“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful — an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”
— Ansel Adams
At first glance Cappadocia evokes a feeling of having landed on another planet rather than in the Anatolian region of central Turkey. With the unearthly looking landscape of craters, pillars and pinnacles shaped by volcanic eruptions and erosion it’s really quite surreal. However if you look deeper (quite literally) you will see that you have not in fact arrived on the moon as there is evidence that the hand of man has played an equally impressive role.
From the moment we added Turkey to our European itinerary we knew that Cappadocia would be an absolute must see. To be honest though it wasn’t because we were well read on the area, it was more that the images we’d seen over the years were so striking and unforgettable that we had to see it with our own eyes.
We flew from Istanbul to Kayseri and from there we were picked up by Argeus Travel, with whom we would be touring the following day, and were shuttled to the region of Cappadocia. The drive took about an hour and the scenery was fairly nondescript. That is until we approached the first town of Urgup.
From just before Urgup the terrain started to change and become more unique. It was nearing dusk but we could just make out strange columns rising up from the ground out of nowhere and what looked like small craggy mountains in the distance. The towns also became more lively, not in a touristy, flashy way but just more welcoming and interesting with restaurants and hotel signs enticing you to stop.
“It’s almost like driving through the desert and coming upon Vegas.” Nathan said. Don’t worry, it’s really the absolute opposite to Vegas, thank God, but I do understand what he meant. It all just appears so unexpectedly that it takes you a bit by surprise.
We were the last stop for the shuttle bus as we were staying in Uchisar which is the farthest town in Cappadocia from Kayseri. It is actually quite near to Nevsehir which is the other city option to fly into (see below for more on this). As we passed through Urgup and Goreme and then continued through Uchisar we began to wonder if we’d made a mistake in choosing our hotel since we had passed so many interesting and beautiful options already. “I sure hope our hotel is as cool as some of the places we’ve driven by.” I said a bit anxiously. I had absolutely no reason to worry.
Uchisar is the highest point in Cappadocia and at the very top of that high point is the Uchisar Castle. It is not a castle in the normal sense of the word but rather a natural citadel created from the ancient soft rock that the area is so famous for. It was however used for centuries as a point of defense so it is deserving of the title. The castle is an incredible sight in itself and is a favorite spot to explore and climb due to the many caves and tunnels and the magnificent panoramic views. It is also the location of our hotel!
Well not the Uchisar castle itself but the Kale Konak Cave Hotel does sit at the very foot of this unique palisade and it did feel like a castle to us. A castle of our very own as it turned out. As we passed through the unassuming gate to the hotel we felt as though we were stepping into a fairytale. We found ourselves looking around a courtyard surrounded by beautiful stone buildings complete with archways and solid wooden doors.
Mehmet of Argeus Tours had recommended the Kale Konak and promised that we would be very happy and well treated and from the first moment we knew that he was right. We were greeted with a warm smile and handshake by one of the hotel’s partners, Abdullah. He welcomed us to the Kale Konak and told us that as it was off season we essentially had our choice of rooms. The first room he showed us was a luxurious suite with a canopy bed and was absolutely gorgeous. I was ready to say yes right off the bat but he insisted on showing us at least one other.
Abdulah led us down some stone stairs into a lower courtyard and through a heavy wooden door into the ‘Megaron’ room. This room also had a canopy bed and was equally as beautifully furnished. It was a little smaller than the suite but we were won over by the fact that it was built into a cave carved from the famous Cappadocia stone. “We’ll take this one!” We both said almost in unison.
We spent three nights at the Kale Konak Cave Hotel and as it was very off season we really did have our very own private castle most of the time. We spent hours exploring the maze of tunnel like corridors which led to different sleeping and common rooms.
Each room was very unique but all were tastefully and comfortably decorated in a way that made you feel instantly at home. The common areas were also welcoming with fireplaces and fluffy cushions tossed about and there were decks and gardens to sit out in the warmer weather. Kale Konak also offers family suites and some of the rooms open onto a common living room which can be closed off allowing for larger groups to have a private villa-esque experience.
Oh and I really can’t forget to mention the Turkish baths which are free for guests and happened to be right next door to our room. Once again as we were the only guests much of the time we had the baths to ourselves and they were immensely enjoyable at the end of the day. Add to all of this the delicious locally produced fresh breakfast of cheese, meat, olives, yogurt, honey, eggs and an assortment of homemade jams and relishes (all included in the room price) and it was a dream.
We had the chance to speak with Abdulah in length about his background and that of the charming cave hotel he ran. When we raved about how much we loved the Kale Konak he smiled and said modestly that many of the hotels in Cappadocia were much the same as this. The cave hotels have been built into and around the caves and formations of the area but they are not allowed to make any changes or damage to the existing rock as it is protected. Knowing this we were very impressed with the way construction had been done as the new matched so well with the old that you’d be really hard pressed to see where one started and ended.
