Room Service: Esbelli Evi, Urgup, Turkey

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The Independent Travel

Cave hotels are scattered all over Turkey's otherworldly region of Cappadocia, but top of the rocks has to be Esbelli Evi in Urgup. The owner, Suha Ersoz, spent seven years restoring several abandoned cave dwellings to create a hotel whose rooms, incredibly, date back to the sixth century.

Cave hotels are scattered all over Turkey's otherworldly region of Cappadocia, but top of the rocks has to be Esbelli Evi in Urgup. The owner, Suha Ersoz, spent seven years restoring several abandoned cave dwellings to create a hotel whose rooms, incredibly, date back to the sixth century.

Looking out over the rocky edges and plateaux of Urgup, Esbelli Evi offers a wonderful base from which to explore the surreal lunar-like scenery of Cappadocia. A massive volcanic eruption some 30 million years ago, and subsequent natural erosion, resulted in a fairytale landscape of towers, chimneys and caverns all sculpted out of rock.

The arrival of Christianity meant that cave churches were created, many surviving with original frescoes dating back to the 11th century.

You can also explore intact underground cities constructed to offer refuge at times of invasion. The highlight of any trip is an early morning balloon flight, which the hotel can arrange, floating over the crags and pinnacles of valleys.

The bedrooms are all below ground, cut into the stone, while the upper level is furnished in traditional Turkish style. There's a well-stocked kitchen for guests to help themselves and a reading room with low-slung divans and an eclectic collection of books and CDs.

Run more like a home than hotel, it's fitting that "evi" means house.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Esbelli Evi, Esbelli Sokak No 8, 50400 Urgup, Turkey (00 90 384 341 3395, www.esbelli.com).

Time to international airport: Kayseri airport is an hour away. Turkish Airlines operates three flights a day from Istanbul. The hotel can then organise a transfer with the airline's shuttle bus for a cost of US$5 (£3) per person.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

The antique brass beds and cool stone interiors of the rooms compared with the steamy temperatures outside will make you want to join the Flintstones. There are 10 rooms in total, all beautifully furnished with kilims on the wooden floors and Ottoman-style hangings set against the marbled sandstone walls.

One of the bedrooms was once used for pressing grapes, another as the stable, and what was the kitchen still has its fireplace in situ.

Freebies: all drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, are included in the price. There are also mountain bikes for guests to use, and a washing machine.

Keeping in touch: there's a telephone in every room, and the communal television has 200 or so channels. Guests are allowed unlimited free access to the internet on the hotel's two terminals.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Conditions in winter can be fierce in Cappadocia so the hotel closes between November and February. For the rest of the year, a double room costs US$80 (£55) and includes a buffet breakfast taken out on the terrace).

I'm not paying that: just up from the hammam on Istiklal Caddesi is the family-run Asia Minor Hotel, housed in a fine old Ottoman-Greek property with courtyard garden (00 90 384 341 4645). A double room with breakfast costs US$40 (£25).

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