An early AM departure out of Istanbul meant that our group of six had a full day to explore Cappadocia, specifically the town of Goreme, which is roughly an hour drive from the Kayseri airport. The main draw of this area is the landscape specifically the fairy chimneys created by thousands of years of erosion and volcanic activity.
Our first stop was the open air museum, where we got to check out a number of churches and houses that were carved into the mountains by Christians, hiding from the Ottomans. It was pretty cool to see the buildings, but our attention span for rock rooms dried up and we continued on with our journey with a hike through the Rose valley.
It was a beautiful day, so we were all keen on seeing as much as possible. Especially a few of the people on our trip with climbing backgrounds. Making their way into some of the rooms carved into the hillsides, while I watched contently from the ground.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how cool our hostel was in Goreme. It was called Shoestring Cave House, and it was a hostel cut into the rocks, complete with a pool, a great view of the town, and an amazing staff that went out of their way to help in every way possible.
We grabbed some grub from a restaurant nearby, ultimately being one of the better meals in turkey thus far, and called it an early night because we had to be up bright and early for our sunrise balloon ride!
In terms of tourism, Cappadocia is certainly known for one thing, and one thing only. Hot air balloon rides. Rides take off early in the AM, roughly ~6 AM, and price points vary from $100-$300, with very little wiggle room. There are basically 6 options to choose from. Multiple take off points, or single take off point. The multiple take off point is advisable since that gives you the flexibility in seeing as much of the landscape as possible, while the single take off point only allows you to see wherever the wind is blowing that day. The other choice to make is Small, Medium or a Large basket. The smaller the basket, the better your photo opportunities are, and also they are easier for the driver to operate and maneuver. We opted for multiple take off’s in a medium balloon and were not disappointed. Although we almost didn’t get to take off because of the winds. There is a small time window of an hour or so in which they can take off, otherwise they have to stay grounded because the air will get too hot, and can become dangerous to operate.
Our ride lasted ~45 minutes and I’d say I probably took 100+ photos, it was really quite amazing to see all of the balloons dotting the amazing landscape. 45 minutes is definitely enough time, after 30 minutes I had enough, but it wasn’t overkill. Overall a great experience, a little pricey, but something very unique and worthwhile. How often are you going to ride in a hot air balloon? And then ask yourself how many times it’ll be in that kind of setting? Besides when was the last time you asked yourself this question. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
After the balloon ride we took a day tour through the “Green Tour”. Ultimately it was a pretty disappointing tour, the highlight probably being a tour of an underground city that served as a shelter for the Christians during times of persecution. It was pretty amazing to see the engineering involved in the city, going as deep as 70 meters, but not for those with any sort of claustrophobia, while not nearly as bad as the Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam, there were certainly some close quarters.
Unsure of what to do next, me and a buddy from Oz decided to buy a cheap one hour flight to Izmir in the AM, and check out Ephesus, an ancient city in ruins, perhaps the most in tact city in the world, by all accounts, and there is still plenty of work being done to reconstruct it.