Turkey Vacation: Cappadocia and More

Mar 02, 2014 Avatar Dan Ilves Dan Ilves

Our planet offers magical places we yearn to explore because they are so unusual, so special, and oftentimes, so exotic. Turkey offers a plethora of delights, but none less so than the region of Cappadocia, with its fairy chimneys.

After landing in Kayseri Airport, we drove out across the desert with snow capped mountains in the distance lining our way, enroute to the conical spires and underground cave homes and cities that proliferate Cappadocia’s landscape.

The center of the region is Nevsehir, but the town and area around Goreme was the happening place. We stayed nearby in Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia, where one finds the best resorts: the hand built Museum Hotel, the village-like Argos Hotel, where I stayed, and the largest resort, CCR, offering a full-service spa, with indoor and outdoor pools and salt therapy room.

Each of these resorts offers unique experiences in luxurious accommodations, and any is an excellent choice where you can find comfort, fine service and cuisine, and stunning views across Cappadocia’s valleys, with their multiple-colored and exotic tufa and limestone rock formations.

Perhaps the surprise is to drive through these rural hillside villages and towns hundreds of years old, with their stone built and cave houses, and come upon some that are redeveloped, upgraded and modernized with all the comforts one would want, including spa services, Turkish kilims on spotless wooden floors, coffee makers, and bathrooms with heated towel racks and floors.

My room (photo) at Argos was in the old monastery section, and featured a large room with arched ceiling, comfortable bed, a sitting area, fireplace and desk, and a spacious bathroom with walk-in rain shower, modern sink, and additional seating/storage area. While the Museum Hotel and CCR each have a common pool, Argos does not (as yet), though it offers a two-floor pool suite with pool on the ground floor and bedroom above. The underground wine cellar, where 16,000 bottles are stored, is worth a peek. There are lots of steps here, so those with mobility issues will not find Argos the most accommodating.

The Museum Hotel is an officially registered museum, and has its own art gallery. Each room displays antique rugs, ceramics and farm tools. I found the Lil’a restaurant the most charming among the resorts, serving traditional Cappadocian dishes and modern Turkish cuisine.

In the Goreme area certainly the cultural sightseeing highlight is the cave churches of early Christians, who fled here to escape the Romans, with their stunningly painted frescoes, some of which survived their destruction by Moslems who did not believe in portraying God or saints as human images. The Dark Church has an extra fee if you want to visit — well worth it and with the best preserved frescoes (photo).

Beyond these culture sights, hot air ballooning certainly takes the cake as the noteworthy, and perhaps most popular activity. There are several places on the planet that offer the pleasure of floating in the air in order to take in the stunning landscapes all around. You view small villages nestled in the valleys and atop hillsides and can take stock of the region from a bird’s eye view. Certainly ballooning in Cappadocia is a treat. There are numerous balloon operators, and near 100 balloons can be sighted on days good weather permitting.

In addition, mountain biking, ATVs, jeep safaris and horseback riding are all available in the area.

Cappadocia is also a gateway to visiting a ceramic factory, producing breathtaking Iznik-style artistic masterpieces, and Turkish carpet galleries where you behold magical work produced by women who have toiled for months at a time to produce a single magnificent rug. Perhaps selecting one to take home (or not) is the hardest choice to make.

Viewing how silk thread is processed from silk worms is fascinating.

While Cappadocia is a feast for the eyes, not to be overlooked is the wonderful traditional cuisine and wines produced here. Indeed, Turkey is a feast for all the senses, and for all the general awaress we have about wine growing regions of the world, the bounty of Turkey’s wine region was new to me.

Cappadocia is about an hour’s flight from Istanbul or from Izmir or Bodrum, and warrants at least two nights on your Turkey vacation itinerary, though three would make it all the more enjoyable, depending on your time and interests.

Dan Ilves