Cappadocia, Turkey

Cappadocia was our last stop in Turkey and was, by far, my absolute favorite.  We budgeted 3 nights here, which was hardly enough to enjoy its splendors.  This area is most well-known for the fairy chimneys, rock homes, and ancient churches carved into rocks.  There is so much exploring to be done among the cliffs and in the town of Göreme.  We hiked through the valleys, poking around in the old homes dug into the rocks, climbing up the fairy chimneys and giggling at the phalic-looking rocks in "love valley."  The Göreme Open Air Museum is a must-see, with amazing churches and paintings found inside unassuming cliffs.

One of the most popular activities in Cappadocia is a hot air balloon ride, which I'm glad we splurged on.  It was such a grand experience, I honestly expected a proposal during the ordeal, but alas!  Eric left me waiting another couple of weeks!  But even in the absence of a turn-of-my-life question, the hot air balloon ride was incredible, providing awesome views of the awesome landscape.

For another dose of fascination, we toured the Kaymakli underground city - a literal city built entirely underground nearly 5,000 years ago during the Hittite times.

While in Turkey, you really must see a show of the great Turkish dances, so we checked this box while in Cappadocia.  There were a variety of traditional dances, but among my favorite were the hypnotic whirling dervishes and a very talented belly dancer.

If I were to return to one place in Turkey, this would be the one.  Cappadocia certainly will not leave you disappointed.

Selçuk and Pamukkale, Turkey

After our stay in Istanbul, we made our way through a few more Turkish towns, the next of which were Selçuk and Pamukkale.

Selçuk was a charming town with much to offer.  Everyone we met was incredibly kind and hospitable and there was plenty to explore, not least of which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus.  It was fascinating to walk through this city and imagine the Biblical stories I knew as a child happening within the streets, temples, and the great theater.

Selçuk also claims to be the origin of the Virgin Mary, and you can visit her supposed home, which is 7 km outside the town.  We planned to ride bicycles, thinking 7 km wasn't so far, but we didn't realize those 7 km were almost entirely uphill.  We stopped at a statue of the Virgin Mary a couple kilometers up the hill and called it good enough!  The ride was still a highlight of our stay, as we came across several flocks of sheep and even a ewe who just gave birth to triplets!  We also stopped by the cave of the Seven Sleepers.

Our next stop was Pamukkale, which was one of the places I was most excited to visit since I had seen incredible pictures.  Unfortunately, it wasn't as grand as we expected because its famous white travertines are drying up and had little water during that particular time of year.  Still, we enjoyed taking some artistic shots in the reflections of the pools that remained and we were also able to explore the ancient city of Hierapolis.

Istanbul, Turkey

In 2011, Eric and I took Turkish airlines to the states for a Christmas trip, so we connived a long, 10-day layover in Turkey on the way back home to Uganda.  Turkey is an incredible country with so much more to explore than 10 days could afford.  It is a fabulous mix of great history and contemporary lifestyle, of Europe and the Middle East.  It literally crosses 2 continents and embraces a variety of lifestyles and thoughts.  Turkey has a culture and a language all its own and you'll immediately sense and respect the Turkish people's pride in their nation.

Istanbul was naturally our first stop and although we were there for a few days, we could easily have stayed several more.  We spent most of our time on the big attractions, which gave us plenty to appreciate!  We visited the grand Aya Sophia and Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and explored the Spice Bazaar.  We crossed the Bosphorus Straight and roamed the streets of Beyoglu. I loved all of it, but my absolute favorite experience of Istanbul was visiting a hamam - a Turkish bath.

Enjoy a few of my photos from Istanbul and consider putting it toward the top of your travel list!