The Rose Valley was spectacular too, as we could see all the way to the miles of pink cliffs from our vantage point on a cliff.
Early the next morning, long before sunrise, we were picked up from the Dinler Hotel in Urgup and taken to Göreme in a small bus to have a sweet roll and a hot drink before being stacked on another bus and taken to our balloon departure point . There was a slight delay when it was determined that our balloon was “broken”, but soon we and eight other passengers were brought into the morning light in a different basket under the care of our pilot Murat. He was a very experienced pilot who could bring us down very close to chimneys and almost next to the doors of rock houses. The view was spectacular as there must have been about thirty balloons with different colors and logos in the air that morning.
A morning flight over the valley was a highlight of the trip. Source: Liz Sier
The moonscape below us was so fascinating, especially the sight of the bush vines that covered the vineyards in the valleys. Although the flight was about thirty minutes, it was all over too soon. Murat showed his expertise by putting the balloon straight into the trailer of the support vehicle that met us at the finish. No bumpy landing for us! After climbing out of the basket, we were greeted with a glass of champagne and cherry warmth to celebrate the event and awarded a medal.
After this exciting start to the day, we were picked up again by another company and taken on a great tour of many interesting local attractions in the north of the region.
From a vantage point where we had tea in the morning we had a breathtaking view of the Roman Ortohisar Castle and the village below where many houses were built into caves carved out of the rock face. Over the centuries, people settled in the soft tuff as wood was scarce, houses were easy to defend, and the indoor temperature was comfortable even in the extreme winter and summer.
Exploring the old cave houses in the rock face. Source: Liz Sier
After lunch we went to the open-air museum in Göreme to see the churches also carved out of the tuff stone. The Greek Orthodox Church was the dominant religion in Anatolia until the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, although most of the churches were excavated in the 10th to 12th centuries. Most of the churches still show remains of ornate frescoes or icons on the walls. Unfortunately, although entry was allowed, photography was prohibited inside. The museum has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984.
After a visit to the pottery in Avanos, where we saw skilled artisans recreating vessels based on Hittite designs, we saw the many strange shapes of fairy chimneys in other valleys such as Devrent and Paşabağı valleys.
The Devrent Valley is also known as the Imagination Valley. If you have a vivid imagination, you can see a camel, hand, and other shapes in the formations.
Paşabaği was formerly known as Monk Valley because of the hermit monks who lived in the cave houses. This is the most popular display of fireplaces as you can freely wander between them and even explore the inside.
There are also some shops or market stalls and a bar nearby for welcome refreshments and souvenirs. There is also a Jandarma (police) office in one of the chimneys.
It was such a busy day but we couldn’t see all of the glasses Cappadocia has to offer. Our tour was the Red (North) Tour booked through Hot Air Ballooning Cappadocia – the same company that did our balloon booking. Other travelers on our Gate 1 tour saw an underground city and various other valleys which would have been great too if there had been more time. That evening those who still had the energy went to dinner with the Whirling Dervishes Display, but we were all on tour after such an early start!
Another item on my bucket list has been checked and I have to say, despite all the wonderful places we have seen in Turkey, this experience in Cappadocia has to be the one I enjoyed the most.