After taking a hot air balloon ride, perhaps the most quintessential Cappadocian experience is hiking through the spectacular landscapes that abound in this region of Turkey. Hundreds of hiking trail meander through the countless valleys that carve their way through Cappadocia and allow visitors a chance to see Cappadocia’s famous rock formations up close.
We were extremely excited about getting out and doing some hiking, and although the weather didn’t always feel like cooperating (such are the perils of traveling in the off-season), we still managed to spend three of our five days trekking gracefully and not-so-gracefully through this unique terrain.
Goreme Open Air Museum
While not technically a hiking area, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Goreme Open Air Museum. At it’s core, the museum is simply a fenced off portion featuring the best preserved of the 11th to 13th century cave churches. Many of the churches still feature stunning frescoes and exquisitely preserved wall carvings inside.
We had heard a few negative reviews about the site – mainly having to do with the small area, lack of toilets, and the fairly steep entry fee (15 TL). As we were there on a weekday in the off-season, many of these were non-issues for us. There was one tour bus in the parking and probably only 50 people in the whole site.
Red and Rose Valley
Probably our favorite hiking trail winds its way through the appropriately named Red and Rose Valleys. Containing countless ancient cave homes for the intrepid adventurer to explore, and set in a valley with colours reminiscent of the US Southwest, this region is a hiker’s dream.
We spent almost an entire day exploring this area. There are some general paths marked by a combination of trail markers and spray paint, but our enjoyment came from the freedom to explore wherever looked interesting to us. Plus, we made a canine friend in Goreme that decided we were worthy companions and joined us for our entire trip!
The Red and Rose Valley hike traditionally starts near the Open Air Museum and ends at the nearby city of Cavusin. However, on our particular afternoon, some of the most ominous rain clouds we’ve ever seen started to thunder their way down the valley towards us and we decided to stop about 1km short of Cavusin and follow the main highway back to Goreme, just barely avoiding the impending storm by a few minutes!
Oh Love Valley, the place where inappropriate travel photos come to life. Best known for its, um, “phallic” shaped columns – this is one of the most unique places to hike in the world. That is, if you don’t almost kill yourselves trying to get there (more on that in a later post, but let’s just say you should stick to the roads and paths and not take a shortcut over the ridges).
Located just a short walk from Goreme, Love Valley is just one in a series of wonderful hiking valleys. Other than the hot air balloon pictures, this valley is probably the most common sight in a Google image search for Cappadocia.
We spent about half a day exploring Love Valley and the surrounding area – taking funny photos and giggling all the while. It is definitely a place that will bring out your inner child. The hiking in this series of valleys is straightforward and very easy going.
If you don’t fancy committing to a longer day, or you aren’t sure the weather is going to hold for long enough, there are some absolutely amazing hikes to do simply by walking to the edges of Goreme. Hiking in the hills, or in one of the nearby valleys (Pigeon, Zemi, etc), can provide you with memories you will never forget. Plus, you can just wander back to town for a tea or some gozleme (aka Turkish Pancakes) whenever you want!
No matter how long you are in the region, hiking is one of the things you should make time to do. The landscapes in Cappadocia are truly one-of-a-kind and the hiking is generally straightforward and not very strenuous. As with most hiking, we would not recommend going it alone (especially if you are a female), and always ask your hosts about the areas you are heading to before taking off – many have wonderful insights and are extremely helpful. We also recommend not straying too far from hiking trails and be aware of stray dogs (the vast majority are friendly, but you can never be too sure!).
Logistics: Hiking is one of the best FREE things to do in Cappadocia. The only place with an entrance fee is the Goreme Open Air Museum (15TL per person). Sometimes the best way to get to a hiking region may be taking a dolmus (i.e. dolmus up and hike back). Just ask your hosts or at the bus station and someone will point you in the right direction!