Though it opened in 2010, plans for Argos in Cappadocia, actually began in 1997 with the purchase of a single house in the small town of Uçhisar in the region of Turkey known for its fantastical rock formations, called fairy chimneys. The Turkish owner dreamed of opening a hotel that blended into the beautiful surroundings, so he worked with one of the country’s best architects to design each of the hotel’s 53 rooms one by one, as they were built or renovated from existing structures. Thirteen years later, he opened what would become known as “the village with a reception desk.”
My husband and I chose Argos for our three nights in Cappadocia. Front desk staff arranged transportation from the airport for 25 lira (about $12) per person making the 30-minute transfer completely painless. Upon arrival, the manager, Esin, invited us to the property tour offered to all guests each evening; little did we realize how much there was to see on the property. The 53 guest rooms and suites are spread throughout six different mansions. There’s also a bar and restaurant, meeting rooms, a 2000-year old chapel, a wine cellar, and more than 5 kilometers (three miles) of underground tunnels.
Our room opened onto a courtyard with a view of the valley. There was a small desk and sitting area, a mini-fridge stocked with bottled water, and a queen bed, all tucked into a pleasantly warm cave carved into the rock. Though the rock from which the cave was dug was thousands of years old, the room lacked no modern amenities.
There was free wifi, central heat, an iPod doc, and a telephone to contact the front desk for round-the-clock concierge and room service, and the marble bathroom had a luxurious rain shower, heated towel racks, fluffy robes, and a hair dryer.
The unique mix of modern and traditional carries throughout the property, which is landscaped to incorporate the area’s nature as well. Dry grape vines are used as fences, dried fruit and vegetables decorate guest room doors (and provide food to birds) and as they have centuries, the surrounding rocks create a welcoming habitat for nesting nightingales and pigeons.
While there’s plenty to do in the area, we also found a lot to keep us at the hotel. Continental breakfast is served each morning and includes a lavish spread of meats, cheeses, olives, jams, and pastries as well as a cooked-to-order egg. In the afternoons, a lounge overlooking the valley serves beer, wine, coffee, tea, snacks and light lunches, like manti, a traditional pasta served in yogurt sauce. And in the evening, the restaurant, named Seki after the terraces carved into the hillside for growing grapes, serves refined modern Turkish fare and an expansive – and quite affordable – wine selection. One night my husband and I shared an appetizer, entree, dessert, and a bottle of surprisingly good Syrah from the Black Sea coast, all for around $65 US.
The hotel produces its own wine as well, making Kalecik Karası and Syrah wines with grapes from their vineyards and serves it exclusively to hotel guests. One afternoon, we opted for a private tasting of six Turkish wines and were blown away by the Argos Syrah, which had recently taken gold in a French Syrah competition and was easily the best of the Turkish wines we tasted.
Another night, we met Esin and several other guests in the hotel lobby for the nightly tour, which took place almost entirely underground. On the floor below the hotel’s restaurant, the owner has created the largest wine cellar in the region. He plans to put its 70,000-bottle capacity to good use, not only stocking wines for the hotel but compiling a comprehensive library of wines from all seven regions in Turkey and from around the world.
One floor down is the chapel, dug out of the rock and used for wine tasting and also as room to dry charcuterie. As Esin explained to the group, “everywhere you dig, you find something” like the 2000-year old church next door that’s now used as meeting and event space, or the tunnels we explored next.
The tunnels stretch for at least five kilometers below the hotel; in some places they connect to the tunnels belonging to neighboring properties. Esin told us that they remain in the condition they were in when they were discovered, aside from the addition of electricity. She explains there are rumors that you can take these tunnels all the way to an underground city 30 kms (about 18 miles) away. She said she couldn’t confirm it, but then added with a knowing smile, “anything is possible in this region.”
If you go: Room rates start at 160-200 euros per night which includes complimentary breakfast, free wi-fi, and unlimited bottled water. Check-in is 2pm and check-out is noon. The hotel can arrange a shared airport shuttle or a private transfer, as well as in-room massages, dinner reservations, wine tasting, and tours. Book directly online at the hotel website or with agoda.com, Priceline or Hotels.com