Although the 4:00 am wake up call for our hot air balloon ride was shocking early, we were really looking forward to the adventure. After a 4:30 pick up by the balloon company, Goreme Balloon, we drove around and picked up other passengers, finally getting to the Goreme Balloon headquarters about an hour later for some rolls and tea. We paid the €160 per person and headed off to the balloon launch site where we packed into the over-sized basket for the ride.
After takeoff, it was immediately evident just how packed the skies can be. We counted nearly 100 different balloons from dozens of companies. Given the numerous balloon companies, you'd expect prices to have moderated somewhat, but prices here are about the same as what you see in other parts of the world (United States, Egypt, etc.) – about $200 per person.
That said, it is totally worth it! The pilot expertly navigated the deep canyons getting us ridiculously close to some of the rock formations. From the balloon vantage point, we could see all of the Rose Valley, the Red Valley and Goreme Valley. It was spectacular and well worth doing! [You can see a video of our balloon flight.]
After the balloon flight, we came back to our hotel, Yunak Evleri, for breakfast and a two-hour map. We totally needed it!
Back at the hotel, the hotel manager told us about his hometown of nearby Mustafapasa, the Greek town, and raved about it. We drove through, but weren't impressed and didn't stop. From there, we drove the back roads in the direction of Kaymakli. The drive through Ayvali, Guneyce, and Mazi were amazing. There weren't any other cars on the roads and we really feel like we'd wandered back in time in Turkey.
We made a scenic and desolate drive through the Anatola Countryside on the way to Kaymakli. Tried to get lunch in Kaymakli, but it didn't happen. We couldn't find a place we were comfortable with so we ended up grabbing some chips and sodas and making a light picnic. After our snack, we went down into the Kaymakli Underground City. The city is built under the Citadel rock and inhabitants of the region would take refuge in the Underground City during times of siege.
In the afternoon, we drove on to Uchisar Castle, the – site of a massive rock outcropping l that was once used as part of the fortifications to protect the region (and is the highest point in the region). We stopped here to take some photos and also have a quick snack at one of the no-name snack stands by the parking lot. From there, we wandered the Countryside taking pictures. The road from Uchisar to Goreme was particularly picturesque with stunning panoramic overlooks of fairy chimneys. We repeated the drive from yesterday out through Pasabag and past Zelve to take pictures. This whole region was epically beautiful and reminded us of regions in Iceland and Western Colorado.
Back at the hotel, we had a cocktail and relaxed on the terrace before dinner.
Dinner was a bit weird. All the guidebooks (Frommer’s, Lonely Planet) all rave about Ocakbaşı – a BBQ place over the bus station. The atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired – there is no feeling of warmth in the place, and there were children watching cartoons and doing homework. We had the tomato mezze to start, which was excellent and the best bread so far in Turkey. For main, I had the lamb kebab special, which was fall-apart moist, although a little fatty. Laura had the chicken kebab, which was OK, but uninspired. But for Lira 50, it was a reasonable value. That said, both Frommer’s and the woman at our hotel recommended this place and we can't figure out why. It was OK, but certainly nothing to rave about.
Today was interesting for us. We took to the skies over Cappadocia and descended below the surface into the caves.
|Kaymakli Underground City|
|The Anatola Countryside of Cappadocia|
|The Uchisar Castle in Cappadocia|
|The Uchisar Castle|
|Above Goreme in Cappadocia|
|Near Zelve in Cappadocia|