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Tell us why you traveled to this destination.
I was traveling with a friend in Croatia and she mentioned to me that going to Cappadocia and riding in a hot-air balloon was one of her dreams. I hadn’t heard of it before but when I looked it up, the destination looked incredible. I met some friends in a hostel in Istanbul who was planning on going there next, so I jumped at the opportunity, and off we went 2 days later!
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
We spent four jam-packed days in Cappadocia. On the first day, we flew to Kayseri from Istanbul and then took a small bus to Goreme. We arrived around noon. After checking into our hostel (Homestay Cave Hostel) and drooling over the views from the rooftop, we took a minibus over to Uchisar Castle, a famous “castle” in the area, which is really just a giant house that had been carved out of the rock. You can visit the inside and climb your way to the top, which gives you amazing views of the area. Just outside the castle, there are many souvenir shops around. We went inside one because the owner of the shop mentioned he had an underground gallery. We were intrigued and spent a while looking at his huge collection of hand-made ceramics. They were incredible and we walked away with a few new tea cups for our families back home. From the castle, we walked through Pidgeon Valley all the way back to Goreme. It was one of the coolest walks I’ve ever been on. There were caves and man-made holes in the rocks all over the place. It was like a giant playground for adults. It took us until the evening to get back, and we had a wonderful time. That night we ate dinner at Viewpoint Cafe, which were kind enough to give us blankets when the sun went down and the temperature dropped drastically.
On the second day, by the recommendation of the hostel owner, we took the “green line” tour (I believe there are three lines, green, red, and yellow). It was a whole day of exploration. We stopped at a viewpoint of Pidgeon valley, then went to this unbelievable monastery (Selime Monastery) on the hill. Everything was carved from the rock, including the living quarters, church, kitchen, and other rooms. From there, we had lunch and then went for a hike through a canyon (Ihlara Valley). The walk followed a little river and when we took a break, we sat at a table situated in the middle of the water. Then we went to an underground town called Derinkuyu Underground Town. This was amazing because the town was an 8-story underground labyrinth where up to 20,000 lived, providing refuge for the people during times of recurring threat by invading armies. The last stop of the day was another incredible viewpoint of a valley and a goldsmith’s jewelry shop. Of course, tours like this want to make more money from the people so they take them to fancy souvenir shops like this. Sometimes that can be annoying, but this time it was pretty cool. The jewelry they had was really impressive and I even bought myself a transitional Saltan wedding ring for $100 (I’ve never been so in love with a piece of jewelry before). We got home after dark and were exhausted, but the day was packed with the most incredible sites. We had so much fun. We had dinner at Harlan Cappadocia, a fairly fancy restaurant with more good views of the city.
On day three, my friends and I spent the whole day adventuring on foot. We started at sunset viewpoint, which required a small fee. We felt it was silly to have to pay to walk up the hill, but the people have to make money somehow, so we forked out a few Lira. It does, indeed, have a great view of the city. From there, we followed a trail behind and found ourselves in Rose Valley, where we spent the day feeling like we were on a planet from Star Wars. We realized people usually book 4×4 tours here, but we were happy to walk around and scramble up some cool rocks on our own. At the end of the day, we walked back up to the viewpoint from the back-way and watched the sunset. It was a simple day, but it was amazing to see the “dick rocks” and other eroded and man-made rock formations. We also came across a few of the rock homes, where people still live in to this day.
Day four was when we took the hot air balloon ride. We were lucky and didn’t have any cancellations due to the wind. We were picked up around 4:30 am to start the day. It was so cold and it took a while for the balloon to be filled with enough hot air to take off, but once we were off the ground and the sun started to rise over the horizon, the views were incredible. This really is a bucket list kind of experience. The views of all the valleys are absolutely breathtaking. Everywhere you look is the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen. The ballooner was a female, which was a really refreshing thing to see. She mentioned at the beginning that she had no control over where the balloon went. At one point we were fully inside this valley and we were terrified of hitting the rock formations and the side of the valley, but the ballooner was highly skilled and probably did this on purpose. We would barely scrape by the tips of the formations. It gave the experience a little thrill, which of course made it even more fun. Eventually, we had to land, and let me tell you, this ballooner lady was incredibly talented. She landed us directly onto the truck bed perfectly. What an amazing morning. Unfortunately, due to covid, we didn’t get to drink any champagne at the end, but we got our little hot air balloon certificates and couldn’t stop grinning.
After the balloon ride, we took a much-needed nap. When we got up, we went over to Dalton Kardesler At Ciftligi to meet a friend who was volunteering on the horse ranch. We paid for a horseback-riding tour through Rose Valley. My friends had never ridden a horse before so they were pretty scared for a while– the terrain is not just an easy, flat walk through the river bed. Eventually, they got the hang of it and nobody fell off. The local guide was young, but obviously a seasoned rider. He took us on a thrilling ride up and around the rocky hills. We galloped up steep hills, which took us to some unbelievable viewpoints, let us stop to get some fresh-squeezed juice in the middle of the valley, and then down some slick rocks.
The tour lasted a little less than two hours. Some of the most incredible two hours of my life. We ended the night wine tasting at Mozaik, one of the many restaurants on the main road. I wish I could find the words to explain how amazing this day and this day was. Cappadocia actually means “land of the horses” so it was a really special thing to be able to ride a previously wild horse through the beautiful valley. And starting the day with the hot air balloon ride was an incredible way to see the whole town from a unique vantage point (the sky). Everything else we did was just so intriguing. The landscape here is like nothing else in the world. There is so much to explore. Spending this time in Cappadocia is a highlight of my life.
The day we left, technically the fifth day, we spend relaxing from all the activity and souvenir shopping in town.
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
Honestly, the entire trip was a highlight of my life. But if I had to choose, the hot air balloon ride and the horseback riding were the highlights. You just can’t get experiences like that anywhere. Also, the view from our hostel’s terrace was an incredible sight. It looked directly out at some cool rocks. It was probably the best view I’ve ever had while doing yoga. The hostel owner was also incredibly nice and helped every step of the way with anything we needed. He also fed us dinner one night!
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
The only thing I would do differently on this trip would be to stay longer. You could probably spend weeks here without getting bored. One tip I have, though, is to start planning your hot air balloon ride as soon as you get there. The rides are often canceled because of wind or other issues, so if you have a few days, plan on going on the air balloon ride on one of the first days of your visit. That way, if any are canceled, you still have the rest of your trip to try again every morning.
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