2 days in Cappadocia, Turkey

If you are planning a trip to Turkey, Cappadocia must be firmly on your itinerary. It is one of those mystical places that is both alluring and awe-inspiring. Cappadocia literally means the 'land of beautiful horses' but it is also famous for its magical hot air balloon rides, unique geological features, charming cave hotels, impressive rock-cut monasteries, awe-inspiring underground cities and overall mystical beauty. I have dreamt of that sunrise hot air balloon ride amidst that surreal landscape of fairy chimneys so many times before my visit there. While that did not go as planned, I definitely did a horse riding tour and explored the city and came back with lovely memories of the place and the people I met there.

Cappadocia is known for its charming cave hotels that are beautifully carved into the rocky terrain while preserving their unique features. I chose 'Sultan Cave Hotel' for its highly popular rooftop terrace and it did not disappoint. However, most of the cave hotels have such terrace views and you wouldn't go wrong with picking any of them. 

I flew from Istanbul to Cappadocia and reached my hotel around 9 pm in a pre-booked airport transfer. There is no public transportation here, so it is best to pre-book a shuttle through your hotel. On my way to the hotel, I got the news that my hot air balloon ride the next morning got canceled. I planned my entire 40th birthday trip to Turkey around a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia on my birthday. But unfortunately, it got canceled both the days I was there due to weather. Though I woke up the next morning not being super excited on my birthday, I had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and got ready to head out to explore the city. As heartbreaking as the cancellation news was to me, I did not want it to let me down. 

As I stepped out of my room, I met a Pakistani lady from Dubai (S) in our patio and we began to chat. She was on a solo trip too which gave us an opportunity to connect and share stories at length, which wouldn't have been possible otherwise. By then, I realized that this trip has a theme and it is all about the people and the connections. So, I sat back and listened to her. And I am so glad I did. After spending an hour or so with her, we made a plan to catch up again in the evening. And I finally headed out to the interesting Goreme open air museum. It is a massive collection of rock cut churches and monasteries and is roughly a 30 minute walk from my hotel. By the time I reached there, I didn't have a lot of time left to explore the place before my next booked activity that evening, so I decided to skip the line to get in and instead opted to get myself a cute picture on this super colorful stationary balloon located outside the museum :) When the weather doesn't let you fly, why not have a blast on the ground?

After this, I went for the sunset horse-riding tour through Rose Valley and Red Valley with Katpatuka Horse crew that I booked in advance through Viator. It was a peaceful rhythmic ride through a beautiful landscape but since it was my first time on a horse, I was more focused on trying not to fall off its back :) 

After I got back, I met S on our hotel terrace as planned and had a fun time together. 

The next morning, I had a pre-booked 'Cappadocia Green Tour' through Viator starting at 10 am. There are several group tours and private tours to pick from and I picked the 'Green Tour' as it included a hike in the Ihlara Valley and a visit to the Derinkuyu Underground city. It was a small group tour with 12 people and I didn't have high expectations but actually ended up loving it. Our first stop was at the Goreme panoramic view point.

Our next stop was the Selime Monastery which was a huge monastery from the 8th century that was carved in the rock. It had several sections and was quite impressive with large prayer halls, kitchen and living quarters that were intricately interconnected. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the hidden passages connecting one room to the other.

We then did a short hike in the Ihlara Valley by the river and had lunch near the floating restaurant in Belisirma.

We then visited Derinkuyu Underground city, which is the largest excavated underground city in the world. With 18 floors, it is massive and could accommodate 20,000 inhabitants together with their livestock and food storage. It has living rooms, sleeping areas, kitchens, storage areas, cellars, chapels and schools that are all connected through elaborate passageways and complete with chimneys, ventilation shafts, and wells. It was used for protection from invaders and is connected via tunnels to other underground cities in this region. It was built quite thoughtfully and was very impressive and well maintained. 

We also visited an Onyx factory that sells jewelry. Though I am not a fan of jewelry, I learned about an interesting gemstone called Zultanite that changes colors with the shade of the light and is only found in Turkey. After that, we briefly stopped at the Pigeon Valley, which got its name due to all the pigeon houses it has. It was glowing pink in the sunset.

Our last stop was at a local shop where we tasted a variety of local chocolates, desserts and coffee and purchased some. 

Though I am not a fan of group tours, I met an interesting lady in our group, who has embarked on a solo journey along the silk route in her 70s and is blogging all about it. Such a badass! We reached the hotel around 6 pm after an exciting and fun day. Then, S and I went to stroll around the cute downtown that is brightly lit and had vegetarian 'Testi Kabab" that is cooked in a clay pot followed by ice cream on the street. We shared more stories on the terrace, danced to some Bollywood songs that we requested, had a delicious coffee cocktail that our bar manager offered in exchange for my birthday cake and called it a night :)

I might have missed out on the hot air balloon ride, but I was glad to have met S who is bold and beautiful. Her story is truly an inspiration and her words of wisdom will remain with me forever. I hope it is the beginning of a new friendship and that our paths cross again. The next morning, the weather was clear and I got to see the hot air balloons from the hotel terrace before leaving for the airport and it was mesmerizing!

My Turkey trip wasn't like what I thought it would be, but it was perfect in its own way and just what I needed!! More than the place, it was the people that made it so special :) I am already planning another solo trip to this part of the world, what about you?


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