From fairytale balloon rides to wandering lost in surreal valleys, there are many great things to do in Cappadocia, but, for us, 6 moments shone a bit brighter than the rest.


Cappadocia, deep in the heart of Turkey, is a place of unique landscapes. Its rocks, sculpted over the years by wind and water, form a canvas of magnificent scenery; half-domed white rocks cling to valley tops, rippling rose canyons scar the earth and phallic rock formations reach for the sky.

We spent four excellent days exploring the area, hiking the valleys, sampling the tea and absorbing the views. It was one great travel day after another, but some moments rose that little bit higher than the others. Here are our top 6 moments in Cappadocia, to inspire wanderlust and get you planning your own fairytale adventure.

1 / WATCHING BALLOONS AND INSTAGRAM STARS POSE AT DAWN ON SUNSET POINT

Getting up at the crack of dawn is never the easiest thing to do when you’re on holiday, but with 100+ balloons gently floating above the unique scenery of Cappadocia, it makes it worthwhile. We set our alarm for just before sunrise and groggily marched up to sunset point a few hundred meters from our hotel. As the first rays of light hit the unusual shapes of the valley we were treated to a profusion of colourful balloons, warmly lit by the early morning light.

Cappadocia ascended to social media fame thanks to providing the ideal backdrop for iconic Instagram selfies. Unlike us, Instagram stars know when to look their best. Men were looking sharp in tuxedos, women were braving the cold in the slinkiest of dresses. They even had props: confetti poppers for added excitement, colourful umbrellas to add a splash of contrast and homeless puppies that looked cute enough to snare a few extra likes. Then there was us, dishevelled in gym shorts and wrinkly t-shirts, regretting the decision to not even have a shower.

It was a cacophony of those that watched and those that wanted to be watched. Should we be watching the slow drift of the colourful balloons, or the Polish girl in the tiniest dress doing star jumps on a narrow outcrop? It was difficult to know, but I’ll let you take a guess.


TIP / Check with your hotel the night before whether the balloons are flying. The greatest number of balloons are in the air about 30 minutes after dawn. Sunset point is in the south-east corner of Göreme.

2 / FINALLY FINDING A BREATH-TAKING LOOKOUT OVER RED VALLEY

One of the best things to do in Cappadocia is hiking around the valleys and stumbling upon remarkable scenes on every corner. And, stumbling is often the way it has to be done. The signage in the Red and Rose Valleys is shocking. Not so much the lack of it, but rather the immense profusion of unclear signs, arrows pointing in multiple directions and an obscure coding system.

Nonetheless, we circled the Red Valley for what seemed like hours. Exploring paths only to find we needed to retrace our steps, following what we thought were signs only to realise it was just interesting graffiti. It wasn’t a bad walk, in fact, it was a stunning walk. The fact that we didn’t know where we were at all times only added to our sense of adventure.

But after hours of aimless ambling, we rounded a corner – that I am sure we had rounded before – and noticed a small lookout point over the valleys. Laid out in front of us was one of the most spectacular and interesting views we have ever seen. Bright blue sky, a green-topped valley and sinuous fins of red and white rock rippling into the distance. The challenge of navigating the Red and Rose Valleys, the weariness of walking in the sun for hours and the beautiful natural scenery below us, made this one of our top 6 moments in Cappadocia.


TIP / You can visit the viewpoint by following the Red Valley hike in our hiking in Cappadocia post.

3 / GETTING EXCITED AT THE PHALLIC ROCK FORMATIONS IN LOVE VALLEY

On the second day of our 4-day Cappadocia itinerary, we hiked three of the more popular valleys in the area. First, Pigeon Valley, then up to Uçhisar Castle, before finally descending into White Valley. It’s a magical walk, where towering smooth canyon walls meet the lush green valley floor below.

The directions through White Valley are a little unclear but, because the valley is so narrow, it really doesn’t matter. The paths lead past interesting rock formations, moulded over the years into smooth wave-like shapes. A mass of colour explodes in the long grass with wildflowers in full bloom. At the next turn, the shapes of the valley wall would change again, providing a totally different perspective.

But the undisputed highlight and one of the best things to do in Cappadocia came at the end of the walk, where the smooth shapes of White Valley give way to towering phallic rock formations, in an area that has become known as Love Valley. Here the towering rocks have been so eroded they stand as mushroom topped columns dotted around the valley floor. It’s a magnificent spot for photography in a landscape quite unique to Cappadocia. As we gazed up at the protruding structures, the scene was enough to get us both a little excited.


TIP / You can visit Love Valley by following the Love Valley hike in our hiking in Cappadocia post.

