Cappadocia also known as Kapadokya is a region in Turkey's Central Anatolia. It has been an important place since Hittite times, long before the time of Jesus.
For millions of years volcanoes erupted and spewed across the land that would become the cradle of civilisation. The most recent eruption was Hasan Dagu, 9000 years ago. Today its snow-capped peaks dominate the Konya plain, towering over vast wheat fields.
Jason Dundas headed to Cappadocia to see it from on high. The area is perfect for hot-air ballooning.
Ballooning is best in the early morning. There's a pre-dawn hotel pick-up and you head to one of the launching points. Weather and wind direction are the deciding factors.
Once at the site it takes about 20 minutes to prepare the equipment, and most times everyone pitches in. While the balloons are filling with cold air, passengers have a briefing, giving them the do's and don'ts while in the air and relaxing any pre-flight nerves.
When the balloon is full, the burner is turned on, the flame roars inside the balloon and it begins to rise. Passengers hop in and it's up, up and away for just over an hour. You skim over vineyards and orchards, and villagers are always on hand to give cheery greetings from the ground!
They blast the burners about every 30 seconds to keep the balloon afloat and have contact with the ground crew who chase the balloons and are there for the landing with a champagne breakfast.
You will fly over ancient caves where the first Christians hid from Roman persecution and are reputedly the caves where the Virgin Mary and some of the disciples spent their final days.
Early inhabitants learned that the tufa, or stone, was easy to manipulate and carve, and they built houses and churches into the fairy chimneys, as well as into the sides of mountains and under the ground. There are probably around 60,000 people living in the underground cities. One has been turned into a 14-room hotel!
Thousands of years of wind, rain, snow and sand erosion have also worn the tufa, resulting in amusing conical shapes. The big hard rocks have protected the soft rock underneath, resulting in many fairy chimneys.
You are guaranteed to return home with a camera full of fantastic shots and an everlasting memory of your visit to Turkey!
Cappadocia is an hour's drive from Kayseri in Turkey.
Greece and Mediterranean Travel has hot-air ballooning tours in Turkey's Cappadocia region. They start at $200 per person and run every day from early to mid-morning. Pre-dawn hotel pickup, briefing, light breakfast, sparkling wine celebration and return to hotel are included.
Emirates has flights to Istanbul and 26 other European destinations via Dubai departing Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. For exclusive Getaway viewers' discounted fares, check out www.emirates.com/getaway. Connections to Kayseri are available.
Prices correct at July 16, 2011.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Alexandria, NSW 2015
Ph: (02) 9313 4633 or 1300 661 666
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Visa: Australians do not require a visa for stays of up to three months.
Electricity: 220V at 50Hz with round-prong European-style plugs.
Time zone: GMT +2.
Currency: Turkish lira.
International dialling code: +90.
It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit www.smartraveller.gov.au and www.welltogo.com.au.