Exploring the beauties of Asia Minor
Separated from European Turkey by the straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles, Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor, is a peninsula surrounded by four seas: the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the lovely Sea of Marmara, which literally splits up the country in two worlds apart. Asiatic Turkey comprises the rugged Black Sea coast with its steep mountains (Pontic Alps), crystalline rivers, and evergreen forests; the historical Marmara Region where lie Istanbul and the legendary Plains of Troy; the sparkling Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, where Turkey’s most famous summer spots are located, including Izmir and Antalya; the Central Anatolian Region, home of Ankara and the stunning Cappadocia; Eastern Anatolia, the highest part of Turkey; and the Southeastern Anatolia Region, neighboring Syria and Iraq.
By now you’ve probably seen incredible photos of colourful hot air balloons soaring above a rocky, desert type landscape and although you might not know exactly where in the world these were taken, you’ve added it to your bucket list. Well I’m here to tell you where to see these balloons, how to get there, where to stay and 2 ways to get those picture perfect Instagram shots!
What to know
The most famous name and the name you may have heard of before is Cappadocia. However Göreme is the name of the main tourist town. Cappadocia is pretty much in the middle of Turkey, a Country that a lot of people visit for its coastline and the City of Istanbul. Turkey has more recently received some bad press, but rest assured that the majority of time it is safe to visit and if there’s any commotion its unfortunately, usually in the capital of Ankara which is 300 km away from Cappadocia (nearly the same distance as London to Paris).
Turkey is a big country too, in fact its the 37th largest country in the world so a degree of planning is required to get you to this fairytale place. The best option is to fly there and conveniently there are 2 airports that serve Cappadocia-Kayseri Airport (ASR) and Nevsehir Airport (NAV), however Kayseri is an hours drive away from Göreme, whereas Nevsehir is only 30 minutes away so bare this in mind when booking.
How to get there
Flights are extremely cheap into these airports from other parts in Turkey. From Istanbul for example, flights are as little as Euro 12,00-22,00 each way depending on flight times, days of the week, when you book etc. From the airports you can get a shuttle bus into Göreme town which I recommend booking online first so you know its booked, however once you’re in the town and going back to the airport, just pop to the bus station and get a ticket there as it will be cheaper, I paid Euro 5,00 to get to Kayseri Airport from Göreme, alternatively you can get a taxi.
Overnight buses are also very popular in Turkey, probably due to it’s size. I got an overnight bus from Pamukkale where I had visited the white travertine terraces or Cotton Castle. Whilst it wasn’t the best overnight bus I have ever taken, I don’t believe I had the possibility of flying from here, plus it was a very cost efficient way to travel between the two spots. Buses leave Göreme to go all over the country and can easily be booked at Nevsehir bus station once you arrive so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
Where are you actually going?
When I was planning my trip I kept seeing the name Cappadocia flying about, but I also kept seeing the name Göreme when looking for accommodation and I got quite confused. To break it down for you, Cappadocia is the region and there are many towns in this region, Göreme is one of these towns and this is the main hub for tourists in Cappadocia. When looking for accommodation search for somewhere in Göreme, unless you are renting a car and then it might be nice to be further out. The town of Göreme is located between the ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations that make up this landscape and give this area such a unique look and trust me it does feel like you’re in a fairy tale!
Where to stay
Created from the restored ruins of an ancient village, carved deep into a cliff face years ago, the Museum Hotel is a real one-off. It overlooks a breathtaking landscape of rose-coloured ravines, dramatic rock formations and the distant volcanic cone of Mount Erciyes. The stone structure dates back thousands of years, previously home to Hittites, Persians and early Christian Romans who lived in the caves that now offer high-end accommodation. The Museum Hotel was constructed by hand using the finest authentic materials and brought back to its original state. This is by no means your typical hotel stay, so be prepared for the experience of a lifetime. The hotel boasts 30 rooms and suites, former carved rock households which were selected and transformed into the luxury guestrooms of nowadays. Guests can experience a unique living in a museum experience with a number of historical items and antiquities on display throughout the caves including relics from the 16th century. Its facilities include an outdoor swimming pool on a terrace, which overlooks the valley, an ecologic garden, a massage terrace, library and a restaurant that serves some of the best cuisine in Cappadocia.
How long should you stay
View from Museum Hotel
No matter when you go, I recommend that you spend at least 2 nights here and I would say that 3 nights would be the perfect amount of time. This way you can see the balloons in 2 ways! Firstly you can see them from the ground, if you’re on a really tight budget or perhaps you’re not a fan of heights then don’t rule out coming here as seeing them from the ground is an amazing option.
As I mentioned above, if you’ve got a rooftop or a balcony and can roll out of bed and see them from there then great, get yourself comfy and be prepared for an hour of beauty. If this isn’t an option and you are not staying at Museum Hotel, reach the highest vantage point you can jump out of bed early and head up to Sunset Point which is in the centre of Göreme. It’s a bit of a walk uphill, but the adrenaline and excitement should keep you going. From up here you’ll be able to see an amazing view of all the balloons in the sky flying right above you, you’ll see the sun rise up into the sky in the distance and as it gets lighter and lighter the town of Göreme below you comes alive! Your second option is of course to take the hot air balloon ride. As you can imagine there are tons of places that sell this trip, both online and once you’re there. I always recommend waiting to purchase trips like this until you arrive at a place as often you will pay more online, however make sure you research the company still so you know you’ll get a good service for this once in a life time opportunity. In any case I am sure that shortly after you wonder if it will have been all just a dream.