I made up my mind to go ballooning in Cappadocia but I had no idea of what else the region had to offer. When I searched for Göreme Cappadocia Travel Guide there was surprisingly little information available so I arrived with no preconceived ideas.
Göreme was voted one of the 16 most beautiful towns in the world. It is a surreal destination, with cave dwellings, fairy chimneys and balloons drifting across the landscape. Having made the decision to stay here I then went on a mission to find what there was to do. When I arrived I was delighted to find that there was more than enough to keep me entertained for quite a while.
Göreme was settled around 1800 – 1200 BC. It was situated between the rival empires of the Persians and Greeks. This meant that hiding places were needed and tunnelling into the rock seemed like a logical place to escape.
The area became a perfect place to hide in the early days of Christianity. Christians escaping from Rome’s persecution made their way here and that was the start of the monastic communities.
The area was declared a World Heritage site in 1985.
Göreme Cappadocia Travel Guide
1. Take a balloon flight
Number one on the list has to be floating above this mystical landscape in a balloon. I have written previously on what to expect on a balloon flight, so I am not going to go into detail here, but you will find all you need to plan your flight in a previous post.
2. Göreme Open-Air Museum
This is one of Turkey’s World Heritage sites and should not be missed. It is an easy, pleasant walk of around 30 minutes from town to the open-air museum. Along the way, there are a couple of potters studios and a few places to stop for a drink.
When you purchase your ticket the price does not include entrance to the Dark Church, (Karanlik Kilise), which has an additional charge.
It was an important Byzantine Monastic settlement and housed 20 monks. It became a famous site for pilgrims in the 17th century. Most of the churches are from the 10th – 12th centuries. The dark church is filled with exquisite frescoes and is the jewel in the crown of the museum. The name is derived from the fact that the church has very few windows. Because of the lack of light, the frescoes retained their vibrant colours. The church has been restored and the entrance fee is designed to limit the number of visitors in order to preserve the church. My advice would be to pay the extra entrance fee. The frescos are spectacular.
When you leave the museum, don’t forget to go down the hill a short way to visit one of the biggest churches, Tokali Kilise, with an underground chapel and beautiful frescos.
I found the museum fascinating and spent around 2 and a half hours exploring. Sadly you are not permitted to take photos inside some of the churches in order to protect the delicate artwork which I understand.
3. Stay in a cave hotel
If you want to get the feel for what it must have been like for the people who lived in caves or the underground cities then you must stay in a cave hotel. There is a large variety to choose from. I stayed at the Bedrock Cave Hotel which was right in the middle of town. Ozan was really friendly offering advice on what to do and see in town. He is also a balloon pilot so you can arrange your flight directly with him. There are brilliant views of the balloons and the sunset from the roof terrace as well. It is the perfect spot for some great insta captures.
4. Have a pottery kebab
Testi or Pottery Kebab is a regional speciality. It is a stew that is cooked in a small clay pot. The waiter brings it straight from the oven to the table, then with a flourish he proceeds to break the pot with a hammer, releasing amazing aromas and a delicious dish.
The best one I had was from Dibek, in the centre of town. The building is 475 years old and used to be stables. You are seated on opulent cushions, at a low table, for your meal. I was a bit hesitant to order the “homemade” wine, but I was persuaded that it was good. Much to my surprise, being a bit of a wine snob, it was easy to drink and went really well with the meal.
5. Hike the Güllüdere (Rose) Valley
The Red and Rose Valleys are named after the rock formations that run through them.The colours change from rose to a deep red as the day progresses and the light changes.
The Rose Valley is between Cavusin and Göreme. Theoretically, the hike is around 3.5 km, but my hike was a whole lot longer! It is fairly well marked, but there is a “longer” and a “shorter”’ route and I took the longer, more challenging one by mistake, but it was an enjoyable experience nonetheless.
It is an arid area so imagine my surprise when I came across a vineyard and a little café serving wonderful freshly pressed juice. The pomegranate juice was delicious and the perfect drink to revive me.
The main highlights along the route are the Kolonlu Kilise (Columned Church); Haçlı Kilise (Church of the Cross), and the Uç Haçlı Kilise (Church of the Three Crosses) all dating back to the Byzantium era.
6. Horse riding
There are a number of stables on the road to the open air museum that can arrange rides. Although I didn’t have time to go on a ride I can imagine that it must be a stunning way to see the landscape. You can also arrange rides in town or ask at your hotel.
The town is a treasure trove of Turkish delights. Some of them are a bit touristy and tacky, but if you spend a bit of time exploring you can find the better quality items.
There is a lovely art gallery in town called Sitki. The ceramics are beautiful and are not the normal run of the mill. If you are looking for something special you will find it here.
Turkey is famous for Kelim rugs and there are numerous shops selling them. There are different qualities of carpets and this is reflected in the price, but there is something for everyone. I suggest buying a rug here rather than in Istanbul. The people are friendly and the shops are less crowded so you can take your time.
8. Fairy chimneys
These magical formations are a result of volcanic eruptions and geological processes that happened millions of years ago. The eruptions spewed ash across the region that solidified into soft rock called tuff. The formations are a result of wind and erosion and are constantly in a state of change. At different times of day, they change colour as the light changes.
You can’t go to Turkey and not have meze, those delicious little tapas-like snacks that go so well with a drink. I had quite a few average dishes, but for me, Pasha Café served the best in town. Try the haydari, yoghurt, dill, garlic and lemon – YUM. The atmosphere is great as well. They don’t have a website, but the best way of describing where to find it is on the main road, on the left-hand side, towards the end of town.
10. Watch the sunrise
Wake up early and head for a spot, preferably on a rooftop, with a hot drink and watch the sunrise. The sky fills with balloons drifting slowly across the town. As the sun rises the colours start to pop. It is a breathtaking moment you should not miss.
11. Day Tours
There are a number of day tours that you can book in town or at your hotel that will give you an insight into the Cappadocia Region. I have written in more detail about the Green Route which was really interesting and was money well spent. It was a fascinating day exploring the countryside.
Göreme is the perfect base to explore the region. Plan to spend at least 3 days, more if you can, to enjoy this magical region.
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