Turkey has been on my must-see list for years; I remember being enthralled with its history as a girl while playing Carmen Sandiego, and friends’ more recent tales of its beauty and charm only enticed me more. When I finally set foot on Turkish soil in Cappadocia, it felt as though a piece of my life puzzle was finally falling into place.

After the Geirangerfjord in Norway, visiting Turkey’s Cappadocia region in central Anatolia was the second pillar on my trip itinerary. The area is most famous for its unique topography and its long and varied history dating back more than 3000 years.

All over Cappadocia strange rock formations can be seen jutting out of the landscape; made up of volcanic debris whittled away over hundreds of thousands of years by wind and water, the formations are unlike anything else I’ve seen in the world.

When the Hittites first settled in Cappadocia 3000 years ago, they made their homes both within and beneath the rock, creating an extensive network of underground cities allowing for optimal protection in the face of invasion. Due to safety reasons only a few of the ancient cities are still open to the public and, claustrophobia aside, visiting one is an awesome experience! Below you can see the difference between a passageway on the first level, and then how cramped quarters become two more stories down!

There are a few towns to stay in within Cappadocia, all well connected and offering a range of accommodations based on your budget. I chose the most tourist-friendly town, Göreme, as my home base and absolutely loved it!!

I stayed at the very sweet Taşkonak Hotel, a cave hotel run by an extremely friendly and helpful Australian wife and Turkish husband, and can’t recommend it more. (View from the hotel terrace and snapshot of my cute room pictured below.)

With four days to spend in the relatively small region, I intentionally avoided signing up for any group tours as I’d heard they can be rushed and too often involve mandatory shopping detours at tourist traps. Instead, with the help of my new Australian friend Angela, I was able to go everywhere I wished using Cappadocia’s super convenient public dolmuş system, saving at least 50€ a day and gaining a firsthand perspective into everyday Turkish life! (Pictures from a daytrip via dolmuş to beautiful Avanos, the pottery capital of Cappadocia, and it’s famous Chez Galip ceramic studio below.)

Pictures from another daytrip to the Göreme Open Air Museum, also accessible via dolmuş, shown below.

Besides history and copious amounts of rock, Cappadocia is also world famous for its majestic hot air balloon rides! Offered only at sunrise, waking at 4 am to be shuttled off into the Turkish desert is a rite of passage for any visitor to Cappadocia.

For my first ever hot air balloon ride I chose the highly rated Butterfly Balloons company. They’re known for their excellent reputation and, after my ride, I can confirm its 100% deserved!

Ready to go!

And we’re off!

Cruising at 1000 meters…

Dipping through valleys…

It was the perfect way to see the valleys and ferry chimneys, flying overhead, taking in the breadth of colors in the early morning light.

All in all my days in Cappadocia were priceless. It was the perfect introduction to Turkey, and an extremely warm welcome to the first Muslim country on my trip. The generosity and hospitality of the Turkish people is unreal; even with the language barrier everyone was so happy and eager to help me on my way. I made friends everywhere I went, both with locals and other travelers, to the point that it started to feel like summer camp by the time I left!!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit this magical place yourself, you must go. Besides its unique beauty and interesting history, it has the warmest, sweetest culture that ensure a vacation well spent.

Thanks for reading!

xo Carrie