Check out my Amazon page for gear that I personally use and products similar to those I pack on my travels (many of which are listed below).
As a photographer, my priorities for travelling always have been photography first. I used the PRVKE bag by WANDRD as my personal camera bag. My trusty Yellow North Face Basecamp Duffel was my main luggage.
My philosophy when travelling is purchase only as much as you can carry back.
Marked in BOLD are clothing or items that weren’t needed or I didn’t use.
Wearing onto Plane
PRVKE – Carry-On
50mm – DIDN’T USE
batteries – 3
GoPro/Apeman – DIDN’T USE
Mogics – power bar
USB charging cable
Samsung T5 SSD external + cable
Card reader + cable
Macbook Book Air
Eyedrops – Rohto 40
Selfie stick + phone attachment- DIDN’T USE
umbrella- DIDN’T USE
strap for cellphone case
case for glasses
foldable waterbottle – Only used after entering airport in Toronto – Turkey drinking water is not drinkable
collapsible straw – DIDN’T USE
Toilet paper – grab from 1st hotel – DIDN’T USE
Passport Money – TRY,Euro,Pound,USD,CAD Wallet – Didn’t use USD or Pounds
We woke up early to go to Sunset Views Lookout point to watch the hot air balloons from the ground (there is another lookout point) since we were in the air the previous day. It was such a rush and only 13 minute walk to get to this lookout point from our hotel. It was -4°C and we didn’t bring gloves with us. It was well worth getting up to watch the sunrise and seeing the hazy hues of blue and pink come up again. Such a different yet exciting feeling to see the hot air balloons rise as the sun rises. Would highly suggest bringing gloves and hand/feet warmers if you are going around this time of year.
We made it back to our hotel to have breakfast before walking over to Galerie Ikman to get some last minute shots. Said our final goodbyes to Suleyman and hopped on a shuttle van (6 euros each) to head back to Kayseri airport to head back to Istanbul. Made a super cute little baby friend on the plane ride. We took Turkish Airlines back to Istanbul – smooth and fast flight.
When we finally arrived, we walked over to the Metro and purchased our Istanbulkart – It is 6TL and can purchased from one particular machine then there is another machine where you can fill up your credits. Remember to leave the card in the slot as you place money into the machine to update the credits. Tap and go. We took the M1 line all the way to the second last stop before going above ground and walked over to take the tram the rest of the way.
We booked Rumours Inn for the rest of the week in Istanbul. Super cute hipster looking hotel with breakfast. Our room was 301 and there are no elevators here but spiral stairs. The room itself is cute and we have a balcony that is actually indoors. There also is a rooftop terrace that has some amazing views looking out to the water. Our landmark to know we needed to turn onto the main street to get to this hotel was a Chinese restaurant with red lanterns.
We got into the hotel and immediately changed as the temperature in Cappadocia were ranging from -4°C to 5°C but in Istanbul, we arrived to 9°C weather. A light sweater was enough. Our first stop for the day in Istanbul was the Grand Bazaar (13 minute walk from our hotel). It is a very large establishment with many stalls full of everything and anything. As you walk through, all the store owners are calling out to you to visit their store. They saw myself and Amanda and kept asking us to come into their stores or calling out “Ni Hao! We actually had a few of these salesman ask us if we were Americans which was much closer than them assuming we were from China but of course the question – but where are you really from comes up.
We found the famous Salt Bae’s restaurant in the Grand Bazaar. At the Bazaar, I purchased a few bracelets – 5 for 20TL. Amanda purchased a scarf and we both picked up some Turkish delight from Ramazan Canbaz in the Grand Bazaar. I grabbed some pistachio and pomegranate as well as double pistachio Turkish delight – 59TL.
We continued through the Grand Bazaar for a bit as it closed at 6PM. We walked the main street and both Amanda and myself noticed a pastry store that we both recognized. It was Cigdem Patisserie and they are known for their baklava. We ordered a piece of baklava (we thought it said 70TL but It was 1TL) and a strawberry tart (14TL). I have to say the baklava was hands down so much better than the tart. It was chewy, crispy, crunchy and perfect balance of sweetness and ingredients.
We also had a hamam spa (Turkish Spa) on our minds and decided to walk back down the street a bit to Cemberlitas Hamami. This building was established in 1584. During my planning stages, I was recommended Aya Sofya Hamam but Cemberlitas is a little less touristy and less frills but also one that more locals go to. We paid 38 euros – 220TL for the bubble scrub package and it was well worth it. It is separated by male and female. We got a package at the beginning with a mesh bag that included black underwear and a scrub towel/glove. When we got into the change room, we first went to the lockers that looked like the safety deposit boxes at banks where 2 keys are needed to store our valuables. We then got that key and were told to go upstairs and use the locker and change room up there to change into the black underwear and put on the towel they gave us.
