These are 10 things you must know before visiting Goreme Turkey in the Cappadocia region. Most visitors spend between two and four days touring this dramatic paradise with its fairy chimneys and hot air balloon rides—however, three nights is ideal. With limited time it’s important to have it planned wisely and spent efficiently.
Understanding just a few things ahead of time will make sure that your trip goes smoothly. Finally, everyone always wants to know who offers the best balloon ride. No worries! We’ll address that too.
Travelers visiting Goreme, Turkey almost immediately recognize the delightful blend of old and new. Whether it’s the juxtaposition of cave homes versus a modern resort or a sports car versus a horse-drawn wagon, something will surely catch your eye and make a lasting impression. Simply put, it’s a fascinating place to see life existing in such a harmonious fashion.
Visiting Goreme Turkey in Cappadocia
Goreme, Turkey is located in central Turkey in one of the most picturesque areas, the region of Cappadocia. The landscape is sprinkled with extraordinary rock formations, the result of wind, water, and volcanic activity over millions of years.
However, thousands of years ago locals began carving marvelous tunnels and chambers into the soft rock. Cappadocia has made the list of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die—visiting is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type experiences.
10 Things to Know Before Visiting Goreme Turkey
Before you visit, let’s focus on the things you need to know relevant to Goreme instead of the whole country. In other words, instead of addressing things like travel adapters and what to wear to a Muslim-majority country, let’s target aspects specifically for Goreme. Here are the 10 things you need to know before visiting Goreme Turkey:
- Consider a hot air balloon ride through Cappadocia. It’s a must-do—know the basics including the best time to fly, how to pick a pilot, and more!
- Head to the viewing terraces, rooftops, and viewpoints which are the best places to take pictures with hot air balloons in the background.
- Determine the best town to stay in because the difference between Goreme and Urgup is vast.
- Know that Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia are UNESCO world heritage sites.
- Understand the highlights and differences between the red, blue, and green tours in Cappadocia.
- Trek one of the five beautiful day hikes to take from Goreme.
- Enjoy a unique drinking experience by checking out the best Turkish coffee and tea shops in the area.
- Visit Goreme and Cappadocia from April to early June and late September to early November.
- Bring good non-slip footwear.
- Focus on the 10 best things to do in Goreme, Turkey if you’re short on time.
1. Consider a Hot Air Balloon Ride Through Cappadocia
If you’re planning on flying in a hot air balloon then the most important thing to remember is to book your flight as early into your stay as possible. Balloons fly about 260 days per year so the odds that you’ll go up are in your favor. However, in cases of delays or cancellations, especially due to weather, your agency can reschedule you for another day.
In cases of poor weather, visiting Goreme for at least three days should allow for abnormal climatic conditions to pass. Also, it will allow you time to see the main attractions, take some scenic walks, explore caves, and take a hot air balloon ride. The best flights fill up months in advance so it’s important to book early.
Are the Pictures on Instagram of the Hot Air Balloons in Goreme Turkey Real?
Just about everyone has seen the pictures of dozens of air balloons flying in Turkey over the fairy chimneys—while many of these pictures are over-edited they are real. On a typical day, about 2,000 passengers fly aboard 100 balloons during the sunrise and about 1,000 passengers are on 50 balloons during sunset.
What Is the Best Hot Air Balloon Tour to Take in Goreme Turkey?
There are numerous hot air balloon tours to choose from. The best hot air balloon tour will depend on your personal preferences such as the cost, length of flight, the total number of allowable passengers, and whether a Champagne toast is included.
However, prices generally range from $150 to $400 per person. If you’re willing to wait until the last minute, deals are available, especially during the shoulder seasons.
Three of the most popular and reputable companies are Butterfly Balloons, Turquaz Balloons, and Royal Balloons. All companies offer standard and deluxe flights—the deluxe flights last about 30 minutes longer than standard ones and usually end with a Champagne toast.
Typically, the less money you pay for the flight the higher the number of passengers in the basket. In other words, you’re paying for a bit of shoulder room and a more intimate experience.
No matter what tour operator you select make sure the pilot can descend between the fairy chimneys and caves. This will give you the best angles for pictures and videos. We’ve been on two hot air balloon flights before so if you have any questions about the experience, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.
What Happens If Your Hot Air Balloon Flight Gets Canceled?
If your hot air balloon flight gets canceled it’s important to work with the agency you booked the flight with to rebook for another day. If they’re unable to rebook you then you must act quickly to get on another companies flight.
