Staff Review

Cappadocia and Istanbul


10 Feb 2024

by The Kirker Team

Kirker Holidays

Whether you are standing in awe, gazing at the incredible rock formations of Cappadocia or listening to the mesmerising call to prayer outside the iconic Blue Mosque in Istanbul - Turkey provides some of the most unmissable experiences for discerning travellers.

The beginning of our journey took us from London, via Istanbul, to central Cappadocia - a rugged region in the centre of the country. Although the region is relatively unknown outside Turkey it provides a symbol of great national and geological importance due to the UNESCO protected rock formations. These formations, known as 'fairy chimneys,' have become a significant tourist attraction as the eroded sandstone creates wonderful statue-like features and monuments. Some have eroded through the centuries to such an extent that huge basalt boulders are left ballancing on pillars of softer sandstone, creating some weird and wonderful silhouettes.

There is no better way to explore these unique structures than with a Kirker private guide for the day, passing through the incredible Pasabag valley. For those who enjoy an historical perspective, the full day tour offers a visit to the incredible subterranean city of Kaymakli dating back to the Byzantine 7th Century - an incredible insight into how a civilisation survived attacks from marauding invaders by digging down into the caves and rock below them.

Goreme Open Air Museum provides impressive evidence of the advent of Christianity in the region where the inhabitants of the caves converted these ordinary abodes into a community of churches and monasteries - denoted by the intricate and well-preserved religious frescos on the walls and ceilings.

I would recommend two nights' stay in Cappodocia, flying into Kayseri airport from Istanbul and taking an hour's transfer to the ancient citadel of Uchisar where the unique Argos in Cappadocia cave hotel is located. This luxurious hotel provides the perfect base for the full day private excursion the following day and offers a relaxing resting place after a hard day's exploration. Most of the wonderfully furnished rooms are carved into caves, whilst some are built higher up into the Uchisar cliff face - but all offer spectacular views out over the moon-like rocky landscape. The property boasts excellent facilities, including an outdoor swimming pool.

Breakfast at the Argos in Cappadocia
Breakfast at the Argos in Cappadocia

The restaurant offers a good range of cuisine, as well as a delicious selection of the local Cappadocia wines - for which the area is justly renowned.

After discovering Cappadocia, we returned on the short domestic flight back to Istanbul, this time stopping in the city for a couple of days. Istanbul is an incredible city and should be top of every discerning traveller's wish list. It is a spot where many diverse cultures mingle, where two continents collide, where East meets West - all separated by the narrow straits of the Bosphorus. This started to sink in during our private car transfer from Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of the city, as we crossed the Bosphorus to the Pera district on the European side.

We started the day with lunch at the Pera Palace (5*) - a hotel steeped in history since it was founded in 1892 to accommodate passengers disembarking from the Orient Express. Rooms are wonderfully furnished in traditional Ottoman style and some, at a supplement, have a panoramic view across the city and the Golden Horn. The restaurant 'Agatha' - named after Agatha Christie, a former regular guest of the Pera Palace - provides a wonderful array of European and Turkish cuisines. In the afternoon guests who cannot find room for afternoon tea surrounded by the opulence of the 'Kubbeli Saloon' may wish to relax in the hotel's traditional Turkish spa.

Kubbeli Salon, Pera Palace Hotel
Kubbeli Salon, Pera Palace Hotel

After lunch our private guide expertly steered us across the Galata bridge to the old quarter of the city - the Sultanahmet district. Here one gauges the true Islamic heritage of the city: passing through the fascinating Blue Mosque, taking time to examine the glittering décor and exact architectural symmetry, before moving across to the imposing Aghia Sophia and gazing at the beautifully decorated dome above. A guided tour of the old quarter would not be complete without visiting the Topkapi Palace - a testament to the wealth of Istanbul's Sultans - where the collection of priceless relics include items mentioned in the Koran. A stroll through the Grand Bazaar is a fascinating spectacle, with the abundance of fabrics and multi-coloured spices displaying the origins of Istanbul's commercial history. Amidst all of this, somewhat ideally located, lies the Hotel Romance (4*) where guests can enjoy views from its wonderful roof terrace whilst taking breakfast. For those looking for pure luxury, the Four Seasons Sultanahmet (5* deluxe) could not be better suited. This former prison has been painstakingly and expertly furnished around a delightful courtyard (serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in summer) and all rooms are in keeping with traditional Turkish style. The public areas are finished in smooth marble and there is an excellent fine dining restaurant. This property provides the perfect solution for those looking to immerse themselves in a historic location, yet stay in complete modern luxury.

Terrace at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet
Terrace at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet

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Our expert reservations team regularly travel to a wide range of destinations to explore new cities, visit hotels and to research museums, galleries and restaurants so that we can offer the most up-to-date advice and recommendations.


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