The story starts millions of years ago when two ferocious volcanoes erupted and left behind fragile volcanic rocks which in time, got eroded due to harsh weather. The result was and still is breathtaking. From there on, men have build their cave houses, churches, monasteries and underground cities (some of which are still undiscovered).
One day two travellers arrived, and wanted to go back to their roots, live in caves and have a life far from the headaches of the urban life. However, they soon discovered that all caves were sold out or too expensive, after all, don’t forget we’re talking about modern times. Eventually, they decided to stay at a hostel in Goreme and walk around to discover what it is like to live on the moon.
Breaking news: walking on the moon is possible. You just need to take a plane to Cappadocia. It’s closer.
On the way from the airport to the hostel, while gazing through the window we felt that this land would complete the Turkish panorama. In comparison to Istanbul, Cappadocia is the countryside experience you won’t find in any other countryside.
We’ll summarize below five of our most precious memories about and in this region:
1. Float in a hot-air balloon
Have you ever dreamed about floating in a hot-air balloon? We did and funny enough, we’ve both shared this desire ever since we read the Jules Verne’s story. Although it was one hour instead of Jules Verne’s five weeks, but that one hour, which actually felt like ten minutes, was one of the most unbelievable experiences one can live. This man was a visionary, and he let his imagination be our reality. Thank you, Jules Verne!
Before boarding, we were still having second thoughts (actually by we, we mean Diana) but once you’re up there you just go with the flow…humm…float with the flow. Seeing a hundred balloons rising together with the sun and the panoramic views of the chimneys, the green orchards and vineyards and rippled ravines are simply spine-tingling. We let the photos below and our Hot air balloon flight in Cappadocia video speak for themselves.
2. Go to Uçhisar and drink tea with a local
Besides the castle that attracts most of the tourists, Uchisar is worth visiting even for just dropping by the oldest church in the village to get into conversation with the family who owns the six-level oldest cave in the region (it won’t be difficult to find ).
The man cheerfully greeted and invited us in their humble house where he lives together with his wife, the two kids and a dog. After admiring the wife’s crafting skills and by the time we were preparing to leave, they served us a cup of tea and some stories about their family generations of Greek and Armenian origins, who inhabited the cave for 300 years. While drinking our tea, we were still puzzled by the fact that we were there, in their home being welcomed as one of them.
3. Lose yourself in the Love Valley and drink tea with a local
All those valleys…impossible to rest too much, only if it was with the local merchant as it happened to us. This kind man offered us a cup of tea, a pack of tea to take home as a souvenir and a priceless lesson about the art of making Turkish tea.
Being thirsty for more picturesque scenes before the sunset, we hit the road wondering what was hiden behind the next rock, beyond the next hill…How to stop marvelling at the bizarre beauty of Love Valley?…
4. Walk to Ortahisar and drink tea or home-made wine with a local
The place we were most hesitant about was the place that took us most by surprise.
After one hour of hiking we finally arrived in the village. As usual, we greeted all the smiling faces on the road and at some point the man in the car to whom we previsously nodded Merhaba! passed by and said: “Hop in, I’ll take you to a nice place!”.
On the way to the nice place, he revealed that he’s taking some food and socks to a family of refugees from Syria who’d arrived there the previous day with three children walking barefoot. “Can you imagine? To endure this cold, especially kids..”, adding that in the whole region of Cappadocia there are around 400 families of Syrian refugees.
We parked the car by an abandoned house where he knew the family found shelter. Within the garden was hidden a beautiful shabby Christian sanctuary with Byzantine drawings from the post-iconoclastic period. The family was not there, so he left the goods and turned to us: “If you want, after you visit around, stop by my house to have some tea or whatever you wish for.” On the moment we hesitated…After he left, all we could hear was the echo of our steps on the cold ground. We were in a ghost city and it was cold. They’d said it would snow.
We started opening doorways to the past of the castle surrounded by troglodyte caves, stone houses and pigeon rock formations…Go here to check our short movie about this lost-in time place! We later found out that this place dates back from the beginning of Christianism…
Joining some kids playing football didn’t miss from our adventure either. Trying to explain them where we are from worked good with Edgar who associated Portugal with Ronaldo…this is where they began screaming and jumping thinking that Edgar was Ronaldo…then we had to clarify that I (Edgar) am not Ronaldo, I’m just from Portugal where Ronaldo is from. Man, what a laugh we had!
After three hours of wandering, Mustafa’s house was the oasis we were looking for: cozy and warm, with good home-made wine, genuine conversation and the cats’ inquisitive presence. We didn’t even notice how six hours passed…
By the way, Mustafa is also on Couchsurfing. Too bad we hadn’t known before! Not only is he a great host, but he can be your guide and friend. P.S. Don’t let yourself intimidated by his written English, he speaks it very well (afterall, a language is to be spoken).
5. Go to a traditional restaurant and feast on all the traditional goodies
There’s a reason why TripAdvisor and all the blogs exist: to be read so that you make the most of your journey. This is how we found Nazar Borek & Cafe where you’ll spend not only a delicious evening, but a multi-cultural one. The owner of the restaurant, also part of the staff, is a well-travelled man that knows many languages and is always up for fun, so you might also close the evening learning how to dance on Turkish folk music. 😉
Recommendation! Try Gozleme Ispanakli (a flat village bread baked on grill, served with baby spinach and cheese), the borek and boregi and the fabulous lentils soup.
Cappadocia, a landscape with remarkable soft rock formations, fairy chimneys and countless caves, has so much more to offer, but we believe that the five points mentioned above should definitely stay on everyone’s list. Drop us a message should you have any question and we’ll be happy to spread the love we have for this region.
List of tips:
– To tell you the truth, right now we wouldn’t conceive visiting just Istanbul without an escape to Cappadocia. But how to get there? Most of the search results will tell you to go by bus, preferably at night, as it is a 9 hours trip, thus you’ll save more time to visit during the day; or to travel by fast train until Ankara and from there to take the bus until Nevsehir; or to fly with the Turkish Airlines…This is where we turn your search easier: book your flight with the low cost carrier, Pegasus Airlines that has the same price as the bus and you arrive to Nevsehir (Cappadocia’s capital) in only an hour. From Nevsehir, it is preferably to arrange a shuttle with the hotel/hostel you’d be staying – the safest and quickest way to get to Goreme.
– Make sure you stay at least three days in the region so that you won’t lose the ride with the balloon, meaning that if the weather forecast is not good in the morning you have the reservation, they will postpone it for the next day. To give you an example, we met two girls whose flight was postponed two mornings and eventually they had to depart without enjoying the experience.
– Most people in Goreme wouldn’t recommend you to visit Ortahisar, but don’t let yourself deceived, choose the unbeaten path, walk until there and when you arrive, drop by Mustafa’s house (tell him in advance about your arrival) and let him delight you with stories about his home-made wine, Cappadocia – what it was and what has become, his youth and the healing power of his loving cats.
– Something we missed while in Cappadocia and that many recommend are the underground cities in Nevsehir. Still, by visiting the Goreme museum, you will get an idea of the prehistoric living conditions and if you’re not bothered by tiny, narrow and dark corridors, go for it!