Three Ways To Stay In Cappadocia, Turkey

In central Anatolia, about three hours south of the capital of Ankara, is Cappadocia, one of the most popular areas to visit in Turkey. Renowned for its “fairy chimneys” – wind-swept rock formations that sprout from the landscape looking like stone mushrooms, Flintstone dwellings and phalluses – and vast network of caves, many of which served as places of worship for early Christians, Cappadocia has an unforgettable mix of the natural, mystical and historical. It is for these reasons that Cappadocia was one of the first sites in Turkey to be named to UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

While the technical boundaries of Cappadocia’s UNESCO site lie within the town of Göreme, the Cappadocia region is vast, covering about 100 square miles. Within this area are dozens of towns, many of which are equipped with cave hotel accommodations, the region’s most sought-after lodging. But with so many cave hotels to choose from – and so many new caves being dug out to handle the influx of tourists seeking that “authentic” Cappadocia experience, how do you know where to stay? I’ve stayed in Cappadocia on numerous occasions and can recommend the following towns for a vacation.

Most visitors to Cappadocia choose to stay in the town of Göreme, which is the site of the Göreme Open-Air Museum. The walkable and well-tended outdoor museum has the most extensive collection of medieval, fresco-adorned rock churches, and forms the basis of Cappadocia’s UNESCO status. Because Göreme is the hub of tourist activity for the region, it has the most facilities, from luxury caves to affordable backpacker accommodations. The town, which is about 1.5 miles from the open-air museum, has restaurants, shops, transportation options, and a tourist information center where you can book an English-speaking guide.

In Göreme, I stayed at the Kelebek Hotel, an inn with 36 cave lodging options. The Kelebek sits on a ridge and has some views over the town.

Thinking they’ll escape the more touristy trappings of Göreme, some travelers opt to stay in Ürgüp, a town about 15 miles south of the open-air museum. Ürgüp’s downtown is quieter and feels more elegant than the well-trodden sidewalks of Göreme. And where Göreme’s accommodations bunch up around a convenient downtown, Ürgüp’s lodging choices are spread out like a blanket, making it a better choice for travelers who have their own car. Whether Ürgüp is more touristy than Göreme is hard to say. Ironically, its reputation as the alternative to Göreme has led to its popularity with group tours. Nevertheless, Ürgüp seemed, to me, to have more breathing room.

The Esbelli Evi, a collection of old Turkish homes and cave dwellings brought together by the friendly, modern and bohemian stylings of Suha Ersoz, is my favorite place to stay in Ürgüp.

Of all the towns to stay in the Cappadocia region, Mustafapaşa is the village I find most appealing. One arrives in Mustafapaşa by taking the road to Ürgüp then turning south to drive deeper into the valley. Mustafapaşa, also known by its old Greek name Sinasos, has echoes of the same Cappadocian Greek Orthodox heritage found in the frescoes in the Göreme UNESCO site. A portion of Mustafapaşa’s center has some distinctly Greek structures and it is also home to the Old Greek House that serves as both an inn (upstairs) and family-style restaurant (downstairs).

As for cave accommodations in Mustafapaşa, my family and I felt very comfortable at the Ukabeyn Cappadocia Lodge, a quiet hotel equipped with a pool.

[Photos: Top two photos are copyright Melanie Renzulli; bottom photo of Mustafapaşa structure copyright Flickr user turcolive]

10 unique underground hotels from around the world

While staying above ground has its perks, it’s always fun to try something a little out of the ordinary. On your next trip, why not try staying in one of these unique hotels located underground? You’ll get privacy, a unique experience, and won’t have to worry about the sun waking you up too early on your vacation.

Sala Silvermine
Sala, Sweden

The Sala Silvermine is an actual mine that allows visitors to stay in a Mine Suite, the “world’s deepest hotel room”. The room is about 508 feet below the Earth’s surface, next to underground galleries and caverns. Guests will receive a guided tour of the mine, which was well-known for its silver, lead, and zinc content, as well as a basket of goodies including cheese, fruits, chocolate, biscuits, and sparkling wine. While beautiful and peaceful, just make sure to dress warm as it is only 35.6 degrees Farenheit in the mine all year round and 64.4 degrees Farenheit in the room itself.Desert Cave Hotel
Coober Pedy, South Australia

Since 1915, people have flocked to Coober Pedy in the Outback in search of the precious opals the town is known for. They have also gone to explore the underground dwellings of the area, as many locals live in “dugouts” to keep cool. The 4-star Desert Cave Hotel officially opened in 1988 as a way to help people experience the underground way of life. While there are 50 rooms available, 19 are underground. All contain modern luxuries like color television, Wi-Fi, and free in-house movies. And those living below the Earth won’t feel too disconnected from the world, as there is also an underground shopping arcade that features an extensive range of opals and opal jewelery.