You should contact your accommodation, other local agencies on the street, and email the following companies: [email protected], [email protected] [email protected], [email protected]m, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].
Has Anyone Ever Died on a Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia?
It’s nearly always better to walk into a situation with some knowledge of your surroundings and understanding a bit of history. With that in mind, hot air ballooning does have its dangers. It’s probably more dangerous than most people think. Especially, when you consider the following headlines:
- Three hot air balloons crash in Turkey injuring at least 49 tourists
- Balloon crash kills tourists in Cappadocia, Turkey – BBC News
- Hot air balloon accident in Turkey kills Frenchman; 7 hurt
We’ve been on two balloon rides. The first was exceptionally smooth and made us fall in love with ballooning. The second ride was wonderful, until the landing. Most people don’t realize that just because you took off standing up doesn’t mean you’re going to land similarly—we landed sideways, as the basket was dragged along the ground until it came to a complete stop.
Why Do Hot Air Balloons Land Sideways?
Upon landing, anything greater than a calm wind may cause the basket to drag on the ground and continue to carry the balloon. As a result, the pilot must find a balance between landing soft enough so that no passengers are injured and hard enough to stop the momentum of the balloon—all while battling the wind.
During our landing, the pilot asked us to crouch down and place our backs against the dividers as he knew the basket was going to flip on its side. This position forced us to look towards the sky as the basket was dragged across the ground, before coming to a complete stop.
During this time we did hit the ground fairly hard and bounced a few times while covering a few hundred feet before coming to a halt. The passengers closest to the ground did get splattered with dirt and debris from the basket dragging across the ground. They also shared that the impact slightly hurt their backs.
The video below is an example of our landing
Odds of a Fatality
While fatalities have occurred, they are fairly rare based on the number of flights. Minor and serious injuries are more likely to occur during a hard or rough landing.
Anyone extremely anxious about flying in a hot air balloon may want to pass on taking a hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia because of the number of balloons flying (unless they find camaraderie in numbers). The increased volume causes congestion in the skies, and on the ground, escalating the risk of injury or death ever so slightly.
2. Head to the Viewing Terraces, Rooftops, and Viewpoints. These Are the Best Places to Take Pictures With Hot Air Balloons in the Background
Some of the most popular pictures of Goreme and Cappadocia are taken from the ground on viewing terraces, elevated platforms, and viewpoints. There is such an abundance of hot air balloons in the sky that just about any unobstructed view may provide a unique perspective.
However, the best places to take pictures with hot air balloons in the background usually occur from viewing terraces and rooftops from hotels and viewpoints around Goreme. We suggest you stay in one of the hotels below—they are also some of the highest-rated in the city, and all have amazing viewing terraces.
A few of the best viewpoints around Goreme include from closest to farthest:
- Sunset Viewpoint (Sunset Aydın Kırağı Seyir Yeri)
- Rose Valley Sunset Viewpoint
- Esentepe Viewpoint
- Uchisar castle
- Ortahisar Castle
- Visit one of the balloon launch sites
For many people, watching the balloons from a viewpoint is just as memorable as taking a flight. This is mainly because they can relax and enjoy the experience without feeling rushed with time or having to be concerned with heights.
3. Determine the Best Town to Stay in Because the Difference Between Goreme and Urgup Is Vast
The two most popular towns to stay in Cappadocia are Goreme and Urgup. If you have the time to stay or at least visit both towns it’s worth the short trip. They’re only about 5-miles apart.
Goreme is the closest town to the Goreme Open Air Museum and is physically a much smaller size than Urgup with a population of about 2,000. The advantage of staying in Goreme is that it’s within walking distance from the fairy chimneys, the museum’s caves, cave churches, and the Uchisar Castle. The quaint magical landscape of Gomere is full of plenty of both budget and mid-range accommodations and plenty of excellent restaurants.
Some of the most popular pictures on Instagram are taken from Goreme. Also, the town makes for an easy departure point for mountain biking and hiking. Goreme is ideally located for viewing hot air balloon rides. However, there is still some driving required to visit nearby attractions.
Urgup is a much larger town with a population of about 19,000 and is famous for both its white and red wines. Because of this, wine aficionados will most likely enjoy staying in Urgup rather than Goreme. Also, Urgup offers visitors a much larger selection of accommodation. This is where you’ll find luxurious hotels as well as cozy pensions.
Turasan is the local winery and they’re responsible for producing about 60% of all wine produced in Cappadocia. Visitors take pleasure in the free tastings and tours as well as taking pictures in the vineyards.
