Cappadocia; stunning, unforgettable and absolutely breathtaking is easily one of my favourite places in the world. Most people will associate it with hot air balloon-ing although there is a lot more than just that (although something that is definitely un-skippable while you're there) and we definitely found there was plenty to love.
We recommend hiring a car when you visit Cappadocia as when you fly into Nevsehir (Cappdocia Airport) getting to Goreme (the main town of the area) isn't completely straight forward and a lot more flexible if you have your own transport. With some vague instructions from the hire car company on how to get to Goreme we set our GPS and made our way to our accommodation which frankly wasn't the easiest to locate as there are about a million cave hotels in the area (a definite must do!) and the signs were tiny but we eventually found it! We definitely recommend the hotel we stayed at - Doors of Cappadocia.
First up on in this unique city was a visit to the Derinkuyu Underground city, where whole communities lived & stayed back from the early 7th or 8th centuries. The underground city, which is the deepest of all underground cities apparently accommodated up to 20,000 people within these caves which were more than self sufficient. Later on, these underground cities became a hiding place for the Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans; it's totally crazy to think that whole communities functioned in these underground caves!
That night we decided have another hamam (who doesn't love being scrubbed, bathed & massage all at once) since we loved our experience in Istanbul so much. We visited Elis Turkish Bath and this was definitely a more local experience than the one we had in Istanbul! It was a lot cheaper which I suppose translates into the experience, although I did enjoy having the whole section to pretty much myself during our allocated slot! The warm marble slab was also definitely very inviting in the middle of winter!
The next day the fog nearly ruined our chances of the world famous hot air balloon ride. We booked a ride with Royal Balloons and we were so delighted when we were given the word go after we tucked in on the breakfast provided at their offices. Somehow, we were upgraded to the King Balloon ride which is 90 minutes instead of the standard 60 minute flight and as it was off peak season there were only 4 of us in the basket which was amazing!
The hot air balloon ride is truly a one in a million experience as it drifted above and through the valleys and rock formations that are unique to Cappadocia with hundreds of other colourful balloons in the sky. Definitely bring a camera for this one & you'll be sure that no bad photo can be taken while up on the ride! Even if you feel like you're afraid of heights the ride is so smooth and you feel like you're just floating & the hot air balloon pilot is totally in control!
Oh! If you're wondering how such a unique landscape was able to be formed, it was due to volcanic eruptions a millions years ago and over due course shaped by the wind & climate of the region to bring you the spectacular shapes & formations that you can see today.
After our balloon ride finished we celebrated with a glass of champagne before before dropped off back at our hotel. Luckily as we visited during winter we weren't picked up that early (relative to the summer time pick ups!) a nap wasn't required before we headed out to check out the landscapes from the ground.
We drove to Pasabag, also known as the monks valley as Byzantine monks carved their shelters within these rocks. This valley is filled with fairy chimneys which are crazy to see in real life, as you'll notice in this valley that have double or triple capped chimneys. If there are tours running when you visit you'll be able to visit the inside one of a chapels of the fairy chimney.
Unfortunately the fog was pretty thick when we were there so we didn't get a chance to see the love valley in all its glory, and no prizes why it's called love valley! We did manage to squeeze in pigeon valley - named because of the population of pigeons living in the area, just as the sun was breaking through!
This is Red or Rose valley. You should try coming back at sunset and you'll really see the colours pop! Unfortunately we did not have the time for sunset, but it's worth checking out no matter what time of day
We drove past Devrent valley where we laughed at the camel looking rock formation and other animal shaped rock formations. It's easy to see why they also call this valley Imagination valley!
Finally, the last stop of the day was Uchisar Castle, the highest point of the region and where we wanted to watch the sunset over this magical area. The interior of the castle isn't anything stunning as it's just built with stone however it's worth the visit purely for the panoramic views.
Dinner that night was centered around ordering pottery kebabs, ceramic pots filled with meat and vegetables stew marinated with spices that are baked over a slow heat that need to be broken open when it's ready to be eaten. It's not broken open any old way, in face opened by the waiter with a mini cleaver right at your table! As the meat is slow cooked it's definitely tender and flavoursome - a must try when in Cappadocia!
Early in the morning on our last day (we budgeted to have at least 2 mornings in Cappadocia in case the weather conditions didn't permit a hot air balloon ride the first morning) we vistited Goreme open air museum. This is one of the most famous of attractions in Cappadocia with lots of cave chapels, homes & communal areas built on site. As it was first thing in the morning on a particularly wintry day we had to be quite careful where we stepped as it was quite icy throughout because of the fog that had set throughout the valleys that morning. Nonetheless the museum was definitely fascinating and you'll be able to see the frescos left behind by the people in the multiple churches of this open air museum.
Tip - hire an ATV in goreme if the weather permits and explore the surroundings instead of being stuck inside a car!