Cappadocia is one of my favourite destinations in Turkey. Having visited once when I was much younger with my parents, I made my return in October this year as part of a media familiarisation trip with Small Luxury Hotels of the World. I was still in awe as if it was my first time in Cappadocia. I saw much during the three days two nights. The memorable itinerary was organised by the folks from Neon Tours.
Cappadocia is home to Goreme National Park, Fairy Chimneys, Hot Air Balloon experiences, cave houses, Kaymakli underground city, Uchisar Castle, Goreme Open Air Museum as well as carpets and pottery shops which I got to visit. I picked a few of the more memorable experiences to highlight in this article.
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The Hot Air Balloon Experience
The highlight for me in Cappadocia is the deluxe hot air balloon flight. Despite my fear of heights, I could not miss the chance to hop on my first hot air balloon flight with my other 10 travel companions. And to catch the sunrise, we left the hotel at 5 plus in the morning just in time to catch the hot air balloons being inflated. That takes about 15 minutes for the hot air balloon to be fully inflated. In the meantime, have some light bites with refreshments or walk around and snap photos and videos with your mobile phone just like everyone else.
Depending on which time of the year you are in Turkey, be sure to dress sufficiently and suitably. In our case, it was cold and chilly, and wearing UNIQLO heat tech inner wear and a thicker jacket and a scarf kept me warm. The hot air balloon flight we travelled on could accommodate 10 of us onboard, and it was already pretty tight, somewhat like sheep being packed on the back of a truck.
Once your hot air balloon starts to rise, you get a spectacular view of the landscape from a different vantage point. It was so beautiful, I didn’t have time to realise how high I was and I literally forgot my fear of heights. See the other hot air balloons rise and descend around you. The different landscape of dunes and even fairy chimneys that are formed by the wind and rainwater are what you can expect to see in the 1 1/2 hour flight.
And after landing, you get to celebrate the experience with a glass of champagne.
Scenic Rock Formations
If hiking is your thing, then you can set aside some time to hike the Rose Valley which is also known as the Red Valley because of the different colours on the rock formations. Put on your hiking shoes or boots and arm yourself with a camera. Needless to say, the view is breathtaking. Especially during sunset when the sun’s rays bring out different colours of the rocks.
I wasn’t so adventurous. I didn’t go for the hike. Instead, I just plonked myself at one area and admired nature at its best and got down to taking photos of this vast picturesque playground. It got crowded very quickly as tourists arrived to soak in the beautiful sights.
I spotted a group of South Korean elderlies who were all equipped with professional DSLR cameras, tripods as they explored the area so that they could capture the best shots. A group of Chinese youths arrived and they were flying their drone as they filmed their vlog as a young lady modelled for the footage. Others had their smartphones out taking wefies and selfies.
The rock formations are something you can’t run away from in Cappadocia. It is everywhere and you see it from different perspectives.
Cave Houses in Cappadocia
Uchisar Castle is located in Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia. The castles in Cappadocia are nothing like the man-made castles of Europe. Instead, they blend well into the environment that are built out of natural rocks. Climb to the top of the castle and enjoy the panoramic view of the area and Mount Erciyes. Many of the rooms are no longer accessible due to the natural erosion. Many of the north side rooms have become homes for the pigeons which offer their droppings as fertiliser for the orchards and vineyards. The journey up involves many flights of steps and can be challenging and daunting if you are not too fit. At the base of the castle, you can purchase souvenirs and some bites.
Kaymakli Underground City
Kaymakli underground city is built under the Citadel of Kaymakli and was opened to visitors in 2014. The underground city was one of the seven parts of Goreme National Park and Cappadocia that was registered into the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. Goreme National Park, Derinkuyu Underground City, Karlik Church, Theodore Church, Karain Columbaria and Soganli Archaeological Site are the other six sites.
It is the largest of the 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, where nearly one hundred tunnels are connected to houses, cellars, as well as storage for animals. You have to bend your body to get through to some parts of the underground city and the passages are usually low, narrow and sloping. Four of the eight levels below ground are open to the public.
