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Trip Report TURKEY- A wonderland of visual delights

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Our Family Trip to TURKEY - A Wonderland of visual delights : PARAG KASH

Dear Fodorites,
I am posting only a part of my Turkey travelogue which covers Cappadocia.
We are an architect couple in Mid Forties traveling with two teenage daughters, 14 and 16 years old.
I had lots of questions about Cappadocia Itinerary and wanted to make the most out of our two days there. Fodorites sorted out almost all of my confusions.

Our Turkey Itinerary (23rd April to 4th May 2010) was:

Fly into Istanbul
Istanbul- 4 nights
fly to Kayesari

Goreme, CAPPADOCIA- 2 nights
Overnight bus to Pamukkale
Pamukkale- 1 Day ( Overnight Selcuk)

Selcuk- 4 nights
(Ephesus, Selcuk
Priene, Dydim, Miletus, by Car
Milli National park & Kusadasi by Car

Izmir to Istanbul by Flight

Istanbul 1 night
Fly back home

CAPPADOCIA: 27th April 2010 to 29th April 2010

With a lot excitement we boarded the flight from Istanbul to Kayesari, Cappadocia. This was the most coveted destination for us. The visuals and other travelogue told us that it was nowhere similar to any place we had been to in the past. Not even in Greece and Egypt.

We took a cab from our hotel at Sultanahmet to Taksim square, boarded the AC bus in front of McDonald and reached the Istanbul’s new Sabiha Gokcen airport exactly in one hour. My wife, two teen age daughters and me were carrying only two strolley handbags and 2 small day bags for our 6 days journey to the most interesting part of Turkey; Cappadocia, Pamukkale and Selcuk. We had kept our 3 bags in our Istanbul hotel Best Westrn Empire Palace’s luggage room. Many people at Goreme were shocked to see our Ultra Light travel sysem.

The Pegasus air 19.50 flight was on schedule and we landed at a very small Kayesari airport at 20.50.
A smart young man wearing a blazer and tie greeted us. I had booked a car for 24 hours including airport pick up and drop to our hotel at Goreme(70km)and pick up of the car from our hotel. All this was for 85TL(15TL more for all inclusive insurance). He had got a brand new Renault Symbol which had clocked only 300km. I tried my hand at the wheel in the parking lot, but didn’t want to drive at night in an unknown place; especially when it was the first time I was driving a left hand drive car. We filled petrol on the way to our hotel and reached by 10.30pm.

View from our family run hotel “Local Cave House” even at night was fantastic. The owner Harun, his wife, & his brother Hussain were very warm. They gave us a family room for 2 nights on the 1st floor.
It was partially carved out like a cave and some part was built up as an extension to the cave. This is the most unique hotel I have ever stayed at. We had a large terrace with a view of the swimming pool and it overlooked the village and Utchisar Road. It is just 3 minutes walk from the Goreme market.

The climate was perfect with day temperature around 20 degrees and night temp. around 10 degree Selcius. It drizzled slightly on day one. It was sunny and the sky was clear blue with white candy floss clouds.

Fodorites helped me a lot in planning our 2 days Cappadocia itinerary. Especially, I must thank Otherchelebi – the Turkey expert and a very nice human being and Tom Brosnahan, the guy who runs TurkeyTravelPlanner.com and who took pains to personally advice me on the forum. I must also thank “ellen75005, LOLB, yorkshire and many others on Fodors”

