Heaven on a Hilltop: Cappadocia, Turkey
WHERE TO STAY:
Argos in Cappadocia: If you are fortunate in this life, once in a while you awaken in a place that restores your sense of wonder - and reminds you how miraculous this planet can be.
High in the volcanic mountains in the highest town in Cappadocia, Turkey, there exists a mystical village as wondrous as Brigadoon or Shangri-La - and in this town called Uchisar there exists a neighborhood of nearly twenty buildings that goes by the name of Argos in Cappadocia. Built from the ruins of ancient cave dwellings, stone mansions, labyrinthine tunnels, and a monastery, Argos in Cappadocia is the vision of Goksin Ilicali who first visited Uchisar in 1996 and who has spent the past sixteen years transforming the neighborhood into an "ancient village with a reception desk."
On your first morning at Argos in Cappadocia, you will awaken to the early morning call to prayer - but it’s likely that you’ll remain in the luxurious bed as your eyes adjust to the wonder of your surroundings. Argos, you might remember, was one of the oldest cities in the Peloponnese of ancient Greece at a time when the word signified an agricultural plain.
Currently, there are 42 rooms at Argos in Cappadocia, located in four different mansions and the 2,000-year-old monastery. All rooms are furnished in a style defined by the interior designer as "rustic luxury." What that means is that iPods and docking stations coexist with ancient museum quality artifacts displayed in niches within your own room. Lighting is provided by contemporary fixtures - and working fireplaces.
If you are residing in one of the four splendid suites with a private plunge pool inside the suite, you’ll no doubt slip into the water - and marvel at the cave dwelling in which you are living so luxuriously. Comfy armchairs and sleek sofas are amalgams of high design and rustic materials, complemented by antique Turkish carpets. Bathrooms are spacious marble sanctuaries. Each room or suite at Argos in Cappadocia feels a part of a well-curated mountain lodge and the overall design inspires contemplation and relaxation.
The entire property at Argos in Cappadocia is almost like an Escher staircase where every set of stairs leads to an entirely new and different perspective, often with stunning vistas of Mount Erciyes. As you climb and walk you think you know where you’re going, but instead, you end up on another newly-discovered terrace or under a pergola or over a bridge or beneath an arcade lined with geraniums, zinnias, and hanging chains of sun-dried tomatoes.
To bring his vision to fruition, Ilicali traveled the world, seeking hotels and accommodations that provided a sui generis experience, something that transcended the expectations generated by a website or photography.
An ongoing restoration project that features the work of some of Turkey’s most visionary architects, Argos in Cappadocia boasts an ancient caravansary and a deep, well-stocked wine cellar with a tunnel that connects two of the mansions and extends throughout much of the village. Vineyards have been planted with Muscat grapes and Argos in Cappadocia will soon make its own ice wine.
Terraced gardens are planted with arugula and tomatoes - and, in summer and autumn, geraniums, zinnias, roses and mums burst forth from sunny courtyards and pathways in a profusion of jewel colors.
An ancient cave that once served as a chapel, a caravansary, and an oil factory is blessed with remarkable acoustics, thanks to dome ceilings that rise to 32 feet, making it perfect for concerts, art exhibitions, and special events. Room service is 24 hours, as is concierge service, and wireless Internet works like a hotline to the world beyond.
Regardless of where you wander at Argos in Cappadocia, you feel the sanctity of place and the regard for space - and, almost inevitably, you slip into an enchanted state of peacefulness, whereby the cares of the temporal world are a lifetime away.
LINK: Argos in Cappadocia
WHAT TO DO:
Hot Air Ballooning: According to many hot-air ballooning enthusiasts, there are three top ballooning locales in the world: the Loire Valley (for the chateaux), Kenya (for the wild animals), and Cappadocia for the extraordinary volcanic landscape of fairy chimneys: the tall, ancient pillars and minaret-like towers that have been carved into the stone by nature over the course of millions of years.
Ballooning in Cappadocia takes place in the early hours of day, just before sunrise, which makes for splendid aerial photographs one thousand feet above ground.
Royal Balloon offers a buffet breakfast, as well as a champagne toast at the sixty-minute ride’s conclusion. Pilots at Royal are some of the most experienced (and friendly) in all of Cappadocia, which is perhaps one good reason why Royal Balloon is the top-rated balloon company on TripAdvisor.
As you lift into the sky and sail over the deep canyons in an open basket that holds a maximum of twenty people, it’s possible that you’ll think anew of the Wizard - and understand the joys of floating over Oz.
LINK: Royal Balloon
Gallery Cappadocia: No trip to Turkey is complete without a trip to a carpet gallery. At the Gallery Cappadocia in Goreme, five female weavers work quietly and assiduously, in front of looms.
With pride and childlike wonder, the owner demonstrates the miraculous process by which silk thread materializes from the cocoons of mulberry silkworms.
In a vast showroom, scores of silk carpets sail through the air before landing on the floor in a gorgeous mosaic.
You’ll be forgiven if you faint in a paroxysm of ecstasy - and you’ll certainly wish you could ship home at least ten of your favorites.
LINK: Gallery Cappadocia
(Travel feature continues on next pages: What to Do, Where to Eat, Getting There, Additional Info...)