Remember to grab slippers as well. We then went back to the main floor with the first lockers and were led into another room with double doors and finally the chamber where there was a giant slab of marble and baths around. We were told to lay out for a good 10 minutes or so before they would come around and work on you. The ladies that work on you come in bra and panties as well and they seriously rub you down in all crevices. They have a huge basin where they use this linen cloth bag to create bubbles and throw that on you. They take that glove that you were given to work on you and basically scrub away all the dead skin. The lady working on me was humming the whole time and it was very calming. When she was rubbing down my arms, all you could see were those large layers of skin coming off similar to when you get sunburnt and start peeling. Yikes. The lady scrubs down your front half then tells you to flip over and then sit up. After they scrub you down, they take you to the sink area and wash your hair and wash you down. Last step, they tell you to lie down on the marble slab and just relax and you can stay however long you want. When you’re ready to leave, rinse off with cooler water. We felt like fresh babies.
After the Hamam, we decided to walk around a bit and ended up walking around the Sultanahmet Square area. We finished the night eating dinner at Tarihi Sultanahmet Köftecisi Selim Usta and ate koftecisi (meatballs) 22TL, lamb kebap 34TL and (piyaz) bean salad 7TL.
We booked a hot air balloon ride with Royal Balloon for the 16th however I got an email telling me that the Turkish Aviation had cancelled our original date for our morning flight due to potential bad weather. We rescheduled for the 17th with 18th as a backup date. We booked via Tripadvisor and booked the Queen flight (1 hour + champagne and breakfast). Turns out we hopped on a King Flight (1.5 hours) I guess it was because our original day got cancelled so they rescheduled. Normally, Royal can fit 16 people but for more comfort, they put 12 people.
We got picked up at 610AM from our hotel and brought to Royal’s headquarters for buffet style breakfast. After breakfast, we were split into our designated vans for the flight. The van is following a truck that holds our air balloon and we drive about 10 minutes to open fields. You look out the window where it is still somewhat pitch black but see these huge mounds that look like they are part of the facade to only realize that they are balloons that are slowly being filled with air and getting ready for the gas and flames. The set up of the balloon is quite quick. We all hopped in and off we went.
Our pilot was Geert who was originally from Belgium and has been flying for over 22 years. He told us that the only real control he has is turning with the balloon but in terms of speed, he just needs to find the wind pockets by going up or down in the sky. I have to say the beginning with the hazy skies before the sun rises was the best part. He was telling us that today was the first day in a week that they have been able to fly balloons so lucky us! The sky is de-saturated hues of pink to blue. Gloves and feet warmers are something you want to consider having but other than that, it was absolutely amazing. Remember to listen to the instructions of your pilot as there have been casualties in the past. If it is a windy day, for landing, you need to crouch in the basket and hold on tight to the blue ropes. It wasn’t windy today and so we braced for the landing standing.
To end off our wonderful experience, we cracked open a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries before getting dropped off back at our hotels. The whole experience finished by 830-9AM.
We also booked the Red tour for 30 euros – 930AM-430PM – includes lunch, english speaking tour guide, hotel pick-up/drop-off. We got back to our hotel in time to go back to our room to charge our phones a bit and warm our feet.
Our tour was booked with Woop Woop Travel and our guide for the day was Mustafa. We also made friends with Miguel from Guadalajara, Mexico who is a lawyer (sometimes a teacher as well) and She from Osaka, Japan.
Uçhisar Castle – Loads of interesting areas in this place. There are 2 “hills” that over a nice view from the middle. You can climb up and down the hills to the rock formations however the castle is quite far of a walk to get to from the main parking lot. This natural castle was used as a defence mechanism to prevent any attacks from the enemy. Since its location was central, it was used as a control centre for the trade way like the silk road during the Persian overtaken period. In Ottoman time, the castle was the location for protection and maintenance.
The Fairy Chimney homes haven’t been inhabited since 1980’s as the roofs started eroding and falling apart causing harm. The government then started a exchange program with residents to sell them their fairy chimney homes in return for money and land to build a new home.
Fairy Chimneys were formed from the volcanic eruptions millions of years ago that have erupted throwing huge mounds of ash all around and they are formed by different rock sediments and also covered by a layer of basalt.
Göreme Open Air Museum – Too many tourists here. Like too many. There are 2 churches in this museum and both you cannot take photos or video in. There are many nooks and crannies in this place that you can climb and walk to but considering all that we saw the previous day, this place wasn’t anything too special.
Love Valley – Fairy Chimneys – All along the parking lot and cliff of the Love Valley viewing area, there are tons of structures – “hot air balloons”, swings, carriages etc that you can sit on and pose with that overlook the valley with penis shaped rock formations below. You can swing out towards the valley which makes for a cool photo spot.
