When planning our trip to Istanbul, we looked to other places we could possibly squeeze in during our limited time. Weighing the options – we decided to pick between Pammukale and Cappadocia. While both places looked absolutely incredible, we ended up opting for Cappadocia as there seemed to be more to do than just the hot air balloon ride that we were dreaming about.
To get to Cappadocia from Istanbul we flew out of the SAW airport to Kayseri. Other options are IST to Nevsehir or a combination of the two – flights run anywhere from $25-$60 (USD) there and then about the same price back, solely dependent on the time of day and airlines. This is the site we used to book our flights (and ours were super last minute – literally three days before for me, the night before for Kelsey).
However, in adding up our ticket fares after (price of shuttle to airport and then price of shuttle to hotel – flying out of IST to Nevsehir airport might have been worth the $25 or so extra dollars). I’d suggest checking SkyScanner to find the best rates and then calculating where you are staying in Istanbul to the closest airport.
Upon arriving in Cappadocia, our hotel, Esbelli Evi, arranged for a shuttle to pick us up from the airport. Buses run into the city, but if you can find a shuttle that will take you directly to your hotel – it’ll cut out the frustration of getting lost in a foreign city with your luggage. The shuttle took awhile as we waiting for everyone to load in, (probably a solid 45 minutes) but once we got on our way – anticipation and excitement set in, and also a bit of dread. Dread – because we began to see the dark clouds roll in and hear the winds starting to howl… signaling that our planned hot air balloon right might not come to fruition.
Finally, we pulled up to our ‘cave hotel’ and were instantly greeted by a smiling staff, anxious to show us around the grounds. Taking our luggage from the back of the van and escorting us inside, we met the team of Esbelli Evi and were given the grand tour by the owner, Suha Ersoz. We had been told by others before arriving that Esbelli Evi was by far the best ‘cave hotel’ and the first one in the area and that we were so lucky to be staying here. Once we began walking through, we truly began to understand what all the fuss was about.
For more on the cave hotel, Esbelli Evi – CLICK HERE!
Heading down the stairs and onto the terrace, we were met with a panoramic view of the wondrous rocky city that left us speechless. To go from one bustling city – where every corner had something going on and people were everywhere, to here: a quiet, vast wonderland, where I could actually hear my own thoughts. Part of me wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, out of pure delight – thanking God for allowing me to be present in this moment, and the other part of me wanted to remain completely still – soaking in the moment and just letting the quiet stillness surround me.
A lifetime went by in that moment, saturating me with genuine happiness.
In travel, and in life, one has to learn to go with the flow and things don’t always work out as planned — Kelsey and I had planned to go on a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia, which is one of the number one things to do there – but the weather did not want to cooperate. Sometimes it’s better to go in without expectations, that way one doesn’t miss out on the present moment by comparing to what it could have been. Keeping this in mind, we tried to let go of the dream of flying over Cappadocia via hot air balloon and just go with it.
Meeting up with Halis, of Voyager Ballons, he asked us “So I know it’s not what you had in mind… but how do you feel about a private guided tour of Cappadocia, wandering the caves and seeing the fairy chimneys?” Kelsey sparked up, I was all for that. Making lemonade out of lemons, Halis called up one of his teammates and reported back that our driver would be here in twenty minutes. Kelsey and I quickly changed into warmer clothes and headed out on a 4-wheeled adventure with one of Halis’s guides.
For more about the incredible sights of the Goreme Valley, viewing the Evil Eye Tree and the Fairy Chimneys – Click HERE!
As the sun set, Kelsey and I took in our final views of the Red Rock Valley, feeling the crisp air around us. Watching the fiery sun set beneath the hills, the canyon was illuminated with a deep red glow and the call of birds rang through the hills. To think back that just that morning we had been in Istanbul, and now, we were here – in Asia (or Asia Minor)…. absolutely mind blowing.
Taking a few hours to recuperate and get cleaned up, Kelsey languorously enjoyed the French style bath-tub while I got some shut eye. As we left Esbelli, we ran into our new friend – Tom Brosnahan, whom we had met earlier in the day. Tom, an American, who spends a good portion of his time in Turkey now, is a travel writer, guidebook author, photographer, website developer, and consultant on travel information — so I was extremely excited to pick his brain. Tom arrived in Turkey as a Peace Corps Volunteer at the beginning of the 1970’s and fell in love with the country. Through his adventures there, he authored one of the first guide books to Istanbul which led him to become a leading travel writer for Lonely Planet and other outlets. The serendipitous meeting of people, in a place like this — being there at the right time, it’s moments like these that are truly magical. Tom inquired where we were heading to dinner and we cheerfully replied, “Ziggy’s!” Tom smiled, saying “I was there just last night. The best in Cappadocia, enjoy!” And oh, would we. Before leaving, Suha slipped me a copy of Tom’s book, “Bright Sun, Strong Tea”, which I then spent the entire plane ride back reading.
A quick walk down a gravel path, we arrived at Ziggy’s in 10 minutes. We entered into the ambient restaurant with warm lighting and a warmer fireplace, where Ali, the co-owner, greeted us with the biggest grin, escorting us to a cozy table in the corner. From the aesthetic alone, I already liked this place – it felt like being in an elegant and cozy cottage, with the candles and lanterns lining the walls and little decorations here and there. And it only got better from there.
The plates arrived, and seemed to never stop. Ali came over and warned us not to feast on too much bread, because more food was to come. My eyes got wide, thinking to myself “this isn’t the main course?!” Holy moly. I paced myself.
All the plates are seasonal, as with every good restaurant that uses quality ingredients, but you can bet – if I’m ever in Cappadocia again, no matter what season, I’ll definitely be heading to Ziggy’s. For more on the fabulous cuisine of Ziggy’s Restaurant – Click HERE!
We walked back to our cave, through the misting streets, in a bit of a buzzed hazed, laughing along the way. Laughing and smiling for how beautiful life is, for all the incredible souls we met, for the views that we took in. With open arms, we embraced Cappadocia and knew that it was just where we were supposed to be in that present moment.
Taking one last sleep at Esbelli Evi, we woke the next morning for a traditional Turkish breakfast before heading back to the second leg of our trip in Istanbul — this time staying near Taksim Square, also known as party central. More on that later.