Some important decisions we took with the help of Fodorites are:
1. We were glad that we chose the central location in Goreme village, which is the most picturesque and ideal location close to all the attractions. It is also ideal for our onward journey to Pamukkale, Selcuk.
2. We hired a car for the 1st day and covered most of the important places around. The area is very compact with all the attractions well marked and close to each other by car. The roads quality is excellent with very less traffic. We never faced any problem in driving, finding routes or attractions. We never felt any need to have a guide for the region, except at the underground city of Kaymakali. We could see everything very leisurely, unhurriedly in 2 days.
3. We did not take the hot air Balloon ride which we thought was very expensive. I do not repent for that decision because looking at the balloons from the Goreme Panoramic View Point (Vista Point), I realized that it does not take you to any place which you otherwise cannot reach by car or on foot. From a photographer’s point of view, I feel it gives better opportunities from the ground in the valley to get silhouettes of the fairy chimneys, against the morning amber sky OR from the Panoramic View Point where one can get the balloons against the sun and the golden sunlight spreading in the valley can be better captured from a steady base.
4. We went for the Turkish night instead of Whirling Dervishes performance. Turkish night had the Dervishes and much more.

A good tourist Map of Cappadocia helped a lot- http://mappery.com/map-of/Tourist-map-of-Cappadocia

Distances mentioned are approximate and may vary slightly.

Cappadocia Itinerary that we followed:

DAY 1

1. Sunrise point - Early morning 15 min. uphill walk from the market to Panoramic Sunrise point. Try to be there just before sunrise. Beautiful view of Goreme Valley, the Balloon launching area and Utchisar Castle. You can see hundreds of balloons taking off against the rising sun. Another way to see the sunset would be to be inside the valley as you can click amazing silhouettes of the fairy chimneys against the morning sky.

2. Utchisar Castle - Come back to the hotel by 8am. Leave the hotel after breakfast by 9 am. Drive towards the rocky hilltop village of Uchisar. See natural stone Utchisar castle( Spend around 30 min. to 1 hour). You can choose to go up the castle or just see it from its base and around (20 min with photo stops).

3. Valley of Pigeons - Head to “Valley of Pigeons” view pint from top( 4 km- 10 min) for a photo stop- 30 minutes.

4. Kaymakali Underground City- From Utchisar drive across Naveshir -Urgu road via Cardak (Chardak) till you reach the Naveshir- Kaymakali main road with a divider. Drive 6km to left to Kaymakali(Total distance 25 km- 30 min) This is a small, scenic and internal road where you avoid the main road and Naveshir traffic. You can park at parking lot or somewhere around. Walk 5 minutes to the entrance. Buy tickets. It’s good to come here in the afternoon when you are indoors in the cool caves and the sky and light is not very ideal for photography. (In our most of the tours, we generally cover indoor attractions like museums or Bazaars between 12noon to 4pm so that we can use the morning and evening light for better photography) A good guide can really give you a different perspective about the place. You should easily complete the inside tour of this multi-layered underground city in 1 to 2 hours. Plan it in such a way that you are in by 12noon and out by 2pm. You may get a good bargain on the Turkish Eye souvenir, as the factory is based close by.

5. Lunch- Come back to Goreme to see the rest of the places. You can wait for lunch and a beer at the base of Utchisar castle, where there are open air cafes with good views of the valley around from a higher altitude. Alternatively you can wait at the Goreme market, where you get better choice of food.

6. Cauvesin- After lunch, at around 3 pm, head towards Cauvesin Church (4 km on the main Goreme- Avanos highway - 10 min). The church is a world heritage site and has a ticket. If you are on a pilgrimage, you can go inside. We skipped going in. Parked the car outside the church for a photo-stop and walked 5 minutes just right behind the church. There are beautiful rock formations. Strolled around for 15-20 min.

7. ZELVE - Head towards Avanos on the main road and turn right at 1 km towards Pashabag. This place has the most amazing rock formations in Cappadocia. You will see them on both sides of the road. Don’t stop there. Drive past through Zelve Valley to Zelve open air Museum. Take photo- stop. We avoided going in the museum.

8. Dervent Valley – Drive back half a km and take a right turn on the road 3 km towards Aktepe. Once you reach main Avanos- Urgup Road, at Aktepe take a right turn towards Urgup. At around 4 km.from that junction you will see Dervent Valley, where you can see the famous Camel formation in rocks on your left. There is a Souvenir shop and a tea stall on the right. Wait for a 15 min. photo stop.

