Room Service: Argos in Cappadocia, Turkey
Live like a modern caveman in style
Friday 10 August 2012
The Argos has been through several incarnations over the past two millennia: by turns a monastery, a Silk Road caravanserai, a linseed-oil factory, and now a boutique hotel where you can live like a Troglodyte in style. Argos is Latin for "shimmering", and refers to Mount Erciyes's snow-capped cone. It is set on the eastern slope of Uchisar, the highest – and one of the oldest – villages in Cappadocia. The lunar-like landscape in this part of central Turkey is the result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
Numerous civilisations have left their mark. The region is home to valleys of extraordinary rock formations, ancient cave dwellings, stone-carved churches, fortresses perched atop rocky outcrops and labyrinthine underground cities built in the third and fourth centuries to shelter Christians from persecution.
This hotel – a multi-level complex of 42 rooms in five separate buildings – has been 15 years in the making. Caves that once sheltered holy men are now suites. The interconnected, bloom-filled gardens and sun-soaked terraces are perfect for drinking in the views over terraced vineyards, Mount Erciyes, and the fairy chimneys (conical rock formations) of Pigeon Valley.
The buildings sit above a network of even older underground tunnels uncovered during the restoration, along with the Bezirhane (linseed press). You can still see where traders used to park camels for the night and the two huge underground rooms with incredible acoustics now host classical, jazz and Sufi music concerts.
Breakfast is served under the stone arches of the hotel's light and airy restaurant, Seki. From here I watched hot-air balloons drift over the valley while I tucked into a selection of Turkish cheese, plump olives, fresh-baked bread, sweet pastries and eggs-to-order.
In the evening, I dined on the terrace under the stars on chicken with molasses and baked pumpkin, accompanied by Kalecik Karasi, a fruity red wine from the hotel's own vineyard. Grapes have been grown in this fertile volcanic soil since Ottoman times and several small wineries carry on the tradition, producing increasingly commendable wines.
The hotel is in the pretty village of Uchisar, which is a 30-minute drive from Nevsehir airport. Uchisar makes a good base to discover the extraordinary region of Cappadocia. After haggling for jewellery, pottery or kilim rugs in the small market, climb to the top of its fairytale fortress. This was not built by man but hewn out of the soft rock by the wind and the rain – it's the tallest point in the region and can be seen from miles around. Or marvel at the jaw-dropping landscape from a sunrise hot-air balloon flight (00 90 384 271 33 00; royalballoon.com; €175pp for a one-hour flight). Back on terra firma, you could explore Pigeon Valley in an hour-long hike, marvel at the Byzantine frescos in the cave-churches at Goreme Open Air Museum, a World Heritage Site, or traverse the tunnels of the subterranean city of Kaymakli, just 30 minutes away.
The rooms are spread over five buildings: Monastery, Tunnel, Vasil, Gemil and the White House. No two are the same but each has been decorated in soothing muted tones to complement the stone walls and wooden floors. My spacious "Deluxe" room was a subtle mix of ancient and modern: antique kilims, an iPod dock, wardrobes with intricately carved doors, a contemporary sofa in front of a traditional open fire, and an all-stone bathroom with a walk-in shower.
Every room has access to communal terrace or corner from which to soak up the sun and the views. The suites have a separate living area and open on to a private terrace, balcony or courtyard. The stunning one and two-bed "Splendid" suites – some split on two levels – have their own pools so you can wake up and jump right in.
Argos in Cappadocia, Uchisar, Nevsehir, Turkey (00 90 384 219 31 30; argosincappadocia.com).
Double rooms start at €160, including breakfast.
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