Cappadocia, a remote area located in Central Turkey. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing about this dream location or viewing the growing number of snapshots showcasing breath taking views from highpoints in the valleys, where the sunrise features as the backdrop to a plethora of billowing and grandiose hot air balloons this will be an experience that will go beyond what you can conjure up in your wildest imaginations. Cappadocia will leave those in search of “something more” enriched and filled to the brim with a cultural experience you will only find in Turkey. Sights that will forever be etched in your mind and leave you in bewilderment as you take in the vast and expansive landscape. You will be left with the privilege of having been a part of a life enhancing journey.
Therefore with that in mind it is important to share such experiences to give others the opportunity to take part and to delve into deep heritage and culture. Here is your guide to take the overwhelming unfamiliarity and turn it into an obtainable and reachable destination to tick off the bucket list.
Getting There and Getting Around
If you’re reading this then my assumption is you’re journey is going to require a bit of travel. My journey began in New Zealand, an initial 17 hour flight from Auckland International Airport (AKL) to Dubai (DXB), transit time in between, then a flight from Dubai (DXB) to Istanbul (IST). An overnight stay in Istanbul (by choice), then a quick hop, skip and a jump to Kayseri (ASR) one of the main airports in Cappadocia. Your travel times, stops, transits and overall cost will obviously differ however rest assured that this is the hardest part of your journey (which really isn’t that difficult at all).
Things to Consider Before You Fly
External factors are out of our control and is a huge part in any type of travel and all we can do is plan (plan a, b and c), prepare for alternative outcomes and most importantly give yourself TIME!
- Missed flights
- Lack of transit time
- Lost Baggage
All come with the territory of travel and I experienced all of the above (from AKL-ASR!). So dealing with these setbacks although annoying isn’t the end of the world nor does it have to impact your experience in the slightest. Give yourself three hours if transiting in unfamiliar and busy airports. Understand that delays and diversions can and do happen but there will always be a way around the issue (giving yourself a buffer day like my spare day in Istanbul can relieve stress). Most importantly pack essentials in your carryon luggage (I had everything I needed for my Cappadocia stay in my carryon luggage which meant my lost baggage wasn’t needed for that leg of my trip).
Travel Tip: Make sure you’re aware of any visa requirements you may need for the passport you hold (NZ passports do not require a visa).
Upon arrival to Kayseri (ASR) you’ll need to be able to get to where you’re going. Kayseri airport (ASR) is over an hour drive from the main area of Cappadocia. The airport is remote and you don’t want to turn up without transportation organised prior to arrival as options are limited. Therefore if you aren’t adamant on driving yourself (valid option) then book a shuttle and enjoy the drive to your hotel admiring the sunflower fields and your surroundings.
We booked through cappadociaairporttransfer.net they were cheap, reliable and were waiting outside with a sign even with our three hour delay and who will take you to wherever you’re staying. We shared a shuttle van with plenty of space but if you’d prefer a car to yourself that option is available (for an extra cost).
To get around Cappadocia we had the most fun zipping through the streets on a scooter. The scooter made it easy to navigate the sometimes narrow streets but was also able to get us to the nearby townships that make up the quaint Cappadocia area (all very close together and easy to travel between). You won’t have to look far for scooter hire (or car) facilities and is a very cheap option.
To truly envelop yourself into the experience of Cappadocia I wouldn’t recommend anything thing else apart from staying in a Cave! Accommodation built into the rock formations or crafted to create the feel of cave dwelling. There are so many options and all varying in prices, sizes and offerings therefore you can choose the option that best suits your travel style.
Here’s what I based my decision on
- Location – Landmarks are a great way to make your decision. I wanted to be amongst the rock formations (we had a terrace backing on to the breath taking landscape) and we were a two minute walk from Uchisar Castle (a popular tourist attraction with a view to die for). However the area is small and any location you choose wont impact your ability to easily move between townships.
- Had to be Cave accommodation.
- Breakfast inclusion is handy.
