If possible, I loved our itinerary for Cappadocia even more than Istanbul. Pelin, our guide from SRM Travel, not only showed us the “must see” things, but also personalized our trip based on our input and desire for a combination of history and adventure. She enriched each day by introducing us to local friends, giving us a more authentic experience. If you’ve never heard of Cappadocia (I hadn’t), put it at the top of your travel list. Every spot I visited felt like an outdoor jungle gym, and to put it simply: I had fun!
Must see spots & experiences:
- Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise: This is one of my all time favorite travel experiences! Just book it now! The day starts with an early wake up call so that you can arrive at the launch site, sign your waiver, and get the safety talk. It’s a lot to take in pre 4am, but worth all the effort. I, for one, am apprehensive of heights, but had no problem with this experience. Perhaps it was because I was in a basket, or sometimes so low to the ground that we picked fruit off the trees. Regardless, my fear of heights disappeared, as I was distracted by the spectacular views of the valley, illuminated by the sunrise light. When we landed, the hot air ballon company had champagne and snacks set up for anyone who wised to partake...at 6am. Then, it was back to the hotel for a late morning nap!
- Goreme Open Air Museum and Kaymakli Underground City: Some people love museums, others not so much. Wherever you may land on that topic, don't let the word "museum" bring up childhood visions of long field trips stuck inside somewhere. Both the Goreme Open Air Museum and Kaymakli Underground City are not typical educational experiences. Goreme Open Air Museum consists of a maze of caves, turned into monasteries and churches centuries ago. And the Kaymakli Underground City, which dates back to ancient Hittite times, is a series of underground caves used by ancient people to escape invaders. Down-under, you’ll find carved out storage facilities, kitchens and even a church. Just be sure to watch your head!
- Nature walk through Ilhara and Devrent Valley: For a scenic walk down into a gorge, check out Ilhara Valley. You'll see many pistachio trees along the way (just in case you forgot to pack a snack). Also, spend some time at Devrent Valley if you’re up for a day of climbing cool rocks and taking funny photos.
- Lunch with locals: There’s nothing quite like walking into someone’s home (with language barriers in full swing) and feeling a warm welcome. On one occasion, our host spent the previous day sun drying tomatoes, which she subsequently used to created a delicious salsa. I wish I knew how she concocted it, but I slurped up every last drop. The next day, a couple prepared a fish dish, which had slowly roasted in a clay oven for over 12 hours! As we all sat down to eat together, it became apparent that while we did not speak Turkish, nor they English, we all spoke the language of great food. This is a don't-miss foodie experience!
- Pottery lesson: Our local guide, Pelin, arranged for a pottery tutorial at a nearby workshop. We learned a little about the trade and then gave it whirl! It wasn’t our “Ghost” moment, but we sure had fun putting on the funny looking pants and taking a stab at pottery. What do you think? My next career path?
- Carpet weaving facility: Niall, my "don't-history-tour-me-out" travel partner, loved this part! We learned about the process and production of carpets and we still hear from our friends there.
- Q & A session with the local imam: We were warmly welcomed into a local mosque where we had the opportunity to ask questions about faith and religion, especially in regards to how the practice has shaped the region of Cappadocia.
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