The fascinating sight of volcanic rock formations, known as fairy chimneys, living in a cave hotel, and gliding over the unique landscape in a hot air balloon- all make the experience in Cappadocia straight out of a fairy-tale picture book. The topography, shaped by centuries of volcanic eruptions and erosion, is unlike what you’ll find anywhere else in the world. Here’s how to make the most of your time here.
Goreme is the main town in Cappadocia, which is a vast region, so make that your base and stay in a cave hotel for a unique experience. Carved out of natural stone and rock, these were, originally, homes of the empires that created a vast underground community here.
Begin your day with Cappadocia’s most famous offering – hot air ballooning. You’ll be picked up between 4-4:30am, given a quick breakfast and then taken to the take-off site. Watching the balloon being set up is a marvellous spectacle – day is just breaking as the colourful balloons begin to glow with fire. You’ll soon be in the air for an experience that you will surely treasure forever as you glide gently over the gorgeous landscape of moonscape peaks and rocks. Then slowly the pilot takes you higher and the spectacle of the entire valley unfolds before you. It’s a sight to behold and being surrounded by a myriad other colourful balloons makes it ever more magical. After the one-hour ride, celebrate by popping champagne with your balloon pilot.
Tip: Don’t let photography ruin the experience. Take pictures but for some time keep the camera aside and savour the ride without any distraction so that you capture the moment in your memory.
Then, head out to Goreme Open Air Museum, a Unesco World Heritage Site with glorious rock formations that almost remind you of The Flinstones cartoon. You will see beautiful rock-cut churches that date back to the 10th century with beautiful frescoes. After this make your way to Derinkuyu underground city, one of the many in Cappadocia that dates back to centuries. This one is the deepest (about 85 meters) and it is believed that almost 20,000 people can live here. It was used when invaders mounted an attack and as it has living rooms, kitchens, wineries, one could live comfortably.
For lunch, try what Turkey is known for – kebabs. Cappadocia takes pride in the Testi kebabs, also known as pottery kebabs as they are baked in a clay pot for at least four hours. It is served to you in a very interesting way – the server brings a sharp knife or hammer to your table and you have to break the clay pot. What emerges is a kebab that is super soft and simply melts in the mouth.
Next-make your way to Devrent Valley, also known as Imagination Valley, and notice the animal shapes of rocks. The most obvious ones are the camel and dolphin, but for others you have to let your imagination run riot, hence this name.
After this, head to Pasabag Valley, which is one of the most popular spots to see fairy chimneys. These tall conical structures look like mushrooms and it seems as if someone has beautifully sculptured and shaped them but actually it’s the handiwork of nature and volcanic eruptions.
Keep some time for shopping in the market of Goreme. Apart from trinkets you can pick up exquisite pottery and rugs. Have dinner at one of the restaurants and then call it a day.
Photographers wake up early and go either to the sunset point or to the terrace of Sultan Cave Suites to capture the visual spectacle of hot air slowly balloons rising up. After breakfast, trek up all the way to Uchisar Castle, which has one of the tallest fairy chimneys. The view from above is just gorgeous, but if you don’t have the energy, it makes for a pretty picture even standing below.
Go for a trek to Ihlara Valley. The shortest route is 6km long but it can be done easily. Have a lovely lunch by the riverside after this. This will take up much of the day. When you get back to Goreme, hire ATVs and roam around and just enjoy the ambience of this unique town.
For dinner try traditional Turkish food at Pumpkin restaurant which also doubles up as an art gallery.