The end of our 2 unforgettable months in Turkey!

We entered Turkey at the beginning of April with the idea to stay for a few weeks and then move on to Georgia and Armenia. Turkey turned out to be such a fantastic country to cycle in that it made us change our plans: we ended up staying for 2 months, decided to change our itinerary and largely took the time to visit different parts of this very diverse country. It has so much to offer that we could even have spent more time here. We will definitely come back one day to go explore the mountains in the Northeast. For now, we can only look back with much gratitude to those 2 unforgettable months and prepare for the next chapter of our journey.

Manon’s video about our journey in Turkey — made in a dramatic style!

Bike touring in Turkey— made by the one and only Manon Brulard

This month we have cycled through Cappadocia and the Southeastern part of Turkey. The former is Turkey’s biggest touristic attraction and is on (too) many travelers bucket list. The latter was often recommended by Turks all over the country since it’s the region with the best food and a very rich history.

Our journey through Cappadocia and Southeastern Turkey

We ended our last blog post in Izmir. From Izmir, we took a long bus ride to Aksaray and cycled from Aksaray to Nevsehir to visit Cappadocia. Afterwards, we made a few days stopover in Ankara to get our Iranian visa. Once we had our visas in the pocket, we took another bus to Hatay and started our tour through the southeastern part from there.

Our cycling itinerary in Cappadocia and Southeastern Turkey — full itinerary on https://roadtotherisingsun.be/

Cappadocia, our favorite place for wild camping

We’ll never forget that night that we arrived in Göreme National Park, the heart of Cappadocia. After a long day on the bike (86 km) and a stop to visit Kaymakli’s underground city, we arrived in Uçhisar right before sunset. As we absolutely wanted to wild camp and be on the front row to see the air balloons going up in the morning, we asked a vendor in the streets if he had any suggestion. He suggested to ride all the way down into the White valley and put our tent somewhere on one of the cliffs. His advice was gold: we found a spot (coordinates 38.65114, 34.81686) with an amazing view on the valley and we were full of impatience to see the air balloons in the morning.

I woke up around 4 am and could no longer sleep since I was simply too excited by the surroundings. Manon didn’t experience this problem (here I just want to say that she’s a good sleeper), so I took off the outer part of the tent to make her enjoy the unique landscape.

Eventually, we waited from 4 until 9 am to see the air balloons going up, but it didn’t happen. There was unfortunately too much wind.

What we have found later: there’s a page with information about the flight status. To be clear, we have never intended to take a flight since it’s in our opinion not worth its price in such an overly touristy area. We only wanted to see them from our nice camping spot with a cup of coffee in our hands.

Our favorite spot (coordinates 38.65114, 34.81686) for wild camping in Cappadocia: the White Valley
The view from our camping spot in the Swords Valley was not bad either
Manon in Cappadocia’s love valley: she was surprised by what the scenic formations looked like

Our wait for the air balloons was like waiting for Godot. After 4 days of cycling around in the different valleys, we understood: it’s not going to happen due to the wind and we have to continue our journey.

Great hike in the Red Valley

Overall, we liked Cappadocia very much. Despite its high factor of viewpoint tourism, the different valleys and rock formations are unique and make you feel in a different world. From our experience with the bicycles, it’s quite easy to stay away from the touristic areas and enjoy the magnificent scenery without hordes of tourists around us.

My jump off of one of the rock formations

Visa stop in Ankara

Initially, we planned to request our visa for Iran in Tbilisi. As we changed our itinerary, we had to go to Ankara to get it.

Ankara as a city is not really worth a visit since it’s full of government buildings and there’s, apart from the Mausoleum of Atatürk and its museum, not much else to see.

It took for 4 days to get our Iranian visas. Luckily, our hosts Selman and Ebrar (children of Emine, who hosted us in Bergama before) were so nice that we enjoyed our stay in Ankara very much. It was hard to say goodbye in the end!

Last selfie before we jumped on the bus to Hatay

Our visit to Turkey’s gastronomic cities Hatay and Gaziantep

It might sound like riding a bicycle for a long time makes us lose weight. That’s not true if you pass by Turkey’s best places for food: Hatay and Gaziantep. Both cities are officially recognised by UNESCO as gastronomic cities and have plenty of delicious dishes to offer. Honestly, we ate much more than we cycled in those cities.

Dondurmalı Künefe in Hatay
Visit of the Titus Tunnel, an ancient water tunnel built during the Roman period
Our favorite: simit katmer in Gaziantep
We couldn’t get enough of it: simit katmer in Gaziantep

Gaziantep is the pistachio capital. Pistachios are the primary ingredient in many of the city’s famous dishes as, among others, baklava. Therefore, it was no surprise to see many pistachio trees on the road from Gaziantep to Halfeti.

Manon surrounded by pistachio trees
We got invited by pistachio wholesalers for tea

Last part of our tour in Turkey: the Southeastern part

From Gaziantep, our journey went eastwards to the cities Urfa, Diyarbakir, Mardin and Midyat. We’re on our way to Iran!

The beautiful pool of Abraham or Balikli Gol in Sanliurfa
We presented our bike tour in front of a class in Diyarbakir
Manon at her best: interviewing people about women and cycling in Diyarbakir fortress
Impressive view in Mardin on the Mesopotamian plain
Cycling through the valley between Midyat and Nusaybin
A little break at the river in Beyazsu

Some more pictures to end with:

Sheep are all over the place in Turkey’s countryside
Turkish sorbet in Haytali (rose water) syrup in Hatay
Iftar with Sabri and his friend’s family
Manon got addicted to baklava and is thinking of opening her own baklava shop
We wanted to buy watermelon but they were too heavy to carry on the bike
Sofa along the highway, so convenient!
With Ayşe, our fantastic host in Mardin. Our encounters with locals like Ayşe are the reason why we travel

See you in 2 weeks — happy cycling!

Dries Van Ransbeeck

Written by

Crazy about civic innovation, open data, liveable cities & long-distance bike touring. Coordinator @OpenKnowledgeBE.

Road to the Rising Sun

We’re Manon and Dries, cycling all the way from Brussels to Tokyo. This is our story!

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade