The Cappadocia region of Turkey receives much praise as a favourable holiday destination. Attracting backpackers, honeymoon couples and independent travellers, it is the third most visited area in the country and naturally, with the international trend of overseas living, many expats, especially Australians and Americans are choosing to make it their home.
Historically important as the region which helped to spread the beginnings of Christianity, it’s fame can also be credited to many other attractions including hot air balloon trips, underground cities and of course, the famous cave hotels, houses and churches.
Cave Dwelling in Cappadocia
The concept of living and praying in churches is one that stretches back to the beginning of settlement in the Cappadocia region. Locals discovered that rocks, formed from volcanic activity, were durable and easy to carve, therefore they made their homes and churches from them.
At the time of Roman invasion, they became effective places to hide, especially in the case of Ihlara Valley. Churches carved into the side walls of the valley, were hidden from sight when viewed from the land above, therefore suggesting the region was not inhabited.
Look at any travel list of things to do in the area, and it is guaranteed that seeing the intricate frescoes of churches in the UNESCO Goreme Open Air Museum, appears somewhere at the top. Most churches have protected status according to law, and then government officials’ implemented more regulations because the trend to convert old cave houses into luxury boutique hotels took off.
The Old Cave Houses of Cappadocia
For thousands of years, people lived in the cave houses but naturally as time progressed, modern technology and decor were viewed more favourably and people started moving out. Also in the cases of some small villages like Soganli, safety became an issue as the rock started crumbling.
So, it would be easy to assume that cave houses would become a thing of the past, but a new trend was born of which the Cappadocia town of Goreme was possibly the first to adopt. Old cave houses were converted into budget and luxury boutique hotels to accommodate the growing hordes of tourists that were flocking into the region.
Adhering to strict building regulations, a majority of them managed to retain the original theme while also supplying all modern cons such as air conditioning, televisions and for the luxury hotels, Jacuzzi baths. Other resorts like Uchisar and Urgup then followed the trend. By the time, the Internet arrived, news of the cave hotels of Cappadocia spread all over the world.
Buying an old Cave house For Restoration
On my last visit to Cappadocia, I visited the old town of Cavusin. Upon first sight, it has a striking appearance as old houses were carved into the side of one large rock face. A winding path leads the way between all the houses, of which some still portray the tell-tale signs of Greek inhabitants. Indeed, up until the population exchange treaty between Greece and Turkey in 1923, Cavusin was predominately a Greek town. In the 1950’s, safety fears of the large rock forced the Muslim inhabitants to abandon the old cave houses in favour of modern builds.
What I noticed on my last visit though, is many of these cave properties are now up for sale. With architectural techniques improving the strength of structural columns and walls, the safety has improved and various checks by government officials throughout the restoration process ensure they are safe to live in.
Now, at the turn of the century, the price of an old cave house was roughly 10,000 GBP. That price has now rocketed to an average starting price of 50,000 GBP, largely thanks to a change in the law that allowed foreigners to buy property and of course, the Internet promoting trends such as property restoration projects and buying abroad.
Renovating an Old Cave House
Compared to the international property market, an old cave house cost roughly 50,000 GBP, which is cheap but the main costs will not come from the purchase of the cave but instead the restoration. Property prices have increased, but so has the cost of building labour, materials and government permits.
I am unable to find any exact information as to the estimated total cost of renovation, but spoke to one hotel owner who purchased a small cave house and converted it into a five-bedroom luxury boutique hotel. He spent quarter of a million Turkish liras, which at the current exchange rate of today works out to roughly 62,000 GBP.
So while the novelty of owning and restoring an old cave house of Cappadocia might be appealing, potential buyers should weigh up the benefits they will receive. For example, for the same amount, you can buy a five bedroom, luxury villa with modern cons and beachfront location in places like cosmopolitan Bodrum on the Aegean coast or upmarket Kalkan villas on the Mediterranean coast.
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