luxe - Hotel Argos, Cappadocia
Written by Tristan Rutherford
Cappadocia’s towering Mount Erciyes dusted lava over the surrounding valleys until 8,000 years ago. Over the last two millennia, entire cities containing houses, churches, and mosques – plus, more recently, hotels – have been carved into this fairytale landscape.
The Argos underwent various incarnations before becoming a hip hotel in 2010. It was a monastery for several centuries, then an important caravan way station on the Silk Road. A century ago, the Argos became a linseed oil press, or bezirhane, although its atmospheric, 10m-high underground chamber is now used for feasts and music recitals.
Today, the hotel’s rooms are impossibly romantic. Each one boasts a music system, rock-cut walls, and a fireplace for chilly nights. And they’re massive too. Unlike London or Mumbai, space is no object here: if you want a larger room, simply dig a little deeper. The Splendid Suites are literally apartment-sized, with living rooms, sun-dappled gardens, and heart-shaped jacuzzi pools carved out of the soft rock.
The Argos lies in tranquil Uçhisar, and overlooks both Mount Erciyes and the surrounding lava valleys. The stunning landscapes are best seen on a hot-air balloon ride, which staff are happy to organise for you.
The Cappadocian Menu
Breakfast is reason enough to visit this awe-inspiring part of the country. Giant buffets of olives, honey, cucumbers, yoghurt, and salty cheeses are accompanied by a copper bowl of fried eggs (sahanda yumurta). If you’re lucky, you’ll also get a dollop of kaymak, the cholesterol-inducing cream that originates from nearby Kaymakl?.
Wood-fired ovens proliferate in Cappadocia, and the tasty Turkish equivalents of pizza – spicy lahmacun or cheesy pide – predate their Italian counterparts. Come dinnertime, try the local testi kebab?, a sealed clay pot stuffed with lamb, chicken, or vegetables and baked on a fire. When it arrives at your table, crack off the top with a small hammer, then pour the casseroled contents onto your plate.
Cappadocia’s Underground Cities
Valley after valley of elaborate fairy chimneys – many part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site – demonstrate Cappadocia’s inherent riches. But wealth can so often spawn jealousy. To protect themselves, generations of Cappadocians carved vast underground cities from soft tufa volcanic rock. If under attack, over 20,000 people could descend into the mazes for a year or more. The most famous cities, Derinkuyu and Kaymakl?, include hospitals, schools, and churches, and are open to visitors.