GoNOMAD DESTINATION MINI GUIDE
This former Greek enclave, currently home to 2500 people, has all the spectacular scenery of Turkey's Cappadocia region -- white lunar-landscape mountains, rolling fruit orchards and Byzantine churches hewn in rock and adorned with richly colored frescos -- without the crowds of tourist centers like Goreme and Urgup.
In April and May, when temperatures hover in the 70s and tourists are so sparse that you might be the only one in town.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
Busses and trains go to Goreme from almost everywhere else in Turkey; from there, it's a twenty-minute bus or taxi ride to Mustafapasha. Alternately, you can fly from Istanbul to Nevsehir and take a forty-five minute taxi ride into town. From Mustafapasha, hourly buses make a loop around the region.
A half-hour walk from the town center will take you to three Byzantine churches. Unlike most ruins, access isn't organized -- you can just walk in and explore, climbing the crumbling staircases and getting up close to the murals. Additionally, the volcanic soil around Mustafapasha makes for great grapes, and the town is home to two fantastic, unpretentious wineries.
MOST UNUSUAL ATTRACTIONS
An authentic, tourist-free belly-dancing club in a nondescript building a few kilometers from the town's center. Local men gather to drink raki (similar to Greek ouzo) or vodka and watch undulating young women, who work eleven-day shifts, traveling a circuit of similar clubs throughout the country.
The girls, who appear around 2am, serenade each and every customer before they start to shimmy, with dancing going on till dawn. Ask Ercan Karzan at the Monastery Pension for directions, or a ride.
BEST ACTIVITIES OR TOURS
It's touristy and expensive (around $150 US), but a balloon ride over the Cappadocian hills is one of the dreamiest, most exquisite experiences you may ever have. Cloud 9 Balloons in Goreme will pick you up at your hotel before dawn and return you several hours later, exhilarated and tipsy from celebratory champagne and sour cherry juice cocktails. In season, balloonists Lars and Kaili will descend to treetop level so you can pick apricots.
OTHER IMPORTANT THINGS
Local singer and guitarist Metin Apaydin often travels the country performing, but if he's in town you can catch him at the belly-dancing club or the Monastery Pension. His rich voice and plaintive melodies will break your heart.
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