October 7 – 12, 2020
After an incredible month in Istanbul, we were ready to leave the metropolis for some fresh air and adventures in Central Turkey’s country side.
Cappadocia fit the bill perfectly, after being shut down for more then 6 months because of COVID, it was just starting to reopen when we got there in October 2020, they were very happy to welcome tourists again.
One thing I’ve learned as a Nomad, is to rely on other travelers and online groups when planning our itinerary. When we were overlanding we were part of the PanAmerican Travelers Association Facebook group and relied on the iOverlander application to find anything from a mechanic to border crossing instructions to a safe place to camp, now that we are traveling differently, social media is just as important. I know it has a bad wrap but it’s a wealth of information for planning and to establish connections and a support system that becomes even more important when you’re in a foreign country. From Facebook travel pages like Travel Off Path that I’ve been reading daily to find out about COVID travel updates, to Instagram influencers and Pinterest for a multitude of travel blogs on specific destinations, online tools have become part of every travelers planning process.
I remembered seeing incredibly beautiful pictures of Cappadocia on the instagram feed of an old friend’s daughter who now lives in France. I searched for it and sent Thalie a message. Even though we’ve never met, she immediately gave me some information about where to stay and even put me in contact with someone she met in Cappadocia two years prior. This made a huge difference in our overall experience.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that domestic flights in Turkey are super cheap, for only $32 per person, we flew from Istanbul to Kayseri, one of the two airports in the Cappadocia region.
We took a 45 minute shuttle from the Kayseri Airport the small town of Göreme to the Cappadocia Cave Suites. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we got off the bus in front of our hotel!!! We had seen pictures but we never expected such a unique and beautiful place. It is considered mid range for the area and at $75 a night including a lavish breakfast, we were more then pleased.
After all , it’s not everyday you get to sleep in a fairy chimney!
WOW! What an amazing experience! Our very first hot air balloon flight and to have the opportunity to do it over the fairy tail landscape of Turkeys’s Cappadocia region was incredible. We got to the sight while it was still dark, when they started filling up the balloons it was absolutely magical, the sound of the gas shooting up enormous flames and looking at the balloons coming alive … once we got inside the giant wicker basket we watched the balloon get bigger and bigger and slowly rising from the ground, we climbed several hundred feet UP UP UP all of sudden the pilot stopped the shooting of the flames and we found ourselves floating silently through the air … an indescribable feeling … sharing the sky with other balloons while the sun was rising was yet another moment we will never forget.
Note that if you plan a visit to Cappadocia, it is advised to book the hot air ballon ride for your first morning just in case the weather doesn’t allow them to fly. Our balloon ride cost us 80 Euros per person for about an hour flight, they picked us up at our hotel at 5:30am and brought us back around 7:30am. It’s considerably cheaper then pre-covid, from what I understand, prices vary based on demand and availability.
Now that you’ve seen our hotel and the main attractions in Cappadocia, let me tell you a little bit about this fairy tail land. These incredible rock formations that have made Cappadocia one of the most visited destination in Turkey came from a geological process that started millions of years ago. After volcanic eruptions the region was left under a cover of ashes which later solidify into a soft porous rock called tuff. After a very long period of erosion from wind, rain and floods, only the harder elements were left behind to form the fairy chimneys that can be seen today, stretching as far as 130 feet into the sky.
To better explore the area we rented a car for 3 days with the help of our new friend Buket. For $30/day including insurance, they delivered the car to our hotel and picked it up when we were done. The only thing we’re finding a bit strange in Turkey when you rent a car, you receive it empty of gas and they tell you to bring it back empty!!!
Since we had to fill up the Duster, we drove to the small town of Avanos, known for it’s pottery. After a lunch of köfte ekmek (meatball sandwich), we took a stroll along the river and visited a pottery store with exquisite pieces.
So much to see and do
Besides the balloons, there is tons to see and do in the Cappadocia region: historical sites, canyon, valleys, museums, underground cities, wine tasting, art and pottery, hiking, horseback riding, ATV, 4×4, you can even rent a classic car for your photo shoot … and of course the stunning sunrises and sunsets are not to be missed, make sure you find a good spot to enjoy these special moments.
Not only are the fairy chimney impressive to look at but the fact that they were and still are inhabited is what makes them extra special.
During the Roman period, persecuted Christians fled in droves to Cappadocia, soon after, they realized that tuff was a material that was easy to work with and they set out to build a network of handmade caves, living quarters, churches , stables all dug into the soft rock!
Situated at the highest point in Cappadocia, the top of Ushisar Castle provides beautiful views of the area, it is also possible to visit some of the rooms on the way to the top.
On the way back we stopped at the Old Stone House for çay (tea).
One of our favorite meal was at the Cappadocia Cuisine where we enjoyed regional specialties, Kuzu Testi, lamb baked in a small clay pot, vegetable casserole and the local beer.
We took the 300 steps down the deepest gorge of Anatolia, it is believe that the Valley housed more than 4,000 dwellings and a hundred cave churches with frescoes. Around 80,000 people once lived in this 100m deep canyon!
We walked along the river on a scenic path, after a few miles we came across a little restaurant that had the cutest set up of low tables in individual huts set on wooden platforms over the water. Ladies were making the traditional Gozleme (stuffed flatbread) on an open fire. We just had to stop for tea.
Goreme Open Air Museum
A UNESCO world heritage site, the open air museum is the most visited site in the area for it’s proximity to town and for the quality of the rock-cut churches and beautiful frescoes (wall painting).
It’s nice to walk around and explore the multitude of Bizantine cave churches, monasteries and pilgrimage sites.
Derinkuyu Underground City
The area has no less than 36 underground cities, we visited the one located in the little town of Derinkuyu on the way back from the Ihlara Valley. At 60 meters deep it is the deepest of the underground cities. It was a self sustaining complex with air shafts and water channels which could house some 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. These impressive constructions were used for thousands of years by different ethnicities trying to hide from invaders. Such a fascinating part of history!
Driving through the country side
After five nights in the Capadocia region we said goodbye to our new friend Buket and her pooch Lola and headed for the airport to take a short flight to the coastal city of Izmir. We paid $20.88 per person for the flight including taxes and checked bags!!!