When you think of Cappadocia, you likely think of hot air balloons, Turkish breakfasts atop lavish cave hotels, and fairy chimney landscapes. But that’s just one small part of what Cappadocia offers.
Cappadocia is not a town or city in Turkey; rather, it’s a large region in the center of Anatolian (Asian) Turkey. It encompasses parts of five Turkish provinces: Nevşehir, Kayseri, Kırşehir, Aksaray, and Niğde.
However, in travel writing, Cappadocia most often gets condensed into a few small towns. Göreme, its touristy heart; Uchisar, its upscale but smaller sister; and Urgup, its offbeat and quiet (though still quite touristic) neighbor.
However, Cappadocia is so much more than these three towns. And the best way to discover the region of Cappadocia more extensively is by taking a tour. There are three main tour circuits: red, blue, and green. Since I only had a few days in Cappadocia, I could only pick one. After doing the research, I ended up picking the Green Tour Cappadocia (also called a South Cappadocia tour) and I’m so happy I did – and I’ll go into why here.
Pros of the Green Tour Cappadocia
You’ll get to see the widest region of Cappadocia
Compared to the Blue and Red tours, the Green Tour of Cappadocia has you going the furthest afield.
The Red Tour stays pretty close to Göreme and takes up a lot of time at the Open Air Museum and Uchisar Castle – two places that you could visit independently quite easily on your own. Its other stops, like Avanos and Cavusin, are slightly further afield but are still quite popular and tourist-trappy in nature.
Meanwhile, the Blue Tour gets you a little further out but still isn’t as all-encompassing as the Green Tour. It does include one of the two famous underground cities (Kaymakli) which is less-visited but also not quite as impressive as Derinkuyu, which is much deeper. It does spend quite a bit of time near Göreme/Uchisar, though, visiting Uchisar Castle which is easy enough to see on your own.
The reason I like the Green Tour best is that it would be virtually impossible to cover this much ground all on your own independently, unless you have a rental car. You go all the way to the Ilhara Valley and Selime Monastery, which are nearly a hundred kilometers away from Göreme, with very limited public transportation (if any at all, honestly – I’m not sure).
To me, I take tours to get myself to places that would normally be hard to get to on my own and DIY wherever possible, as I’m not huge on guided experiences in general. The Cappadocia Green Tour was easily the best way to see as much of the Cappadocia region as I could in a single day.
It covers the most interesting South Cappadocia tour sights
In addition to covering the most ground geographically, it also covered some things that I thought were way more interesting than some of the other Cappadocia tours.
I was stoked to visit Derinkuyu Underground City, and let me tell you: it exceeded my expectations. It’s truly incredible to see how people carved out a fully functioning underground city (no, no exaggerating here: it could literally fit some 20,000 people plus livestock entirely underground) to hide from invaders centuries ago.
It’s the kind of place that really benefits from a guided tour – otherwise, how else would you know that this stone basin was used to ferment wine (I mean, how else are you going to survive living underground for years at a time?) or that this structure was used to funnel smoke out from the underground city safely? It’s not impressive at first glance, but the stories around it truly bring it to life (with a bit of imagination).
But for me, the true highlights of the Cappadocia Green Tour were the Ihlara Valley and Selime Monastery, two stops that none of the other Cappadocia tours make. I loved being able to get out and hike in the Ihlara Valley. It was a short walk, only about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, but it was a really welcome disruption from the hop-on-and-off-the-bus nature of all the guided tours and broke up the tour nicely.
Cons of the Green Tour Cappadocia
It’s not the best option for people with limited mobility
While Cappadocia in general is not the most accessibility-friendly destination, the Green Tour is definitely not suitable for those with limited mobility or other accessibility needs. The long walk in Ihlara Valley would be tiring for some and not feasible for those in wheelchairs or with walkers, etc. Meanwhile, both Derinkuyu Underground City and Selime Monastery involve some difficult footwork to maneuver properly.
While I’m not an expert in accessible travel, the Red Tour would likely be more suitable for people with mobility limitations, though you would have to contact your tour operator to discuss your specific needs. Hatti Travel organizes accessibility-friendly tours of Cappadocia if that’s something you require.
There is still some tourist-trappery
As with many tours in Turkey, there are some stops that are clearly designed to get the tourist to spend some extra cash. Think overpriced and underwhelming lunches and stops at artisan shops designed to entice you into spending.
The Green Tour avoids some of the more obvious tourist traps by including lunch in the cost of the tour and skipping many of the shop stops, but still expect to stop at least one or two shops, as that’s a common way they lower the cost of the tour, by making deals with shopkeepers to visit their store.
Just know that this is standard for all Turkey tours (and tours in much of the world, to be honest) and don’t feel obligated to shop – unless, of course, you spot a Turkish souvenir you just can’t live without!
What is Included on a Cappadocia Green Tour Itinerary?
Luckily, there are three fixed routes: red, green, and blue. The benefit of this is that it’s quite easy to determine what stops are included on each tour, so that you can pick the best tours and not overlap that much if you choose to do multiple tours (though there is some moderate amount of overlap, mostly short scenic overlooks).