9. Pashabag - Drive back 8-9 km, the same way via Aktepe, back to Pashabag. There are a lot of restaurants, souvenir shops near the parking lot. You don’t have to hunt for this place. Make sure that you reach at least 1 to 1.30 hrs before sunset and spend your maximum time here. If you have time only for one place in Cappadocia (which is criminal) this is the place you must not miss. Walk around the amazing mushroom shaped rock formations, fairy chimneys. You can see the coloured layers of rocks at its best here. History of millions of years unfolding in front of you. There are local camels tied up here whom you can feed and click photos. There are many cave churches here. There are no tickets for anything. The place becomes dark immediately after the sunset. Make sure that you don’t have problems in finding your way back and are not very far from the parking lot at that time.

10. Turkish Night- Drive back to the hotel. (8 km- 15 min) Freshen up. Head for the Turkish night, pre-booked by your hotel at Yasir baba Restaurant at Utchisar. This is an extravaganza and costs only 25TL/pp with unlimited food and drinks (local wine and Raki) inclusive of pick up and drop by your hotel. It starts at 8.30- 9pm. Make sure you are there before time and sit at convenient front bench (preferable right opposite the main entrance) , as it is very popular with tour groups and gets filled up. The show runs for 2.30-3 hours and ends at 11.30pm when your hotel representative picks you up. The souvenir plates with your photo, for 10TL each makes a good memento. It starts with an enthralling 20 minutes Whirling Dervishes performance. (It was good that we didn’t go for a dedicated 1 hr performance. We couldn’t have watched it for more than 20 min.) Then there are very entertaining folk dances from various regions with foot tapping music. The show ends with a mesmerizing Belly Dance. The extremely pretty and skilled dancer descends from a cage from the roof. Her 30 minutes dance and interactive performances is explosive, if I have to put it modestly. She goes back the same way after her the show, with a big round of applause and standing ovation. This was our best cultural experience in Turkey which we will remember for lifetime.

Day 2

We got up a bit late as we had slept late after the Turkish night. We had dropped the original plan of viewing sunrise from the Rose Valley. I confirmed that the car was taken back to Urgup by the rent a car agency. (Mustafa- info@peerlesstravel.com.tr ) I walked to the market and booked our overnight bus ticket to Pamukkale. We had breakfast at the hotel, kept the bags in the hotel and left for our walk at 12 noon. We walked towards the Goreme Open air museum and took a left turn towards the Camping Ground. On the right we visited a stud farm. Then we walked up in the valley. There were numerous abandoned cave houses and churches. We went to one dilapidated tiny cave church. We were shocked to see trenches of excavated 4 human bodies of a family. My daughter noticed the Sun Motif painted on the cave wall, which suggested that it was a pre-Christian era Pagan Temple, which was converted to a church. We were amidst the testaments of more than 2000 years of history. There were no guards, no tickets for anything. It was more exciting to wander amidst the ruins in the valley than it would have been to see the open air museum. The sky was blue with white candy floss clouds. It was a wonderland of visual delights. The real moonscape.
Climate was pleasant at 22 degree Celsius. Carrying ample of water with us was really a boon.
We strolled back to Goreme market and chose a restaurant with a superb view from its upper floor. He served us excellent vegetarian Turkish food cooked in earthen pots along with Gozleme.

We loved every moment we spent in Cappadocia. It was magical. There were many more things to see. But we thought it would be Déjà vu feeling to see some more places. I thought two days were sufficient to experience and explore this one of the “50 Places on the earth you must see before you Die”. Many people will have a different view point. We would have loved to see the Agizkarahan medieval caravanserai on the Silk route to Asia. it's closed for restoration.

We went to our hotel and had rest for some time. The hotel owner dropped us in his car to the bus station. We boarded our AC Luxury bus to Pamukkale at 19.30. The bus was very comfortable and we could have a good night sleep. Last two days were like living a dream.

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