During our trek through Turkey, we made a stop out in Cappadocia. It’s varied landscapes of plateaus, valleys, and fairy chimneys make it the perfect destination for a one-of-a-kind hot air balloon experience. If you’ve ever looked into visiting Turkey, you have more than likely seen the photos of tens, sometimes hundreds, of balloons floating across the sky. Those pictures are a big part of what drew us in. The rest was the idea of staying in a cave hotel.
Ah yes, the cave hotel. We booked a place on airbnb called “Cave Hotel”. Awesome, right? Turns out, every single hotel in the town of Goreme is a cave hotel of some sort or another. After an hour long drive from the airport to Goreme, our driver informed us that he had no idea where we were staying and dropped us off at the visitors center, which happened to be empty. Eventually we found a hotel that called the phone number in the listing and we were able to meet the hotel manager, but it was a mess. Conveniently, though, everyone who runs a hotel, also books the hot air balloon rides so we were able to knock that business out pretty quick. Pro tip: do not book in advance online, unless you need the peace of mind of having it booked. We were able to get the trip for $20 cheaper per person, and didn’t even have to negotiate. There are a lot of different companies, one of them will certainly cut you a deal to get your business.
The hot air balloon experience begins at about 5:30 in the morning. Vans pick you up from whatever cave hotel you are staying in and drop you off for your complimentary breakfast and coffee. They split you up into groups that determine which balloon you will be flying in. From there, you hop back into the vans and drive to the launch sites. It’s interesting to arrive in the dark and watch the workers prep the balloons. While I’m not one for sunrises, watching the sun peak over the mountains in the distance while floating hundreds of feet in the air is worth losing sleep over. Each balloon can hold up to 20 people. If you pay more, you can get your own basket, but it’s an unnecessary expense when you are on a budget. The ride itself lasts for about 45 minutes and every second is picturesque. Selfie sticks are extremely obtrusive in this setting so just ask a fellow traveler to snap a few for you.
The town of Goreme is pretty small, and is limited geographically by the valley that it sits in. Hotels and houses are carved into the walls, while restaurants and shopping sit below between the bus stops and residential areas. The hotel manager suggested an authentic restaurant owned by an old man. The interior was nothing special, but it was a good first taste of local cuisine. Various types of pizza are popular in Turkey, and is often the only vegetarian choice on the menu. I recommend getting a traditional Turkish clay pot meal. Served piping hot in a clay bowl, it adds a fun meal-opening experience.
Cappadocia is a region with a rich and interesting history. There are several hikes within walking distance from Goreme. We were joined by a couple dogs for a solid two miles, so don’t be surprised if you make a furry friend. One of the main draws to the area are the fairy chimneys. Most trails will lead you through a few, but be sure to find some old cave dwellings. You can easily climb into them and imagine what it would be like to live in these centuries old houses. A lot of the caves were once used as churches, and still have a visible paintings across the walls and ceilings. If you aren’t up for hiking, there are several outfitters that rent four wheelers.
The one thing I recommend doing before you head out of town is walking up to the top of the town and just relaxing for awhile with an unbeatable view of Goreme.