The Göreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side by side, each with its own fantastic churches. It is obviously the first sight to be visited by any traveler in Cappadocia, standing as it does in the very centre of the region with easy access from all directions. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes whose colors are still so lively. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique.
The area covered by this Open-Air Museum forms a sticking nature and represents a historical unity. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches. Each is associated with a church. All the churches of the Museum belong to the mid to the late 11th century. These churches can be divided into two groups according to the workshops which executed them: the Column group and the Yılanlı group.
The Yılanlı group includes the Yılanlı Kilise, the churches of St. Barbara and St. Catherine. In these churches the panels of paintings are separate from each other, ie. they do not follow a continuous scheme. Most of them have narthexes which function as a funeral room.
There are at least 18 churches and chapels in the Museum area. Some have fixed metal grills at the entrance for safety reasons.
The small sizes of the churches conform to St. Basil’s emphasis on the necessity for small monastic units. The extraordinarily rich interiors provide an amazing contrast to the very simple exteriors. The churches are named, throughout Cappadocia, after characteristics attributed to them mostly by the local Turkish population.
Zelve, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region, is an amazing cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, religious and secular chambers. Here, the Christians and Muslims lived together in perfect harmony, until 1924. Then Christians had to leave the Valley because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, and the Muslims were forced to evacuate the Valley in the 50’s when life became dangerous due to the risks of erosion and collapses. They left the site to set up a modern village, a little further on, to which they gave the name Yeni Zelve (New Zelve).
Now old Zelve is an open air museum which is waiting for its visitors. The three valleys in the Zelve region are a paradise for the rock climbers. It takes at least two hours for a good trekker to walk through these valleys, which also house the oldest examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings. Start your excursion by visiting the first valley on the right taking the stamps in the second valley, then turning right. While walking along the path, you will see on the right some paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings are what remain from the now totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer) and afford examples of the oldest paintings displaying the principal religious symbols of Christianity, like the Cross, the deer and the fish. On entering the first valley you will see a rock-cut mosque on the left, with a lovely minaret obviously influenced by the bell-towers of the monasteries. You will then notice a monastery complex on the right resembling an upside down bowl cut of the rock. Immediately opposite, there is a rock-cut complex accessible by a metal ladder and connected to the second valley by a tunnel, but safety considerations make any attempt to go thought it inadvisable. On leaving the first valley you can enter the second valley by following the path in front of the Mosque.
Before leaving this open-air museum, be sure to pay special attention to the rocks at the entrance of the third valley. Here you will find a rock-cut mill with a grindstone which remained in use until the 50’s. Recently, its entrance has collapsed. Then follow the path to the Üzümlü Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of the grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself, in a country famous for its Dionysiac rituals. Just next to Üzümlü Kilise is the Balıklı Kilise (The Church with Fishes).On the apse above you will be able to discern paintings of fish in a very faded red.
Çavuşin is a village about 4 kilometres from Göreme. The old village is largely deserted because the area has been plagued by rock falls. For this reason it is best to take a guide if you want to visit Çavuşin and to watch your step.
At Çavuşin you can visit the Church of John the Baptist which probably dates from the 5th century with paintings from the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries. Quite nearby another church contains frescos commemorating the passage of Nicephoras Phocas (a Byzantine Emperor) through Cappadocia in 964 to 965 during his military campaign against Cilicia. Nicephoras may have visited the Church of John the Baptist which was an important centre for pilgrimage at that time.
Uçhisar is a troglodyte village situated 4 km east of Göreme. It is famous for the huge rock formation once used as a fortification. This extraordinary rock is the highest peak in the region and offers a magnificent panoramic view of the whole of Cappadocia with Mt. Erciyes in the distance.
The Citadel, carved out and tunneled by the cave-dwellers of the past, and concealed from view and used for defense purposes, has now been destroyed by erosion, revealing the inner honeycombed architecture. A secret tunnel from the castle to the river bed 100 m below, hewn out in order to provide the water supply in the event of siege, has been recently discovered.
Avanos taking place at 18 km in the north of center of Nevsehir has been settled on the coast of the Kizilirmak River. Its name from antique periods is Venessa. The most important feature of the region is the manufacture of clay jugs, biscuits, and jars. The masters of pottery have been making the pottery since the period of the Hittites. At the archeological diggings made in the Zank Mound near the town Sarilar of Avanos there has been discovered the ruins belonging to the different culturs from the Old Bronze Age and until to Late Roman Period. Sarihan which is 5 km far away from Avanos is one of the most beautiful examples of the classical Seljuk architecture. At Sarihan which in our days is used as a touristy place every night are made Mevlevi ceremonies.
Ürgüp is about 7 kilometers from Göreme and is a modern town catering to the needs of tourists as well as a market town for the whole area on Saturdays. Ürgüp has grown enormously over the last twenty years. It has some lively nightlife with a theatre, discos and bars offering Turkish evenings of food, drink and traditional dancing. Around Ürgüp the long standing Ottoman and Greek tradition of wine making continues. Many wine shops offer free wine testing all year round and a Wine Festival is held every year in the first week of June. The old dwellings of Urgup are now principally used for storage and stabling but there are still some strikingly beautiful houses of Greek and Ottoman origin to be found and in the streets winding away from the town centre many locals are living their lives in the old traditions. Ürgüp has a "Wishpoint" for those who require lasting benefits from their holiday. The route to the wishpoint is interesting in itself as it starts opposite the 13th century Kebir Camii (mosque) then follows a long tunnel to the top of Temenni, the hill of wishes, where you will find the Seljuk tomb of Kılıçarslan IV, a park where you can relax and enjoy the scenery and a medrese (Islamic college) which is now a cafe where you can refresh yourself and decide just what to spend your wish on.
