Wanderlust: Cappadocia, Turkey

When you have something you want to do and cross from your bucket list, you go after it. That’s what was in my head when I decided that I wanted to go to Cappadocia, Turkey in order to ride a hot air balloon and finally cross it off from my list.

When I said that I’ll be traveling to Turkey, people were against it. It was not surprising because, a few days before I mentioned my plan, there were cases of terrorist attacks in the country. Obviously, since I’m traveling solo and they were worried about my safety, they tried to convince me to go somewhere else.

But were they able to stop me? Nope. And, I am so glad that I chose to go and visit the country during the winter! Turkey is absolutely beautiful! It would have been a shame if I missed the chance to see it. When I went, nothing seemed amiss at all!

Now, before I share my things, I’ll give you a little information about the travel time you need to deal with. (That is if you want to visit Cappadocia too!)

Flying over to Cappadocia!

Travel time: approx. 6hrs 30mins (waiting time not included)

  • International flight (Bahrain to Istanbul): 4hrs 30mins
  • Domestic flight (Istanbul to Kayseri): 45mins to 1hr
  • Bus ride (Kayseri airport to Göreme, Cappadocia): approx. 1hr

The traveling part wasn’t an issue because, upon reaching Kayseri, you will see Mount Erciyes standing magnificently right in front of you. I traveled during the winter and seeing Mount Erciyes, and the surrounding landscape, covered in snow was an amazing sight to see. The view is like something you took out from a Studio Ghibli film and it gives you this unexplainable feeling of freedom. The first step I took on the stairs while getting off the plane filled me up with excitement.

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I’m talking about this kind of view. (Photo from Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle)

Imagine seeing a huge, snow covered mountain while the chilly, fresh wind greets your skin. Imagine walking slowly on the asphalt road, with your mouth slightly open, as you admire your new surroundings under the morning sun. You shiver and run towards the baggage claim area but, before you enter the building, you look back to see different trees with and without their leaves, adding to the wintry scene around you.

This kind of moment is priceless and it makes all the hours you spent sitting down all worth it.

Cappadocia, home for several UNESCO heritage sites, is a quiet, lovely area located at the central  part of Turkey. Since its geography is full of rock formations, some might find it boring; especially those who like to party and have little interest towards this kind of landscape.

Don’t let the rock formations fool you though. Seeing it in the photos and being there personally are two different things. Give it a try and you might be surprised just how amazing the place can be!

Below, I will share with you the things I had fun doing (which you might find interesting) during my stay in Cappadocia, Turkey!


Go around sightseeing on an ATV

Going around while driving an ATV is a great way to experience the place. Having the wind blow your hair, driving on the highway and on the unpaved and muddy hidden paths, passing between rows of trees, going up and down the slopes, and having to drive yourself next to the edge of the valley in order to see more of the rock formations is perfect especially if you’re an adventure seeker and looking for a nice outdoor activity.

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How about going on an ATV adventure?

 Ride a hot air balloon!

This, as I previously mentioned, was the reason why I went to visit Cappadocia. Riding a hot air balloon above Cappadocia’s landscape is considered as one of the best in the world. While viewing Cappadocia on land is great, seeing it on a bird’s eye view is even better! Also, seeing the morning sun illuminate the landscape is one of the most surreal moments you’ll ever see in your life. It’s like you’re in fairytale land!

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I mean, it’s just…wow.

 Visit Çavuşin Village

Çavuşin is an old village in Cappadocia where you’ll be able to find old cave houses on a towering rock wall. You can drive an ATV or walk your way up to the cave houses and find the church of St. John the Baptist.

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Here’s me exploring the caves of old Cavusin Village.

 Explore Derinkuyu Underground City

One of the many ancient underground cities in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu underground city is believed to have sheltered 20,000 people together with food supplies and livestock. The multi-layered underground city is the largest among the several ones which was discovered in Turkey. You can find stone doors, shafts, a multipurpose area, chapels, sleeping chambers, kitchens, and cisterns as you go from the first level down to the lower levels. Go explore the area as much as you can and feel the temperature drop as you go deeper down the underground city. However, be careful to follow the warning signs. There are places which you cannot enter (especially the lower levels) due to the fact that it’s dangerous ahead. If the area is blocked, go back.

Don’t worry about getting lost. There are arrows placed on the walls which leads you back to the exit. (blue = exit, red = lower level)

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One of the corners and passageways in the underground city.

Can you try to figure out how the residents of the underground city used a toilet back then?