The highlight of a visit to Turasan Winery is drinking wine in the rock-carved wine cellar. If wining and dining is a passion, you may consider taking the Ancient Cappadocia’s Wine Tasting tour.
Finally, when comparing nightlife, Urgup has quite a lot more to offer tourists versus Goreme. For example, there are a lot more shops, bars, and cafes.
4. Know That Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia Are Unesco World Heritage Sites
The Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of seven parts:
- Derinkuyu Underground City: Deepest underground city in Cappadocia.
- Goreme Open Air Museum: Goreme National Park is a 39 square mile area that includes the Goreme Open Air Museum, Cappadocia’s main attraction. The museum is a monastic complex made up of churches, dwellings, rectories, and one of the earliest places for religious education. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Goreme.
- Karain Guvercinlikleri (Pigeon Valley): Pigeon Valley connects Goreme with Uchisar. Along the way, there are amazing views, pigeon houses, and fairy chimneys.
- Karlı Church (Dark Church): Inside a rock cave, the Dark Church is famous for its colorful frescos and vaulted ceilings. It’s located in the Goreme Open Air Museum.
- Kaymaklı Underground City: Largest underground city in Cappadocia.
- Soganlı Archaeological Site: The 15.5 mile-long valley features impressive rock formations, caves, pigeon houses, fairy chimneys, and shelters.
- Tagar Cave Church (Theodore Church): The brilliant T-shaped church is located in the village of Yesiloz, about 9 miles southeast of Urgup. The frescoes here have been well-preserved and include scenes of Christ on the crucifix, the prophets, and the angels Gabriel and Michael.
Another highlight of Goreme National Park is Devrent Valley (also known as Imagination Valley or Pink Valley). It’s about a 10-minute drive from Goreme. Visitors enjoy walking through the small fairy chimney-filled landscape. It’s called Imagination Valley because of the wonderous shapes of the rock, you’re sure to think you’re seeing snakes, camels, dolphins, and even seals. While it’s in the National Park, it is not considered part of one of the seven UNESCO world heritage sites.
5. Understand the Highlights and Differences Between the Red, Blue, and Green Tours in Cappadocia
Understanding the best attractions to see in the region of Cappadocia can be extremely confusing for tourists, especially if you’re one of those people that need to make sure they see the best attractions. To ‘dumb-down’ the attractions for tourists, local tour operators have color-coded the tours based on the route that they explore.
Below is an easy guide to understanding the highlights and differences between the red, blue, and green tours in Cappadocia. The route may change based on unforeseen circumstances. However, these are the main stops along the way. There is some overlap between the tours. With the knowledge below, you can do it yourself!
Red Tour in Cappadocia
The red tour in Cappadocia is a full-day tour that typically visits seven locations. They include:
- Uchisar Castle: An old citadel that sits on a rocky ridge with impressive views of Cappadocia.
- Goreme Open Air Museum: The museum is a monastic complex made up of churches, dwellings, rectories, and one of the earliest places for religious education.
- Love Valley: Love Valley is named after the chimney rocks that cover the landscape and are in the shape of phalluses. Love valley connects with White Valley and then Pigeon Valley. Also, it’s a great place for hiking.
- Avanos Pottery Demonstration: The small town of Avanos hosts a traditional pottery workshop where visitors may watch the process and purchase the finished product.
- Pasabag Valley (Monks Valley): Located just west of Urgup, Monks Valley is famous for its three-headed fairy chimneys. This area is also known as “Pasha’s Vineyard,” for the earth pillars sitting in a vineyard.
- Devrent Valley: Visitors enjoy walking through the small fairy chimney-filled landscape. It’s called Imagination Valley because of the wonderous shapes of the rock, you’re sure to think you’re seeing snakes, camels, dolphins, and even seals.
- The Three Graces (Beauties): Three fairy chimneys located near Urgup.
Get tickets for the Red Tour here.
Green Tour in Cappadocia
The green tour in Cappadocia is a full-day tour that typically visits seven locations. Sites include:
- Goreme Panorama: Panoramic viewpoint of Goreme.
- Derinkuyu Underground City: Deepest underground city.
- Ihlara Valley: The 10-mile long canyon is riddled with churches and underground dwellings from the Byzantine period. It is believed that the Ihlara Valley was the first settlement of Christians hiding from the Roman Empire.
- Selime Monastery: The largest rock-cut monastery within Cappadocia features a massive cathedral-sized church.