Getting to Cappadocia
You can take a domestic flight on Turkish Airlines from Ataturk Airport in Istanbul to Kayseri Erkilet Airport, the major albeit small airport of Cappadocia. The flight takes only 1 hour 25 minutes The airport is 75 km to Goreme. A car ride to Cappadocia from Kayseri takes around an hour.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge is located in the Uchisar Valley. The boutique hotel under Small Luxury Hotels of the World has 11 ultra-deluxe suites. No two suites are alike. The hotel uses eco-friendly principles, recycled materials, energy-efficient practices, rainwater harvesting and living walls and roofs. Byzantine mosaics and Ottoman-style frescoes compliment the retro-modern 1960s touch in the suites.
The people at Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge have include thoughtful touches into the rooms. The remote controls for the television and fireplace have been sanitised and enclosed into a cloth holder with a sticker indicated that they have been sanitised. In the bathroom, a heated railing has been put up so that your towels can dry faster and are warm when you dry yourself after a shower. Commendable guests experiences that are actually quite simple but often not addressed in many hotels.
My room for two nights was the Aruru King Suite with Spa. It was spacious and luxurious. Felt like a home. I fully appreciated the fireplace as the nights were cold. Slap on lots of moisturiser after a nice hot shower and slip into comfortable pyjamas and jump into the comfortable king bed and snuggle under the sheets.
The spa room in my bathroom was my introduction to what resembles a hammam less someone giving me a traditional Turkish bath and a full body scrub. The room is slightly heated and needs some time to set up.
You can get one of the hotel’s kind butlers to help you set up the room. Cemal, the kind gentleman at the hotel lobby, was extremely helpful. In fact, the staff here are always smiling and personable. That’s what I like about boutique hotels where you can get intimate and personalised service.
The Ariana terrace gardens offer a view of the valley and a peaceful environment to relax in. You can capture amazing photos here with rows of wine grape vines, lavender flowers and other greenery depending on the season you visit. It was cool in October, I could sit on the steps and breathe in the fresh air with unblocked views of the undulating surroundings.
Awesome Sunrise from Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge
You have to get up at 6 plus in the morning to capture the sunrise at Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge. It was kinda chilly, so I put on a jacket, carried my tripod, fitted my iPhone with my ExoLens to capture a timelapse of the hot air balloons that offered a different perspective from the hot air balloon flight I took the morning before. The lodge’s lawn is located atop a hill which gives an excellent vantage point.
I could sit here all morning. Breathe in the crisp fresh air. Sip a cuppa hot cappuccino. Enjoy the peace. See the sun slowly emerge from behind the mountains. Not something I get to do every day. Breaks the monotony of my otherwise predictable daily routine.
2017 has had it’s ups and downs. Just like this time lapse of hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey we took when hosted by @amazeluxurytravel and @smallluxuryhotels in October this year. Ups and downs it has been. But when you take a step back and look at the whole picture, it actually looks beautiful. Thank you everyone for the support and encouragement and we look forward to a fabulous 2018. Happy holidays!!
Dining in Cappadocia
The Old Greek House is located in the beautiful village of Mustafapasa known for its splendid mansions with beautiful neo-classical façades and ornate stonework by the Greeks and rich Ottomans in the early 19th century. Private rooms are available where guests are seated on the carpeted floor and dine on a low table. The food here is very home cooked and quite suitable to the Asian palate, in my opinion. Dolma is one of the many Turkish dishes that you can enjoy here. The vegetables are stuffed with rice mix and cooked in olive oil. Eaten at room-temperature, the rice mix dolma is eaten as an appetiser. Rice is also served here if you are missing the fragrant white rice we are so used to when dining at home.
Enjoy a la carte lunch selection at The Plum Restaurant while staying at the Ariana Sustainable Luxury Lodge. Order Çiğ köfte for starters, a raw meatball dish made with either beef or lamb or the meatballs which are usually not presented in round morsels of meat but looking more like patties. What I love about the Turkish meatballs are that they are not gamey and are usually grilled to bring out the aromatic flavours of the meat, herbs and spices.
And don’t forget to try Turkey’s wines. I was surprised by the quality and variety of locally produced wines.