Maeghan really wanted to go to Cappadocia (pronounced Ka-pa-do-kia) for the hikes and balloons. She mentioned that when she was younger someone told her of this place and it sounded magical.
So for a 100$ return flight from Istanbul, we were off to Cappadocia!
After a bunch of research, it turns out that most tourists stay in the Göreme area of the national park, so it has turned into Banff National Park… a small natural area crowded with restaurants, hotels and oodles of tourists. So Maeghan found this place in a neighbouring town (a 5$ cab ride away) and we stayed where all the locals who work in Göreme live.
It was a 300 year old house that backed on to a rock tower creating a half cave, half stone home. Our host Hayriye was incredible and we had the most memorable stay there, hanging out with her in between our hikes, relaxing and balloon watching.
Now, the next pictures are a lot of hoodoo formations, balloons and food. But all of these moments were so special we had a hard time picking the best ones since they are all awesome :)
Here is our week stay in Cappadocia.
Depending on where the wind blows, they come to visit. But we woke up every day at 6am to watch them fly by before going back to bed. But our second morning, they flew right over our heads!
These rocks are formed by compressed volcanic ash. Erosion has worked on this soft stone for 30 million years to form the valleys and curious fairy chimney rock formations.
When we arrived at the floor of the valley, we found a man and his son working on a piece of land with some chickens. They asked us where we were from, and then gave us an Islam educational book to learn about the religion.
Another big rock house formation. We were told that hundreds of people would live in these rocks to protect themselves from unwanted visitors.
We tried for a week to book a flight in one of the balloons — but all the companies said they were sold out. There are 150 balloons that fly every day, and maybe 25 different companies that manage them (some privately owned, some run by a single agent). We finally lucked out and managed to get someone’s cancellation! This was a gift from Maeghan’s parents for her birthday — and she was beyond stoked about it!
Wake up call is at 4:50am, and you are in the air by 6am to watch the sunrise.
We also learned that Turkey has one of the most intense processes in the world for getting your balloon pilot licence. You must have 100 hours of fly time and a pilot certificate. Apparently in places like the United States… you only need a 12 hour course and then you can fly commercially…. 😳 (we flew in Phoenix years ago… )
But flying in Cappadocia was something special… it really felt magical. And the scenery was something so unique that every few minutes there was something new.
Our flight was 1 hour and 20 min. We flew 900 meters above the ground, and more than 1,900 meters above sea level! Our pilot was incredible and everyone on the balloon was so nice. It was a really special morning.
A morning we will never forget ❤
The next day we went to check out the Open Air Museum — one of Turkey’s Unesco World Heritage sites. It was first a Byzantine monastic settlement that housed around 20 monks and then a pilgrimage site from the 17th century. It is a cluster of rock-cut churches, chapels and monasteries up to 1km uphill in the tall formations.
For hundreds of years when invaders came to Cappadocia, the people would escape to massive underground cities, that they carved from rock and brought everything from their large livestock, to wine, to personal belongs and block the entry with booby traps and a large stone.
These underground cities could host up to 30,000 people under ground and we were told that the city was built as early as the 8th century BC!!
At first it was pretty cool to see, entering the first and second level of the city… but then, we got to a tunnel, and there was a large tour group behind us… we started to walk into the tunnel… but it didn’t look like it had an end and both of us started freaking out and feeling claustrophobic. The tour guide was like — its ok… just do it! So we ventured in… and man, I don’t think either of us would be down to live in an underground city… we are grateful for windows, fresh air and tall ceilings.
On our last day, we decided to do one more hike through the famous Love Valley. Yes… it gets its name from the suggestive rock formations. We packed 3 water bottles and some nuts for this two hour hike that ended up lasting a bit longer….
The path branches off in many directions, and its in a valley so you can generally just walk straight and know you are going the right direction. But as we were walking… some trees and foliage had grown or broken on to the path..making the straight hike a bit harder than we expected.
We ended up crawling up onto the rocks to try and pass the treed area.
But when we got to this tree’d point… Oli heard some buzzing, and thought maybe it was a wasp nest.. turned around and found hundreds of bugs swarming around a dead dogs body (so sad!) so we had to retreat up onto the rocks again and cut our legs with the thorn bushes and sharp tree edges.
It took and extra hour in the midday heat… but we managed to find our way out. Oli thinks it was our hard core navigation skills… Maeghan could argue it was just luck. :P
All sweaty, gross and covered in dust, we walked to the next city Uçhisar to grab some food and a taxi back to our hotel.
As we got closer to Uçhisar, we realized that we had to hike up another big hill to get to the city where food / drink would be…
So when we got to the top, we picked the first restaurant we could find that turned out to be pretty fancy, and we were definitely not feeling that fancy. But they served us with the fancy people all around and we got to enjoy a pretty great view.