Cappadocia: fairy chimneys, caves, and a view from above

posted in: Turkey and the Caucasus 2022 | 1

The history and gorgeous geological variety that is Cappadocia was on full display today: from a hot air balloon, ground level, and below.

By “today,” I actually mean “yesterday,” since I am writing this from the Turkish Airlines Lounge at Istanbul Airport. And, by the way, is there a nicer airport lounge anywhere else in the world? Well probably, but it’s hard to imagine. This place is over the top. You could eat something different all day and never run out of something new to try. Big salad bar, grilled meat station, pasta station, about 4–5 soup options, various breads, I count about 20 cold beverage options, an espresso and Turkish coffee bar, plus a full bar, and about 15 different dessert options. I don’t even know what else because I haven’t explored it all yet. There’s a big model racing car setup that’s a miniature Istanbul, and there’s a flight experience simulator you can climb in and have the feeling of flying. For the kids, a big play and activity area with a popcorn machine.

May be an image of 4 people and indoor

I’m looking at the International Departures board and imagining all the places I could go from here. This may become my go-to airport for future travels to Europe, Africa, and western Asia.

But I digress.

Hot Air Balloon

I think hot air balloon rides are a quintessential part of a visit to Cappadocia. Waking up at 4am was definitely worth it. They fly early in the day so it doesn’t interfere with other sightseeing activities, and because that’s when the weather is best, the wind most calm.

I expected spectacular views of the scenery, and certainly, the experience delivered. But the real thrill was being a part of a cavalcade of 150 balloons, all different colors, filling the sky at sunrise.

Many hot air balloons silhouetted against the sky just before sunrise

Castles and Underground Cities

The early settlers in Cappadocia were mystics–monks and hermits–who came for a life of simplicity and peace. They built homes, chapels, and churches by chiseling into the soft volcanic rock. For practical reasons, they raised pigeons, whose guano they used for fertilizer and whose egg whites they made plaster with. They became Christians before the Romans (who adopted Christianity during the reign of Constantine in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries). When the Romans came, they built underground cities to hide and to defend themselves. 

Today I saw it all. And it all captivated me.

Love Valley
A room in an underground city
Uçhisar Castle


The photos tell the story far better than I can. Just a small sampling above. Check out my Google photo album for a full experience of what I saw today.

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