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.

 

Goreme town Cappadocia
Goreme town

 

Origins

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.

 

Goreme Cappadocia Landscape
Goreme Landscape

 

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 organise your flight in my post.

 

Balloons in flight Cappadocia
Balloons in flight

 

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.

 

Sandal Church Cappadocia
Sandal Church Cappadocia

 

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.

 

Bedrock Cave Hotel Cappadocia
Bedrock Cave Hotel

 

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.

 

Testi or Pottery Kebab
Testi or Pottery Kebab

 

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.

 

The Rose Valley Cappadocia
The Rose Valley

 

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 stables in Goreme
The stables in Goreme

 

7.Go shopping

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.

 

Turkish rugs
Turkish rugs

 

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.

 

Fairy chimneys Cappadocia
Fairy chimneys

 

9. Meze

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.

 

Meze
Meze

 

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.

 

Balloons at sunrise Cappadocia
Balloons at sunrise

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. The Green Tour (more about that soon) was really interesting and was money well spent.

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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Goreme Cappadocia Travel guide
Goreme Cappadocia Travel guide

 

Goreme Cappadocia Travel guide
Goreme Cappadocia Travel guide

 

 

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36 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t read much about Göreme either, but of course, have seen the photos of the balloon flights over the cave dwellings and natural landscape. I’d love to visit, of course to stay in a cave hotel and I have not heard of the pottery kebab before, that’s definitely very appealing to try. Good tip to buy rugs here rather than in Istanbul for a more relaxed experience.

  2. I would love to stay in the hotel inside a cave. That would be so cool. Göreme looks like a wonderful place to check out. Havent been to Cappadocia yet but would love to check this place out.

  3. This place looks like a dream! I have seen the pics of the balloons before of course, and thought it was something I would like to do but the cave hotels and the fairy chimneys and the churches all sound amazing! Not to mention the food – I LOVE Turkish cuisine. You just put Göreme on my list and I have bookmarked this post, thanks!

  4. I heard a lot about cappadocia from my family but I never visited. If there’s anything I’d love to try is fly in a hot air balloon! And those cave hotels sound pretty amazing!

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I would so love to visit Cappadocia. The landscape is magical as your photos so beautifully show. I am curious; how did the cave room feel? Was it damp/dry, warm/cool?

    • The cave room was dry and had no damp smell at all. It even had a heater in it that was put to very good use and it was extremely cold late at night and in the early morning. During the day it was nice and cool and a perfect spot to escape the heat.

  6. Göreme looks exactly like my kind of place. The millennia of history, the artwork in the churches, the stunning geology, the food – oh my the food! I was wondering, in the second picture, are these cones fairy chimneys as well? I love the name! Thanks for starting with a bit of a history lesson before going into the details. I always find that this helps in getting a better understanding of a place. You kept it brief and interesting, great stuff.

    • Yes, they are fairy chimneys as well. I am not sure where the name derives from, but the landscape is magical so it is an appropriate name. I love a bit of history. It always puts things into a different perspective for me.

  7. I recently just heard about Cappadocia but I did not the know the full name was Goreme. I heard Cappadocia is the best place for a hot air balloon ride. Okay, staying a cave has to be the coolest things to do. Great that you can get your hotel accommodation and balloon ride. This is a great list of things to do. I can’t wait to visit.

  8. I loved Cappadocia, so rich in history and so much to see. Other then the balloon ride! 😀
    It must have been really surprising to see where you’ve ended up, given that you didn’t know much about the place before you went. And what a wonderful surprise that was!
    I was also amazed by the fairy chimneys and all those small churches, the Apple Church was incredible. Love that you’ve put the Sandal Church photo, it’s so interesting.
    One thing I didn’t do though. I didn’t stay at the cave hotel, didn’t even know that it was an option back then. How was it? It must have been great to wake up to such scenery! 🙂
    Love your post, it sums up the trip to Goreme. 🙂

    • It was an amazing experience and it will always have a very special place in my heart. The churches are incredible. Just to think of all the history behind them alone just blows me away.

  9. I’d love to go back to Turkey and explore more of it. Cappadocia looks like a fun place to visit – love the combo of the history and opps for adventure. The balloon ride I’ve missed out on in other destinations, but I wouldn’t miss it here. Thanks for info on how to tackle this.

  10. We visited last year and it is one of the most stunning and unreal places we have ever been, I would love to return someday just to see it again! We were also lucky enough to go ballooning too and what an amazing experience it is, so glad you had a chance to see this place! Great post!

    • It is such a special place. All the photographs in the world don’t really do justice to just how different and impressive it is. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. Hopefully, it was a walk down memory lane. 🙂

  11. Wow, I can see why it’s one of the most beautiful towns in the world. Your photos are STUNNING! I’d love to ride on a hot air balloon – adding it to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing :0

  12. Oh wow! Göreme is a gorgeous little town! I love your photo of the sunrise with all the balloons in the sky. I would love to take a balloon ride in Cappadocia one day, but I’m so scared of flying! I need to be braver, haha. And those rugs are so pretty! I wanna buy one for my apartment.

    • Thank you! The rugs are amazing. It really is difficult to choose just one.

      You don’t really go that high, so if you don’t suffer from vertigo I am sure that you will be fine. Don’t think of it as flying, think of it as floating above the landscape 🙂

  13. Seeing the hot air balloons in Cappadocia is on my bucket list! Göreme looks and sounds magical. What an incredible history and story behind the tunnels! And I love your list, I can’t find anything on there that I wouldn’t want to do! The open air museum sounds really interesting, but a balloon flight at sunrise would be my number 1 priority!

  14. Everything you describe here is so appealing to me, specially the food, the cave hotels and the sunrise. Just the idea of visiting a place that goes back to 1800 – 1200 BC is convincing enough for me, as I love history.

  15. I always wanted to go to Cappadocia, it’s so high on our bucket list! And I was so glad to find something else other than the balooning activities, thank you for this article!

  16. Goreme is really a fascinating and surreal place with so many experiences that are truly indulgences for the senses. My favourite here are taking a hot air balloon flight and feasting my visual senses on the awesome views and staying in one of those intriguing cave hotels.

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