Kelebek Cave Hotel
Cappadocia, Turkey

Located right in the center of Goreme’s historic village, the Kelebek Cave Hotel allows guests to stay in spacious underground cave dwellings as well as fairy chimneys formed from volcanic activity. The rooms are surprisingly comfortable and cozy, with a fireplace and a traditional Turkish breakfast. If you want a better idea of what the property looks like inside and out, they offer a comprehensive virtual tour on their website.

Woodlyn Park
Waitomo, New Zealand

Lord of the Rings fans will love this hobbit-inspired accommodation. Woodlyn Park includes 4 types of motels, including a plane motel, train motel, boat motel, and the underground hobbit motels that have circular windows poking up out of the ground. The rooms include a kitchen, bathroom, furnishings, and decor. While this is by no means a luxury hotel, it is a fun and unique accommodation option.

La Claustra
Airolo, Switzerland

La Claustra was once a hidden military fort housed inside the St. Gotthard Mountain. In 1999, the Swiss army gave up the space, giving arist Jean Odermatt an idea for a unique modern accommodation that is embedded deep into mountain rock. This 4-star property also offers, innovative and organic cuisine, a steam grotto, and activities and events upon request.

Les Hautes Roches
Rochecorbon, France

Les Hautes Roches is located in the Loire Valley and was formerly the living quarters of the nearby Abbey of Marmoutier monks who sought refuge during the wars of religion. After being abandoned for 15 years, these caves and adjoining 17th century pavilion were renovated by hotel owner Philippe Mollard into a luxury Troglodytic hotel. Guests sleep in rooms sculpted from tufa rock and housed inside the center of cliffs. Fun fact: Tufa rock has a velvet-like appearance and is also known to promote health and well-being.

Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
Parthenon, Arkansas

The Beckham Creek Cave Lodge is a serene and secluded underground property with modern technology and luxurious amenities. Relax in the below-ground jacuzzis, watch movies on a flat sceen television, or just enjoy the elegantly furnished room and high-tech stainless steel kitchen. While you will be sleeping below the Earth, you will be able to immerse yourself in nature above ground with horseback riding and hiking through the Ozark countryside.

Cuevas Pedro Antonio de Alarcón
Guadix, Spain

The Cuevas Pedro Antonio de Alarcón is a pre-historic cave hotel near Granada that has been amended into chalet accommodations. Carved into the clay hillside, the individual chalets feature modern living facilities inside whitewashed caves that give guests the chance to “experience the authentic lifestyle of accitanos”. There are 23 fully-equipped caves to choose from, as well as a pool, restaurant, meeting room, reception, and laundry facility.

Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast
Farmington, New Mexico

Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast is a cave accommodation that has been blasted out of mountain rock. The property is a 1,650 square foot, one-bedroom cave hotel that sits 280 feet above the La Plata River and is made from sandstone that is 65 million years old. Luxury and comfort is part of a stay in this private and secluded cave, with plush carpeting, a hot tub, hot waterfall shower, kitchen, washer and dryer, and Southwestern-themed decor.

Null Stern Hotel
To be determined

The first Null Stern Hotel opened in Teufen, Switzerland, but closed down on June 4, 2010, exactly one year after opening. The closing came not because of an unsuccessful establishment, but due to an overwhelming amount of positive guest feedback asking for more properties. A former Swiss Nuclear bunker, the aim of the underground property was to give the unused space a second life while providing guests with an affordable accommodation.

For the time being, the founders of the hotel are dedicating their energy on an expansion strategy and opening a Null Stern Hotel property that is even bigger and better than before. However, because negotiations are still in progress, the exact location cannot be disclosed. The original hotel is currently open as a museum, giving visitors guided tours that introduce them to property features like the wheel of fate, the second check in, and the virtual window.