Referring to my bucket list during my last post reminded me of one of my recent top bucket list experiences: riding a hot air balloon in an exotic place. Luckily, I had some free time in Turkey and my roommate and I decided to take full advantage of it.
For the first time ever, I decided to go with a tour company as having already spent just enough time in the country to know full well that even the most simple things can get seriously complicated and take ages. We had about a week off before castings started back up again because Turkey was celebrating Ramadan so we did our research and decided to take a 5 day, 4 night bus tour of Western Turkey. The tour started in Izmir where we visited Ephesus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, then to Pammakale to see the great white mountain and ended in Cappadocia, the world’s top destination for hot air balloon rides. The tour included most meals, 3 overnight bus rides and tour guides in each destination.
Ephesus & Kusadasi
The ancient city, Ephesus, is one of the most well preserved ruins in all of Turkey. If history and ruins are something you enjoy, you should definitely carve out some time to visit this city, home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. After we finished touring the city, we wondered through the market to buy our favorite dates and fresh pomegranate juice and enjoyed the remainder of our time in the shade considering it was nearly 100 degrees fahrenheit (37 degrees celsius), blazing sun and no shade the entire day!
After our day of touring the ancient city among a few other ancient sites, we were brought to our hotel in the beach city, Kusadasi and had some time to relax and take in the fact that we had privacy, comfortable beds and fresh air, a far cry from our model apartment in Istanbul!
Here are some images from our visit to the House of Virgin Mary:
We were driving along through beautiful greenery and the next thing you know, there’s this giant white mountain in front of us – but it wasn’t snow – it was calcium deposits! Until this point, this was the most unique thing I’d ever seen. Throughout the years, the calcium deposits created a series of travertine’s of natural spring water pools and coat the mountain in calcium giving it the illusion of snow or a giant frozen marshmallow. Considering; however, that it was easily 40 degrees celsius, it was far from freezing! Unfortunately, the mountain was blanketed with tourists so it made it frustrating but its uniqueness makes it something you can’t miss out on if you make a trip to Turkey.
This was by far the highlight of the trip. Cappadocia is the home of the famous ‘fairy chimney’s’ (rock formations) and is rumored to be the set where Star Wars was filmed but don’t let the tour guides fool you, it’s not. Cappadocia is sincerely the most amazing geological wonder I’ve ever seen. The soft rock formations made by volcanic ash were dug into to create homes, monasteries, castles and even cities. The underground cities are known to go as deep as ten floors and were used to hide the Christians back in the medieval era.
Although our trip included two days of touring, after the first day of sites, we decided we’d seen enough rocks and to relax and wander the remainder of our stay which for me, is always my favorite part of any trip.
If you do absolutely only one thing in Turkey, make sure it’s a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. There’s a reason why it’s the top destination for hot air balloon rides in the world! The 4am pick-up is entirely worth it when you go up with a hundred other balloons during sunrise to see one of the most interesting exotic views that nature has to offer. The pictures don’t do it justice but they sure do say a lot more than I ever could in words.
A tip for budget travelers: Don’t book the balloon ride with your hotel, as it’ll cost you a minimum of 150-200 Euros. Go into town and book it through one of the vendors there and bargain down the price. You should be able to get it down to 100 Euros or less.
The food on this entire trip was absolutely mouth watering. Most everything was buffet style and the vegan options were never ending thanks to Turkey’s numerous amounts of traditional vegetable dishes. Since we were on holiday, we stuffed our belly’s so full of food at each meal, that we spent pretty much the entire week feeling just that; stuffed! When we got back to Istanbul, we were both grateful to eat normal sized portions and to experience what it’s like to eat when you’re not uncomfortably full.
One final overnight bus ride and we were back in Istanbul and ready to get back into work and castings but would certainly dream about our fun adventure through western Turkey!