Ok, I’ll admit it. I was initially enticed to Goreme by the visions of hot air balloons silently floating above the ancient Turkish horizons. But, once we began researching our trip, I was intrigued by all of the things to do in Goreme and surrounding towns. Disclaimer: Contains an affiliate link which doesn’t cost you anything.
Rich with history, natural beauty and perfectly set up for exploring, our tour guide told us all about how Goreme is a tourism epicentre for the region, but it was just what we needed with only 2.5 days in Cappadocia.
We spent 2 nights in Goreme, in our beautiful cave hotel, but with a 9am flight from Istanbul and a late afternoon flight back to Istanbul, we had the perfect amount of time to explore the local surroundings.
Hot Air Ballooning in Goreme, Cappadocia
Let’s get this out of the way – that image of hot air balloons at the start of this post? There is no photoshop involved. Nada. Zip. Zilch. There had been a couple of mornings that the hot air balloons couldn’t go up due to strict health and safety controls, and the morning that we were taken up, a record 150 balloons launched from the nearby valleys.
Our hot air balloon flight before dawn was amazing. They pick you up from your hotel super early – between 5 & 6am (our reception team confirmed the exact time by phone the night before.)
TOP TIP: Schedule your hot air balloon as early in the trip as possible, that way if the winds aren’t right you have time to reschedule. This happened to us, and we were rescheduled for free to the next day.
Goreme Open-Air Museum
The Goreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. Only a 15 minutes walk (1.5km, 1 mile) from Goreme village center, the complex contains beautiful rock-cut churches, with ancient frescoes (wall paintings). The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
TOP TIP: Bring sensible shoes. Unlike me.
Imagination Valley Lunar Rockscapes
Only a 10-minute drive from Goreme, Devrent Valley (aka Dervent Valley) has small fairy chimneys formed thousands of years ago, creating a natural sculpture garden – or a lunar landscape/moonscape. Within the shapes is a camel, snake, seals, and a dolphin. Hence the nickname Imagination Valley.
Visit a Pottery Factory
If you go on any organised tour, you’ll end up in a pottery house – watching the skill required to throw these beautiful clay pots was quite incredible to witness – during our visit a visitor in another tour group had a go and proved just how much time-learned skill it takes.
Get your Instagram swing photo overlooking Love Valley
Named rather euphemistically, Love Valley features some very tall, long rock edifices. We just stuck to the lookout at the top, but it’s quite a popular valley for people with a little more time and sturdy shoes, walking either from Goreme or nearby Uchisar. Red/Rose Valley nearby is also a really popular sunset spot.
Dine at the Caverna Restaurant in Ürgüp
Ürgüp is a town and district of Nevşehir Province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. It is located in the historical region of Cappadocia, and near the cave Churches of Göreme. According to 2010 census, the population of the district is 34,372 of which 18,631 live in the town of Ürgüp. We stopped in for a pretty delicious (tourist) lunch, admiring the prehistoric rock formations.
Visit a silk carpet factory
The oldest Turkish carpets found, originate from the 13th century and can be found in the city of Konya, which for a long time was the center for Turkish carpet manufacturing. Carpets that were made in the 16th and 17th century are fully comparable with the Persian carpets. These days they are no less beautiful – and we were highly entertained sipping mint tea whilst the salesmen did their best to entice us. I mean, I was kinda tempted by the Mousemats in the style of Turkish rugs, but we didn’t want to actually buy anything, much to our salesman’s disappointment… (the best carpet factory visit I’ve had was in Marrakech where the salesman had genuinely lived in NZ with his family, and got so caught up chatting with us that he almost forgot why we had been taken in.)
Pasabag aka Monk’s Valley aka Mushroom Valley is renown for its unusual formations of fairy chimneys that have caps of harder rocks on top, making them look like mushrooms. Many of these cones had monk dwellings inside. We had about 30 minutes here, which was actually a little too much – it was super busy with other tourists, camel rides, stalls selling all kinds of things and just busy noise.
Snuggle up on our hotel balcony, soaking in the majestic valley view
Which hotel did we pick in Goreme? Stay tuned…
You could get public transport to various sites around Goreme, but it makes for a bit of a hassle on a short trip. We had a private tour – and there are loads of mini-bus tours organised as well. Having a look at the options, we chose the red route (buildings, rock formations) vs. the Green Route (nature, castles etc.) and organised everything through our hotel concierge. You can book your red or green tour around Goreme easily enough via Get Your Guide (affiliate link) but we ran out of time before we left the UK.
Which of these things to do in Goreme appeals the most to you?
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