Waking to the sound of an alarm shouldn’t be part of any holiday. But this morning, the family is Cappadocia ballooning.
In 20 minutes, a minibus will collect us from our stunning cave hotel. In little over an hour, and before the sun has risen, we will be climbing towards Turkey’s rich and loyal blue skies. The air will be warm, clear and still. The views breathtaking. And then the sun will rise…
But what made this flight so spectacular was the Cappadocian volcanic rock formations below. Dramatically shaped by wind and weather over millions of years, the fairy chimney cone scenery is as much a Star Trek film set as it is a World Heritage site.
Cappadocia is a destination growing in popularity. Balloon businesses continue to be drawn to the region (we counted 92 inflatables in the sky when we flew) and the unique landscape ensures a plentiful supply of breathtaking views of serene beauty. And thanks to the extraordinary geology and topology, there are many hotels which boast a cave dwelling experience.
Using the ever-reliable Booking.com to research holiday accommodation options, we chose a couple of nights at the Azure Cave Suites hotel. Staying in a cave was always going to be special, but nothing prepared us for the experience.
Designed with head-shaking care, attention and original features, the cave bedrooms left us speechless. With beds capable of filling a small showroom and jacuzzi baths suitable for toddler swimming practice, we felt like Flintstone royalty. But the best was yet to come.
This hilltop retreat provides magnificent views over the National Park and breakfast is purposely served at the boutique hotel’s highest vantage point. At sunrise on our second morning we watched others go Cappadocia Ballooning before indulging in a sumptuous, organic meze breakfast. The ever-helpful and cheery Ismail played the perfect waiter and with a protective canopy overhead, the vista, peace and sun-drenched open air did the rest.
As a long-standing fan of independent hotels, I was curious to know how the two young owners had created such serenity. Fortunately, Zerrin and her husband were happy to answer my many questions. Their entrepreneurial story didn’t disappoint.
Driven by a dream
When the original caves came up for sale, the couple were persuaded by the view and the magical possibility of what could be created for guests. Years of hard work, gathering of all the right materials and much expense meant Azure Cave Suites opened in 2013. When we stayed there were 5 guest rooms, but the meticulous crafting of additional caves means a further 8 will soon be available. Zerrin also sees an opportunity for a small infinity pool which got our vote the moment she suggested the idea.
The consistent attention to design detail has created a stunning overall experience. For example, different coloured stone has been carefully selected from different European quarries so the style and guest experience is ‘just right’. Outside room light fittings never protrude. Instead each lamp is sunken into the rock thus creating an ambient light, chiming perfectly with the timeless surroundings.
And as you will have gathered, levels of service are of the highest standard. Staff are lovely. Ismail almost looked offended when we didn’t take up his offer of a personal taxi pick-up after we spent an evening in the local town of Goreme.
The next visit
Whenever I meet entrepreneurs journeying to achieve their dream, I am inspired and feel compelled to contribute and somehow help. I am certain the couple could be earning much more if they had stayed in their previous professional jobs, but they have chosen to risk it all on a better future for themselves and their guests. Even with 13 rooms this ‘rock gem’ deserves a full year-round order book. I’m certain we will return.
And for people involved with tourism and entrepreneurship studies, there’s also much to learn and research. The case study opportunities are wide and varied. Whether you’re exploring the extraordinary National Park, Cappadocia Ballooning or staying with two entrepreneurs seemingly intent on creating one of the world’s finest boutique hotels, this is a place not to be missed.
Key Learning Points: The opportunity for Cappadocia Ballooning has attracted many visitors to Turkey and helped shape a strong entrepreneurial tourism culture. For a new hotel to survive and thrive in this highly competitive industry, all the key principles that underpin a first class business have had to be applied.