A visit to the valley of Cappadocia, a whimsical region of Central Turkey, will open your eyes to otherworldly beauties and overwhelm all of your senses with pure wonder. Here are some tips to make these 48 hours some of the best of your life.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
1. Even Plato admits that wisdom is gained from admitting what we do and do not know. In the case of travel, the difference between a memorable and a life-altering experience lies in having the wisdom to know when to rally an insider. We knew not where to begin when planning our trip to Cappadocia, so we called upon the experts at Travel Atelier, a boutique concierge service offering a personalized, in-the-know guide to Cappadocia. Their attentiveness and knowledge of the local culture and history made for an immersive and unforgettable experience we could not have planned alone.
2. Visit the UNESCO Heritage Goreme Open Air Museum, a unity of 10th, 11th and 12th-century churches carved into rock faces about a mile outside of the town center. The exterior feels like a primitive hobbit home. Step inside to marvel at beautiful and masterfully preserved frescoes depicting religious scenes. The combination of mysticism and whimsy in these structures causes you to question whether this is the place that inspired Gaudi.
3. Stay at the House Hotel Cappadocia, where we enjoyed the best breakfast of our lives, but it was the local scene in the surrounding neighborhood of Ortahisar that tipped the scales. The local coffeehouses, barbershops, museums and markets enamored us with a warm, grounded community who celebrates freedom and the notion of floating away.
4. For a more luxurious experience and the best view of the hot air balloons, opt for the Museum Hotel, a Relais & Châteaux with themed rooms. We took a sunrise dip in the rooftop pool against a pink and purple skyline dotted with hot air balloons, feeling simultaneously refreshed and inspired by the whimsical scene.
5. There is something to be said for stepping back and taking in the scenery, but there is no better way to live the Hot Air Ballon experience than to get in and go up. Some preparation is required – you must wake up at 5am, share breakfast with a hoard of tourists and dress in multiple layers – but it is well worth the effort. We were busy photographing the view from below, but the balloons take flight 300 days out of the year, so there is plenty of opportunity for those who seek the airborne thrill.
6. Visit the Guray underground pottery museum and bring home some ceramic mementos. The museum was carved out of stone, with nooks and intricate niches displaying antique ceramics throughout. You can also get a first-hand view of the manufacturing process as you shop for your own unique piece.
7. Try the traditional manti dish. And if you have a chance, try to make it yourself with the help of a local. The women of Cappadocia have passed this recipe on for generations. We spent a day with a local mother and daughter who taught us the technique, like making mini raviolis in the shape of a puckered kiss, and learned that we are so connected in so many ways, even if language proves a barrier.