Okay, you’ve heard about Cappadocian cave hotels and about staying in a cave room with all the comforts: modern private bathroom, comfortable beds, flat-screen satellite TV, central heating, air conditioning, Wifi Internet, perhaps even a kitchenette.
But what’s it really like to live in a cave room?
The first thing to understand is that cave rooms are not all alike. In fact, each cave room is unique, with its own character, beauty, mystery, advantages and perhaps disadvantages.
You might think it’s easy to make a cave room: dig a hole in the soft volcanic tufa rock of Cappadocia, move in some furniture and decorative handicrafts, add a bit of plumbing and voilà, a cozy cave room.
How to Make a Comfortable Cave
Tufa caves are subject to humidity and crumbling rockand cracks and other frailties. It actually takes a lot of work to build a good cave room. There must be well-designed drainage and ventilation, all the pipes for plumbing and sewage and the wires and cables for the electricity, heating, air conditioning, Wifi, TV, etc. And, in the best cave rooms, all these utilities are out of sight.
The character of the rock is crucial. Luckily, the rock in some areas of Cappadocia is very good for cave rooms. Among these areas is the Esbelli district of Ürgüp, known for its sound, solid, beautifully-colored stone. If anyone digs a hole in Esbelli, they can easily sell the stone for house construction anywhere in Cappadocia.
Another thing to consider is sunlight. Many cave rooms have several windows, and the south-facing ones actually receive floods of cheery sunshine, even deep within. Leave the door open and your cave room is as good as a beach cabana.
|Cave room with skylight at Kale Konak Guesthouse in Uçhisar.|
But other rooms may have only one small window, north-facing, or blocked by other buildings, meaning you may feel claustrophobic. And a few rooms are really cave-like, with no window at all.
Logically this should not matter, but in fact it does. There’s something foreboding about a room without windows or at least a skylight. You may be able to sit and converse in it, or dine in it, but it’s kinda creepy to sleep in it. Read this.
So when choosing a Cappadocian cave hotel and cave room, ask:
—Does it have one or more windows?
—Does it get direct sunlight? (Or lots of indirect sunlight?)
—Is it humid or musty-smelling? Can this be dispelled?
In the hot months (late May through early October), most cave rooms stay comfortably cool and don’t really need air-conditioning. But most cave hotels have installed air conditioning because they believe many people will not reserve a room without it.
Heating, on the other hand, is usually necessary late autumn through spring (November through April) to dispell the chill and some latent moisture. Some cave rooms have central heating, but portable electric units, fluid-filled or radiant, work as well.
Noise is usually not a problem in cave rooms—the walls are made of stone, after all—though a room right next to a roadway may be noisy, and the hugely-amplified early-morning call to prayer seems to penetrate even the stone of Cappadocia.
Stone-Built vs. Cave Rooms
Most hotels will draw a distinction between stone-built rooms and cave rooms. A stone-built room is constructed of stone blocks, often barrel-vaulted and arched, with decoration and niches carved into the stone.
Stone-built rooms share many of the advantages of cave rooms (coolness, sound-proofing, character, the beauty of the stone), but they have a different character. A true cave room has the haphazard shape of centuries, whereas a stone-built room is the conscious creation of a master mason.
Both rooms are worth occupying and enjoying. Both provide indelible memories of Cappadocia.
Here are my favorite Cappadocian cave hotels.
—by Tom Brosnahan
|Getting to Cappadocia||Central Anatolia|