Pottery Demonstration – Really cool to see the artist’s studio space and seeing the inner workings of how the whole process comes together. We saw artists drawing and painting so intricately. After they demonstrate how they traditionally create pottery using their pottery wheel. We then went through their 2 rooms of pottery you can purchase before leaving.
Paşabağ – Best location of the day – go left and there will be a sign on the rock saying danger or do not enter – Go enter but please be careful as you have to walk up quite angled to get to the top. It sort’ve looks like The Wave in Arizona only half of the wave and white. Here you will see mushroom shaped rock formations.
Devrent Imagination Valley – We were only there for a short period to take photos but you can see shapes in the rock formations such as a camel, a penguin to the left of it, to a hand further left.
Ürgüp Three Graces (Beauties) – This is the 3 rock formations that are similar to the Three Sisters in Blue Mountain, Australia but the story goes: According to legends, the King had only 1 heir to his throne and it was his daughter. The daughter was madly in love with a shepherd and her father disapproved and wanted her to marry a man of authority. She decided to escape and secretly marry the shepherd and gave birth to a baby. She thought the king would forgive them thanks to their child and went back to the palace. Little did she know the King showed no mercy as he saw this as a sign of betrayal and sent his whole army to kill this family. The princess was running away from those soldiers and she prayed to the God “Please, my God, make us either a stone or a bird”. The God accepted the prayers and they were converted to stone.
We decided to have an easy night and walked out to Baskent Doner. I grabbed the mix kebap for 20TL ($5CAD). We hung out in the room and just recharged our phones, journaled and whatnot.
We had continental breakfast upstairs and it features an outdoor terrace with a lovely view. We aired out our clothes from last night on the balcony but alas, the smell of smoke fumes wouldn’t shake off. The weather was crisp settling around -1°C and maybe went up to 3°C. Having the sun out helped but when you weren’t in the sun, you could sure feel the chill in your bones.
We booked the Green tour for the day with pick up at 930AM. We had Rafiki aka Sunny as our tour guide. We booked with Woop Woop Travel. We paid 35 euros for this full day tour. The tour goes from 930AM-6PM that includes lunch, english speaking tour guide, hotel pick-up/drop-off. On the Green tour we visited:
Göreme Panorama – All the tour vans were here bright and early. The view was very nice as the sun peaked out. There are a few spots that are the best angles for shots including one on an almost round rock. The rock formations were great places to hide. These formations are formed similar to the sediment of the grand canyon and took millions of years to create the rich formations.
Onyx Jewelry Factory – I guess every tour has an obligatory stop at a factory that sells products the country is known for. We are obligated to purchase anything but we did look around. We left the factory and walked across the street to Pigeon Valley.
Pigeon Valley – Pigeons were used as messenger pigeons for the longest time. This valley is especially known to have them as they would fly between certain homes depending on the painted colour outside. Today, you can still see the huge amount of pigeons (and even feed them) but the valley is gorgeous to look upon.
Derikuyu Underground City – We went about 55M deep into the 80M deep tunnels. There are labyrinths of underground tunnels. They also have sliding doors and make the tunnels tight so enemies can only attack one by one if they break in but then they get kebaped. They only lived in the tunnels during dangerous times that could range from 1 week to a month or two. They would send signals to other cities of enemy attacks from the tunnels; they would set fire signals at the top of the castles. There are also no possible earthquakes in Turkey so theses tunnels remain. The tunnels are also quite temperate with a average temperature of 13°C and also was cooler in certain areas so no modern fridge was needed. We were able to go down 7 floors and at certain points, the tunnels were really tight and you had to be in a crouched position to walk through.
Ihlara Valley hike – It is the second largest to the Grand Canyon. It’s the deepest gorge in Turkey.
And last but not least Selime Monastery – It is a rock-cut monastery with the biggest religious buildings in Cappadocia. There are also monk and kitchen sections carved out in this into the rock. It also served as a fortress like structure and also inhabited camels at one point in time.
I have to say my favourite was the Selime Monastery because it was for the most part empty and climbing rock formations are always fun.
We got back to the hotel and just tried to recharge a bit and journal before we went for dinner. We went to One Way Cafe & Restaurant where you have the option to be seated lower to the ground on beanbag chairs and a low table. I ordered the Lamb pottery plate (35TL). It was actually very light and so good. We ordered some ice cream and banana with nutella crepes to end off the night.
In Transit days – Toronto – Kyiv, Ukraine – Istanbul, Turkey.
We started with a 9-hour flight with Ukraine Airlines from Toronto to Kyiv, Ukraine as our 3-hour stopover before making it to Istanbul, Turkey. We didn’t realize there was no entertainment unit or plugs available so that was a bummer. We were talking to each other about what seat preference we like and I said aisle and she said window – we got neither. The plane was an older model but it was 2 seats, 4 seats, 2 seats layout.
