As I gazed out from the basket of the hot air balloon in Cappadocia, I had one of those special travel moments. The ones when you feel like you’re a million miles away from reality.
Like many people, I travel because I love seeing new places, trying new foods, and meeting interesting people. I’m one of those annoying people who can’t sit still. A hotel manager in Turkey recently compared me to his great dane – “you are like him – you have too much energy!”
So when I spent a few days in Cappadocia, I set my sights on seeing it all and doing it all… and THAT’s how I ended up floating here in the sky!
If you say Cappadocia to the average Brit, they’ll gaze back at you with a blank expression. It’s in Turkey but not the obvious holiday parts on the coast of Marmaris and Bordrum. It’s just over an hour’s flight from Istanbul and provides the perfect break from the cultural cacophony of the big city.
In a few days I ticked off hot air ballooning, trekking around the crazy rock formations and exploring some caves. Here are a few reasons to add it to your bucket list:
Cappadocia is officially the most popular location in the world for hot air ballooning, with almost half a million people taking to the skies there last year. It’s one of the few places in the world where lots of balloons take off each morning (around 100). The landscape is stunning from the ground, but it just gets better and better as you float up!
Cappadocia’s sci-fi scenery is the result of several volcanic eruptions, natural weathering and erosion. While there, check out the fairy chimneys (tall rock pillars with caps on top) and Love Valley. I particularly loved Devrent Valley (also known as Imagination Valley). If you use your imagination, you’ll be able to see everything from camels to Charlie Chaplin in the rock formations!
Cappadocia is an area rich with history, with the focus on underground cities and caves. There are 36 underground cities that were once used by Christians to hide from Roman armies.
Added to this, there is an intricate system of caves above the ground. No trip to Cappadocia is complete without a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Göreme Open Air Museum. The medieval cave churches date back to the 10th Century, and are so well preserved you can still see the detailed frescoes on the walls.
One of my favourite buildings was Uchisar Castle – strange yet beautiful.
Turkey boasts one of the most popular and flavoursome cuisines in the world. A large plate of meze is always appetising. Pide and lahmacun (Turkish pizza) make great lunch options. While traditionally the dough is topped with minced meat, onions, tomatoes and herbs then baked until crisp, you’ll find plenty of different toppings on offer in Cappadocia.
A local Cappadocian delicacy is the testi kebap (pottery kebab). The traditional meat and tomato stew is baked inside a sealed clay pot. Don’t be unnerved by the fact it’s delivered to the table with a large knife… it’s just time to crack it open and get stuck in!
Cappadocia is home to some of the most unique hotels in the world. The majority of the accommodation on offer in the main towns of Göreme, Urgüp and Uchisar are small boutique cave hotels and hostels.
I visited Cappadocia after a few days in Istanbul and found it offered the perfect break from frenetic city life!