Cappadocia: Sky Filled with Hot Air Balloons and Derinkuyu Underground City

At 5:00 AM, I woke up by the blasting sound of hot air balloons, I opened my eyes, ran to the window, opened the curtain and saw hot air balloons raising up the sky!!! I said to Jason: OMG, the balloons are here! I walked over to Judy, Jeffrey, and Peter’s room (next to our room) knocked on their door to wake them up. I messaged Laili and Tim, they just woke up. We quickly get ready and headed up to the breakfast terrace.

Balloons were already up, the view in front of our room:

There were a handful of people at the terrace taking pictures, a staff was there to check the room number to make sure only hotel guests allowed in the terrace. He also setup the breakfast table as props! We lined up to take turns to have photos at the breakfast table spot; it was one of the most amazing views I have ever saw! It was just so magical to see a sky full of hot air balloons as the sun is raising.

Then, at the sitting area filled with colorful cushions and carpet and the sun just got out of the mountain that lit up the whole area with its golden sun ray!

Peter and them finally got here and lined up for the breakfast table spot. When it was Peter’s turn, as I was taking photos of him, a balloon came so close to our hotel!

Everyone walked over to say hi and have photos, it was that close!!!

Peter got the perfect moment; it was surreal!

More photos to capture this magical scenery, we just couldn’t believe our eyes on how many balloons got so close to us.

The golden lighting only lasted 10 minutes or so and we were so lucky to have the balloons so close to us during those time.

I think we had the best of both worlds that we flew over the valley when we were on the ride to capture the landscape and then the balloons flew over us at the hotel when having photos taken at the terrace! We were super lucky to experience both! I couldn’t choose one over the other as both were absolutely a dream come true!

We took a break, had breakfast, and then start our day tour exploring areas outside the main cities. The first one was Derinkuyu Underground City. The admission cost $90.81 for the 7 of us. This hole provides air to the underground city.

We walked down to the underground city, it was cold, dark, and narrow inside:

Tour Guy said they dig this underground city to hide during the cultural exchange from Christianity to Muslim. The first floor of the underground city with lots of rooms – there’s no written record so no one knows what each room is for and how many people lived here guessing in thousands.

As we got down to lower level, it got narrower and narrower. The reason, they think, is for defense.

They even have this rock to close the tunnel when they encounter an attack!

We got down to the 4th level and the rooms here were more symmetrical as they were more experienced in digging holes by then.

The underground city was interesting to see and learn about. Next, we headed to Selime Cathedral, the admission covers Ihlara Valley for $72.65 for the 7 of us. The tombs across the street from the cathedral:

The cathedral was craved from those rocks.

The surrounding area:

Tour Guy helped us to take a group photo:

Inside the cathedral:

There were many more rooms:

Painting on the church, you can slightly see the paintings on the arches. The faces were all destroyed or covered as Muslim condemn worshipping an “idol”.

Even here you can see pigeon houses!

All those conical rocks in the background!

On our way to Ihlara Valley, we saw the mountain peaks covered with snow.

Ihlara Valley with those restaurants next to the river and “floating” tents where we had lunch. Tour Guy said there are 9 or so restaurants, all similar food and prices.

It was relaxing to hear the sound of the stream and having lunch.

We each ordered the set menu of grilled fish, it came with a soup and a salad. The soup was okay. The color was due to the blue plastic roof covering.

Tour Guy recommended the baked mushrooms with cheese, it was okay.

Grilled fish was okay, a little bit dry.

We also ordered the chicken wings to share, the wings were better than the fish I thought.

The lunch was $125 for 7 of us, tourist price and quality. We had to swipe the credit card twice because apparently, they have a maximum of 3000 lira for each transaction. After lunch, it was hiking time to burn off the calories!

The hike along the river was not bad as mostly covered in shades and filled with those creative figures. A guy who lived here created all those, he is sure creative! This is one of the waste basket:

We walked up the stairs to Saint George Church, one of the many churches in this valley!

It was a workout to walk up those stairs!

As like other churches in Turkey, the faces of the saints and Jesus were removed or covered. The painting at this church was better preserved as you can clearly see the artwork.

After Ihlara Valley, it was over an hour drive back to town and we made a few more shopping stops. Tour Guy didn’t pressure us to buy or anything, he asked if we even want to visit. This is one of the Turkish delight factory and they also sell spices.

We got samples of the different flavors, we liked the blueberry the best so Peter bought a box. The Turkish delight were too sweet in my opinion so okay to have a small piece here and there only.

We made a quick stop at Pigeon Valley for the view of Uchisar Castle and the rose colored valley.

There were so many tour buses here aka tons of tourists and pigeons as the name came from.

Another evil eye tree that I came across.

We also visited a gem/jewelry shop across the street from the Pigeon Valley, we didn’t buy anything, not our style. We had a quick stop to the office where I paid the remaining balance before we were dropped off back to our hotel. We tipped Tour Guy and the driver and said thanks and goodbye to them. We took a break at the hotel before heading down to town for our dinner at Quick China. It’s a famous chain restaurant in Turkey and they new opened this branch in Cappadocia months ago.

The decors inside were fancy as well as the food presentation. Their menu is very comprehensive with pages and pages of Asian dishes including Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. They should name Quick Asia instead of Quick China! We ran crazy ordering so many dishes to try them out!!! Noodles, stir-fried, sushi, curry…

Once again, do not order dumplings in Muslim countries, the substituted chicken or beef fillings were not good for dumplings!

All the dishes were good, some better than others, at least we didn’t have a bad dish. The dessert platter was great, we loved the cotton-candy flavored ice cream! It was the most expensive meal since we ordered so many dishes (I think over 20 LOL), the total was $450 and Peter had to swipe his card so many times due to the 3000 lira limit per transaction that the credit card company thought it was fraud LOL!!!

The 2nd full day of sightseeing outside the main Cappadocia towns was wonderful, we visited the underground city and churches. They were interesting to see and learn the history. We spent 3 nights in Cappadocia and just enough to see the highlights that the area has to offer. I recommend that’s the minimum because we were super lucky to get on the hot air balloon ride on the first day and saw them on the 2nd and 3rd day. If we have a 4th day, I would spend more time on hiking the Red or Rose Valley and have a sunset view at one of the panoramic viewpoints. I highly recommend Cappadocia in any of the Turkey itineraries, that’s the highlight in my opinion!

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