- Visited August 2018
I’m sure we have all seen pictures of hot air balloons flying over Cappadocia during sunrise but the reality surpasses expectations. Watching over 100 balloons inflate and gracefully lift off as the sun rises is truly spectacular and a moment to be added to every traveller’s bucket list.
The nearest airport to Göreme, a small town in Cappadocia and the perfect place to base yourself for balloon watching, is Kayseri and there are regular flights from Istanbul (plus overnight buses for those on a tight budget). It’s about an hour’s shuttle ride (25 lira) into town which I booked through my hostel. Göreme is a lovely town full of cave hotels, restaurants with terrace views and souvenir shops. Many people go there for a night or two just to see the balloons but I stayed for four nights as I wanted to chill out and see everything there is to see and I loved my experience of this town. Compared to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Göreme has a very relaxed vibe and has accommodation to suit every budget. Horse drawn carriages parade the main street on an evening and a horse ride at sunset run by several companies is also a popular activity in the area. Sunset Point offers magnificent views of the town particularly at sunset and sunrise and is a great place to see the balloons.
On day one, I walked from the town centre to Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO Heritage site. Tickets are 30 lira and you have to pay an extra 10 lira to see the Dark Church which is inside the museum (you pay the extra money at the entrance of the church). Definitely pay the extra, the Dark Church has beautiful frescos inside, some of the best preserved frescos in the region. The museum site is easy to get around so I wouldn’t bother with the audio guide. There are explanations in English next to all key sights. Remember to keep hold of your ticket as it will also gain you entrance to Tokali Church, just a short walk from the main entrance to the museum.
On day two I did the popular Green Tour which takes you to sights further away from the town centre. This costs around 35 euros, depending who you book with – lunch was included but drinks were extra. Sights on this tour include: Göreme Panorama, Narligol Lake, Selime Monastery, Star Wars set, Ala Church and Derinkuyu underground city. Along the way you stop for Turkish coffee and at the end of the tour there is the obligatory visit to a food market (to let you taste and therefore try to persuade you to buy Turkish delight etc) and Onyx store. I’m not a fan of these ‘hard-sell’ activities but the rest of the tour was enjoyable.
Day three involved a walk to Ulchisar to see the castle and on day four, I got up at 4.30 am to see the balloons rise from Sunset Point – breathtaking!
There are many restaurants in the town providing average to great food but by far the best food I had during my stay was at Mozaik Restaurant. The service is excellent and the food absolutely delicious. Manti, a version of ravioli, is a signature dish of Cappadocia and the beef manti at Mozaik is amazing.
A note about the balloons: Travellers primarily come to Cappadocia to ride the hot air balloons, however, be aware that the balloons are not allowed to fly when there are high winds. I was supposed to take a hot air balloon flight for 115 euros (price varies depending on the company you are booked with) and despite staying for four nights, I didn’t get to do this. On the first morning I was there I was picked up at 4.15 am, taken to the balloon site – and then driven back again when the decision was made not to allow balloons to fly. The next two mornings, the balloons were cancelled again. I was supposed to do it on the fourth morning but three days of no balloons meant many of the tour companies were overbooked and the company I had booked with cancelled my booking. There have been balloon accidents in this region in the past so it’s a good thing that safety is now taken very seriously and there are regulations in place that dictate when balloons can fly, how close they can fly to each other etc. The best time of year to visit for flights is July and August but my experience proves that nothing is guaranteed so just keep that in mind if you are planning to visit just for a balloon ride.
Selection of pictures from my stay: