Turkey Part 2 - Free and easy Cappadocia

Jes , 8 Comments

What's on your bucket list?

Bucket list means the things you would like to do before you kick the bucket. For me, to be up on a hot air balloon is definitely one of them. And the most famous place for this to occur is Cappadocia. It's a place that reminds me a lot on Grand Canyon due to the rocks but yet they have their own quaint, rustic beauty.

Ok, let me start from the top with my free and easy itinerary. Definitely you have to read Part 1 first. To travel from Ataturk Istanbul airport, I took the Havatas aiport shuttle to the Asian side to get to Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Mainly because the flight from Ataturk to Kayseri Airport at Cappadocia is 5 times the price of a plane ticket (~$500) from Sabiha Gokcen. We didn't mind the travel, as that is the fun of backpacking.

The Havatas airport shuttle is right outside the airport exit, just cross the road and you will see it. It cost 10 TL to get to Taksim Square terminal where most people will get down. You can head to your hotel if you are staying in Istanbul first. Otherwise, at the same place as you alight, change bus to Sabiha Gokcen Airport which cost 13TL.

For the exact drop off point in Taksim, just google 'Abdülhak Hamit Cd No:66, Kocatepe Mh., Beyoğlu, Turkey' or see the map below.

Map of the Havatas drop off point at Taksim
I booked Divan Cave House for the experience in staying in a cave. It's not the cheapest, and does not have the best location but judging from its popularity and price, I would say it is value for money. I had a very good impression of them as their replies through email is prompt and their service is really good. I got the airport shuttle through them as the airport does not have other modes of transportation. Just that you need to wait until the shuttle is full before they leave.
Divan Cave House entrance
One of Divan caves...
The scenery of rocks rocks rocks!
Day 1
Anyway, for my first stop, Goreme Open Air Museum (15TL). Divan offered free shuttle service to the museum. Nothing much, just looking at caves and rocks. I feel that the Christians have very strong adaptability to be able to build a church in those caves and draw such nice portrayals too. We also took some photographs while putting on turkish costumes at the gift shops... it was worth the 10TL in my opinion.
Rocks, caves and church at the Goreme Open Air Museum
When you leave the museum, you can wait for the bus at the opposite road to the ice cream stall, or just walk down. Mind you, the bus has erratic hours and we waited for a while before we decided to walk down to the main Goreme area. It's not too bad, you will see nice pottery house and caves on the way. The pottery is one of their main trade there, they use it mainly to cook stew and surprisingly, it is not reusable... oh well.
Pottery on trees?!
Pottery kebab.. signature dish there... 
We explored the whole Goreme area and ate at the best restaurant in town, Topdeck Cave Restaurant. Seems like every dish is good, I love the borek and my mutton rice. The patrons beside me were giving 'oohing' and 'aahing' noises to signify their approvals too. Definitely worth a visit and is the only restaurant that I remember well. Cost is also reasonable at around $30+ for 2 pax. 

Borek is like popiah but with cheese and other stuff...
Topdeck is not at the top deck though...

Day 2
My highlight of the trip! Thinking about it makes my heart lift.. I booked the Butterfly tour hot air balloon through Divan. The initial part when getting up to the basket is quite fearful as it sways this way and that while they were warming up the balloon. Once it starts ascending, you will feel a sense of calm settling over... it's so peaceful, so breathtaking, every problems seem to fade away. I feel humbled by the beauty of nature yet strangely empowered by the vastness of the land.

Ready...
Get set... 
The tonnes of other hot air balloons make a picturesque view...

Up and off to the sun rise!