That means it’s quite easy to define what you’ll see on a Cappadocia Green Tour and it shouldn’t vary that much between different operators. However, keep in mind that weather conditions, closures, etc. may cause a shift in the itinerary so come with an open mind in case of any changes.
Generally, the Green Tour will cover the following main stops: Derinkuyu Underground City, Ihlara Valley for a short walk, and Selime Monastery. It’ll also make other stops at scenic overlooks, workshops, etc. depending on the itinerary.
Generally, tours you can book online include lunch, licensed guide, all transportation, and all entry fees, so the only extras you’ll pay are souvenirs and any extras like drinks or snacks that aren’t part of the lunch. If you book a tour on the ground in Cappadocia, you’ll often get quoted a lower price – but then you’ll have to pay for lunch, entrance fees, etc., so you don’t really end up saving much money (if any at all).
Which is the Best Cappadocia Green Tour?
The Cappadocia Green Tour refers to a circuit of common stops, not one fixed tour offered by a single company. As a result you’ll find different tour companies offering the Green Tour, with slight variations on the tour but offering all the same main stops.
If I had to pick, my choice would go to the Green Tour run by Enka Turkey Tours. This is because the guide is a professional art historian with a ton of knowledge about the sites you’ll be seeing on the tour: all the reviews of the tour rave about the guide’s knowledge and how it enhanced the tour.
Since you’ll spend quite a bit of time in transit and exploring sights on foot, having a knowledgeable guide who can make that transit time more educational is a huge benefit. The transportation is also slightly more comfortable as it’s in a luxury minivan with a smaller group – since you’ll be spending at least 4 hours in the van over the course of the day, it’s better to splurge for a little comfort.
If you’re on a budget, the Green Tour by Tourmania is slightly cheaper, although you’ll travel in a slightly larger group (and your guide, while knowledgeable, likely won’t have an art history background). However, it covers all the same stops as the other Green Tours, since it’s a fixed route, so you’ll see all the same things as the other tour.
Of course, you could always wait until in Cappadocia to book, but keep in mind that they’ll often spring some last minute costs on you that are excluded, so if you prefer knowing what you’ll pay ahead of time, I definitely recommend booking in advance. The better tour companies could also get fully booked, so that’s another reason to book in advance.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
Many of the hotels you’ll find in Cappadocia have been restored from old cave homes that were cut into the rock and given new life. Staying in a cave hotel in Cappadocia was truly one of my favorite parts of the entire trip and I definitely recommend it when planning your trip!
Budget: I was traveling Cappadocia on a budget and stayed at Chelebi Cave House Hotel, which I loved (my small room is pictured above!). I stayed in a double room with a jacuzzi bathtub ensuite and it was simple but perfect. The breakfast spread was fantastic and ultra-generous, and its rooftop terrace was a wonderful place to watch the balloons at sunrise if you could drag yourself out of bed early enough to spot them. Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here.
Mid-Range: The most-Instafamous hotel in Cappadocia, Sultan Cave Suites, is surprisingly affordable for its ubiquity on Instagram. I’d be willing to bet you’ve seen the breakfast set-up approximately a thousand times as you’ve scrolled through Instagram. Rooms are gorgeously chic and spacious – definitely bring your expectations from the word ‘cave’ up a notch! – and gorgeously furnished with Turkish details such as carpets and textiles. But really, you’re there for that gorgeous terrace and the delicious breakfasts (though the one you’ve seen on Instagram is fake and just set up for the ‘gram, according to my friend who stayed there!). Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here.
Luxury: Awarded both the Best Luxury Boutique Hotel and the Best Hotel Architecture in Europe, the Museum Hotel is basically as good as it gets. It’d be hard to beat the dreamy infinity-style pool at Museum Hotel (yes, breakfast can be eaten poolside, and the pool is heated even in winter!) But the coolest thing about Museum Hotel is that its name isn’t in vain: the hotel is literally set within historic ruins which have been renovated extensively. It has a number of artifacts from around Turkey that create a ‘museum’ within a hotel — plus each room is furnished with invaluable antiques that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Staying here is like staying in a living, breathing, 5-star piece of history. Check prices, availability, reviews, and photos here.
More Cappadocia & Turkey Travel Resources
You’re likely also planning a trip to Istanbul if you’re headed to Cappadocia. We’re working on our massive things to do post, but for now, you can check out our Instagram guide to Istanbul, our favorite Istanbul neighborhoods and where to stay, and tips for shopping in Istanbul.
For more general Turkey information, check out this guide to planning a trip to Turkey (including visa information) and this guide to other beautiful places to visit in Turkey.
Headed to Cappadocia? Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
If you’re planning a trip to Cappadocia, make sure to travel with a valid travel insurance policy. While we feel safe in Turkey, especially in Cappadocia, you need to be covered in case of an emergency. Travel insurance covers you in case of theft or an accident, which can save your trip if there’s an incident.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Originally from California, Allison has been living in Bulgaria for the last two years and is obsessed with traveling around the Balkans. She has been published in National Geographic, CNN Arabic, Matador Network, and the Huffington Post. She loves befriending dogs, drinking coffee, geeking out about wine, and cooking food from around the world.