Hot Air Ballooning
There are few things in this world that warrant a 4:30am wake-up; usually some type of flight is involved. But chasing the sunrise above Cappadocia's spectacular landscape in a wicker basket is altogether different from boarding a 777: It's like riding on the back of a Harley with wings.
Cappadocia's climate is ideally suited to ballooning, with consistently clear summer skies and harmonious breezes. Ballooning day begins well before sunrise, when the flame bursts that fill the balloon provide much-needed warmth. Flights last about an hour and a half, offering otherworldly close-ups and stunning panoramas. Your heart will undoubtedly skip a beat several times throughout, including when they hand you the 250€ bill (shorter flights go for 160€; children 6-12 fly for half price). Regular balloon rides run around 1 1/2 hours; the "budget" version lasts about an hour. Reservations are essential for all flights.
Several experienced outfitters organize hot-air balloon rides over Cappadocia. Recently (with the prospects of skyrocketing tourist demand and big money), there have been a number of start-ups on the Cappadocia ballooning scene, resulting in overcrowded conditions in the skies (2009 saw the first in-flight collision in the region, so while safe, be forewarned). Stick with Kapadokya Balloons (tel. 0384/271-2442; www.kapadokyaballoons.com), the first in the region offering balloon rides, and Göreme Balloons (tel. 0384/341-5662; www.goremeballoons.com).
Ancient Anatolian lore describes a lovelorn poet on horseback traveling through fields of irises, perpetuating the legend of Cappadocia as a "place of beautiful horses." It's still possible to replicate that equestrian journey through the region's verdant valleys and barren steppes. The Akhal-Teke Horse Riding Center (tel. 0384/511-5171; www.akhal-tekehorsecenter.com) has clean, professionally run stables (and on-site restaurant) on the outskirts of Avanos with horses and guides for all riding levels. The charge is 35TL per hour for a ride along the Kizilirmak River; 70TL for a 2-hour ride into the mountains and natural spring; and 140TL for a 4-hour ride either up the river, through a local fishing village, and up to the Sarihan caravansaray or through the fairy chimneys at Zelve, Pasabag, and Çavusin. Daylong and several weeklong excursions are also available, and some of the overnight trips include stays in people's homes and/or overnights in tents. Call ahead and they'll pick you up at your hotel for free.
Kirkit Voyage (tel. 0384/511-3259; www.kirkit.com), with offices in Istanbul and Avanos, organizes activities in the area, thanks to their own horse farm in the village of Güzelyurt, near the Ihlara Valley. Horseback-riding tours for all levels of experience are available with 2- or 4-hour panoramic rides for 25€ or 35€ respectively. Kirkit also organizes scenic and memorable 1-, 3-, 7-, and 15-day camping treks.
As the golfing bug takes hold in Turkey, and as entrepreneurs become aware of the sums that golfing enthusiasts are willing to dump on their obsession, golf courses are mushrooming up all over, and Cappadocia is no exception, sort of. Cross Golf (tel. 0384/271-2351; www.crossgolfcappadocia.com), a venture of Indigo Turizm and the Museum Hotel (not listed in this book simply because each time I go, the receptionist refuses to show me any rooms), is a freestyle game of golf with no putters and with nets instead of holes. Imagine a walk through the meadows outside of Göreme through a loose course of targets. "Greens" fees are 150€ per person for up to five people.
The Best Hikes
It's hard to find a bad hike in Cappadocia, but the journey will be all the more rewarding in this ever-changing landscape of pink, yellow, and sandy-colored "dunes," with nothing but the whisper of the wind for company. Wear good shoes and come prepared with a windbreaker or jacket, because whenever the sun plays coy behind a cloud, the temperature drops momentarily, yet precipitously. The best hikes are in the Red Valley (Kizilçukur Vadisi) from Çavusin to the entrance of Ortahisar; in Pigeon Valley (Güvercinlik Vadisi) between Üçhisar and Göreme; and in the Uludere Valley from Uludere village to Ayvali, where you have the option of continuing through Gomede Valley to Mustafapasa. Also near Mustafapasa is Kepez Valley, with its impressive cones, plus a number of churches.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.