Nicest view that I have seen so far.. 
We head to the underground tunnel after lunch, which is also another mandatory UNESCO attraction. I chose the Kaymakli one as it is nearer. Just head to Goreme main bus station and take the bus to Neveshir (2.5TL) that leaves every half an hour. Tell the bus driver where you are heading and they will ask you to change bus at this place 15 minutes into the journey. Switch to the bus heading to Kaymakli (3TL) which will take another 25 to 30 minutes. Cross the road and walk straight, you will see the tunnel. Take note to dress in shorts and comfortable shoes as you will be crawling and climbing. It's absolutely cooling inside there though due to their wide ventilation shaft.
I think it's their living room? Bedroom? Stable? Not sure..
We went back in time to join the hotel's guided tour to Rose valley. Totally worth it to join as you would not know where to hike without their directions. And of course... it's free!

Rose valley is named because it has a rose colour.. no roses around though..
Day 3
Took the bus to Uchisar castle by taking the bus from Goreme main station to Uchisar and walking 15 minutes towards it. Mind you, the bus stations do not have signs to signify it as bus stations and only locals will know where it is. I had fun posing for shots at the top of the Uchisar tower and you can try to spot the love valley.

Left is the bus stop and walk east towards Uchisar Castle
A few stairs up to Uchisar castle and see the top view.
After lunch, we explored the Urgup but found nothing much. Just some cheap doner and kebab shops.. this area is more like the locals neighbourhood.
Urgup.. they have Turkey flags everywhere!
Main thing is to try the Urgup Turkish Hamam for mixed gender and which swimming costume is allowed. Just walk 10 minutes to the west and you will see the distinctive stand alone building. Take note that the google map points to a much further west spot which is wrong, causing many people to not find it. 

Walk to the hamam... dun get lost like us!
Saw reviews and wanted to try out hamam since 65TL (~$40) for 2 pax is reasonable. First you drench yourself with water, then you get into the sauna. Lastly, they give you a good massage with soap and wash you off. Fuss free and suitable for families too. Just take note that they only have male masseur so if you are uncomfortable, then just skip it. 
Distinctive hamam building
Day 4
I also booked the ATV through Divan's reference as they will ensure you are charged reasonably. When I tried asking the price on my own, they tried to carrot-chop me by setting a high price =.= We ATV through love valley and really enjoyed it. You don't really get to do these things on a regular tour.

One of the things we saw is the evil eye trees.. the eyes are said to keep evil away. But the name evil eyes sound like it's evil haha.



That marks the end of this fun filled, adrenaline rush trip. Onwards to Istanbul!

Jes

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8 comments:

  1. Turkey quite interesting. But a couple of days there and I yearn for PORK!

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  2. Hi Lizardo,

    Hahaha you are really a charsiew / roast pork person! I find their mutton really nice so did not think of pork at all. Did you go both cappadocia and istanbul?

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  3. Yes to both. Unfortunately, I didn't do the balloon option then. One of those do once in a lifetime kind of things that I shouldn't have 'stinged' on then.

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  4. Hi Lizardo,

    Unfortunately I have to agree that these experiences are totally worth the money. Heard the one at Myanmar cost US$400 so we are actually saving.. haha.

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  5. Hi Jes

    You just bumped my air balloon experience up the bucket list.

    Its so beautiful. I really envy.

    I will be a follower of your blog. Please keep it up :)

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  6. Hi B,

    Thanks for dropping by! I have more photos to make you jealous in my instagram hahaha... anyway you should really go soon, SGD is stronger than turkish lira, making it cheap. Don't forget to check out my Part 1 tips before you go.

    Have also added you to my great read list!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Jes

      Thanks for doing that.

      One silly question, my wife is kind of afraid of doing all the so called dangerous stuff so does taking air balloon a high risk kind of activity?

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  7. Hi B,

    I think every activity poses some kind of risk. I try to minimize it by going for the most recommended tour by tripadvisor and also by the hotel, Butterfly Balloons. It is slightly more expensive but this kind of money cannot save!

    This tour is well known to take off and land at uncommon places, so it is rare for clashes between balloons to occur, which is how most accidents happen.

    Don't let this be an excuse to stopping you, going up is really a romantic thing to do!

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