It was a long flight (9-10 hours) but at least we had a 3-hour layover in Kyiv, Ukraine. We did however find the mobile plug charging station and setup camp with my Mogics power bar and from there, we made friends sharing outlets. Lukas (from Mississauga) & Glenn (from Bradford) became our instant friends. And it turned out they were seated right behind us for our flight to Istanbul. Our flight to Istanbul got delayed about 30 minutes. Super foggy in Kyiv.
We arrived at 1130PM and our plan was to purchase a sim card at the airport because we wouldn’t have enough time to purchase one before we had to get back to the airport the following morning. The only place open at that time was Vodafone and we ended up purchasing 1 sim card that had 100 minutes, 100 SMS and 7GB data for 280TL ($70.50CAD) which was more expensive than we thought it would be. This was the cheapest option and all the other phone places were closed. We purchased one and would hotspot it. The only thing is we purchased it so late and we wanted to go to our hostel but activation took over an hour and half. We walked around and walked to the metro to see if we could purchase and Istanbulkart but also learned the metro closes at midnight. We finally caved and got into a cab where they guy wanted to charge us 40TL ($10CAD) but we talked him down to 30TL to later realize the ride should have cost around 19-25TL.
We stayed at Han Hostel North for the night. A very simple yet secure hostel about a 10 minute drive from the airport. We had a flight the following day around 115PM so we didn’t bother going further than we needed to for the one night.
We went to bed around 130AM and I thought I would sleep through the night but I was wide awake by 4AM and tried to sleep a bit longer. Woke up, showered, had breakfast at the hotel – continental breakfast – lots of cheeses, meats and dried fruit. We walked around a bit and stopped by Reisoğlu Börek and picked up something that resembled cheese and lasagna like sheets of pasta for 7TL. The person serving us didn’t speak English so they kept saying yedi which means 8. We should really know the numbers for pricing.
We walked back to the hostel to eat it and then walked around the hostel during the day to see what it offers. There is laundry, a fitness area and balconies on all floors. We took some photos on the 4th floor then packed up and called for a cab using the Bitaksi App. We made it to the airport where we had to line up to even get through the entrance where we had to go through security and then walk through again to domestic where we went through security 1-2 more times before making it to our gate. The line to even get into the airport entrance was out the door.
We flew with Turkish Airlines and the flight just felt so much better than it was with Ukraine Airlines. The flight lasted about 1.5 hours and we also got a meal on it. We arrived at Kayseri Airport where we had already arranged for a picked up by our airport transfer van that took us another hour to get to Göreme. We stayed at Heybe Hotel. It is not a cave hotel but it is still a wonderful hotel on the main street and because it was down season, we were able to reserve a suite room for only $70CAD/night. We really enjoyed having that extra space which technically could accommodate a third person. We spent majority of our time in the living room area as our hangout spot.
When we arrived, we met with Omer at the front desk and booked our Green Tour for 35 euro and Red Tour for 30 euro as well as booked our return airport transfer. . Our airport shuttles were booked paying in euros. 6 euros each way per person.
We put down our things and walked around. We didn’t get far when a gentleman named Ikrim stopped us on the street and asked us to come see his new store – Kervan Carpet which we agreed to see. He had just moved a few stores down and wanted to show us his work. You will notice that people will be inviting you into see their stores and they will offer free tea and whatnot. You are not obligated to purchase anything.
We continued walking around and ended up at Galerie Ikman – a Carpet shop that is a very famous spot for people to take their instagram photos with all the rugs. PLEASE PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL. This is a working establishment and you must pay to take photos inside (or purchase something). If you are alone and ask one of the staff to take your photos, please make sure you tip them – it is not their jobs to take your photos.
*Quick photo tip – If you come when the sun goes down, the no-roof carpet room will be all green coloured due to their lights and not optimal.
We ended up meeting Sergio who is 5th generation and his father Süleyman who introduced us to the rich history of carpets and the many techniques. Each carpet has a story behind it. The people who are looming or weaving the carpets put their emotions/feelings and all that energy into each carpet, which can take a short period of time to 5-6 months to make one carpet. In the end, Amanda ended up purchasing a lovely carpet. Since we went in down season, they lower their prices so they are still able to sell carpets to make ends meet and cover the electricity bill and employee wages.
Sergio had told us that the cafe beside called Pasha’s Cafe has a live band Friday-Sunday and we should check it out so we had dinner there. We got the Pasha’s Kebap – fries with beef, peppers and sour cream with some salad on the side (60TL) and some local wine (25TL). And I have to say; the staff there and the live band were all beautiful to look at. Turkish people just have amazing facial structures and very symmetrical. The food was good. The music was good with performers using electric drums, keyboard, violin and another instrument that looks like a zither.
It was this night that we realized that everywhere we went in Cappadocia and especially in this restaurant, all our clothing smelled like smoke and fumes.