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ISSUE 18OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

For an extra dose of whimsy, visit Cappadocia

Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an awe-inspiring trip complete with air balloon rides and waking up in a 1000-year-old cave, Cappadocia is the ideal destination for you (and everyone you know)! Travel enthusiast Mette Hartmeyer visits this wondrous Turkish region and lists some of the top reasons why one should book a trip there sooner than later, complete with details on room, board and ticket pricing.

How to get there:

Book a flight from the new Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul to Nevsehir to tour around Cappodocia. To find the cheapest ticket prices, check websites such as www.expedia.com. A round-trip ticket is about PKR 65,000/USD 500 (foreign exchange rate as of July 22, 2018 is PKR 130 to USD 1). I would recommend you spend two to three nights of your Turkey trip in Cappadocia.

Here are some reasons why everyone should go and see this place. 

1 For some romance:

Live in a Cave

Cappadocia is an architectural marvel where all over the city, you find hotel and guest houses carved into caves. You can book your hotel on hotels.com and even find packages which include a full adventure. Make sure that the hotel provides shuttle bus transportation from the airport as it is a good 30-40 minutes drive, calculate additional PKR 3,000/USD 25 for return shuttle bus tickets. 

My friend and I stayed at the Dervish Cave House in Nevsehir, Turkey. The staff was very helpful in recommending places to visit, booking the balloon ride and suggesting economical bus tours. It is always more fun when we walk on our own and take the local bus rather than going for a tourist package. Just so you know, rooms here start from PKR 7,000/USD 55 per night. 

Take an Air-Balloon Ride

This ride is certainly a requiem for a dream. With panoramic views of the skyline dotted with hot air balloons, how can one resist and not book a ride. Yes it is a little pricey but let me tell you, it provides the perfect backdrop for the ultimate romance for any couple who wants to go on a honeymoon or second honeymoon. You can book a trip through most of the hotels or online. Be aware of peak seasons, as it might be difficult to book last-minute during their annual air balloon festival.

You get the best tours in the morning, where take off is at 5.30 am before sunrise, which you will see from the balloon. You will be picked up in a shuttle an hour and a half before the scheduled time from your hotel. For all practical purposes, you are to sign insurance papers before continuing to the balloon. The tour takes approximately 3 hours, of which 60-75 minutes are scenic flight time. It is a once in a lifetime experience. Bring your camera and enjoy the journey. The price includes breakfast and is approximately PKR 32,000/USD 250 per person.

1 For ancient history:

Go see Göreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site

The lonelyplanet.com calls it “an essential stop on any Cappadocian itinerary (which) deserves a two-hour visit.” Initially what started as an important Byzantine monastic settlement, with its splendid cluster of historic artistry of rock-cut churches and monasteries, later became a pilgrimage site.

The entrance fee is approximately PKR 660/USD 5. Note that the museum’s highlight – the Karanlık Kilise – has an additional PKR 250/USD 2 entrance fee. When you exit the open air museum, don’t forget to cross the road to visit the Tokalı Kilise, 50m down the hill towards Göreme and covered by the same ticket. This is one of Göreme’s biggest and finest churches. What is most interesting here is that with an underground chapel, the fabulous, recently restored frescoes painted in a narrative cycle describing the life of Jesus Christ, date back to the 10th century!

DerinKuyu Underground City

Just when you thought you had seen all the wonders this place has to offer, you come across the underground cities. There are so many of them here at Cappadocia that no one truly knows the exact number. 

The biggest and deepest is Derinkuyu. It has eight floors and extends at a depth of approximately 85m. Back in the day, each floor could be closed off separately with large stone doors. The large 55m ventilation shaft appears to have been used as a well. The shaft also provided water to both the villagers above and, if the outside world was not accessible, to those in hiding.

First built by the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, around the 8th-7th century BC, the city could accommodate between 20,000 and had all the usual amenities such as wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms and chapels. 

The entrance fee to the Derinkuyu underground city is PKR 380/USD 3. In the summer season, it is open from 8am to 7pm and during the winter, it opens at 8am and closes at 5pm. Consider joining a guided tour, as we attempted without and it’s pretty scary down there. You might find it useful with extra light from your mobile, so charge your phone. 

3 To relax and spoil yourselves 

Turkish Spa

Cappadocia still has a few long-standing Turkish hamams. The Elis Hamam has up-to-date, modern services for a bathhouse whose stones are actually 400 years old. The hamam is a restored facility, and when you take a dip, remember that you will be relaxing in a place where Hittite, Roman, Byzantine, Selcuk, and the Ottoman have all reigned. Personally, I greatly enjoyed the package deal which included a face mask, dry sauna, hamam with kese (peeler) and köpüklu masaj (bubble massage), steam sauna, and cool jacuzzi, which lasted a tantalizing 90 minutes for 

PKR 1500/USD 12.

The Damat İbrahim Paşa Hamamı is open 7 days a week from 6am to 10pm, and every Saturday, from 10am to 4pm it is a ladies-only time with women masseurs. Pricing is great at PKR 650/ USD 5 which includes the entrance fee, a scrub and a bubble massage.

4 Action for the Explorers

ATV Adventures

Cappadocia is full of surprises – and I mean, good ones! For a little sense of motor independence, you could hire to drive a motor crosser. 

Take a quad safari tour and explore the region’s off-the-beaten-track spectacular rock-cut valleys. For those with a spirit of adventure, a little escapade on a sturdy ATV may just be what the doctor advised. It may just end up being the most fun thing you did this holiday.

All around Göreme and Cappadocia you will find people selling you different tours and you can even rent the vehicles on an hourly basis, if you just want to go on your own. The prices start from PKR 5,250/USD 40 for a 2-hour tour, including V.A.T and fuel.  

It is something everyone in the family would enjoy doing and you can head off to discover fairy chimneys, valleys and a lot of old cave churches in the Cappadocia region. 

So whether you go for a taste of culture, or to take a flight of fancy in a hot air balloon or just to traverse through otherwordly rock kingdoms, go for an extra dose of whimsy. Cappadocia is full of fascination for the seeing eye. Don’t miss it!

Cappadocia ATV Destinations

  • Zemi Valley
  • Girls Monastery
  • Rose Valley
  • Cavusin (off-road)
  • Red Valley
  • Swords Valley
  • Red Valley
  • Babatcik Valley
  • Love Valley
  • Aydin Kiragi
  • Gorceli Valley
  • Iceri Dere Valley
  • Uzengi Valley
  • Ortahisar
  • Uchisar Castle

Mette Hartmeyer
Mette Hartmeyer Piracha’s educational background is in the field of governance and development, and she is now studying psychotherapy. She has lived in Pakistan for 4 years, where she still is exploring her real call. She is an occasional writer and an independent development consultant. Mette loves to explore, meet people and bring life to their stories. She often visits Alif Laila, where she helps out, when needed.

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