Another thing that warmed us to Abdullah himself was his love of animals as that is something we share. He is on a committee in the area that is trying to start a sanctuary and promote spaying and neutering of the dogs and cats in order to reduce the homeless animal population. If you are an animal lover as we are you will really enjoy Kale Konak as they have several resident cats and a couple of dogs that hang around the garden. They are very friendly but mostly keep to themselves unless you choose to interact and they are gently scooted away at breakfast time so as not to pester the guests. They really make a nice addition to the feeling of being at home…if home were cave castle!
Of course we were in Cappadocia to explore the area not just our castle and we did plenty of this as you’ll read in the coming posts. However when we were at ‘home’ we can honestly say that we enjoyed our accommodations as much as we have ever enjoyed any other to date. The combination of rustic stone and cave rooms mixed with absolute comfort and luxury is something you don’t find every day. Abdulah may be correct that there are many hotels like this in Cappadocia but there is only one that sits at the foot of a castle and for us it is definitely where we will stay if we’re lucky enough to get back there someday.
We had so many great experiences in Cappadocia that I’m going to break it down into several posts but below are some tips to help get started on planning for travel to and accommodations in this fantastically unique area.
How to Get to Cappadocia
By Air: There are two options for flights from Istanbul, the cities of Nevsehir and Kayseri. Nevsehir is closer to Cappadocia but in our experience the flights into Kayseri are less expensive. For example we paid $30 US per person for a one way flight to Kayseri. Even once you add the cost of bus transportation (about $25 pp) from Kayseri to Cappadocia it was still a fraction of the cost of flying into Nevsehir. We like to use Skyscanner for researching flights as it breaks down the various options for airports, airlines and costs.
By Bus: There are several options for bus lines to Cappadocia such as Nevşehir Seyahat. but we found flying to be not much more in cost and obviously much quicker than the 14 hour bus ride.
By Car: If you have a car it is a fairly easy drive of about 9 hours and of course you then have to option to visit other sights along the way.
Tour: There are several tour companies offering custom and pre-set tours to Cappadocia and around Turkey. This can be a good option if you’re traveling alone or just like the peace of mind of having everything expertly handled for you. We were referred to Argeus Travel by a fellow traveler and we did have the pleasure of being hosted for a day tour around some of the sights in Cappadocia (I will detail this in an upcoming post). Although we did not use their full services we did visit their office and met with Mehmet who was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful in making suggestions and answering our questions. Based on our time with the team at Argeus we would highly recommend them as the go to for tours in Cappadocia.
Where to Stay in Cappadocia
It’s pretty obvious that we are partial to the Kale Konak Cave Hotel but as Abdullah himself said there are lots of beautiful hotels in Cappadocia. Argeus Travel can help with this or you can use your favorite booking site. We recommend Hotels Combined as they have thousands of comparison rates. There are several towns in the area with accommodations but it seems that most people stay in one of three places: Urgup, Goreme or Uchisar.
Urgup is the largest town and is the hub of the area. Because of this it is very convenient and has all the amenities that you may need but it is also more of a regular town which may not be what you want when visiting Cappadocia. However if you are looking for more amenities and a bit of nightlife this may be your pick.
Goreme is a favorite of many because it is right in the middle of all the incredible natural structures like the Fairy Chimneys. If this is your first visit to Cappadocia you’d probably prefer this little village to the larger town of Urgup. It is also a first choice for backpackers as it has the best options for less expensive hostels and restaurants along with the more upscale cave hotels.
Uchisar is the highest point in Cappadocia which has it’s pros and cons. The pros being the stunning views and the proximity to the Uchisar Castle. The cons being that if you don’t have a car you will need to do a fair bit of walking and at times it will be uphill. If you do have a car or are using a tour service such as Argeus Travel then Uchisar is a really great option as it is beautiful and very peaceful at night.
What to See in Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a dream for adventure seekers, nature lovers and backpackers but it is also a hit with people who enjoy history, luxury accommodations and exquisite ceramics. Here you can take a hot air balloon ride in the morning, have a delicious picnic lunch, hike the Pigeon Valley in the afternoon and sit down for a gourmet meal in the evening. And that’s just day 1! There’s also the Goreme Open Air Museum, the underground cities, the fairy chimneys and the town of Avanos known for hundreds of years for its beautiful pottery. And again there’s more. We would recommend at least three full days in Cappadocia to see most of what there is on offer.
I will be going into detail in future posts giving more tips on what you must see when in Cappadocia. For now though I hope I’ve enticed you enough to start planning a trip there as it is most definitely a place you must see with your own eyes.
**Thank you Abdulah and the Kale Konak Cave Hotel for hosting our stay in Cappadocia. As always all opinions are our own.