The only thing more hypnotic than Cappadocia’s luscious landscape of churning gorges and sandcastle cave formations—complete with their frescoed basilicas, ancient homes and even complete underground cities—are the eye-catching boutique hotels spouting up like stalagmites. Once known for its burnt out backpacker hostels, Cappadocia, in South Central Anatolia, Turkey, now has more hotels than anywhere in the country outside of Istanbul. The most memorable are built inside cave complexes, allowing you to play “Flintstones” for a day. For those used to luxury five-star accommodations, you owe it to yourself to book a cave/room at the awe-inspiring Museum Hotel. Too welcoming to be a Bond villain’s lair, and too comfy to be a fortress, the Museum Hotel offers a mind-blowing entrance into a long lost world.
The panoramic views are astounding—an infinite ochre-and-white-striped ridge rucks through the dry plains like a huge sandstone wave. The result of thousands of years of erosion, the incredible rock formations and magical “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia make for a spectacular backdrop along with the distant Mount Erciyes, lightly powdered in snow. Erosion by wind and water created the bizarre landscape from this soft ash-rock (called ‘tufa’).
Combining traditional arch and cave rooms with museum quality antiques and uber modern comforts (think air conditioning, CD player, hair dryer, and free Wi-Fi), the hotel also offers garden views where every morning the sky is dotted with hot-air balloons since it’s a long-established tradition for visitors to drift over Cappadocia in a balloon.
Like a mountain manor for sultans that towers over the town, the hotel’s classical exterior belies a multi-layered labyrinth of sunny terraces and bountiful grotto rooms. Through a labyrinth of passageways, steep stone stairwells and surrounded by cool cave walls, you’ll find yourself transported into another world. Recessed lighting reveals ancient alcoves still peppered with the hazy hint of blackened candle flames. There are nooks and dark, magical recesses decorated with one-of-a-kind antiquities, Persian rugs, and silks. A bravura bed, tucked away into an alcove, proffers an unearthly view across the steppes while a giant sultan’s bathtub reveals yet another whopping view. You even get your own private indoor waterfall. This hollowed-out dwelling, scooped directly from volcanic rock the color of peaches, was once home to civilizations like the Assyrians, Romans and Byzantines.
Because of its incomparable location, all rooms, restaurant and terraces have outstanding views of Avanos, Goreme, Guvercinlik Vadisi (Pigeon Valley) and Kizil Vadi (Red Valley). The diverse rooms vary in size, design and view. Each sumptuous and subterranean suite is individually decorated in a mix of Ottoman Empire meets Feng Shui. Guests can chose from five traditional arch and cave rooms, nine deluxe rooms, eight suites, two superior suites or two imperial spreads fit for royalty and each decorated with tasteful and precious, regional artifacts hand chosen by Omer Tosun, who conceived of this magical place. The jovial and loquacious Tosun is a highly regarded collector of historic artifacts covering the Seljuk, Ottoman, Roman and Hittite periods. His superlative collection allows visitors to experience the beauty of Cappadocian culture and witness its past. Tosun’s influence is not only found in his antique collection, but in the captivating stories he weaves, revealing the history and traditions of Turkey.
You can start or finish your day swimming in the stunning, solar-heated infinity Roman pool or try one of the hotel’s many élite massage treatments that utilizes a variety of herbs and oils unique to Cappadocia. If you want more privacy, you can skip the spa area and request a Cappadocian Rose treatment in the privacy of your own grotto. After, you’ll want to grab a bite in the Lil’a restaurant. It serves award-winning modern Turkish and Cappadocian high cuisine, created by world-class chefs using the very best local meats and pure, hormone-free fruits and vegetables grown in their private ecologic garden. The restaurant even offers cooking classes so you can learn to make your favorite dishes at home.
The Museum Hotel is a magical place in every sense of the word. Slumbering under its proud pinnacles while enjoying five-star comforts makes for a remarkable experience, guaranteed to lodge in your memory forever.
GETTING TO CAPPADOCIA:
The gateway to Cappadocia is Kayseri Airport, served via Istanbul by Turkish Airlines ; phone: 020-7471 6666
Shuttles to and from the Kayseri Airport to the Museum Hotel run regualrly and take approximately 2 hours.
The Museum Hotel is only 5 km away from the Nevsehir Bus station.
Balloon Rides: There are some places that cry out to be seen from the air and Cappadocia is among them. Traveling at heights of up to 1500 feet soaring above miles of breathtaking natural beauty while suspended in an open basket is quite simply the best way to appreciate the lunar-like landscape here. Trips cost from $300 per person an hour with Kapadokya Balloons (384 271 2442; www.kapadokyaballoons.com), not cheap, but well worth the outlay. You’ll be picked up from your hotel (very early so you can enjoy the sunrise) and will end your flight with champagne!
Bicycles: The terrain is flat to rolling with tremendous vistas. In July, there’s even an international mountain bike festival.
CAPPADOCIA SIDE TRIPS:
Cappadocia ‘s other great monument is the Goreme National Park, which is like an open-air museum carved into the mountainside. A long, steep climb offers a maze of frescoed rooms and corridors tunneled deep into the stone. Around the 5th century AD, Christians dug a network of cave-dwellings, churches, hermit cells and other spaces in the rock pinnacles that populate the area. There are 15 churches large and small, seven refectories, and various tombs and cellars including wine cellars.
SHOP + CREATE:
Admirers of handicrafts will find limitless opportunities in Cappadocia. Potters, especially concentrated in Avanos, are always ready to share their know-how, and visitors can try to create their own pottery. The same is true for the carpet shop owners, who will explain their manufacturing techniques. In addition, local shops offer a great variety of antiquities, jewels and souvenirs. Be prepared to haggle!
By Robert Ellsworth