After getting our cultural fix in Ephesus we headed to Cappadocia to see the crazy moonscapes that everyone talks so much about. After arriving by plane and then driving another hour to Goreme, we agreed that it would've been insane for us to try and get there via car. Turkey's internal flights may be hellishly cramped, but at least they were quick and affordable. A few thoughts and highlights below.
- Stay in a cave hotel. It's kind of gimmicky but then again, when else can you sleep in a luxurious cave? Just be prepared for it to cool off at night.
- Manage your expectations about the guided color tours. We did the green tour that takes you to the farthest away sights. It was decent value but you're also treated like cattle as you're herded from place to place. We only had a few minutes at some of the more impressive sights and instead walked through the Ilhara Valley at a glacial pace because our group was so large.
- Despite the crappiness of big bus tours, there were some cool moments. The underground city was mildly interesting until claustrophobia kicked in as the guides had essentially zero interest in maintaing order. The Selime Monastery was pretty awesome. Climbing in and out of the tunnels and seeing the rock churches was memorable.
- The guided tour is much cooler if you end up meeting someone who went to college with you. In a crazy twist of fate, we met Jerry, a Princetonian who had lived a few doors down from Whitney freshman year.
- Do the hot air balloon ride. Even if you're kind of scared of heights (like Whitney).
- The weather can be volatile and this means your hot air balloon ride can be cancelled. They do have high-tech weather prediction technology though.
- If you're not going in the middle of summer, be prepared for it to be freezing cold.
- Once you're finally in the air, the view is amazing. You soar over the different valleys allowing you to see the crazy contours of the rock formations. It's the only activity on the whole trip that is made better by the fact that it is so commercialized. The 75-100 different balloons make for a beautiful sight in the early morning sky.
- The most fun we had was going off the beaten track and hiking through the local Goreme valleys by ourselves. We had the whole place to ourselves, ate a delicious picnic and wandered. The only problem was that we managed to get lost and end up on the wrong side of a giant canyon from our hotel. This became problematic as the need for a bathroom grew. We tried to scramble down the valley only to find ourselves facing a 100 foot drop to the floor below. Two hours later, we had walked around the whole canyon and agreed that I shouldn't make unilateral navigation decisions.