A by product of 10 million years of volcanic activity, the Cappadocia region of Turkey was once where early Christians hid from Roman persecution. Now, the area outside of the Turkish town of Goreme sees 2.5 million tourists a year, drawn by ancient dwellings above and below ground, phallic rock formations, and famous hot air balloon rides.
The day before I hopped into a similar balloon, in one of the most popular skies in the world to do so, I was lost and wandering on top of those rock plateaus. That’s because I was following this little guy, a stray guide dog who kept running up and back along the trails in a manner my human senses translated as “follow me”. Now some of the hostels and hotels in the area do have guide dogs for guests along with rumors of knowledgeable strays leading people along the hiking trails. Either this little white dog was not one of them, or the muddy paths blocked by trees forced him to come up with alternatives better suited for a canine, not an ape with no sense of direction.
The most common hikes from Goreme are vaguely indirect routes toward the open air museum to the east, trailing north to the town of Cavusin making for an approximate 8 kilometer triangle. Along the way there are a number of great climbs in and out of the rock formations, dwellings, and places of worship like the Cavusin Church. (The entrance fee is 8 Turkish lira.)
Although at one point I was more convinced than not I’d be sleeping in the unofficial open air hotel of Goreme, I eventually found my way down from the rock plateaus, approximately 100-150 meters above the surrounding valley.
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After the hike to Cavusin, you can catch a local bus to the larger town of Avanos and eat at one of the plentiful Turkish pide restaurants to recharge as I did. The balloon rides themselves cost about $150 for the well timed one hour trip. Keeping things interesting the pilots also have a knack for lowering the hot air balloons in between the rock formations before taking you back up just under 500 meters (~1,600 feet). At that altitude you’ll get a view to appreciate even more if you hike the paths on the ground first. Then take to the skies to see everywhere you hiked with Cavusin and Avanos in the distance.
A hot air balloon ride over Goreme is one of those tourist attractions that is popular you can’t help but expect disappointment. Yet, after you land, you realize why so many each year tightly squeeze into baskets with 15 other people, in aircraft that lack steering.
You can see the rest of my Goreme photos here.