Last updated: 03:09 PM ET, Mon May 30 2016

The Subterranean Turkish Vacation

Exploring Cappadocia's ancient underground cities amid a landscape of fairy chimneys.

Agent@Home | Destination & Tourism | Greg Shillinglaw

The Subterranean Turkish Vacation

PHOTO: Cappadocia embodies thousands of years of history layered on lava and ash. (courtesy of Colin Antill,

A trip to Cappadocia can feel at times like an excursion to some distant world. Tall and pointed spires of rock, called fairy chimneys, dot the horizon. Imposing fortresses chiseled from the scraps of volcanic eruptions tower over towns formed during a distant era. And sprawling underground cities offer a reminder of when armed invaders roamed the land.

This central Turkish region literally embodies thousands of years of human history layered on lava and ash that shaped Cappadocia some 65 million years ago. It’s a place where you’ll find reminders of Alexander the Great, the Romans, Ottoman emperors, and even Jesus, just to name a few. But if history and nature are not your clients’ thing, there’s still hot air ballooning, pottery classes, Turkish spa treatments, carpet shopping and wine tastings to keep them entertained.

Here’s a look at what your clients can expect when they visit.


Cappadocia is widely known for its massive underground cities. So far 40 have been discovered, and only a fraction of those have been excavated. These subterranean metropolises had literally everything needed to keep society going underground during apocalyptic-like times, including full kitchens, churches and even areas to store livestock.

They’re also featured in the Bible as places where early Christians sought refuge from the Romans. The most famous of these cities is Derinkuyu, a sprawling seven-level “palace” that housed thousands of residents at a time.

When it comes to paying a visit, travelers who are claustrophobic, have a difficult time moving around or happen to be really tall should probably sit this one out. The cities are a maze of cramped caves, dimly lit tunnels and narrow passageways that are sometimes tough to breathe in. Still, it’s definitely an experience worth crossing off the bucket list.


Perhaps the best part about one of the region’s newest hotels, The House Hotel Cappadocia, is the view. Just look across the street and there’s an imposing rock formation that once doubled as a fortress. This castle in the district of Ortahisar now has a more humble purpose, serving in part as the backdrop for nightly barbeques and wine tastings on the hotel’s terrace.

The property’s 29 rooms are set in a complex of ancient caves and traditional stone houses, with another 16 rooms scheduled to open when the second phase of construction wraps up in May. (The property opened last summer.) Room rates start at around $125 and max out at $340.

As for the food, the hotel’s contemporary Turkish eatery, Fresko Restaurant, serves up local specialties come dinnertime, though some of this fare can have the feeling of home. Guests can munch on pide and lahmacun, wood-oven cooked, pizza-like flatbreads that can be topped with a mix of either vegetables or spicy Turkish minced meat. Visit

Another hotel to keep on your radar is the Argos in Cappadocia, a sprawling, hillside campus of old homes and a monastery that was transformed into a luxury hotel. The property’s 51 rooms are located in several different “mansions” overlooking a horizon of fairy chimneys and ice-tipped mountaintops. They are also perched above a network of underground tunnels. Rates start at about $285 per night.

The hotel is also a jumping off point for taking in many of the region’s top attractions, including the Goreme Open Air Museum - a UNESCO World Heritage site with 30 ancient churches, chapels and frescoes. The wine cellar and restaurant at Argos are also worth mentioning. Guests can sample thousands of Turkish wines, including many made right in Cappadocia, deep inside the hotel’s caves.

Upstairs, the Seki Restaurant is foodie friendly, letting diners visit Argos’ garden and handpick herbs and greens to use at dinner. It serves a mix of regional dishes and international plates. Visit


Safety is, of course, going to be a paramount concern of your clients given the recent tragic events in Turkey. Cappadocia, however, has not experienced violence like that seen in Istanbul and Ankara, where separate suicide bomb attacks were blamed for the deaths of dozens. The U.S. State Department has urged travelers to remain vigilant in areas around the country frequented by tourists, advising them to avoid traveling to southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border.


Flying is usually your best bet when it comes to getting to Cappadocia. With this in mind, there are two main airports to choose from. Nevsehir Kapadokya is nearly 40 minutes from the center of the region, while Kayseri Erkilet is about one hour from that same spot. Turkish Airlines operates several daily direct flights from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to both of Cappadocia’s airports, and the flights typically last around an hour. As for getting to their hotels, guests can choose to reserve a private pickup service, rent a car or book a seat on the shuttle bus that runs from the airports.

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Agent@Home Magazine

A version of this article appears in print in the May 2016 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.