Göreme, Cappadocia Day 2: Hot Air Balloon Watching, Zelve Open Air Museum, Ürgüp, and Horseback Riding

Our second day in Göreme was packed! I had an extremely fitful night (Turkish beds and my back do not get along), and we were up and out of the hotel at 6 am to watch the hot air balloons take off over the valley! Balloons take off about 30 mins before sunrise, so how early you get up depends a lot on when the sun rises. When we did this previously in Nov 2020, sunrise was about 7:30. This time sunrise was 6:50!

To read all my blog posts on Cappadocia, visit here.

The first time we watched hot air balloons, we hired a car and driver as we didn’t know where we were going. He took us to the launch site, a main overlook, and a secondary overlook. This time we drove ourselves and skipped the launch site due to Covid. We only did the main overlook, and it was very crowded, but we managed to avoid most of the crowds. For more information on our last outing and more specifics, go here.

We got up to the overlook about 6:15. I had brought breakfast #1 for the kids, so we all ate muffins in the car and the kids had a granola bar and applesauce pouch. The parking area is very near the overlook area, so you can leave kids in the car if they are cold until the balloons launch. There are also picnic tables and benches. We claimed one early on and had a good view as crowds arrived. About half were not wearing masks. I don’t mind quickly removing a mask outside for a photo, but these people left them off the whole time. We were there a bit early, but you don’t want to miss it! It was fun seeing flashes of light in the distance as balloons lit and twinkled in the dark.

I really love seeing all the balloons and it is worth getting up early and getting to a view point! Some hotels have good viewing from their roofs, but it’s not the same and pictures are not as good.

View from our hotel top. After the balloons finished

Back at the hotel, we packed our backpacks for the day’s outing and then had breakfast at 8. Many hotels don’t start breakfast until 8 because of the balloons. Breakfast Sunday morning was a classic Turkish spread with eggs made to order.

We then headed off to Zelve Open Air Museum. We had planned to do the more popular Göreme Open Air Museum, which we hadn’t done before, but due to the crowds decided against it. We were very happy with our choice to repeat Zelve, as we love the site and there are way fewer people. We arrived about 9:15 and it was empty.

We bought a new Musekart, which is a museum access pass for Turkish citizens and residents with kimlik cards. It is a GREAT deal. Only 60 tl for a year and it gets you into a ton of places. Considering major sites can be 50 tl themselves (or more), you save a lot of money. You just need to show your kimlik and they’ll give you a card. It is for ages 8 and older. The kid version is even cheaper.

There were very few people at Zelve Open Air Museum and we had some great hiking and climbing. It requires some scrambling, stairs, narrow routes, and mobility. Not something to bring a stroller to or for people with mobility challenges. For more details, see this post from our last visit.

After DS5 fell and bumped his knee and was wailing, I told him we wouldn’t see the Turkish Yeti if we were noisy. This intrigued him so much, he stopped crying immediately and spent the next 2 days talking nonstop about the Turkish Yeti. They eat simit and drink çay (tea) and hide in caves. They are very hard to find. We climbed all over and explored the valley while we looked for him.

Next we headed to Ürgüp to shop a bit and have lunch. This was our first time in this town. Kids fell asleep on the drive, despite it being only 15 min! Ürgüp has a ton of nut/dried fruit/chocolate/tea shops. We went to this one and the store clerk was very friendly and gave us samples to try of EVERYTHING. We ended up buying tea and various chocolates. Kuruyemiş is the name of this type of shop and they are all over.

We wandered a bit, and had hoped to go to the museum in town, but it was closed. We had lunch at a burger place with outside seating. Menu was only burgers (beef or chicken) and they were good. They also followed my instructions of “sade” (sah-day) or “plain” for the kids. The burger place is not on GoogleMaps, and I wonder if it replaced a Turkish restaurant, which is on there but does not exist anymore. It is about here.

We tried to go to Mahzen Şarap Evi as I had read that you could do wine tastings or buy a glass of local wine, but they only sold by the bottle for take away. More like a shop than a winery.

Headed back to the hotel for an hour break before horseback riding. We were really excited about riding horses, as both kids have some experience in Egypt and the US, but we hadn’t ridden in Turkey yet. I had heard from friends that some places require you to be 8 to ride a horse, which would have been a problem as mine are 7 and 5. But we asked the hotel to book us for 3 horses, assuming DS5 would have to ride with an adult.

They picked us up from the hotel and took us to their farm. This was one of the smaller ones. We were surprised to find out that DS5 also got his own horse! Both kids rode on their own with a guide walking beside them, holding the harness or lead line. Our horses walked for about 50 minutes, while we took in some beautiful sites and did a few photo stops. There were some steep ups and downs and the kids rocked it!

We stopped at the halfway point for a break. There was a small drink stand and some tables with chairs. A beverage was included in the cost of our ride, so DH and I each got a small glass of hot wine (Sıcak şarap) and the kids had apple tea (herbal tea with sugar that they love). The ride back was a very similar route as the ride to the mid point. I was so proud of the kids and how well they did with their horses. They looked so comfortable in the saddles! The ride was wonderful and we had great views. Our two guides had enough English to communicate and were great with the kids.

The cost was 250 tl ($30) per horse and there was a deal for pay for 3 horses, get 1 free. We had no idea what an appropriate tip was, but we gave each guide 100 tl, which was 10% of the value of the outing (would have been 1000 tl for all 4 horses without the deal). We booked through our hotel, but if you want to book directly, the Whatsapp contact is Hasan at +90 545 850 89 50.

We ended our day with dinner at Organic Cave Kitchen, a short walk from our hotel. We enjoyed out meal. Kids had gozleme (bread stuffed with melted cheese) and I had a clay bowl with a meat/cheese/veggie dish. No alcohol was served in the restaurant portion, though they said the bar side had it. Our total price for dinner was just under 200 tl ($24).

The kids were sad the dondurma (ice cream) guy was closed, so we got some cake at a coffee shop we like. They have delicious slices of cake and chocolates. The cake slices were clearly still partially frozen, so I guess they pull them out as needed. I imagine these days they don’t have the same turn over they would in crowded times.


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