6,000 ft up in a hot air balloon, 8 levels down in an underground city... and everything in between.
10.09.2012 - 13.09.2012
When I initially started planning the Cappadocia sector of my trip, one of the common consensus was: 1 day is plenty, just go for the hot air balloon. After spending 4 days and 3 nights based in the quaint little town of Goreme, I beg to differ.
On the first day, having organized for an airport pick up to take us to our hotel, we were delighted to find we could check in early, and found our humongous suite at CCS hotel both spacious and quaint. With its master king bed tucked away in the corner of the cool cave cut-out, the suite boasted extra beds, as well as a separate living room. After a quick nap and time to freshen up , we took a wander around the small town, browsed through the trinkets and souvenirs of the small local stores, and had lunch at a delightful café called Kale Terrase, which served the most amazing Turkish bread I’ve tasted, as well as a local dish called Testi Kebabi, a stew served in a sealed pottery urn. Shortly after lunch, we headed out to the nearby horse-riding center, Akhal-teke horse center, and enjoyed a cool ride around the river and countryside.
The next day was the start of our full 2 day package tour, which included a private van for the four of us, equipped with air conditioning (totally necessary in the blazing mid-day sun) and an eski filled with ice-cool water. Our tour on this day took us to:
Pigeon valley, a stop on the main road for pictures of our first glimpse of the cave houses from afar;
Uchisar, famous for its cave dwellers, who have now turned their living spaces into tea houses and souvenir shops for tourists;
Avanos, a stop for lunch and a pottery making demonstration, where yes, yours truly climbed into a super sexy- clay splattered- one size only jumpsuit, and got down and dirty Patrick Swayze meets Demi Moore style with the pottery wheel;
Dervent valley, where many rock formations combined with a creative imagination paints a vivid collection of animals and profiles of famous people. I however, could only ever make out the camel (far right);
Pashabagi, a landscape filled with cave and rock formations. One would normally need only a few minutes to explore and take a few photos, but as we were feeling energetic, we went gallivanting all over to capture many of the more stylistic shots of the day;
And, lastly, the fairy chimneys of Urgup. Like I said… it was a FULL day of sights. After a grueling day, we were treated to “the works” at a Turkish Hamam, where we were cleaned and scrubbed and detoxed till we literally shed our skins, and headed over to watch the sunset from Rose valley.
Cappadocia's famous hot air balloons
It would have been great right about this point to have a day to sleep-in, but the next morning, if you can even call it morning at 4am, we were up way before the break of day to catch our 90 minute hot air balloon flight over Cappadocia. I was skeptical at first, as our tour operator seems to be still driving us to our lift off point as other balloons were already inflated and on their way up, but I soon realized this was because our departure was from Rose valley, so that we could watch the other balloons come up over the horizon, as well as enjoy a more peaceful coast through the valley before joining the masses of colorful bubbles scattered across the skyline. After the first twenty minutes, I had over 100 photos of the event.
Even our landing couldn’t have been more perfect. Although warned that we would land at an angle and had all practiced the “brace” position, our pilot skillfully maneuvered his way past a field of pumpkins, landing the basket directly on top of the trailer in what would have been a perfect 10.0 score. Plus there was champagne and cake waiting for us after…
After breakfast at the cave suites, we proceeded to the southern provinces to see the Derinkuyu underground city, built 8 levels into the ground as shelter for Christians during times of religious violence. Dark and cold, I much preferred our walk through the Ihlara valley, a shaded 3km walk with the high valley walls and formations to my left, and the sound of the water from the refreshing stream to my right.
Last stop for the day was the Selime monatery, a must see for fans of the Star Wars series. The apparent inspiration for many of the movie landscape settings, the monastery built into high rock towers gives off a surreal feeling of being in Tatooine, birthplace of Anakin Skywalker, and it was too much temptation to resist a re-enactment of a light saber duel, sans the light sabers.
Tip: Our very anti-climactic end to a long day was the full Turkish show, inclusive of a whirling dervish. Skip if possible.
Our last day in Cappadocia, we opted for an early ATV tour with Motodocia Tours, instead of a lazy morning. It was cold again at 5 am, and I was glad to have brought my leather jacket to cut the wind as we zipped along in our own off road ATVs, stopping to take some awesome day break photos at Love valley, aptly named for its phallic shaped formations.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed Cappadocia, with its distinguished air of tranquility, and penchant for adventure tours, and can definitely see myself returning for another trip in the future.
Tips for future travellers: Late summer is a great time to avoid the masses of tourists, but bring some warm clothes and expect cool nights and very, very crisp mornings. Oh, and bring earplugs if you have roommates that snore… you know who you are…