See the Pigeon Valley

As the name suggests, Pigeon Valley is a valley for pigeons. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

You’ll notice small cavings on the valley’s walls which is called pigeon holes or pigeon houses. People of Cappadocia give the wild pigeons some food in these holes. Why do they do that? It’s for the bird’s poo.

Yup! You read it right. Poo. Dried pigeon poo is used as fertilizer for trees which produce fruits for wine.

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Those cavings on the walls are for pigeons.

Visit a stone workshop

Since the landscape in Cappadocia was formed due to volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago, it’s only natural to find precious stones and marbles in the region. In a stone workshop, they will show you how to polish a rock into a precious stone. You will also be able to find a rare stone, a diaspore, called Zultanite. It’s natural color changes from orangey brown to green to pinkish purple depending on the light that hits it. Cool, right?

And you know what? The Zultanite can only be found in the southwestern part of Turkey at the Ilbir Mountains! If you have extra cash to spend, you can purchase a jewelry as a souvenir.

 Hang a charm on a wish tree

I found these unusual trees when I was going around Cappadocia which I later found to be “wish trees” when I read it on a wooden sign.

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Wish tree next to a cliff.

If you’re the type who believes on making a wish on wells, fountains, etc., then you should hang a charm on a wish tree. You can purchase a charm from souvenir stalls which costs depending on the charm’s size and design.

I don’t believe in such things so I didn’t hang one but I’m including it in the list because I found it interesting. I did have fun taking photos and videos of it after all.

 Taste the local’s food and drink

Trying out the local’s food is a must when you visit a place. And, I must say that I looooooved their food! I actually want some right now!

Eat some of the following:

  • Simit – twisted bread with sesame seeds
  • different kinds of cheese
  • Acili Ezme – Turkish style salsa dip
  • Haydari – Turkish yogurt dip
  • Fava – Yellow split pea dip
  • Mercimek soup – lentil soup
  • Tarhana soup – fermented mix of flour, yogurt, tomatoes, and green peppers
  • Testi kebap (meat stew partnered with rice) – cooked in a ceramic pot which will be opened at the table. I remember seeing it on fire when they served it.
  • Sutlac – rice pudding
  • Apple tea

I just realized that I forgot to take a photo of the food. Oops!

 Hike the Rose and Red Valley

For adventure seekers out there, hiking at the Rose and Red Valley might sound interesting. It is considered as one of the best things to do in Cappadocia and you definitely shouldn’t miss it.

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It was tiring but it’s worth it!

Follow the trails and paths and find yourself on top of the valley! See the different colored valley tops and enjoy the beautiful landscape around you. Explore to find caves, churches, and some of the monk’s resting places in the Rose and Red Valley. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll be able to reach a small cafe, previously a pigeon house. Don’t worry, it has been cleaned! You can take a short rest and have some refreshment while chatting with your friends or the owner of the cafe and enjoy the view.

Stand on and look over the edge to see the Love Valley!

Although you can walk around the Love Valley for a closer view of the fairy chimneys, you can choose to stay on top and see it from there instead.

I asked a local, “Why is it called a Love Valley?”. He and his companion laughed at the question. They told me that once I go and see it, I’ll understand.

In the Love Valley, you’ll be able to see a number of fairy chimneys which looks…odd. I feel like I should leave the description like this and let you see it for yourself. I’m laughing right now just remembering our reactions.

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Fairy chimneys at the Love Valley! Why is it called a Love Valley? Well, it’s because they look like the men’s genitalia. lmao!

 Sleep in a cave hotel

Your stay in Cappadocia wouldn’t be complete if you don’t get to experience sleeping in a cave hotel. Just saying.


Tips:

  • If you’re following your own itinerary and would go around the place on your own, I suggest renting a car. It’s difficult to take a public transport in the area and it would be difficult for you to get from one place to another without it.
  • If you’re claustrophobic, avoid going to the lower levels of the underground city. The first level is tolerable but, as you get lower, the paths and sections of the city gets cramped and narrow.
  • Avoid bringing huge bags in the underground city. It would be difficult to move around. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in the middle, don’t you?
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Most of the things you get to do in Cappadocia are full of walking and climbing on slopes and elevated areas.
  • If you’re not planning on riding the hot air balloon, you can watch them floating in mid air. If you’re lucky, you can watch them pass over your hotel in the morning; the moment the sun rises. Be sure to catch the amazing view when you get the chance.
  • There are more places to visit which are not mentioned in this list. You can ask your hotel reception to find out more.
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