Cappadocia: The Highlight of My Summer
If Cappadocia isn’t already way up on your bucket list, it should be.
I’ve tried for a while to put into words why I love Cappadocia so much, but honestly nothing does it justice. It was just…the best. The few days I spent here were the highlight of my summer, despite being sick most of the time.
I guess it comes down to three key things: the balloons, the landscape and the people.
Of course, when you think of Cappadocia, you immediately picture hundreds of hot air balloons filling the sky as the sun rises over the rocky land. I don’t quite know why, but adding hot air balloons to a sunrise seems to just make it 100x more spectacular.
I have been dying to do a balloon ride over Cappadocia for a very long time but as my fear of flying has recently become a lot worse, I was unsure how much I’d actually enjoy it. Turns out, a hot air balloon is nothing like a plane. It’s smooth and slow and peaceful. I didn’t feel unsafe for even a second.
Taking off surrounded by other balloons was a unique experience. All around, fire was flaming up into balloons, lighting up the sky around us.
And then before I knew it we were up in the air! Flying over mountains and valleys and dipping down super close to the fascinating rock formations.
I loved it so much that I got up again the next morning to watch it all from the ground. Just ten minutes walk from town, there’s a ‘Sunrise Point’ that is ideal for watching the balloons. It’s a huge area so it wasn’t hard to find a little spot to have to ourselves.
Even when there aren’t hot air balloons filling the sky, this place is beautiful. Huge rocks fill the valleys, in all kinds of crazy statures. The stunning landscape was formed through centuries of volcanic eruptions and later, erosion.
I really loved walking and quad biking around Cappadocia. If it hadn’t been so scorching hot, I’d have spent days and days just hiking through the valleys, finding little cave-homes to explore.
While the natural formations are beautiful, the way the land has been used throughout time is equally impressive. For thousands of years, the Turkish have been digging into these rocks and below the earth to create caves and underground cities.
There are 36 underground cities in the area of Cappadocia. The one we visited, Kaymakli, is the widest, though not the deepest. Here, we had a guide lead us through the hundreds of little tunnels, connecting stables, kitchens, bedrooms, churches and cellars. The city was big enough to house up to 3500 people, though only half of it is open to the public at present.
I should mention that sunset is pretty impressive in Cappadocia too. There are no balloons, but that landscape is always going to look good in the golden hour.
As with anywhere I go, the people I meet and share it with have a huge influence on my perspective of the place. Everyone in Cappadocia was friendly, from the hostel owner to the staff at the shops and restaurants.
I met a bunch of Aussie guys in Istanbul who I continued to hang out with in Cappadocia and they undoubtedly made it a more fun experience. On top of my new Aussie mates, we also met a local girl, Aishe.
Aishe was trained as a tour guide, but the tourism in Turkey has hugely dropped in the last year or two, due to the bad rep it gets in the media, and so she hasn’t been able to find any work in the tourism industry this summer. Instead, she was working at a restaurant. She kindly took it upon herself to be our friend and our guide. Thanks to her, we got a good deal on quad bikes and spent a day getting lost in the nearby towns.
She also gave us endless tips and took us to a bunch of places in the little town of Avanos.
Firstly, we went to a pottery shop where a small child outdid me on a pottery wheel. The owner then kindly showed us his shop and, despite it being after hours, also took us up to his little museum…perhaps the creepiest museum I’ve seen to date. As we walked into the tiny cave covered in hair, he explained that many years ago he had to farewell a dear friend when she left Avanos. As a way to remember her, he kept a lock of her hair and hung it in the cave. Some say romantic… I say creepy. Apparently, a lot of people think it’s romantic, because they choose to also leave a lock of their hair behind. There’s now around 16,000 locks of hair dangling from the walls and ceilings of this little cave, covering every surface other than the floor.
After this unique little experience, Aishe took us to a Turkish dinner and dance show. We ate delicious local food and awed at the incredible traditional dancing, including a light up dress and some nifty fire tricks.
Aishe spent hours answering our endless questions and giving us insight into Turkish culture. Our experience of Cappadocia wouldn’t have been the same without her.