The 15 hour night bus from Bodrum to Goreme is not as gruelling as you might think. While I didn’t feel as though I had arrived fresh as a daisy I certainly enjoyed the fact that I was able to catch a bit of sleep and travel across half of Turkey in the span of one evening for USD $40. Goreme is the go-to-hub for visitors looking to tap into the jaw dropping desert region of Cappadocia, one of the few remaining settlements whose rock-cut houses and fairy chimneys are still inhabited.
Goreme would be the final stop on my Turkey itinerary and was happy that I had an opportunity to experience four unique Turkish landscapes: the hustle and bustle of urban Istanbul, the ancient ruins of Ephesus, Bodrum’s relaxed beach resort vibe and whimsical caves of Cappadocia.
Driving into Goreme you can’t help but hold your heart and sigh. I instantly felt like I had arrived into a land of magical possibilities. The town of Goreme features a slew of hotels and restaurants which call ancient cave dwellings home. I checked in at The Dorm Cave where I spent my last nights in Turkey sleeping in a petite private room built in to the regions signature white rock. I enjoyed a hearty Turkish breakfast each morning on the rooftop terrace which offered brilliant views of the surrounding valley. Enjoying breakfast here is especially magical early in the morning when the sky fills with thousands of multicoloured hot air balloons.
Cappadocia is a dream for photographers and adventure seekers. In a short three day visit I was able to visit all of the regions major must see’s. Plenty of local tour operators offer the quintessential “Green Tour,” a day trip which allows you to visit Goreme’s surrounding landmarks from the comfort of an air conditioned mini bus.
Sips and Nibbles
Goreme is home to two must visit restaurants which you need to reserve in advance as they are wildly popular. Eating at Top Deck is like an intimate dinner party, set in a cozy windowless cave where guests sprawl on plump pillows on the floor and dine by the flicker of candlelight. Chef Mustafa and his South African wife Zaida bring friendly enthusiasm to the table. During my visit I enjoyed a flavourful mushroom soup, glass of local wine and selection of delicious mezze. Dibek is set in a cool, vaulted cave featuring traditional floor cushions and a lantern-lit hallway. The restaurant is known for having the best “testi kebabs” in town, a beef or chicken stew slow-cooked in a sealed clay pot.
Goreme Open Air Museum
A short 10 minute walk from town, the Open Air Museum is the best known and most visited of all the monastic settlements in the Cappadocia region. It’s also the largest of the religious complexes, and its churches, of which they are over thirty, contain some fascinating frescoes. The best known churches are the three 11th century columned churches all of which are heavily influenced by Byzantine forms. Christianity was introduced in the first century by St Paul; suffering from increasingly frequent attacks by Arab raiders, the new Christian communities sought refuge in the hills, where they carved out dwelling places, churches and monasteries. An awe inspiring opportunity to step back in time.
The Green Tour
I don’t know who came up with the novel idea of naming the most popular day tour of Cappadocia “The Green Tour” but it has certainly stuck with all of the local tour operators who simply refer to this classic route by this synergy of blue meets yellow. The tour takes a full day and allows visitors to get outside of town and take in the regions top attractions.
The Green Tour Includes: several opportunities to take in the regions signature fairy chimney landscapes, a fantastic adventure to a famed underground city where thousands of early Christians lived to avoid persecution, a majestic mountain cave monastery, traditional Turkish lunch and a river stroll in the scenic Ilhara Valley.
Hot Air Ballooning
For most visitors to Cappadocia a hot air balloon trip to watch the sunrise is at the top of their to do list. I had just hopped in a hot air balloon on my recent trip to Dubai so decided to pass on splurging. If fear of heights or the cost of booking a flight are prohibitive you can still enjoy the majestic experience by setting your alarm clock and waking up early. My final morning in Goreme had me up at 6am for a taxi to the airport. I sat on my hotels rooftop terrace while sipping my last glass of Turkish tea and was flabbergasted as hundreds of hot air balloons filled the sky. Never a dull moment in Cappadocia. Mind boggling magic.