Cappadocia Day 1: Hot Air Balloon Ride!

Watching the sunrise over Cappadocia from a hot air balloon!

Watching the sunrise over Cappadocia from a hot air balloon!

I’d heard so many amazing things about the Cappadocia region of Turkey and I was so excited to finally get there! I debated doing a hot air balloon ride, as it’s never really been a huge interest of mine and it’s pretty pricey at a minimum of $120 for the most budget ride. I finally decided, though, that if I’m ever going to go up in a hot air balloon it might as well be in the so-called hot air ballooning capital of the world, and a couple hundred dollars is worth the experience.

Once I made the decision to do it, I then had to choose from among the few dozen companies catering to tourists in Goreme. I had heard Butterfly Balloons, Sultan Balloons and Royal Balloons were good companies, but I decided to price check at a few different agencies before deciding. I happened to wander into an Atlas Balloons agent, who was also selling rides with Turkiye Balloons. I was convinced to go with the latter, more expensive ride (at 140 euro) because I was impressed with the pilots’ minimum 1500 hours experience each, and also the fact that they are a new company so their balloons are in top shape.

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Sea Kayaking in Kaş

Kekova Sound viewed from a kayak

Kekova Sound viewed from a kayak

From Datça I took three buses – a 7-hour total journey – to Kaş, which is famous for its sea kayaking around underwater ruins. Kas is much more built up for tourism than Datca and also a bit more expensive. I camped out yet again, this time at Can Mocamp about 2 km outside the town. There were some incredible restaurants along the seafront and I tried some awesome Turkish ravioli and fish dishes.

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A View of the Mediterranean from Datca

The view from Datca's shoreline of the Mediterranean

The view from Datca’s shoreline of the Mediterranean

On the advice of some friends, I went from Pamukkale to Datca, a peninsula that divides the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean. It wasn’t too tricky to get to – there are buses about four times a day from Marmaris, a major coastal hub. I camped out at Ilica Camping which was home to a friendly bunch of cats and a helpful owner. I didn’t do too much sightseeing, as I was a bit worn out from the prior 5 days in Istanbul, Ephesus and Pamukkale. I simply wandered around the small town and enjoyed the views!

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Pamukkale and Hierapolis

Travertine terraces at Pamukkale in Turkey

Travertine terraces at Pamukkale in Turkey

From Selçuk it took about 3.5 hours to get to Pamukkale, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to travertine terraces and bathing pools. I camped out in the backyard of Özbay Hotel, whose owner Öner was very friendly, and enjoyed some of the traditional Turkish food in the small town. The travertine terraces are pretty incredible to view from afar and from up close. You can walk on them and bath in their pools provided you buy a $10 ticket and agree to take your shoes off.

Above the travertine terraces is the 4,000-year-old city of Hierapolis. Here you can visit the 12,000 seat theater, several tombs, and even an olive press.

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Ephesus and Selçuk

The Yank without a Chain standing in the theater at Ephesus

The Yank without a Chain standing in the theater at Ephesus

From Istanbul I took an overnight bus to the town of Selçuk, near the city of Izmir on the Aegean coast. Located just a few kilometers away is the ancient Greek and Roman city of Ephesus (Efes in Turkish), which is by far the top attraction in the area and where I spent a lovely morning. I happened to meet Dennis and Lisa, a wonderful British couple, on the overnight bus, and I spent the day sightseeing and having lunch with them. It was nice to have a bit of company for a change!

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