The Cappadocia region of central Turkey is famous for its rugged landscapes, unreal sunsets and the fact that both facilitate what are probably the most scenic hot air balloon rides in the world. In particular, the rock formations of Cappadocia are impressive.
The craziest thing about this scattering of stone pillars, which is located near the town of Göreme, isn't their strange upward (and some might say somewhat phallic shape)—it's they are all natural.
The Story of Love Valley
The area around Love Valley has been continuously inhabited for thousands of years, so it's tempting to assume that some ancient people carved these. After all, the Pyramids of Giza are just down the road, relatively speaking, so if ancient Egyptians built those, one would hope the Turks of yesteryear could've constructed equally impressive structures.
As it turns out, however, the rocks of Love Valley are totally natural. It isn't clear exactly how long they've been there, but scientists believe that ancient volcanic eruptions deposited a large amount of ash in the region, which several millennia of wind erosion have shaped into these towering rocks. Some of the stones of Love Valley can reach an impressive 50 meters (about 150 feet) in height!
How to Get to Love Valley
To reach Love Valley, fly from Istanbul to either Kayseri or Nevsehir Airport, then use ground transportation to get to Göreme—either an arranged transfer, a private taxi or local buses. If you plan to use local transport, Nevsehir Airport is the best option, as it sits closer to the regional bus terminal than Kayseri Airport does.
An alternative option would be to fly to Konya, a city famous for its association with Sufi poet Rumi, and enjoy the Rumi-related sights of that city—including, perhaps, a spellbinding whirling dervish Sufi "dance" ritual at a historical caravanserai—before continuing on to Göreme.
Once you reach Göreme, you can technically hike (or bike) to reach Love Valley, although poorly-marked trails mean that all but the most experienced travelers might be better off hiring a guide. To that end, it's possible to take an organized group tour of the rocks.
After arriving at the Fairy Chimneys (another name for the rocks), you can take your time walking through them. But don't stay too long: If you do decide to take a hot air balloon flight over Love Valley (more on how to do that in a second!), you'll need to wake up essentially at the crack of dawn.
A Word of Caution About Balloon Flights in Cappadocia
The most scenic option for looking out onto the Love Valley is to take a hot air balloon ride from Göreme, such as the one offered by Turkiye Balloons. Balloon flights have become so iconic to Cappadocia that most images you see of the region feature a balloon in them!
On the other hand, you should keep in mind that your balloon ride is highly dependent on factors such as wind and weather, and plan some wiggle room into your itinerary in the case of a cancellation. It's not uncommon, when traveling in Turkey, to meet others who've had balloon flights canceled several days in a row! Avoid leaving Cappadocia without having taken your balloon flight by being as flexible as possible.
You should also try to stay an extra morning in Cappadocia, so you can take a picture with balloons in it from the ground. In some ways, this sort of photography is even more impressive than the shots you can get from the balloon!