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Real-life Star Wars: The lunar landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia will leave you moonstruck 

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Real-life Star Wars: The surreal lunar landscape of Turkey’s Cappadocia is so mesmerising that… you will be moonstruck

  • Steve Thomas is an everyday guest at Kale Konak, a cave hotel in Cappadocia run by ‘gregarious Abdullah’
  • Rooms here are reached and linked by tunnels deep beneath the castle in hilltop village Uchisar  
  • ‘[Uchisar] is carved right into a huge rocky outcrop and appears like something from a Star Wars film set,’ says Steve
  • Cappadocia is now a year-round tourist hotspot, so autumn and winter are arguably the perfect times to go to 

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Wielding his meat cleaver, the charismatic owner and singing chef of the House of Memories restaurant in Uchisar swiftly decapitates the clay pot and pours out the slow-cooked lamb stew.

The dish is often known as a testi kebab and it’s his speciality. As he does so, a three-legged Kangal dog hops by and gazes on in anticipation. These giant Anatolian livestock guard dogs are commonplace on this a part of Cappadocia, the famous volcanic region in central Turkey.

I’ve returned time and again — to eat in the identical restaurant and to remain on the Kale Konak, a small and traditional cave hotel run by gregarious Abdullah, with its own resident Kangal named Barden.

Rooms here — and Turkish bath — are reached and linked by tunnels deep beneath the castle in hilltop Uchisar.

Steve Thomas stays in hotel Kale Konak, which has rooms positioned beneath the castle in hilltop village Uchisar (above)

Steve explains that Kale Konak (above) is 'a small and traditional cave hotel run by gregarious Abdullah'

Steve explains that Kale Konak (above) is ‘a small and traditional cave hotel run by gregarious Abdullah’

Double rooms at Kale Konak (above), cost from £95 B&B

Double rooms at Kale Konak (above), cost from £95 B&B

It’s carved right into a huge rocky outcrop and appears like something from a Star Wars film set. The 40 sq km that make up the Unesco World Heritage Site of central Cappadocia are actually a year-round tourist hotspot, so autumn and winter are arguably the perfect times to go to.

All 12 months round, blurry-eyed tourists clamber to snap photos and videos of the region’s famous low-flying hot-air balloons before moving on to the subsequent hotspot — and a sunrise flight is an actual treat (at a value of around 180 euros).

But these fleeting visits mean missing out on the true Cappadocia. The lunar-like landscape was formed 60 million years ago by lava from nearby volcanoes, of which the customarily snow-capped Mount Erciyes (Argeus) is probably the most outstanding.

Cappadocia has been inhabited for the reason that Hittite era and was a trading post on the old Silk Road. Later, Jews and Christians fled Roman persecution and settled here. Many hand-carved churches and monasteries still have remarkably intact frescos, and Saint George is believed to have been born here.

As of late, most caves are empty, although within the predominant towns many have been converted into hotels. Entire underground cities were also carved out later, to cover from Arab invaders, and plenty of are actually open to visitors.

And from the lofty terrace beneath Uchisar Castle, walk 10 minutes downhill in any direction and the hordes are gone. The more you walk, the more you will discover. The closest hike is thru Pidgeon Valley — a kaleidoscope of color in spring and autumn. Perched on the valley rim is the tiny Kocabag (pronounced Koschbazsh) Winery & shop, which produces superb local wines and is a must visit for après-hike tipples.

Cappadocia was formed 60 million years ago by lava from nearby volcanoes, of which the often snow-capped Mount Erciyes (Argeus, above) is the most prominent

Cappadocia was formed 60 million years ago by lava from nearby volcanoes, of which the customarily snow-capped Mount Erciyes (Argeus, above) is probably the most outstanding

Pidgeon Valley is 'a kaleidoscope of colour in spring and autumn', says Steve, adding: 'Perched on the valley rim is the tiny Kocabag (pronounced Koschbazsh) Winery & shop, which produces superb local wines and is a must visit for apres-hike tipples'

Pidgeon Valley is ‘a kaleidoscope of color in spring and autumn’, says Steve, adding: ‘Perched on the valley rim is the tiny Kocabag (pronounced Koschbazsh) Winery & shop, which produces superb local wines and is a must visit for apres-hike tipples’

The valley winds through the high desert landscape and is flanked by the terraced cave-based structures of Uchisar and several other deserted cave houses, churches and other structures, while farmers grow fruit and vegetables within the fertile valley bottoms.

These dwellings are much more outstanding within the valleys out of Goreme and Cavusin, and have mostly been derelict for a long time.

The lovable giant dogs, welcoming locals and great wine are reason enough to go to Cappadocia — nevertheless it’s also the accessible solitude and stylish fantastic thing about the valleys that make it such an exhilarating a part of the world.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Double rooms at Kale Konak from £95 B&B, kalekonak.com. A 3-night B&B package with flights from London Stansted to Istanbul and on to Kayseri costs from £844 pp during December with lastminute.com.

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