Days 11 – 13 – part of wider blog ‘Island Hopping and Hot Air Ballooning – Greece and Turkey in 2 weeks’
Cappadocia, Turkey – vast becoming one of the worlds must-go-to destinations – there is nowhere like it. Its surreal landscape, formed over a few million years following a series of eruptions, more closely resembles the surface of Mars than it does Earth. So why make a visit?
Aside from its beautiful unique landscape, not to mention the warm local hospitality and near-perfect weather, there is something for everyone here. From hot air balloon rides to some of the most memorable hiking trails, underground cities and fabled open air cave museum, you won’t regret making a trip to Cappadocia…
Here’s how we spent 3 days:
Day 1 – Hot Air Ballooning
Arriving late from our flight into Kayseri we were picked up and delivered to the wonderful Aydinli Cave House Hotel in Göreme. Beautifully appointed rooms with breakfast included you can’t go wrong staying here. Mustafa and his family took every measure to make sure we felt at home. Check out more reviews here.
Straight to bed and up at a very brutal 4am the absolute highlight of our tour awaited us. Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia…
We were a little apprehensive hearing the day before an accident had taken place where two hot air balloons collided resulting in several injuries and two deaths.
(I don’t mean to put anyone off but it does highlight an important point – some companies have lower-than-adequate safety standards and it’s worth paying a little extra to book with the more trusted operators in the area so do your homework! Having said that, such accidents are extremely rare and, by and large, hot air ballooning is very safe. Like most things it’s the media that creates the fear in our heads!)
Despite the apprehension we went ahead with our booking with Butterfly Balloons. Rated as one of the best it didn’t take long to understand why. Setting off from the ideal launch site (depending on the winds that day) we were taken up by the founder and very experienced chief pilot Mike Green, who put us at ease from start to finish.
With typically clear skies the sites of Cappadocia from high above were simply breathtaking. One minute we were deep in the valleys – so close we could reach out and touch the tree tops – the next we were two kilometres high with the sight of hundreds of balloons hovering over the expansive Martian-like landscape.
This was the highlight of our entire trip and I can’t recommend it enough. Moreover, I can’t recommend Butterfly Balloons enough! See more reviews here.
Our afternoon was spent hiking some of the stunning trails in and around the Red/Rose valleys. Starting near the Göreme open air museum we finished up at the charming town Çavuşin (the hotel organized a driver to drop us off and pick us up). The area has a wide range of beautiful hiking trails to choose from and I highly recommend setting aside an afternoon or day to explore some of these. I was like a child in Disneyland exploring the valleys and unusual rock formations as I tried to climb into various, hard to reach, pigeon holes having an absolute ball!
For a list of trails in the area please follow the link here!
Day 2 – Cappadocia day tour and the fabled underground cities…
Our second day around the heartland consisted of a road trip organised and led by a family member of the Adyinli cave house hotel. Ordinarily I would stay clear of booking with hotels or bnbs and put my trust in some of more well-known travel companies found via online review. Instead we took a gamble based on the extremely warm hospitality we had experienced thus far and needless to say it paid off… big time.
Top of the list on things to see we started with a guided tour around one of the incredible underground cities.
Built into the fortified ash, these underground mazes provided the perfect protection for settlers in the area over many centuries. I won’t bore you with the history but a visit to one of these underground cities is another must-do activity here in Cappadocia (Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu are the biggest). A guide is recommended if only to prevent you from getting lost!
(Try to imagine Lara Croft and Tomb Raider, or Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark to get some idea of what they are like).
Afterwards, our knowledgable guide took us to several other landmark areas including Love valley, Monk’s valley, Imagination valley and the town of Avanos to try our hand a bit of pottery making (thoroughly enjoyable). Following that we were taken to his house and served homemade baklava and tea – a particular highlight and the best baklava we tried in Turkey! The tour finished up top the famous Uçhisar rock castle for some spectacular sunset viewing before dinner.
All in all a very memorable day and each of the above mentioned landmark areas are worth exploring.
Whether you choose to visit the sites via personal hire or as part of a tour, you will require some mode of transport to get around the various attractions. We choose the latter for the ease plus the bonus of having a local explain the history of the area to us.
To get to and from your hotel and the airport, depending on which village you stay, I also suggest organizing some form of transportation in advance! The two major airports that serve the region – Kayseri and Nevşehir – are located some distance (up to 2 hours drive) away from many of the villages in central Cappadocia.
Day 3 – Göreme Open Air Cave Museum…
Day 3 was our departure day and sadly we only had enough time for a quick visit to Göreme Open Air Cave Museum before heading off. Housing a cluster of rock carved churches and monasteries the area is one of Turkey’s World Heritage sites. I would recommend putting aside a couple of hours to explore this fascinating museum! Admission cost TL15 when we visited and was open everyday from 8am.
During our short time in Cappadocia we only managed to sample a few restaurants. Nonetheless they happen to be some of the best food we tried during our week’s visit to Turkey. Below is a round up of my top choices.
Perhaps the best meal we had in Turkey Topdeck Cave Restaurant is a must. Run by a family with the same warm hospitality typical of the region we were served some excellent food and treated like royalty.
A great lunch spot, or should you simply be in the mood for some delicious pide, consider checking out Firin Express.
For something a little more fancy we had a wonderful meal at Seten Anatolian Cuisine although don’t expect quite the same value for money as the other two above mentioned restaurants.