- Yaprakhisar Koyu Muhtarligi: Wonderful conical fairy chimneys cover the landscape of Yaprakhisar Koyu Muhtarligi. Also, because of the resemblance, it’s referred to as the “Star Wars Movie Set.”
- Pigeon Valley: Pigeon Valley connects Goreme with Uchisar. Along the way, there are amazing views, pigeon houses, and fairy chimneys.
- Onyx Factory: Watch how onyx is cut, shaped, and polished into its final product.
Get tickets for the Green Tour here.
Blue Tour in Cappadocia
The blue tour in Cappadocia is a full-day tour that typically visits five locations. The stops include:
- Kaymakli Underground City: Largest underground city in Cappadocia.
- Soganli Valley and Archaeological Site: The 15.5 mile-long valley features impressive rock formations, caves, pigeon houses, fairy chimneys, and shelters.
- Sahinefendi (Sobessos): Sobesos Ancient City in Sahinefendi Village is a Roman-era archaeological site that is in the process of being excavated.
- Keslik Monastery: Keslik Monastery was carved between the 6th and 7th centuries. At one point, 200 Monks were living in the rock-cut Byzantine monastery complex. The monastery has three churches to tour, a refectory, and living and sleeping quarters.
- Mustafapasa Old Greek Village (Sinasos): A lovely village that’s full of beautiful mansions built during the 18th and 19th centuries by wealthy Ottoman merchants.
Get tickets for the Blue Tour here.
6. Trek One of the Five Beautiful Day Hikes to Take From Goreme
Hiking the area around Goreme is a great way to escape the crowds. Most visitors don’t walk much farther than the side of the road or a parking lot. As a result, many of the walking trails around Goreme are empty.
Maps.me and AllTrails.com are easy to use and help make sure you’re on the right trail. The hikes below can be found on AllTrails.com. The five-day hikes near Goreme are:
- Start in Goreme→Love→White→Uchisar→Pigeon is a 7.3-mile loop trail
- Complete the Goreme Loop is an 8.6-mile loop trail
- Start in Goreme→Pigeon→Zemi→Görkündere is an 8.1-mile loop trail
- Start in Goreme→ Akdag→Zvelve→Cavusin is an 11.5-mile loop trail
- Zemi Valley Loop is a 2 mile moderately trafficked loop trail
Another great option is to combine hiking with sightseeing on the Full-Day Tour in Cappadocia with Ihlara Hiking and Underground City.
7. Trek One of the Five Beautiful Day Hikes to Take From Goreme
You’ll probably need a good afternoon tea or coffee after getting up early to view or ride on the hot air balloons. Both Turkish coffee and tea are made uniquely and should be experienced in person. The best Turkish coffee can be tasted at King’s Coffee Shop and Cozy Cafe & Restaurant. Tea drinkers should stop by Coffeedocia and enjoy their great outdoor patio.
8. Visit Goreme and Cappadocia From April to Early June and Late September to Early November
The best time to visit Goreme and Cappadocia is from April through early June and late September through early November. During these months the days are warmer and nights are cooler. The winter months are a nice time to visit because the landscape is likely to snow-covered.
However, in the winter, the weather is more likely to be rainy and windy which may prevent hot air balloon flights. It’s best to avoid the summer months when prices, crowds, and temperatures increase.
9. Bring Good Non-Slip Footwear
The beautiful and unique region of Cappadocia is popular because of the impressive rock formations, cave towns, and underground cities. The soft stone made it extremely easy for locals to carve out their homes, caves, and other dwellings.
However, over time and with rain this rock has become exceedingly slippery and dangerous. To prevent an injury, make sure you bring a pair of good non-slip footwear with good tread.
10. Focus on the 10 Best Things to Do in Goreme, Turkey If You’re Short on Time
Like most visitors to Goreme, you’ll likely be a bit short on time. This is mainly because the area is so expansive and there’s so much to do. Therefore, your time must be well planned out which is why many visitors make reservations for the Red Tour. Below are the 10 best things to do in Goreme, Turkey:
- Goreme National Park
- Goreme Open-Air Museum
- Zelve Open Air Museum (Fairy Chimneys)
- Love Valley
- Pigeon Valley
- Sunset Viewpoint
- Gulludere Vadisi (Rose Valley)
- Zemi Valley
- Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church)
- Camel Rock (Devrent Valley/Imagination Valley)
Hopefully, this guide has helped you to plan your time in Goreme, Turkey. To assist future travelers, please share your experience in Turkey in the comments section below.