Well it was more like 55 hours – aka two and a half days, but that ain’t as catchy!
We took a bus from Ankara to Göreme (cost: 60 lira each) and got to our hostel; The Dorm Cave by Travellers. Our double room was titchy but very nicely decorated and had a decent shower. So it was all good!
The two cycle tourists we’d met on the Black Sea Coast were also in Cappadocia which was wicked, so we walked into ‘town’ – ie the main strip – and tasted the local speciality, testi kebap (pottery kebab). To be honest it was a lot of fanfare and not much substance, but good to have tried it!
The next day we got up bright and early and headed to the Göreme Open Air Museum. It’s a collection of the various natural oddities formed by volcanic eruptions cooling in special ways, before being weathered down by centuries of wind and rain.
Most of this area was used by early Christians who were being persecuted during the Roman era and seeking refuge. There was a nunnery, various other religious buildings and places to cook and sleep etc. The weather was a bit shit in the morning so all my snaps were crap – so you’re only getting these two!
We then followed my trusty Lonely Planet Turkey suggestion of a long walk to do, and it was a pretty brilliant day! Though it was slightly hampered by getting a bus going the wrong way at the start.
Walking from Zelve to Göreme
When we eventually managed to get on the right bus we headed to Zelve. We got dropped off at the open air museum here – but we were a bit open air museum-ed out so just set off walking back to where we’d come from.
After Zelve, the walk passes the fairy chimneys of Paşabağı – these basically look like massive penises coming out of the ground. It’s pretty funny! If you’re mature though, you might instead call them ‘mushroom-shaped’.
When we were here, we bumped into Mike and Sara the bicycle tourists again. This was not the last time this happened!
Following my new bible’s advice (LPT), we headed towards Cavusin on a small track running parallel to the road but quite far from it. This was actually a bit of a trip highlight, as we saw practically no one else for an hour, and rest of Cappadocia is a bit overrun to be honest!
When we got to Cavusin we sat down in a restaurant on a side road, and who should come cycling along but Mike and Sara – again! After a quick chat we were on our way, and happened to wander past the Church Of St. John The Baptist, which was pretty amazing!
Without further ado, we headed on towards the Red Valley and Rose Valley. Again as we were wandering around these areas, we barely saw anyone else. Which added a layer of specialness in an already special.. lasagne? That’s not my best metaphor.
We walked through the Red Valley first, following a well-marked though a slightly muddy trail. After a while, it got a bit hilly, which had a strange effect on Sean.
At some point we slipped from Red Valley into Rose Valley, which I think is mainly different because the rocks get a bit more flowy. At one point I scrambled off and found a pretty stunning vista.
When we got back to the Dorm Cave, we dusted off and set out again for dinner. Sean had done a bit of research on where was good to eat. One of the best places to eat was actually across the alley way – but it was fully booked. Naturally!
We made a reservation for the next day, and headed to the Omurca Art Cave Cafe instead. It was an absolute winner! It’s kooky as hell, the food was amazing, the proprietor was stoned off his head and it was completely overrun with cats. I can definitely recommend.
For the second day, we booked in to do the ‘Green Tour’ that we’d seen advertised all over town. It was only 33 euros and promised to lessen the amount of walking – at least that’s what I thought until the 4km valley trek was revealed. Awesome!
The first stop was a pretty special lookout point.
We then headed to one of the day’s highlights, the Derinkuyu Underground City. There are a few of these underground cities in the area, and were used by the persecuted Christians I mentioned earlier. These caves are serious! We walked through ours for about 45 minutes with minimal stops and saw less than 10% of what was there, and our tour guide said that up to 3,000 people could live in it at any one point.
The areas are in layers – the caves go 14 layers down but apparently it’s unsafe to go that low. I think we went about eight layers down.
There’s bedrooms, kitchens, churches, a couple of wineries, and graves etc. But no loos. Our tour guide stated that the caves were only used for a couple of months at a time, whilst they waited for danger to pass. Must have been pretty mental staying below ground for that long, with no loos… I go nuts when I haven’t had a shower for two days – never mind being surrounded by thousands of stinkers, with no loos and only a few ventilation shafts.
We then headed to the Selina Monastery. Here we learnt that the tufts that could be seen in the distance were the original inspiration for Tatooine Planet – Luke Starwalker’s home in Star Wars IV: A New Hope. It couldn’t actually be filmed there however due to civil unrest, and was instead set in Tunisia. So now you know!
We then got herded to a restaurant for a nice lunch, before going to do the Ihlara Valley Hike. This was the second highlight. The weather had perked up and the hike is beautiful. You follow a river that winds through the valley, and it’s only interrupted by a few cafes.
I took about 1,000 more photos but my iPad is starting to buckle under the pressure of this post, so I’m trying to give it a light touch!
We then took an unscheduled stop to the Acigol crater lake which was bloody beautiful! Back on track, we headed to a jewellery factory, before heading on to our final stop – the Pigeon Valley. Pigeons used to be kept in the area – people made little houses for them in the rock faces to collect their droppings. It was a slightly messy-sounding end to a nice day!
We’d been told before we left the hotel that we’d be moved to a new, triple room. And what a room! It was actually a ‘cave’ room, built into the rock face. And it had a bath which was mega. There were little holes that originally were probably used for linseed oil burning, but turned out to be perfect iPhone holders whilst charging.
After a good scrub we headed out to the Top Deck restaurant we’d booked the day before. It was another corker. We tried borek for the first time and it didn’t disappoint. Practically no Turkish cuisine ever does.
The next day we woke up at 3.45am to get ready for our 4am balloon ride collection. We’d been booked in the last two mornings but it kept getting cancelled – so a top tip for anybody thinking of visiting is get yourself booked in for the first night you’re there!
We went with Voager Balloons but every balloon company is rated 4.5 or above on TripAdvisor, so I don’t think there’s too much difference. After pick up we got driven to a place to have breakfast and pay up.
It is not cheap people! We paid 160 euros each, which was one of the cheaper options. I think we’re still in the hangover phase of living in Dubai, where that kind of expense is excusable. Most people we talked to said it was too expensive and just planned to catch it from the ground. I’m glad we did it, though it does look pretty spectacular from the ground too.
Without further ado, here’s a massively whittled down selection of photos and one video.
As I said though – if you don’t want to spend the money, there are various look out points that offer fab views. Our new friend Ross sent me this snap from Sunset Point on the same morning. It looks bloody great! And it’s for free – which is my favourite cost ever.
I’d say the main difference is in the balloon you’re enjoying an active experience rather than a passive one. Plus it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go in a hot air balloon over the craggy valleys here. If neither of those sounds too persuasive and you’re heading there yourself, save yourself the coin!
And that’s that! We were back in the hostel by 7am, and caught the 10.15am bus to Ankara after breakfast. It’s a brilliant place. Night xx