Cappadocia or Kapadokya (Turkish) is a dreamy landscape dotted by lazy hot air balloons carried by the winds over a landscape of whimsical fairy chimneys. Rich in history, as most of Turkey is, remarkable rock architecture and the Alice-in-Wonderland-esque natural formations makes it one of Turkey’s top tourist attractions.
We got in from Istanbul via Turkish Airlines into Kayseri’s Erkilet Airport in the morning. Flights are by far the easiest way to get in and not expensive if booked early. In comparison the trip by car would take just under 8 hours.
July is considered the off peak season so we risked not booking our accommodation in advance. There are many varied Cave Hotels in the area and I wanted to preview the accommodation before actually settling in. Getting out of the airport there was an army of taxi’s waiting to take us to our desired destination. Public buses are available too but we decided to skip the hassle of lugging around our luggage.
We got in a cab and asked the taxi driver to take us to the nearest tourist information/ tour agent company in Urgup (Urgup is just on the edge of Goreme National Park). Even though our plans were pretty ad hoc I still remember the staff welcoming us into their small office and immediately getting us some Turkish tea, even though it was off peak and there wasn’t anyone around. What was supposed to be a stop over for information turned out to be an hour long chat and us exchanging contacts (he wanted to travel to Singapore to catch the F1 race). He offered to take us in his own personal car to view the nearby hotels. We previewed a couple of cave hotels before we arrived at Elkep Evi Hotel.
Elkep Evi Hotel
The thing that separated Elkep Evi from the other hotels was that the hotel wasn’t built up with stone, instead it was carved out of a little cliff side. We literally slept in a small mountain. The tour agent staff helped us with our luggage and when we wanted to tip him, he politely declined, telling us we can take him around Singapore if his travel plans went through!
We took the topmost suite at Elkep Evi, and being the off peak period we were able to negotiate the price to under US$100 a night. It had a balcony with a lounger, a generous bathroom and a lush king sized bed. TV and a Hi-Fi with a collection CDs of what we assumed was Turkish Pop songs. (We blasted that out the cliff face, since there was nearly nobody around).
The cave room kept cool in the 20ºC days and warm enough for a very comfortable sleep at night.
The hotel restaurant was located on a plateau had a love swing, where we spent most of our after dinner hours sipping wine, rocking back and forth to the sunset.
Hot Air Balloon Ride
We booked the hot air balloon tour online. Tickets were US$130 per person and included a buffet breakfast, hotel pickup and return, certificate and champagne upon landing.
What surprised me about the balloon ride was that (as a person who’s afraid of heights) I didn’t feel any vertigo. The basket was big and sturdy and held 12 people. Quick tip, get in early to secure your spot on the basket edge. I looked down as the balloon began to rise, watching the waving deck hands below shrink into ants and disappear altogether. Our balloon driver explained how he steered by rising or descending to catch the prevailing winds.
After pointing out the many sights from the air, he radioed his deckhands on the ground, and it was only while descending that I realize that they had been trailing us on the ground throughout the tour. He told them where his landing point was and they were there waiting. Table with glasses of champagne all set up.
Upon touch down all the passengers helped out in deflating the balloon by stomping the air out of it. We had our champagne collected our certificates and were delivered back to our hotels.
We spent the next couple of days exploring the many formations of Cappadocia. Namely the Nevesehir, Goreme National Park and Uchisar. Uchisar is the highest point of the region and has a natural rock castle as it’s peak.
There are other areas not much further out like Ihlara, which is the biggest Canyon in Cappadocia. The hot air balloon ride takes you over that canyon and seeing it from the air is by far the best way to enjoy it!