Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

Captivated by Cappadocia: History & Adventure in Central Turkey

The first thing I realized after stepping out of the airport shuttle in front of the Kelebek Cave Hotel in Goreme is that two nights wouldn’t be near long enough. I was instantly smitten by the fairy chimneys, valley views, and our cozy bedroom (with fireplace!). I got lost pretty much every time I tried to go anywhere on the property but who really cares when the place looks like this!

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Even though I could have happily hung out at the hotel all day, I was eager to explore.

Goreme is the most popular village in Cappadocia but since it is still relatively small, we decided to check out the nearby Open Air Museum on foot. It is important to note that I was expecting a casual wander not an epic hike, which is of course what happened. We reached the museum near closing time so we opted to check out the caves and hills in the surrounding area instead.

What seemed like a gentle incline soon turned into a treacherous climb due to my flimsy sandals on shale rock. We spent the better part of two hours playing in the hills with many screams and much laughter. Rachel and I were hobbling around like old ladies with Caleb mocking us while trying to keep us from falling. It ended up being one of my favourite evenings and we got some incredible photographs too.

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The next morning we were supposed to go on our hot air balloon ride but it got cancelled due to bad weather. It eventually got rebooked for the next day (THANK GOD!) but in the meantime we consoled ourselves with an amazing day tour by Heritage Travel.

The History and Adventure Tour picked us up from our hotel at 10:00am and drove us 5 minutes to the start of our hike in the beautiful Rose Valley. The weather didn’t cooperate very well with some light rain cutting our hike a bit short but we were still able to see fairy-chimneys, local farms, pigeon houses and cave chapels.

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The weather cleared up just in time for our next stop at the Monks Valley (Pasabag), where we got to see the mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys and St. Simeon’s monk cell.

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By this time we were ready for lunch in the Kings Valley. After some pretty lacklustre buffet lunches on previous tours, we had very low expectations for our meal. We certainly never expected it to be the best meal of the entire trip! Our group was taken to a private organic farm where some local ladies cooked us a fresh, vegetarian meal in a picturesque outdoor setting straight out of the movies. Now that’s farm to table!

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In the afternoon, we toured the Kaymakli underground city, the first and most popular underground city in Cappadocia. This complex carved underground was used for hundreds of years by locals to hide from Romans, Persians and Arabs. We were able to explore 4 levels deep and get a sense of what life was like underground.

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That was supposed to be the end of tour but because our hike was cut short, we were able to add one last stop at the Panoramic View. This is a popular viewpoint in Goreme that earns its name in spades.

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Our tour guide was informative and interesting and the stops on the tour gave us a great overview of the region. I had no idea there was so much to see in Cappadocia but I sure hope I make it back someday. It’s a one-of-a-kind place like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

Eating my Way through Greece & Turkey

When I first started telling people that I was planning a trip to Turkey, the one thing that everyone told me was that food was ahh-mazing!

Now I already rank Mediterranean cuisines like Italian and Greek on the top of my list so I was confident that Turkish would be just as delightful (pun intended). After two weeks of indulging in meal after decadent meal, I couldn’t help but share some of my favourites. Hope you’re hungry :)

Tomato keftedes (fritters) & Greek Salad   Skala Restaurant (Oia, Santorini)

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Santorini is famous for its flavourful tomatoes. We sampled them many times in our daily Greek salads but we also sampled the local island delicacy of deep-fried tomato fritters. They were so good that we ordered them more than once. And with a view like the one from Skala restaurant… I could have sat and savoured them all day long, especially when a parade of donkeys passed by our table. Dinner AND entertainment… what’s not to love?

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki     Fanari Restaurant (Fira, Santorini)

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For our final dinner in Santorini we headed to Fanari Restaurant in the main town of Fira where we enjoyed flawless sunset vistas and a classic Greek dish – souvlaki! It’s simple but it’s famous for a reason – you simply can’t do Greece right without this dish.

3. The best Gyro in Greece  Lucky’s Souvlaki (Fira, Santorini)

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If there is one meal that stuck in my mind for the entire trip it was this gyro in Fira. A gyro is like a doner or a kebab, essentially meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and then wrapped in a pita or sandwich. The toppings differ from place to place but I prefer mine fully loaded. I did some pre-trip research and found out that the best gyros on the island could be found at Lucky’s. The internet did not let me down because this place was cheap (2-3 euros) and mind-blowingly delicious.

4. Authentic Greek Frozen Yogurt   Selatrevo (Fira, Greece)

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I’m was already a frozen yogurt fan before this trip but now I’m craving a Greek fro-yo place to frequent at home. The flavour of the Greek yogurt is so much richer and Selatrevo has even caught on to the craze of letting you add your own toppings. The store clerk told us that she knew we were from North America because no one else knows what to do with the self-service bar. I’m not sure if that’s a compliment but we certainly knew what we were doing :) It may have been the priciest cold treat we bought during our travels but it was well worth it.

5. Gözleme   Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)

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Our cave hotel in Cappadocia ended up having a very nice restaurant terrace that became a permanent fixture during our stay. For our first dinner, I ordered a dish that I had never heard of before called gozleme, which is a savoury traditional Turkish flatbread made of hand-rolled dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs and filled with cheese, chicken, and mushrooms. It’s basically a pancake that you’re allowed to eat for dinner – so that made this breakfast obsessed traveller verrrry happy.

Farm to Table Lunch   King’s Valley Farm (Goreme, Cappadocia)

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The best meal we had in Turkey was this unbelievable lunch that was included in our History and Adventure tour by Heritage Travel in Cappadocia. They took us to this private farm in the King’s Valley where a group of local ladies cooked us a four course, vegetarian meal consisting of bread, salads, stuffed peppers, soup, bean stew, and dessert. I’m not exactly sure what I ate but it was all quite delicious and the experience of sitting outdoors in the middle of this hidden valley was definitely a highlight.

Chicken Curry  Kelebek Hotel (Goreme, Turkey)

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I said we couldn’t stay away from our hotel restaurant and I wasn’t kidding. We returned for another dinner and the Turkish version of chicken curry did not disappoint. But then again, I think everything on the menu was a win.

Meatball Durum Wrap    Mama’s Shelter (Istanbul, Turkey)IMG_4263IMG_9969One thing that I knew we HAD to do in Istanbul was eat dinner on a rooftop terrace. I found Mama’s Shelter online and even though the price tag was a bit steep for this crew of backpackers – the sunset views of the Sultanahmet were well worth it. And they didn’t even charge me for my delicious rose sangria so I can’t really complain.

What are some of your favourite travel dining experiences? What country tops your list? Leave a comment below.