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Cappadocia, Where Magic Transcends Reality

by Olivia Liveng

As a travel writer with an intrepid spirit, I had believed that I was immune to a total sensory shock when the plane’s wheels landed in an entirely foreign destination for the first time. Though traversing the world for the work was a career I could only conjure in my wildest dreams until that first assignment years back, I never realized an unintended consequence would mean that I’d soon be saturated with the ability to be amazed. That is until I landed in Cappadocia for the first time.

Cappadocia, a historical region about a 1.5-hour flight from Istanbul, is a different universe-where Nature is omnipotent, and all human-made activities are built around it. The landscape is surreal, formed as a consequence of three volcanic eruptions, with the remnants spilled over hundreds of meters. Am I still on planet Earth or did I mistake my plane for a moon rocket? Usually bustling with global tourists, winter was the prime time to revel in the unspoiled beauty.

Though many choose to rent a car and adventure on their own, for my first visit, I decided to explore with the local tour company, Goreme Kelebek Travel, to be assured I wouldn’t miss out on any of the magic. And just minutes after getting picked up at sunrise for the most quintessential Cappadocia activity-hot air ballooning-I was elated with my decision. Though countless operators provide this experience, Goreme Kelebek Travel differs in their exclusive packages—flights tailored for only 2, 4, or 8 provide a more sophisticated and private experience, instead of elbowing strangers for a glimpse over the side of the balloon.

But Goreme Kelebek Travel goes way beyond the classic tours here and prides itself on intimately connecting tourists with Cappadocia’s nature and culture. I enjoyed horseback riding through the impressive vineyards of Cappadocia valley, stopping every so often for a picture opportunity or to marvel at the landscape. Our tour ended as the sun began to set, creating an atmosphere out of a romance novel (If I weren’t already married, this would have been where I’d want to be proposed to!) Another activity that tantalized all senses was our cooking class – the tour operator shopped with us to find local ingredients at the market before being brought to a rural kitchen in untouched nature where local entrepreneurial women taught us to make soup and two local dishes, dolma, and sarma.

It’s not only the activities in Cappadocia that are so authentic and unique to the area. My tremendous stay at the four-star Sultan Cave Suites was an experience in itself. Perched atop Aydinli Hill, this unique hotel offers cave rooms furnished with antiques from throughout Turkey. Between the breathtaking views from the stone terraces, to the deep tissue massage that greeted me post a day of hiking, there was no better place to retreat than to my cave (and how often does a traveler get to say that!)