4 / SIPPING TURKISH TEA IN THE IHLARA VALLEY

The Ihlara Valley is a very attractive narrow canyon of sandstone coloured walls, with a river running along the valley floor. The river feeds an oasis of slender trees and supports flocks of birds and armies of frogs. In May, the grasses sway in the breeze and the flowers are tossed in sprightly dance. Churches carved into the rock and adorned with frescoes peer over the idyllic scene. It’s an easy tranquil stroll along the prettiest part of the valley, so we set off on a 3-hour hike to soak up this beautiful atmosphere.

Here, one of our top things to do in Cappadocia came as a surprise. About halfway along the valley, a local family has set up a very simple rest stop. Homemade seating areas have been built over the river with low tables and a mass of colourful Turkish cushions; the ideal oasis for a relaxing stop in the heart of the valley. We took off our shoes, reclined on the comfy cushions and laid-back listening to the sounds of the river. A 9-year-old boy ran up and, in perfect queen’s English, offered us some Turkish tea.

The tea, delivered with finesse, tasted delicious. Sitting in an idyllic spot, sipping our tea, listening to the sounds of the forest and the gurgles of the river, it was a very chilled moment and a highlight of our time in Cappadocia. What could be better? Just one thing as we were soon to discover. Our young friend charged us 1 Turkish Lira for 2 teas. It’s the only time we have tipped 100%.


TIP / The Ihlara Valley is 1 hr 15 min drive from Göreme, see here for directions. Entrance to the Valley is 20TL from 8:00 – 18:30. The café is called Diker Aile Çay Bahçesi and is 30 min walk south from the Belisirma entrance to the valley. More details are on our hiking in Cappadocia post./p>

5 / LEGS DANGLING OVER PANORAMA POINT WITH A BEER FROM CRAZY ALI’S

Panorama point has magnificent views over the Rose Valley, one of the best in Cappadocia. As the sun sets, the change in colour brings the whole valley to life. The wide expanse of multi-layered shapes, curve and twist to form Cappadocia’s trademark valleys. As the whole scene glows with the gentle hues of sunset, it’s a truly memorable place to down a beer after a long day exploring the area.

After driving up to Panorama Point and paying the 2 Turkish Lira fee to a man who looked like he had no jurisdiction whatsoever, we found a carpark and headed towards the lookout point. There’s the usual array of vendors selling trinkets to tourists, but also a friendly chap with a huge assortment of juicy dried fruit. After being as firm as possible, we left his stall with much more than we wanted to buy, but it was delicious. Perfectly dried mango, strawberries and melon offset with the salty goodness of apricot seeds.

A little further along we found Crazy Ali’s – a collection of makeshifts sofas, car seats, benches and swings set up right on the edge of the valley. Here we sank into a sofa, perched next to a precipice, watching the sunset with a beer in hand, nibbling on our array of dried fruit. Crazy Ali’s set up wouldn’t be legal in many countries but sitting there with feet literally dangling over the edge of the valley, it was one of our best things to do in Cappadocia.


TIP / Drive up to Panorama point an hour before sunset.

6 / RIDING BALLOONS OVER FAIRYTALE LANDSCAPES

We’re sure you don’t need us that one of the best things to do in Cappadocia is to take a balloon ride in Cappadocia, but no list of top moments would be complete without it. We got up an hour before dawn and clambered onto the minibus, still groggy-eyed. As the burner pumped heat into the balloon, 17 of us clambered into the basket. After a safety briefing that consisted of 7 words, we were away. One of a hundred or so balloons, drifting across the valley in the lilting early morning light. It was a special moment.

Although we were prepared for this to be special, we weren’t prepared for the remarkable control that the pilots have over their vessels. They can drop them into the valleys that barely seem wider and deeper than the balloon. They can glide within inches of treetops and almost graze the canyon walls. One minute we were hovering a metre from the ground, the next we were 800m high, surveying the entire panorama of white, red and rose valleys.

The landing was as impressive as the flight. Cruising low along the ground, our pilot was yelling instructions to the ground staff about where he was heading and how they should position the trailer for our landing. Then, with grace and poise, our pilot landed our balloon square on the trailer, which was barely wider than the basket itself. It was incredible. What a morning.


TIP / We booked our balloon through Voyager Agency in Göreme the night before. Price: 140 EUR for a 1-hour flight and a glass of champagne. Hotel pick up is about 4:30 and drop off about 7:00.

For other fantastic Cappadocia ideas, head over to this post.

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For more of our tops moments, see our roam page with our collection of favourites. Got longer in Turkey? Check out our Turkey page will all our articles, including a fascinating discussion with some locals in Istanbul about the future of their fantastic city.

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Some of our top moments highlighting the best things to do in Cappadocia. / Cappadocia guide / #cappadocia

Some of our top moments highlighting the best things to do in Cappadocia. / Cappadocia guide / #cappadocia

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