Vacation Recommendation: Göreme, Turkey

Night time view from the porch at the Kelebek
Night time view from the porch at the Kelebek

Last month we took a trip to Turkey, because why not. We wanted to see Istanbul, of course, and decided to also visit the town of Göreme, in the Cappadocia region.  Several of our friends had visited before (including Nicole of Colie Wanders and Josh of Alt-Ac Advisor) and highly recommended we go too.

This turned out to be excellent advice. We’d like to pass it on to you.

Cappadocia is a mountainous region in the center of Turkey. It boasts incredible rock formations and historic cave dwellings, and has been inhabited for thousands of years. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1985.

There are many historic sites and museums in the region, but here are the highlights I’d recommend for a visitor:

Kelebek Hotel

The garden area at the Kelebek Hotel.
The garden area at the Kelebek Hotel.

It’s a hotel that is also a cave, and it is great. You pick your room when you make your reservation; we stayed in “The Wine Cellar” (misleading: no wine!). The view here is incredible, either from the comfortable garden area or from the big porch where you can have tea, drinks, or dinner. The food was good, but the ambience was what really made this particular hotel excellent.

The owners were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. We ended up booking all of our activities in Göreme through the Kelebek, and were very happy with the recommendations. As a bonus, we received discounts on the overall cost by purchasing activities through the hotel and paying in cash.

Hike in the Rose Valley

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Rock formations in the Rose Valley. Larger caves were storage rooms or human dwellings; small openings were pigeon holes.

We did a 90 minute Rose Valley hike as part of a day tour booked through the Kelebek. The Rose Valley, as its name suggests, boasts pink-hued rock formations.

This was not a serious hike in the sense of being physically difficult. It was basically a long, pleasant walk. Not only was the path well-marked and traveled, there were actually vendors along the hike. Fortunately, these seemed to be pretty cool vendors–a farmer selling a variety of seeds and nuts roasted in various flavorings, a stand selling fresh juices and Turkish wine. Wild this was not.

The scenery, however, was gorgeous and unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was also awesome to have a chance to get up close to some of the rock formations. We learned about some of the caves, such as the smaller openings that served as homes for pigeons (their droppings were valued as fertilizer).

You could probably do this hike on your own without a guide, if you were able to get directions or a ride to the trail head.

Hot Air Ballooning with Butterfly Balloons

View from the hot air balloon!
View from the hot air balloon!

This was probably the highlight of the whole trip for me, even though I was initially a little afraid of it. Hot air ballooning is a popular way to see the rock formations and surreal landscape in Cappadocia. There are tens if not hundreds of ballooning companies in the region, but the Kelebek recommended Butterfly (they may be the same company; kelebek means butterfly in Turkish).

First of all, the view was just incredible. The photos don’t do it justice.

Second, the ride was smooth and pleasant. This was not bumpy or turbulent. Our pilot, Eftal, was professional but also funny, and always seemed totally in control of the balloon.

Finally, Butterfly offered several nice touches to round out the experience, like champagne in celebration for surviving the flight (apparently a hot air ballooning tradition).

Three days is a good amount of time to spend in Göreme; history or hiking buffs might appreciate a longer stay. However long you choose to spend there, be sure to check out my favorites.