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Cave Dwellers

Unearthing Turkey’s Most Luxurious Cave Hotel
  • Argos In Cappadocia

    View from Argos In Cappadocia

  • Argos In Cappadocia

    Argos In Cappadocia

  • Argos In Cappadocia

    Argos In Cappadocia’s underground wine cellar; a five-kilometer tunnel connecting nearby mansions

  • Argos In Cappadocia

    Bezirhane concert hall, a former monastery and lodging house for camel-driven Silk Road caravans

  • Hot air balloon

    Hot air ballooning

  • Goreme Open Air Museum

    Goreme Open Air Museum; the interior of an ancient rock-cut church

  • Love Valley

    Hiking in Love Valley

  • Derinkuyu Underground City

    Derinkuyu Underground City

  • Argos In Cappadocia

    A suite at Argos In Cappadocia

  • Argos In Cappadocia

    A bathroom at Argos In Cappadocia

  • Avanos Pottery Town

    A potter and his work in the town of Avanos

  • Fairy Chimneys

    Cappadocia’s ancient Ottoman "pigeon houses;" naturally formed "fairy chimneys"

  • Argos in Cappadocia

    Argos In Cappadocia

CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

For centuries, Turkey was arguably the center of the world, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, with North Africa just across the Mediterranean Sea.

WHY GO

For Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities of the ancient and modern world; for the other-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia; for Ephesus, the Roman Empire’s second-largest city; for the sparkling Aegean coast; and for one of the world’s warmest cultures of hospitality, helped along by delicious food.

HOW

As one of history’s great crossroads of civilizations, Turkey is not short on routes in and out. Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport (IST) receives non-stop flights from North America and Asia, while the city’s second airport, Sabilha Gökçen, serves more major cities in Europe via Turkish Airlines.

TABLET TIP

Spending a night in a Cappadocia cave-hotel is a singular experience, and if you book well, a surprisingly luxurious one. It’s an up-close way to experience one of the world’s most unique landscapes, and not to be missed.

Cappadocia April, 2013

If a hotelier is going to undertake a massive restoration project, it helps to start with something that’s worth restoring — and a moment’s glance at Argos In Cappadocia is enough to know they’ve unearthed something special. Turkey’s most luxurious cave hotel calls itself “an ancient village with a reception desk,” and it represents the work of a huge team of archeologists and stonemasons, architects and designers. They’ve turned the decaying chapels, tunnels and houses of a medieval monastery complex that had been carved into the soft volcanic land into a forty-two-room hotel, equal parts understated luxury and archaeological integrity.

The hotel’s owner, Turkish communications and real estate entrepreneur Gökşin Ilıcalı, fell in love with the site on a visit to Uçhisar Village in 1996. “What we had in mind was a boutique hotel of mid-scale, but it turned out to become a major-scale urban transformation project,” he recalls. “We discovered a monastery settlement under the road and underground tunnels under the garbage area of the village, and these changed the direction. When you see the old cottages turned into garbage dumps amid such an impressive architectural atmosphere in such a stunning geography, it’s like seeing a kitten shivering in the cold rain; it makes you want to do something to protect and save it.”

Master architect Turgut Cansever, a Turkish design luminary who died in 2009, unhesitatingly accepted Ilıcalı’s invitation to transform the ruins into a luxury hotel — one that’s so closely integrated with the surrounding town that there’s no telling what’s hotel and what’s not. But in the uniquely designed rooms, it’s clear what’s original and what’s new, especially in the modern bathrooms. Being honest about what needed to be modernized was a key part of the design mandate. “The idea is to be simple but comfortable,” says Ali Özbay, the restoration architect who has led the project since 2010. “We try to stay calm and modest.”

Although the hotel opened in 2010, the excavations and restorations have been ongoing, with dozens of architects and students coming to learn from Cansever during the eight years he was involved, and to lend their own contributions. Local craftsmen use traditional methods for carving, carpentry and ironwork, and Ilıcalı says they’ve trained hundreds of stonemasons.

There’s enough going on to keep them busy for years: creating music and ceramic workshops, restoring more of the wine cellar to bring its capacity up to 60,000, adding a winery of Argos’s own in 2015, expanding the organic vegetable-herb garden into a farm, creating a spa and hamam, and adding a number of “monk suites” up the hill next year. It’s all done with a “delicate touch,” as Özbay puts it, “to bring back the old values of the village.”

Ann Abel

It’s safe to say that no other region on the planet has as great a concentration of outstanding cave hotels as Cappadocia. Explore some of our favorite takes on the form by clicking below.

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CHEAT SHEET
WHERE

For centuries, Turkey was arguably the center of the world, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, with North Africa just across the Mediterranean Sea.

WHY GO

For Istanbul, one of the most fascinating cities of the ancient and modern world; for the other-worldly landscapes of Cappadocia; for Ephesus, the Roman Empire’s second-largest city; for the sparkling Aegean coast; and for one of the world’s warmest cultures of hospitality, helped along by delicious food.

HOW

As one of history’s great crossroads of civilizations, Turkey is not short on routes in and out. Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport (IST) receives non-stop flights from North America and Asia, while the city’s second airport, Sabilha Gökçen, serves more major cities in Europe via Turkish Airlines.

TABLET TIP

Spending a night in a Cappadocia cave-hotel is a singular experience, and if you book well, a surprisingly luxurious one. It’s an up-close way to experience one of the world’s most unique landscapes, and not to be missed.


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