I spent a good chunk of time in Cappadocia being furious.
It had been five years since my last visit and the difference in trips can be summarised in one word: Instagram. I’m all for social media, but when it’s used for peacocking in place of sharing genuine experiences it gets ugly, fast.
By ugly I mean self-proclaimed models with full hair and make-up shivering in bath robes at dawn, ready to strip off the moment a swarm of hot air balloons are visible on the horizon. By ugly I mean the fifth-generation carpet shop that now charges as a photography studio, because people started posing in front of rugs instead of buying them. By ugly I mean influencers with millions of followers crashing drones into the Unesco-protected fairy chimneys and laughing through shisha smoke while locals retrieve their gear using cherry pickers.
But there is still so much beauty, too. Shooting stars traversing blue-black skies. Byzantine chapels carved into rocks. Mountain biking and hiking through valleys studded with fairy chimney. The ceremony of breaking open a pottery kebab. Being welcomed into someone’s home for a cooking class. And of course, seeing that otherworldly landscape from a hot air balloon, weather permitting.
If people continue to care more about social media engagement than actual engagement – with history, geology and culture – the magic of Cappadocia will be lost. The region relies heavily on tourism, but when you visit, do so with respect and curiosity.