during summer’s extended days. Plan your sunrise-watching based on the season.
04:30 – 07:00 Hot Air Balloon Ride or Sunrise from Lover’s Hill
A trip to Cappadocia is incomplete without experiencing a Hot Air Balloon Ride and witnessing a breathtaking sunrise. If you opt for the Balloon Ride, you’ll naturally enjoy a spectacular view alongside the sunrise. The balloon ride typically lasts about 1.5 hours, but keep in mind that balloon tours can be quite expensive.
Below you can find our recommendations. Each company directly operates the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia with their team of experts. So you will book your flight directly from the company. No men in the middle.
- Royal Balloon (over 3700, 5-star reviews)
- Butterfly Balloons (over 1450, 5-star reviews)
- Turquaz Balloons (over 1150, 5-star reviews)
- Discovery Balloons (over 850, 5-star reviews)
- Turkiye Balloons (over 250, 5-star reviews)
- Skyway Balloons (over 150, 5-star reviews)
- Balloon Turca (over 150, 5-star reviews)
- Atmosfer Balloons (over 150, 5-star reviews)
- Urgup Balloons (over 100, 5-star reviews)
- Guvercin Balloons (over 50, 5-star reviews)
For those not interested in the balloon ride, we recommend heading to Lover’s Hill to witness both the sunrise and the mesmerizing sight of balloons ascending near Göreme. If your hotel offers a commanding view of the region, you might also catch the sunrise and balloon spectacle from your hotel terrace. If you’re staying in Uçhisar, you can visit Uçhisar Castle to witness the sunrise.
Cappadocia has two prime spots for the best sunrise views: Lover’s Hill near Göreme and Uçhisar Castle in Uçhisar.
After experiencing the sunrise, kickstart your second day in Cappadocia with a delightful breakfast.
09:00 – 10:00 Love Valley (Aşk Vadisi)
Following breakfast, hit the road, and we recommend starting your day by visiting Love Valley.
Love Valley stands out as one of the most fantastical valleys in Cappadocia. Stretching from Örencik to the Göreme–Avanos road, the valley gets its name from being a popular spot for couples and proposals, as well as the shapes of the fairy chimneys. Additionally, it’s a popular destination for 4×4 Jeep Safaris and ATV Safaris.
After Love Valley, head to Çavuşin Village.
10:15 – 11:15 Çavuşin Village and Church
Upon arriving in Cavusin Village, located on the Göreme-Avanos road, you’ll be greeted by a small village square surrounded by fairy chimneys and rock-carved structures, creating a historical panorama.
Due to the previous dense Christian population in the village, many churches are scattered around, with Çavuşin Church being adorned with moments depicting significant events and portraits of important figures.
Post-Çavuşin Village, head to Avanos.
11:30 – 14:45 Avanos
In Avanos, enjoy a delightful lunch in a charming setting before taking a short tour of the town. Avanos, situated slightly outside the central peribacaları (fairy chimneys) hubs of Cappadocia, is renowned for the Kızılırmak River, relaxation spots, pottery workshops, ceramics, carpet weaving, and winemaking.
The walking paths and trails around the Kızılırmak Red River, which divides Avanos in two, provide an ideal setting for a day trip and a leisurely tea or coffee break in a cozy café. The famous suspended Asma Köprü (Hanging Bridge), offering a view of both sides of the Kızılırmak River, is perfect for enjoying the scenery.
The centuries-old tradition of pottery and ceramics in Cappadocia is well-preserved, especially in the workshops in Avanos.
Here, you can purchase ceramic and pottery items for yourself and your loved ones. You can also observe potters at work and even try your hand at making your own pottery in these workshops.
After Avanos, head towards Paşabağ Monk’s Valley.
15:00 – 15:45 Paşabağ Monk’s Valley and Fairy Chimneys
Pasabag Monk’s Valley is one of the prime locations to witness the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, making it one of the most visited places.
The valley served as a retreat for monks and hermits in its time, boasting numerous carved monasteries, churches, chapels, settlements, as well as structures like tunnels and mills.
Following Paşabağ Valley, head to Zelve Open-Air Museum.
16:00 – 16:45 Zelve Open-Air Museum
Zelve Valley Site and Open-Air Museum rank among the top places to see fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.
In this area, you’ll discover a natural and man-made collection of monasteries, churches, settlements, and fairy chimneys, providing many traces of life from the 8th to the 13th centuries.
After Zelve Valley, head to Devrent Imagination Valley.
