Before I visited Istanbul in Turkey for the first time, I was not even aware of the existence of Cappadocia. However, the travel agencies in Istanbul were filled with fascinating photos of alien-like landscapes and fairy chimneys protruding out of the surface like a scene that wouldn't have been out of place in movies like Star Wars and John Carter of Mars. The photos made Cappadocia look like a place from a different planet a land of fairytale proportions.
Unfortunately, I did not have enough time then to make the 11-12 hours bus ride as the 1.5 hour plane ride to Kayseri was expensive as most last minute flights usually are. I was determined to come back to set foot in this amazing place and two years later, I happily did.
We stayed in Goreme, a touristic town with around 2,500 people. The Goreme National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. When we first arrived at the town which seemed to sprout out in the middle of nowhere, I was entranced by the limestone caves in the backdrop of what seemed to be a normal town. Here, you can sleep in caves, eat in caves and shop from caves. And unlike a Disney town, you are actually surrounded by creations of nature. You won't need to deprive yourself from your creature comforts either, with plenty of Turkish food, coffee houses and comfortable places to hang out when you are tired from walking around.
Famous for its fairy chimneys, you can visit the Open air museum for a look into how people lived in the past. You can also trek through the Ihlara Valley and wander through the rock formations, marvelling at the different colours and patterns. Some hiking routes include Pigeon Valley or Rose Valley, both offering spectacular views of the natural cliffs.
You can also visit underground cities used by early Christians as hideouts. We visited Derinkuyu but you can visit up to eight stories of underground tunnels and caves for a glimpse of a life spent hiding without sunlight.
inside a cave hotel
And if you have a choice, choose a cave hotel. It is cold and dark inside with rocks instead of concrete walls but it is definitely an experience not to be missed. We climbed to the top to the terrace of our hotel, Star Cave and was greeted by a magnificent view of Goreme town.
If you are a tourist in Cappadocia, you can't miss the hot air balloons rising out of the landscape at sunrise every morning. The sky is filled with colourful balloons from different companies, all vying for beautiful views and memorable photos to take home.
hot air balloon
I got up at around 4 am for this special treat and I was far from the only one. People who normally baulk at getting up early to go to work were up and ready to go on this once in a lifetime opportunity. We chose to go with Atmosfer Balloons, one of the companies recommended by our friendly host at our hotel. After an early breakfast, we were divided into groups. The price you pay for your hot air balloon ride will vary depending on the number of people in your balloon. We chose to go in the smaller balloon where there was around eight of us which turned out to be perfect when we were in the sky as our views were clear and we were spared the annoyance of jostling with our fellow neighbours for a scenic backdrop.
This was my first time in a balloon and I was surprised at the heat from the gas burner but soon got used to it. The balloon moved at a steady comfortable pace, which made it an activity suitable for the young and old. The views were amazing and it was difficult not to catch our breath at the beauty of the landscape as we whisked past fairy chimneys and cone-shaped rock formations.
So next time you plan a holiday to Turkey, consider visiting this serene place. Cappadocia may not be easy to get to or popular with your friends as one of the trendy must-see places but you will not regret visiting. The memories and photos you bring home would be truly priceless.