Best known for the hundreds of hot air balloons that dot the sky against an incredible rocky landscape, Cappadocia is so much more than that. Steeped in ancient history, with Neolithic pottery and tools being found, as well as the remains of ancient underground cities, that date back to the 3rd millennium BCE. While other places in the world might have similar rock formations, what makes Cappadocia so special is the ability to carve into the rocks due to the soft volcanic tuff material, making their homes within caves, charmingly known as fairy chimneys, the landscape feels as if you are looking out onto a another planet.
Wake up at Argos in Cappadocia 05:00
There is something very unique about arriving late the night before as you wake up to see the hotel in its full glory. Argos in Cappadocia is located in the small village of Uçhisar and opened in 2010 with 29 rooms after a 14-year preservation project. The initial idea was to create a home, until all the historical remains and underground cities had been unearthed, inspiring the owners to build a hotel instead.
Each room is unique and took several years to build by kneading into the stone and building into the caves, and the results are nothing short of exceptional. This particular suite had a vaulted ceiling in the bedroom with a wall made of volcanic rock, featuring a little oval window and an arched doorway leading into the incredible caved bathroom.. The alcoved watershed featured a marble basin and wooden worktop to keep in line with the earthy elements of the room.
The living area included a stone fireplace and when lit, filled the room with an incredible aroma from the pine kindling. The interior is classical and minimalist, decorated with traditional Turkish rugs, antique pottery and blooms from the garden.
While 5am may seem like an unbearable call time, it truly is the best time to see the hot air balloons at sunrise and completely worth it. Stepping out at dawn was truly unforgettable, a crisp blue sky with streaks of orange peeking out from behind stone coloured buildings, and a few balloons visible, this was only just the beginning of what would be a magical morning.
The best viewing point was the cave beyond the car park. The walk towards the car park, revealed hundreds of balloons dotting the sky above the incredible lunar-like rocky landscape with the rising sun coming into full view. The cave featured a huge open window that created a frame for the perfect picture.
Breakfast at Nahita 07:00
Breakfast at Nahita is truly fit for a royal. You will be delighted by a spread of cereals, salads, olives, cured meats, cheeses, dried fruits, and a selection of Turkish pastries. There is also an a la carte menu with options of eggs and pancakes.
A traditional Turkish breakfast consists of both sweet and savory, try the açma, a soft and fluffy bun speckled with sesame seeds – the light and airy dough pairs perfectly with bal kaymak, a dairy cream produced from water buffalo milk, similar to clotted cream, it is a staple breakfast dish in Turkey – drizzle it in honey and you will not be disappointed. For the savoury course, the scrambled eggs with diced crispy potatoes is a delectable choice. Breakfast with a view of the incredible landscape is something to look forward to every morning.
Göreme Open-Air Museum 09:00
The Göreme Open-Air Museum has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and it is a sight to behold. A vast rocky landscape at first glance but when you take a closer look, you’ll see paintings within the alcoves at the top of the rocks, as well as entrances to the cave churches that date back to the 10th century.
The churches feature frescoes that have withstood the test of time, apart from a few paintings with scratched out hands and faces due to superstitious inhabitants. There are also tables carved out of stone, kitchen areas, grave churches, and unrivalled views over Göreme. It is a fascinating insight into the ancient history of Cappadocia and their first Christian inhabitants.
50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Türkiye
Lunch at Seki Restaurant 13:30
Seki translates to “terraces on the slopes” and was inspired by the lush green terraces of Argos, that it looks out onto, with views extending to Güvercinlik Valley and Mount Erciyes. Their interpretation of dishes from this unique region, using seasonal crops harvested from Argos’s organic garden has created a remarkable dining experience, and has unsurprisingly become the most awarded and popular restaurant in the Cappadocia region.
If dining with large groups, order a selection of dishes to share – take the opportunity to try everything, but especially the Spinach Salad with soy sauce, dried fruit and green apple – it was truly the highlight of the meal. Other memorable dishes include the ‘Manti’ pasta with yoghurt, tomato sauce and chickpeas, the Pursland Salad with strawberry mozzarella, and the ‘Çökertme Kebabi’.
Hotel tour 15:00
To learn more about the hotel’s history and the ancient monastery on which it resides, a hotel tour with Çem is a must. The tour started in Bezirhane, a charming chapel created by the first Christian settlers over 2,000 years ago. It has since been restored with yellow stone columns to reinforce the foundation of the chapel, the original volcanic stone making up the rest of the building.
After the Christians, it was used as an inn to welcome merchants, with the holes within the alcoves used to feed animals. Nowadays, Bezirhane hosts an array of private events from proposals, concerts, to dinners and is the perfect place to celebrate any momentous occasion. When the chapel is lit up by candles, it is the most enchanting venue; add in a perfectly dressed candle-lit long table, delectable food and the staff’s above and beyond hospitality, it is sure to create an evening to remember.
The tour continued downhill, with a short walk through the abundant gardens that filled the air with the sweet scent of honeysuckle. You’ll pass the perfectly apt ‘Nature’s Corner’ where a picture perfect picnic can be set up with views over Pigeon Valley. Further down is the iconic sage green door that opens into a mirror reflecting the incredible landscape back to you.
The highlight of the tour begins when you start to head underground into the wine cellar, storing over 20,000 bottles of wines, made with over 60 varieties of grapes grown in the hotel’s own vineyard. It is one of the few natural wine cellars in Europe and Turkey, the cave retaining a cool temperature for wine storage. It was astounding to see the original features of the cave such as the raised edges creating a tray, which would have been used for stamping on grapes to make wine or the charred walls indicating that the room was once used as a kitchen.
Nature Walk 16:00
Head down to the valley to get a closer look at the magnificent fairy chimneys. What is especially surprising is how green it is, with shrubs of wild flowers and trees lining the path. The rock formations are truly incredible to see up close and it easy to let your imagination wonder and transport yourself to another time.
Dinner at Nahita 19:00
Nahita, ‘A Good Place’ honours its Anatolian roots with every detail taking this into consideration. The beautiful tableware was inspired by the local ancient civilisation and made by local ceramists for the restaurant. The menu is curated through produce from an area of 60km diameters, where most significant Neolithic Age settlements can be found.
Start with the Meze Trio consisting of tzatziki, wild thyme salad and muhammara. The Zuccini Fritters pairs perfectly with the ‘Kirci’ Pasta created using minced meat and the Nevşehir Potato Chips made with lemon and garlic is the most appetising side. Finish the meal with the Turkish Custard and Phyllo Dough Baklava.
Tekelli Mahallesi, Kayabaşı Sokak, No:23 Üçhisar