A country of deep archaeological and historical wonders, straddling both Europe and Asia, Turkey is a masterpiece. After just one day in Turkey, I was already smitten. But after two weeks? It was love, no doubt. Needless to say, traveling leaves an impression on all of us so lucky to do it, but there are significant moments and places that stand out from the rest. Istanbul’s chaotic and magnetic energy, Pamukkale’s ‘Cotton Castle’, and Antalya’s Mediterranean old-world streets all packed in the wow factor, but it was Cappadocia that really took my breath away.
We spent two nights in Cappadocia, this awe-inspiring semi-arid region of central Turkey known for its unique landscapes and hot air balloons. When I say there is no other place in the world like Cappadocia, I mean it. If I could use one word to describe it, Cappadocia is otherworldly. It’s easy to see why the entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, what is so idyllic about this part of Turkey that people travel from around the world just to hop into a massive hot air balloon and stare at it? Well, a lot.
Even if you completely remove the hot air balloon experience, Cappadocia has got it going on. It sprouts these insane rock formations called fairy chimneys – thank you, geology. They are tall and pointy as they stretch toward the sky and are scattered across the region in the most storybook fashion. On top of that, or should I say in and under that, the area is home to detailed cave dwellings and underground cities. Enchanting much?
Visiting Cappadocia, you’re never guaranteed to be able to see it from a hot air balloon. The experience is so dependent on the forecast, but local guides are adamant about making it a reality for their visitors. Let me explain.
We woke up at the crack of dawn on our first morning in Cappadocia. We were practically still rubbing our eyes as we left our gorgeous hotel (more on that shortly).
We greeted our local guide who was waiting patiently in the lobby for us. Moments later, we were quickly whisked away into a vehicle with the local guide and hot air balloon expert. It was still dark outside at this point. The guides are chatting in Turkish, and we have no idea what is going on. They are talking quickly, speaking into walkie-talkies, driving with intent – it felt like chaos. Actually, it felt like the next Taken movie. Ok, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic.
However, what I quickly understood was that the guides were communicating with other hot air balloon points to pin down the perfect place for us to launch. They were discussing wind patterns, the temperature, and the view to nail down our perfect spot. Not only was I taken back by the beautiful connection with nature these guides seemed to have, but also how important it was to them that we had the best experience possible. They were spies on a mission to track down the ideal takeoff location. Spoiler alert – their mission was a success.
The sun was just starting to rise when we made it to our launch spot. The landscape was so dreamlike and surreal; it felt like someplace I could have never imagined actually existed. From there, it was a slow and steady race against the rising sun as we were lifted up into the sky. As we went up, everything became blissfully quiet. The chaos of getting here faded away, the dark early morning had transformed, and all that was left was the perfect view over Cappadocia, the majestic sunrise, and the dozens of other balloons that floated around us. It was eye-opening to look around and think about those in the other balloons having the same serene experience, in the exact same moment.
Eventually, we came down off the balloon, but I was still on a high. We returned back to our gorgeous museum hotel to reward ourselves with a full Turkish breakfast. The spread was strikingly arranged, spouting delicious ingredients and local flavor. This breakfast feast for one combined with the high of being up in the sky and the majestic Cappadocia view I had in front of me was idyllic, to say the least. Honestly, I felt like royalty looking out at my pristine kingdom from a desert plateau.
In Cappadocia, nature and people seem to live in harmony among the many fairy chimneys, cave dwellings, and enchanting ruins. It may sound cliche to say that I realized how small I am in this big, beautiful world – but it’s true. Some experiences just really put things in perspective and that’s exactly what this morning did for me. I had this rare opportunity to transport myself back in time, see old-world beauty, and some of nature’s most impressive masterpieces. Cappadocia is a place for mindful travel and unique experiences, and my trip to Turkey wouldn’t have felt complete without seeing this otherworldly masterpiece.