Cappadocia in Turkey is one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the world, a high volcanic plateau scattered with surreal rock formations described as ‘fairy chimneys’. The area has strong links to Orthodox Christianity with many rock churches and monasteries hewn from the soft volcanic stone. Today, you can even stay in a selection of cave-hotels.
My favorite would have to be the four-star Cappadocia Cave Resort, which is probably the best in the area. Located in the town of Uchisar, most of the hotel rooms are carved into the caves, whilst others are built onto the cliff face and they all offer spectacular views of the lunar landscape below. The hotel has both indoor and outdoor pools, a great place to relax after a day of sightseeing.
You can also arrange a wine tasting session in the cave cellar. See the 'fairy chimneys' and rock churches in the Goreme Valley National Park and the subway cities of Kaymaki and Derinkuyu. Visit Avanos famed for its pottery and carpets, and Uchisar for the rock fortress.
During the summer months and up to as late as November, the unique terrain lends itself to a range of outdoor pursuits including hot air ballooning, trekking, walking, horse riding and mountain biking.
For the second part of our trip, we flew to Istanbul and decided to stay further out of the city at the five-star Grand Tarabya, a lovely resort-style hotel. It’s about a 40 minute journey into the Old Town of Istanbul, but still on the waterfront of the Bosphorus and close to the entrance of the Black Sea. There is a pretty promenade to stroll along, plenty of terraces to enjoy the views, a fine choice of restaurants, swimming pools and even a spa for pampering. A guided tour is a great way to the city, as there is so much to see and do. Visit the Byzantine Aghia Sophia church, the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome and the Grand Bazaar with its 4,000 shops.
There is also a full-day tour to the Asian side of Istanbul to see Topkapi Palace and the 19th-Century Ottoman Summer Palace, stopping for a picturesque lunch in a local restaurant and ending with a cruise back over to Istanbul. There is so much to do that you will probably want to go back time and time again.
* I would recommend a six or seven night trip to see Cappadocia and Istanbul, staying at two or three different places. Fly from London Heathrow with either Turkish or British Airways. I flew via Istanbul to Cappadocia, but I would suggest you actually do Istanbul first and then take a local flight down to Cappadocia.