Real Life Star Wars: The surreal lunar landscape of Turkish Cappadocia is so mesmerizing that… you will be stunned by the moon
- Steve Thomas is a regular guest at Kale Konak, a cave hotel in Cappadocia run by “sociable Abdullah”.
- The rooms here are accessed and connected by tunnels deep beneath the castle in the hilltop village of Uchisar
- ‘[Uchisar] carved into a huge ledge and looks like something out of a Star Wars movie set,” says Steve
- Cappadocia is now a year-round tourist hotspot, so fall and winter are arguably the best times to visit
The charismatic owner and singing chef of the restaurant “House of Memories” in Uchisar quickly decapitates the clay pot with his meat cleaver and pours out the slowly cooked lamb stew.
The dish is known as testi kebab and its specialty. A three-legged Kangal dog hops by and looks on expectantly. These giant Anatolian livestock guardian dogs are widespread in this part of Cappadocia, the famous volcanic region in central Turkey.
I’ve kept coming back – to eat at the same restaurant and stay at the Kale Konak, a small and traditional cave hotel run by the gregarious Abdullah, with his own kangal called Barden.
The rooms here – and the Turkish bath – are accessed and linked by tunnels deep beneath the castle on Uchisar Hill.
Steve Thomas stays at Hotel Kale Konak, whose rooms are below the castle in the mountain village of Uchisar (above)
Steve explains that Kale Konak (above) is “a small and traditional cave hotel run by the gregarious Abdullah.”
Double rooms at Kale Konak (above) are from £95 B&B
It’s carved into a huge ledge and looks like something out of a Star Wars movie set. The 40 square kilometers that make up the Unesco World Heritage Site of central Cappadocia are now a year-round tourist hotspot, so fall and winter are arguably the best times to visit.
All year round, blurry-eyed tourists climb to snap photos and videos of the region’s famous low-flying hot air balloons before heading to the next hotspot – and a sunrise flight is a real treat (at a cost of around 180 euros). .
But these fleeting visits mean you miss out on the real Cappadocia. The lunar-like landscape was sculpted 60 million years ago by lava from nearby volcanoes, the most prominent of which is the often snow-capped Mount Erciyes (Argeus).
Inhabited since Hittite times, Cappadocia was a trading post on the ancient Silk Road. Later, Jews and Christians fled Roman persecution and settled here. Many hand-carved churches and monasteries still have remarkably intact frescoes, and it is believed that Saint George was born here.
Nowadays most caves are empty, although in the main cities many have been converted into hotels. Entire underground cities were also later built to hide from Arab invaders, and many are open to visitors today.
And from the lofty terrace below Uchisar Castle, walk 10 minutes downhill in any direction and the hordes are gone. The more you walk, the more you will find. The next hike is through the Pidgeon Valley – a kaleidoscope of colors in spring and fall. Perched at the edge of the valley is the tiny Kocabag (pronounced Koschbazsh) Winery & Shop, which produces excellent local wines and is a must for après-hike tips.
Cappadocia was formed 60 million years ago by lava from nearby volcanoes, the most prominent of which is the often snow-capped Mount Erciyes (Argeus, above).
Pidgeon Valley is “a kaleidoscope of color in spring and fall,” says Steve, adding, “Perched at the rim of the valley is the tiny Kocabag (pronounced Koschbazsh) Winery & Shop, which produces excellent local wines and is a must-visit après is. hiking tips
The valley meanders through the high desert landscape and is flanked by the terraced cave structures of Uchisar and several abandoned cave houses, churches and other structures, while farmers grow fruit and vegetables in the fertile valley floors.
These dwellings are even more prominent in the valleys outside of Goreme and Cavusin, and have largely been derelict for decades.
The lovable giant dogs, hospitable locals and great wine are reasons enough to visit Cappadocia – but it’s also the accessible solitude and sublime beauty of the valleys that make it such an exciting part of the world.