I've traveled to many countries in recent years, but few places captivated me to the extent that Turkey did during a recent trip to Istanbul, Cappadocia and the Aegean coast. How had I not visited the country yet? Why haven't I been searching for amazingly delicious and fresh Turkish food wherever I can find it back home? How can locals in even the most touristy places be so downright welcoming and consistently friendly? The country was full of surprises.
But perhaps one of the biggest ones came during my stay in the fairytale surrounds of the Cappadocia region, where volcanic chimneys and cave-style dwellings make for one of the most unusual and spectacular landscapes I've ever seen. And when it comes to where to stay, the best place to bask in all the beauty is definitely argos in Cappadocia, a hotel built from the ruins of an ancient monastery complex that's carved right into the honey-colored rocks overlooking the stunning Pigeon Valley.
argos in Cappadocia: Guest Rooms
All over Cappadocia, the chance to spend the night in a cave-like dwelling is high on most travelers' wish lists. Argos puts a very luxurious spin on that concept with 42 rooms and suites spread between five different mansions on a property dotted with olive and fruit trees and laced with vineyards. Arched ceilings and bare stonewalls within the rooms reflect the area's natural geology, and antique Turkish rugs and Ottoman objects of art further imbue a sense of place.
I wanted to take off my shoes immediately upon entering my suite, all the better to feel the cool, smooth stone floors under my bare toes. Despite the hot summer temperatures, it didn't bother me that there was no air conditioning-the buildings' thick walls maintain a pleasant temperature inside even during the heat of the day. Wool throw rugs and plush couches and lounge chairs made my suite's living room a comfortable hangout--there's no TV (the emphasis is on escapism here) but there is wireless internet if you can't resist, and I appreciated the iPod programmed with Turkish and international music to set the mood.
The overall feeling is minimalist, modern and cozy, and the bathroom's carved stone basin and large shower felt like my own personal hammam (Turkish bath). Some suites even have their own interior plunge pool! There was no better place to hang out for sunset than my private patio overlooking the valley and the minaret of the neighborhood mosque. Be warned, you'll get an early morning wake up call from the wailing of the muezzin during the mosque's call to prayer, which sounds five times per day--it's all part of the experience.
argos in Cappadocia: Restaurants
Turks take their breakfasts seriously, and the argos buffet breakfast, included in room rates, is a decadent spread of Turkish cheeses, fruits, seasonal juices (cherry! peach!), dried nuts and cereals, olives, delicious breads and pastries and made-to-order egg dishes (ask for yours Turkish-style, scrambled with sausage, cheese and peppers).
Tables in SEKI restaurant overlook the terrace with views of the Pigeon Valley and it's worth arriving early or after the rush to secure a seat right next to the windows, which are flung open when the weather allows to let in the clean, dry air. When SEKI really shines, however, is at dinner, when the sunset paints the valley in beautiful golden hues. You can request a table on the grassy lawn overlooking it all and under a star spangled sky.
The hotel's herb and vegetable garden is the source for much of the delicious greenery on the menu, and the amazing cellar onsite stocks thousands of bottles of Turkish wine, including many from local vineyards and a few selections made from grapes grown by the hotel itself. Menu offerings tend toward international interpretations of classic Turkish dishes with a focus on lamb, veal and seafood. The mezze platter, with stuffed grape leaves and olives, is perfect for sharing as a starter.
argos in Cappadocia: Resort Activities
A pool and spa that will certainly rival any for hundreds and hundreds of miles are in the works at argos. But for now, activities on the hotel property itself are mostly limited to relaxing on your patio or on the pretty public terraces or strolling through the grounds to admire the onsite gardens and perhaps follow the village's stone road into the valley to amble on a trail through the Pigeon Valley. A few minutes' walk uphill from the hotel brings you to the Uchisar castle, a fortress accessed through stairways cut into the rock that makes for an incredible sunset setting.
The most popular activity in Cappadocia is probably hot air ballooning, with many companies offering to take you up into the skies for what were, hands down, the best sunrise views of my life. I went with Royal Balloon, a very professional operator with perfectly maintained balloons and a delicious early morning buffet breakfast as part of their service (champagne toast, too, after you land!). My pilot was named Suot, and he shared so much interesting information about the area and brought us close enough to the sites during the flight that we could have practically picked the apricots growing on the trees and reached out to pet the desert foxes scurrying across the parched ground.
The staff at argos know the area extremely well and can arrange anything you're looking to do during your stay in Cappadocia--from sunset horseback riding in the Rose Valley to hiking tours to see the fairy chimneys up close and car rentals if you're interested in exploring the area on your own.(Reviewed 12/31/2012)