We stayed at Caldera Hotel in Uchisar, Nevsehir where the staff were relatively willing to help in the organisation of activities. I recommend you approach with a clear idea of exactly what activities you wish to do or simply pre-book yourself before arriving. Although staying in a cave may seem archaic it is absolutely apart of what makes your stay so unique and comes with all the mod cons like Wi-Fi, TV and air-conditioning and my favourite part, the terrace where you can spend mornings and evenings marvelling at where you are in the world.
What to Do
If you’ve decided on Cappadocia (or still deciding) you’ve done so to be a part of the iconic Hot Air Ballooning phenomenon.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
Ensure you book this for the first available morning you have in Cappadocia this is simply to allow for,
- Cancellations due to weather (wind speeds above 10kms will mean ballooning for that day may be cancelled and you’ll be rebooked for the next available day).
- Due to cancellations and just general popularity it can get very busy.
There are so many companies and packages to choose from, price, availability and the type of experience you wish to have (potentially a private basket) will determine what company you choose. Your experience will be unlike any other and to be floating surrounded by hundreds of other balloons, through deep valleys and rock formations formed over millions of years will leave you in awe and personally was one of the most beautiful encounters I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. Choose your balloon experience carefully and make sure it aligns with your expectations.
We dealt with cancellations and availability and were left with atmosferballoons.com. We were picked up at 5am and were on one of the last balloons to take flight which we shared with sixteen other people. Basket sizes are large and we all had basket side views as we rose and descended over townships and valleys lasting about an hour to an hour and a half. Return hotel transfer will be included. It will be the most magical excursion you’ve ever taken part in, I promise you that!
Is located at the highest point in Cappadocia and is hollowed out by a labyrinth of cave like rooms extending down the side and downwards into the valley. Head up to the top of the castle for a small fee just before sunset where you’ll be joined by a number of other sunset revellers. Find your own spot to sit and enjoy the vividly intense colours as they coat the skies and paint the clouds in deep orange, red and yellow with highlights of varying shades of pink and purple until the sun eventually drops out of sight. Once you make your way back down extend your stay in the area by walking out on the rocky cliffs for further enjoyment of the view as the neighbouring towns light up the night.
Rock Formations, Valleys and Cliffs
Cappadocia is home to one of the most astonishing and unique landscapes you’ll ever lay your eyes on and what may appear at first glance to be a long deserted rocky expanse is actually upon further inspection skilfully crafted homes, places of worship and resting places dating back thousands of years. Not to mention the rock formations that were formed millions of years ago through frequent volcanic eruptions.
Allocate a decent amount of time to explore the myriad of once bustling civilisations housed within the caves. There are no restrictions or regulations to cave exploration so immerse yourself and explore to your hearts content. Where ever you are you’ll be surrounded by caves and cliffs. We simply had to step out behind our hotel to be amongst it all. Good walking shoes is all you’ll require and a willingness and curiosity to tramp around. Proceed with caution as although there are no restrictions it can be hazardous. But enjoy and imagine what living in these caves would have been like.
There are many ways to explore these rock formations and although we chose to beat the feet if you enjoy moseying around on horseback or if you’re a petrol head and wish to ATV your way around then these options are all available and easy to organise directly with the companies on site or through your hotel.
Goreme Open Air Museum
If a more structured exploration is what you prefer with onsite information in the form of information boards and guides then Goreme Open Air Museum is a perfect option for you. Less treacherous then making your own way through the caves with a beautiful carved out church on the side of cliff and wall paintings this interactive outdoor museum was a nice and easy place to wander around if you don’t mind paying a small fee for entrance.
Other points of Interests
You’ll need approximately three to four days to cover most attractions you could delve further and visit,
- Love Valley or Sunset Point to get your morning shots of the Balloons or just to enjoy the spectacular views and sunrise/sunset.
- Ozkonak Underground City: an ancient city built into the slopes of Mt Idis (remember to book this well in advance).
Upon making your decision to broaden your horizons beyond what you thought was in reach like I was encouraged to do so you will be met by a country that feels unlike any destination you’ve been to, a place that is uniquely Turkey. It becomes easy to generalise city-scapes but to be surrounded by something vastly different, culturally enriching and fulfilling will leave you forever captivated and absolutely in love with your Turkish adventures.