17:00 – 17:45 Devrent Imagination Valley
Also known as Imagination Valley, Devrent Valley is a place where some of the most interesting and fantastical fairy chimneys in Cappadocia are found.
The valley earned its name because many of the fairy chimneys here resemble animals and human figures. With its surrealistic shapes, you can feel like you’re on the Moon, immersing yourself in the beautiful nature and landscapes.
Post-Devrent Valley, the journey takes you back to Göreme along the same route.
If you have the time and curiosity on the return journey, we recommend stopping by the Güray Museum.
18:30 – 19:30 Güray Museum
Located in Avanos, the Guray Museum is considered Cappadocia’s most prestigious museum and is a must-visit. Serving as a private museum, Güray Museum showcases vibrant and beautiful ceramic and pottery products.
You can explore and admire these items. The museum’s store also offers exquisite ceramic and pottery products that you can purchase for yourself and your loved ones.
After visiting the Güray Museum, return to Göreme and enjoy a delightful dinner at a charming venue. Following dinner, spend some time in the center of Göreme.
Day 3 in Cappadocia: Underground Cities and Ihlara Valley Exploration
On your final day in Cappadocia, consider dedicating your time to exploring underground cities and the enchanting Ihlara Valley. Having a vehicle or renting one will make your journey more comfortable.
As an alternative plan, you could head to Ürgüp. After visiting Ürgüp Museum, Temenni Hill, and Asmalı Mansion, if you consume alcohol, you can stop by the renowned Turasan Wine Production Center for wine tasting and shopping.
Following this, marvel at the famous Three Beauties fairy chimney near Ürgüp and proceed to Kızılçukur Valley. Depending on your time, you can then visit Ortahisar to see Ortahisar Castle.
09:30 – 11:30 Derinkuyu Underground City
After a delightful breakfast, it’s time to hit the road. Our first stop is Derinkuyu Underground City, located approximately 35 km from Göreme (about 45 minutes by car) in the town of Derinkuyu. This underground city is one of the largest, most comprehensive, and heavily visited in Cappadocia.
Considering the technology and architectural possibilities of the time when the city was built, the extraordinary nature of how it was constructed and how people lived here is truly remarkable and captures the admiration of those who visit. We don’t recommend this place for those with claustrophobia, as fully exploring Derinkuyu Underground City takes about half an hour.
After Derinkuyu Underground City, enjoy a pleasant lunch before heading towards Ihlara Valley.
13:30 – 16:30 Ihlara Valley
Ihlara Valley is approximately 85 km from Göreme (directly about one and a half hours by car). After Derinkuyu Underground City, you’ll travel about 50 km more (approximately 50 minutes by car). It’s a bit of a distant location for holidaymakers in Cappadocia. Typically, tourists plan a day trip to Ihlara Valley using their private vehicles, renting a car, or joining daily tours.
One of Cappadocia’s most important and popular destinations, Ihlara Valley, is an incredibly impressive and beautiful canyon, about 100 meters deep and 10 km long. It was formed by volcanic activities from Hasan Mountain and the erosion of the Melendiz River over thousands of years.
At the entrance of Ihlara Valley, there’s a parking area for those arriving by private vehicles, along with a shop where you can purchase tickets and snacks. When you first see the valley from above, you’ll be mesmerized. Then, a fantastic and impressive staircase begins for the descent into the valley. It takes about 5-10 minutes to descend to the valley. Once you’re down, beautiful hiking trails of about 4 km await you.
The valley is home to more than 4,000 carved dwellings and hundreds of hidden cave churches and houses adorned with beautiful frescoes as living spaces. One of these, the Ağaçaltı Church, located closest to the entrance of the valley, is decorated with frescoes depicting lions, dragons, and the ascension and birth of Jesus.
After about a 3.5 km walk through the valley, you’ll reach Belisirma, an ancient Anatolian village. Here, there’s a beautiful restaurant with seating areas overlooking the river. Visitors usually take a break here to enjoy traditional Turkish pastries (gözleme) and other snacks.
Following Ihlara Valley, continue for about 6 km. Most visitors usually return the same way they came and complete their valley trips by climbing the stairs. For those arriving by tour buses, they walk an additional 6 km through the valley, exit from the other end, and board their tour buses. In this case, there’s no need to go back the 13-14 km.
After your exploration of Ihlara Valley, your return to Cappadocia will take at least one and a half hours, and you’ll be back in Göreme around 18:30-19:00 in the evening. You can spend the remaining time preparing for your departure and relaxing.