We know that it’s the time of the year when you are doing Christmas markets along with ski trips. As well as planning your 2023 holidays. And if you’re in that mode, we want to remind you that Cappadocia continues to hold its charm. It’s a great contender for your 2023 bucket-list, and while we have mentioned it in our Five Hot Air Balloon Rides article, it does merit attention on its own.
So, for starters, a bit about Cappadocia. This region is in the southeast of Ankara, and is known for many things, but most prominently for the rock formations known as ‘fairy chimneys’. In fact, you may have come across these beautiful, dreamy structures and Cappadocia’s surreal landscape – on social media, on the pages of a glossy magazine, or even on your friend’s gram!
Cappadocia incorporates parts of the cities of Aksaray, Nevşehir, Niğde, Kayseri and Kırşehir. Many tourists head to the towns of Uchisar, Göreme, Avanos, Ürgüp, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara to experience the charms of this beautiful landscape. We were based in Goreme for our vacation and used that as a base to explore the region.
Here’s what we enjoyed doing whilst in Cappadocia, and we think you may too:
Take the hot-air balloon ride
I am so glad that I didn’t listen to myself (I thought this was a touristy thing to do) and instead went for the sage advice of my husband. The hot-air balloon ride was an experience of a lifetime, and worth every Lira that we paid for it. Most local tour operators in Cappadocia offer these rides at various times of the day, but you should aim for the pre-dawn flight. If you do, you would be up in the skies, and catching the sun rise as your balloon glides softly over the fairy chimneys — that’s the 60-million-year-old rock formations that look as if they belong to a galaxy far away from earth. That’s not all. You will also be able to take in the hillside settlements, and breath-taking valleys. And once your balloon safely lands, you’re in for a treat too – champagne and some hard-earned Turkish breakfast! Look at the photographs from our trip below, and I am certain that they will win you over!
A tour of the underground cities
There are several underground cities in Cappadocia carved into the soft tuff rocks. However, there are two large ones near Nevsehir that are open to the public. What did we do?
Well, there was so much to see around the area, that we took organised day tours so that we could get a glimpse and more of the not-to-be missed sights. Our group was small, the transport was air-conditioned and comfy – I reckon we couldn’t have covered all of the sights if we had gone out on our own.
Here’s what we saw from the day tours, and a private taxi hire. (The cab came at very reasonable rates and ferried us around, giving us time to explore sights on our own).
We took in views from Goreme Panorama point, visited the underground cities of Derinkuyu, and also went to the Goreme open air museum. Our tour managed to give us views of the Rose and Red Valley, Ortahisar Greek town and the pigeon valley. (Believe it or not, people collected pigeon droppings for fertiliser and this labyrinth of caves has dovecotes carved into the rocks so that it became easier to collect the droppings.)
One of our tours included a visit to Pashaba or the Monks valley and taking in the Uchisar castle. Again, I will let the photographs do some of the talking.
Try the testi or pottery kebabs
If you are in Cappadocia, you mustn’t miss out on its unique offering. The clay pot/pottery kebab is also known as testi kabab. Meat, vegetables, and lentils are slow cooked in a sealed clay pot in traditional earthen ovens. When the pot is broken, the smoky aroma and flavour just delights your senses. In some cases, there’s also a bit of a flourish at play when this tasty treat is brought to your table.
The waiter brings a clay pot from the oven to the table and ours used a sword to break it open! You could have lamb, beef, chicken, shrimp, carrots, celery root, onions, garlic, and potatoes in your pot, depending on what version you’ve ordered. Some restaurants require that you book your pottery kebabs a night or two in advance since they let the meat simmer and cook overnight and more. Whatever you do, please have the testi kebab.
Head to the terrace to witness Cappadocia at night
It is a most magical way to take in all the beauty of the region. Most hotels or cave hotels in Cappadocia would have a terrace. Once you’re done with dinner, head there and watch the magic unfold. We were in Goreme and the entire neighbourhood was lit up with lights – it felt like a festival of sorts!
Be transported into a different realm by attending a Dervish ceremony
We attended one at the Saruhan Caravanserai – just outside of Avanos. It was a most beautiful ceremony, and I felt as if all my worries flew away, and for that hour, I was one with the dervishes.
You can find the details of the ceremony here.
(All photographs in this feature, apart from the one accompanying the dervish performance, are by the author and are taken whilst on a personal trip to Turkey.)