Cappadocia – More than hot air balloons
Everybody goes to Cappadocia for the hot air balloons. In fact, it was the first thing we tried to do after landing in Turkey! I mean how could we not after seeing pictures of hot air balloons soaring over unusual rock formations at sunrise. Friends who have done it all said it was an once in a lifetime experience!
Image credit: Thinkstock
Unfortunately lady luck wasn’t on our side. The winds ended up being too strong on flight day, and we couldn’t get slots on the following days. Guess we’ll have to be back another day to strike this off our bucket list. As disappointed as we were, we still decided to make the best of it. Little did we know that Cappadocia still had plenty of interesting experiences to offer.
Here are 7 of our unexpected favourites!
(1) Getting lost in an Underground City
Some of the passageways are pretty small and we had to bend over to walk through.
There are many underground cities in Cappadocia, but we decided to visit Derinkuyu underground city as it is the deepest at 60m. Although it was big enough to hold up to 20,000 people at it’s peak, the walkways are still narrow and some of us felt pretty claustrophobic. That said, it was really fun running around, moving in and out of rooms, imagining what it was like in the past.
Protip: Get a guide if you can! We were really glad we did. The signs were not very informative and we would have been walking around aimlessly if it wasn’t for our guide. The cheaper unofficial guides loiter in and outside the sites and are of good value.
Cost: Entrance Fee 20TL, Vehicle Transfer 60TL (half day tour, entrance fees not included)
Time Required: 1hr
How to get there: Located 35km south of Göreme, you can easily self-drive or go on a half to full day tour like we did. The half day tour brought us to various attractions around the south of Cappadocia.
(2) Sleeping in a Cave Hotel
Staying in a cave hotel. Checked!
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to sleep in one and finally got a chance to experience how people lived in the past. We stayed at the centrally located and super affordable Melek Cave Hotel in Göreme, where each room is unique and slightly different. The rooms were basic, but very cosy and homely. There is even a panoramic view of the surroundings from the rooftop terrace where breakfast is served.
We were there during Spring, so it was quite chilly at night. Thankfully there are heaters in the rooms. I can only imagine how cooling it will be if we were to sleep there in Summer. The owner/host was also very helpful in providing information and arranging tours straight from our doorstep!
Cost: 38Euros/Night (Triple Sharing)
Time Required: Min. 1 night.
How to get there: Göreme is pretty small, and Melek Cave Hotel was a 5-10mins walk from the main bus station. See map.
(3) Hiking to Love Valley
Hiking down an unmarked slope to Love Valley. The views were really stunning in the evening!
Do you see what I see? :P
These phallic-shaped rock formations may seem like they were man-made, but they were actually naturally formed from erosion many years ago! There are various tours that can take you there, but we decided to be more adventurous and hiked there on our own. It was quite funny because we took a short-cut, and had to slide/climb down this sandy slope to get to the valley. Kudos to the girls who made it down in their flats that hardly had any grip!
I wish I could post more pictures here, but some of them are NSFW! ;)
Time Required: 1-2hrs (really depends on your starting point, but you can easily spend an hr there taking silly photos)
How to get there: 40mins walk from Göreme village centre .
(4) Going crazy on an ATV
Took this during one of our stops. Spring and flowers are everywhere.
Adventure is waiting.
We took a 2 hours long ATV (Quad) sunset tour and went off the beaten track! Our guide didn’t speak much English but was very animated while showing us the different highlights along the way. We went into cave dwellings, looked at valleys, took lots of pictures, and even had some time to mess around with the ATVs. Honestly I can’t remember all the places we went, but the pace was good and the views stunning!
Definitely a must do if you like a little outdoor fun.
Cost: 75TL per ATV. We shared 2 to 1 so it was onlu 37.5TL each.
Time Required: 2hrs
Where to do this: Numerous tours run from the town of Göreme. Just take your pick and haggle!
(5) Learning about Cappadocia at the Goreme Open Air Museum
Fairy Chimney Cave Houses Turkish version of “The Last Supper” Goofing around with the 3 GoPros we had. Check out the signs below our bums
With beautifully preserved frescos in the cave churches, this UNESCO World Heritage Site gives you an insight into the influence of religion at Cappadocia. It’s another one of those must-sees in Cappadocia, so there’ll be tons of tourists if you come after morning. The signages were sufficient for us, but if you’re a history/religious buff, audio guides are available for rent too. Also note the additional fee if you want to visit the Dark Church in the complex (we didn’t).
Cost: Entrance Fee 25TL
Time Required: 1-2hrs
How to get there: 20mins walk from Göreme village centre
(6) Being amazed by Uçhisar Castle
Image credit: Taskonaklar Parts of it has crumbled, but it is still a sight to behold.
A former stronghold in Cappadocia, it is difficult not to be amazed by Uchisar Castle as it towers over everything else. It’s probably not what you think a castle should look like, but it is consistent with how the cave dwellings in Cappadocia look like. There’s not much happening around there now, but you can climb the 235 steps for a panoramic view of the region!
Time Required: 40mins
How to get there: Located in Uçhisar town, about 3km from Göreme. Self drive or combine this with a tour! We visited during our ATV sunset tour.
(7) Watching hot air balloons fly at sunrise
View from the rooftop
I guess since we can’t go on a hot air balloon, the least we can do is to watch it from below. Still a breathtaking sight to behold. I captured these from the rooftop of the place we were staying at. Great thing about staying in Göreme is that you can see the balloons from almost everywhere!
If you’re up for it, you can also take an early morning walk to one of the valleys and watch the balloons fly by. Most flights take off at around 5am!
Time Required: 1hr
How to get there: Depending on where you are staying, check with your hotel reception to find the best views!
And of course, I couldn’t resist doing a pike at iconic Cappadocia despite the recent dislocation. :P