We traveled to the region of central Anatolia, which is considered Turkey’s heartland.More specifically, we traveled to Cappadocia, which is full of volcanic rock formations that have been made into cave dwellings and churches, and whose striking canyons and valleys make for a wonderfully whimsical walkabout. 😀
We took an overnight bus to get there, which took 11 hours and cost 25 USD. Flying is an option, but this was the most budget-friendly route, plus I have no problem sleeping on the bus. 😀
We had an epic three days in Cappadocia. Read along to check out our incredible itinerary, spending morning ’til night cherishing these unique natural surroundings. 🙂
- Goreme Open Air Museum
- Hiking Red/Rose Valley
- Çavusin Churches
Barren desert landscape.Vibrant greenery found in this grape vineyard.In the 1980’s, the tourist industry boomed in Cappadocia, and many locals converted their homes into hotels, giving foreigners the rare opporunity to spend their vacation sleeping in a cave. 😀
There were plenty of options for accomodation, but we chose Yasin’s Place Backpackers Cave Hotel in Goreme, for an affordable 15 dollars per night.
Goreme Open-Air Museum
This museum showcases a spectacular collection of rock-cut churches and religious frescoes, which has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage list, one of the first sites in Turkey.
Fairytale landscape of Goreme. 🙂
Go Pack, Go! 😀
Fun fact: Cappadocia is also known as “the land of beautiful horses.” 🙂
Honesly, I haven’t found anything that wasn’t beautiful about this land. 😀
Hiking Red Valley and Rose Valley
From the museum, we went off the beaten path, to spend around four hours hiking in the desert.
Despite the desert surroundings, around random corners we’d find small natural juice bars. 🙂
Not a mirage, but a desert oasis. 😀 Crawling into abandoned cave dwellings.Feeling like a big kid. 😛As you can see, each rock formation appears unique, and their shapes are definitely up for interpretation. 😀I’ll admit my mind is in the gutter, and some structures seem strangely phallic. 😛
After a long day of hiking, we went back to Goreme for dinner at Sedef Restaurant.Cuisine in Cappadocia has a distinct Asian influence. This clay pot of baked beans and beef was cooked tandori-style, and served with grilled naan-like bread. Yum!
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Green Tour
- Goreme Panorama
- Derinkuyu Underground City
- Selime Monastery
- Ilhara Valley
- Pigeon Valley
Hot Air Balloon Ride
At 5:10a.m. we were picked up from our hotel and taken to Atmosfer Balloon’s headquarters.
Brekkie and balloon briefing. 🙂
6 AM: Drove out to Red Valley to inflate the balloons.The balloon baskets have a maximum capacity of 24 passengers. Nice and cozy. 😀Lift off! 😀
Uçhisar Castle in the distance.At times we’d be soaring high in the sky, and other times we’d be skating along the tree tops. 🙂
At least we stayed away from the pointy phallic figures. Hah. 😛 Some balloons were love birds too, as they hovered close together. ❤Perfect time to watch the sunrise. 🙂Gorgeous red rock canyon.
We coasted over the red valley and rock valley, then landed safely on the ground. 🙂
It was a slightly anti-climactic landing, as our skilled pilot, carefully landed the balloon directly on the trailer. 😦They deflated and packed up the balloon within 10 minutes, and then we were ready to celebrate. 🙂 Toasting with a little bubbly! 😀Overall, a once in a lifetime experience. Absolutely priceless! 😀
Shortly after returning back to the hostel, we were picked up for the green tour. Taking a tour was definitely worth the 40 USD price tag, considering everything that was included. (i.e. transportation, lunch, entry fees)
Derinkuyu Underground City
During the 6th and 7th centuries, early Christians used these underground cities, spending months at a time living there, in order to escape religious persecution and death.
Fun fact: News of approaching Arab and Persian armies would be spread from Jerusalem to Cappadocia in only a few hours by lighting beacons, which stretched across the vast desert.There are over 30 underground cities in Cappadocia, but Derinkuyu is one of the largest and also the deepest, with eight maze-like floors.The city is a labyrinth of winding narrow tunnels, with strategically placed booby traps.
Our tour guide discussing the city’s winery.
Such good listeners! 😀Chillin’ in this cozy alcove. 😀
You may recognize this out-of-this-world landscape, as it was actually used as the backdrop for the cinematic hit, Star Wars. 🙂
As part of the tour, we ate lunch at Star Restaurant, where we could choose between a variety of entrees. All served with soup, salad and bread.
The Ilhara Valley visit consisted of aflat level walk along a tranquil river, with a stop at a quaint waterfront tea house. 🙂I really enjoyed getting to know other travellers on my tour, including a mother-daughter pair from Malaysia, friends from South Korea, a family from India, and a solo-traveler from Yemen. 🙂
Cute little dumpling, playing with gigantic ducks. 🙂Training to become our new driver. 😉
- Kocabağ Winery
On our final day, we took a dolmuş or mini bus to Uçhisar to visit the Uçhisar Castle, which offers spectacular panoramic views.
We also invited an Australian traveller from our hostel with us on the journey, which worked out perfectly.The dudes could go hiking, while I could tackle some more important things like shopping! 😀While shopping for knick-knacks, I ran into a sweet Turkish family that invited me to a wine tasting. 😀 The Kocabağ winery in Uçhisarhas a nice variety of white, blush and red wines to sample.
Day drinking and supporting a local business. Win-win! 😀
Last Sunday, at a pro-Kurdish peace rally in Ankara, two suicide bombers tragically took the lives of almost 100 people, making it the mostviolent act of terrorism in Turkey’ history.
Subsequently, the president issued 3 days of national mourning, in hopes of honoring those innocent victims and their families. Senseless killings and precious lives lost. Especially tragic considering this was a peace rally/job fair, attracting Turkish citizens looking to create harmony within the country, and strengthen the economy. Truly devastating.Now, my original plan on Sunday was to head to Ankara for my Thai work visa; however, after the violent attack, concerned for my safety and well-being, I decided to leave Turkey early and apply for my visa from within Thailand. On Wednesday morning, I traveled from Istanbul to Bangkok, with a short layover in Qatar.