Laureen Uy knew something was up in Cappadocia, Turkey—this otherworldly land topped her travel bucket list for several years until a work project brought her dreams to life in 2019. If you browse through Instagram's #cappadocia hashtag, you'll understand why: It's awe-inspiring with its 50 shades of beige terrain and vast sky littered with golden hot air balloons. This rocky wonderland was formed over millions of years by natural processes and volcanic activity. More recently, it was shaped into perfection by human hands with marvellous carved-out caves, churches, and massive networks of tunnels.
In case Laureen's visually stunning IG posts weren't enough to convince you, let me share my itinerary to encourage your thoughts. With so many things to do in Cappadocia and so little time, here's a checklist of my best recommendations for a stunning holiday:
First things first, ride a hot air balloon
Enjoy the magical beauty of the city's moonscape with a view from the top. Not only is the landscape drop-dead gorgeous, the sunrise from the balloon's vantage point is unlike anything you'll see on the ground (obviously). It will legit spoil all other sunrises for you. As with most things unique and of value, it comes with a hefty price tag of around €210 to €270 per person depending on the duration of the ride. But, it's such a mind-blowing experience that Mastercard was probably referring to this in their slogan "there are some things money can't buy". It is priceless!
Kick sightseeing up a notch via a 2-hour ATV sunset tour
Why be boring when you can travel in style? Rent an ATV and ride around the desert, feeling the wind in your hair, goggles over your eyes, Mad Max style. It's the coolest and, in my opinion, the most fitting way to see Goreme's beautiful rock formations: Rose Valley, Swords Valley, and Love Valley. Best of all, you don't even need a driving license.
Trek along the Pigeon Valley trail, and feel like a Star Wars local in what could be Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader's home planet.
Disclaimer, this is not actually where they shot the mythical city of Tatooine, but it could very well be. The valley is named for the many pigeon houses or dovecotes carved into the rocks and cliffs. Many photo-crazy tourists will await you when you arrive at the top of Pigeon Valley, but not many will brave the only-for-fit-people, aerobic-heavy trail. Once you walk down towards the footpath, you'll break free from the tourists and have the place all to yourselves—a walkway surrounded by trees and picturesque stone houses carved out from the volcanic rock formations. It's an experiential beauty.
Sample local wine and cheese from Cappadocia set in a fabulous underground cellar.
Is there anything better than vino? Maybe vino and cheese. Schedule a memorable tasting experience at the Seki Cellar of Argos in Cappadocia, a super-chic and rustic luxury hotel nestled on top of Uchisar's natural rock formations. Their cellar, home to around 22,000 bottles of wine, consists of thousands of years old tunnels and caves dating back to the Hittites, and is the place where they hold wine tasting sessions, giving chateaus across France a run for their money.
Watch the hot air balloons take off at sunrise from a distance
Beef up your social media feed with a photo of the hot air balloons as the backdrop for your OOTDs. Wake up at dawn, head out to Sunset Point in Goreme and set yourself up for a spectacular view of the hot air balloons burning like fireflies alongside the sunrise. Alternatively, for the lazy, the Mountain View rooms in Argos are a good option. We stayed there over the holidays and had the surprise of our lives when we opened the curtains one morning. Little did we know the room had front row seats to a sky full of hot air balloons!
How to Get There from Manila:
Take an international flight from Manila to Istanbul. Local flights within Turkey are super affordable at the equivalent of around P1500 to P3000. From the capital, fly to either Kayseri Airport or Nevsehir Airport. For total ease of commuting, speak to the concierge of the hotel where you'll be staying ahead of time to pre-book your car transport to the hotel!