This past weekend I traveled to a place right out of a fairytale. Kapadokya, also known as Cappadocia, is located in Central Turkey in the Anatolian region. Each time I asked my Turkish friend’s opinions on the best places to see in Turkey, 9 times out of 10 they recommended Kapadokya as their favorite. So on Thursday night I hopped on the bus and headed off on a 12 hour trip to Kapadokya. The trip seemed to drag on forever, especially considering the only thing to look at was a desert-like landscape, but it was a nice change of pace from the busy city streets.

Our first stop was breakfast in a town called Urgup. I was somehow exhausted from sitting for 12 hours, but extraordinarily happy to finally have reached my destination. I got much needed coffee and burek, a Turkish-style breakfast pastry, and were then rushed onto my first stop: Pasabag (Monk’s Valley). As my tour group approached the valley, it was clear that everybody on the bus had a dirty mind like me. Our tour guide was explaining how the mushroom shape of the fairy chimneys were formed, but I don’t think anyone could get past the resemblance to penises. Enormous giant penises produced from the ground in every direction you turned. It definitely was a place for some entertaining photos and endless jokes. The area is nicknamed Monk’s Valley because ancient monks used to hollow out the fairy chimneys and live inside them, secluding themselves from the Cappadocians.

Next up on the agenda was paying a visit to the Churches of Göreme. After a volcanic eruption in the area over 2,000 years ago, the ash and lava formed the soft rocks that Kapadokya is famous for. The Cappadocians realized that these rocks could be easily carved out to form houses, churches and monasteries. Our group walked in and out of the small, dark rooms of the churches. Some were empty, some had beautiful paintings on the ceilings and walls, and some held graves with skeletons.

The churches were all built into the side of the rocks which was an impressive thing to see. It’s amazing what people back then could do without the technology and tools we have these days. I wish I could have seen what it looked like back then, hundreds of years ago. The churches were all quite fascinating, but I was exhausted so it was hard to appreciate the real beauty of them when all I could think about was the beauty of a bed. Knowing I had to wake up bright and early for the sunrise hot air balloon ride, I gladly went back to my hotel and hopped into bed with my alarm set for a brutal 4:30am.

My favorite experience in Turkey so far happened on day two of Kapadokya. Waking up at 4:30am was without a doubt 1000% worth it, because i’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life. Over 30 hot air balloons (ours included) drifted throughout the valleys and mountains of Kapadokya while most people in the town were still sleeping. It can’t be put into words – it’s just something you have to do to be able to grasp how amazing it was. We could see all of Kapadokya. The rock houses and churches, mountains, fairy chimneys and city all gave us an incredible view, and the sunrise made it even better. I’m so grateful that I had the energy to force myself to wake up that morning. It was one of the more expensive activities i've done while traveling (a little over $200 for an hour ride), but it was hands down the best morning of my life, so it's worth the money for an experience like that. I highly, HIGHLY recommend spending a few days in Kapadokya when visiting Turkey!