Pasabag in Cappadocia is located on the road to Zelve. The name of the place means: the Pacha's vineyard. Pacha means "General", a high rank in the military, in Turkish and it is a very common nick name. Currently, there is a vineyard and a number of tuff cones standing right next to the road with tripple rock caps. This site is also called as Monks Valley.
The hermitage of Simeon monks was also here. A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon (Simon), and a hermit’s shelter is built into one of the fairy chimneys with three heads. The entrance of the cell is decorated with antithetical crosses. The hermits of Cappadocia distanced themselves from the world by cutting into fairy chimneys. They hollowed out the chimneys from the bottom to top for creating rooms at 10-15m hi
Devrent Valley, which is 10 minutes by car to Goreme, also called as Imagination Valley. Devrent Valley is not like the other valleys of Cappadocia. Instead of any rock-carved settlements or any Churches, it has lots of different shaped Fairy Chimneys. Devrent is a very nice place for to discover the world famous, and interesting natural formations of Cappadocia, which gives you the chance to use your imagination.
The Soğanlı valley is 55 km far from Göreme. It collapsed an settled during earthquakes an these dips got deeper wit natural effects and formed valleys and plateaus as the consequence of such natural phenomena.
Settlements in this are took place during the Roman times. The Romans used the stone conies on the slopes of the valley as graveyards and the Byzantine as churches. The paintings of the churches date back to the 9th and 13th centuries. There are thousands of carved bird cavities, caves and shelter in addition to some churches and monasteries along the Soğanlı valley. This captivating scene combined with the mild effects of the colourful trees on both sides of valley coerces the limits of another time. Kubbeli (the domed) church was formed by carving into a chimney rock. It reveals a characteristic architecture with its vaults and apse. Kubbeli (the domed) church is of great importance in that it is one of the fine examples of its kind due to the carving made outside the rocks.
The St. Barbara Church, which was supposed to be built in the 10th century, is located at the end of the valley. This church, which is also called Tahtalı (wooden) church, has a single apse and a barrel vault.Authentic hand-made linen dolls produced in Soğanlı and its surrounding have attracted the attention of the tourists visiting the area and this has already become an industry.
Ihlara Valley, near Mount Hasan (one of the three volcanoes of Cappadocia) is a canyon with a depth of approximately 100m and was formed by the Melendiz River thousands of years ago. It begins at Ihlara village and ends at the village of Selime after making 26 bends along 14 kilometers.
It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred churches. It is estimated that around eighty thousand people once lived here. It is very pleasant to walk through the Ihlara valley by the vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees to the soothing sound if the rushing water and surrounded by a rich wildlife of lizards, frogs, butterflies, birds and sometimes eagles and other mammals like lambs and sheep.
In the middle of the Ihlara valley in Belisırma village there are good restaurants to be found.
The churches in the Valley can be divided into two groups: the Ihlara group, including the Ağaçaltı, Pürenli Seki, Kokar, Eğritaş and Yılanlı churches that reflect Oriental influences, and the Belisırma group, comprising Sümbüllü Church and others with Byzantine characteristics.
The churches of the Ihlara group display scenes dissimilar to the scenes depicted in other Cappadocian churches. In fact, they are reminiscent of the early churches of Syria and the Coptic churches of Egypt. The texts in Ihlara group churches are unusually long. In this group special emphasis was laid upon Satan and women as the source of evil.
Underground Cities were excavated as early as Hittite times, and expanded over the centuries as various marauding armies traversed Central Anatolia in search of captives and plunder. There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia. The widest underground city in Cappadocia is Kaymaklı Underground City and the deepest one is Derinkuyu Underground City.
It is unlikely that the underground cities were ever intended as permanent or even long stay, settlements, but they were clearly built to withstand attack and could support large numbers of people and their domestic animals, for long periods of time. The urban organization was very complex, and there was possibly always work in progress. Extensive networks of passages, tunnels, stepped pits and inclined corridors link family rooms and communal spaces where people would meet, work and worship. The cities were complete with wells, chimneys for air circulation, niches for oil lamps, stores, water tanks, stables and areas where the dead could be placed until such time as conditions on the surface would allow their proper disposal. Most importantly, carefully balanced moving stone doors, resembling mill stones, were devised to quickly block the corridors in the event of an attack. Of course, these doors operated from one side only.
Derinkuyu underground city is located in the same named town Derinkuyu, which is situated 40km far from Goreme. The underground city is approximately 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churhes, wineries etc.)
Kaymakli underground city is built under the hill known as the Citadel of Kaymakli which is 30km far from Goreme. People of Kaymakli (Enegup in Greek) village have constructed their houses around nearly one hundred tunnels of the underground city. While the city has 8 floors, only 4 of them are open to the public today, in which the spaces are organized around the ventilation shafts.
Gülşehir is a lovely town, once inhabited by the Hittites and the Romans, known as Zoropassos during the Persian epoch and Arapsun before the Ottoman conquest, the town flourished under the patronage of Seyit Mehmet Paşa, better known as Kara Vezir (Black Vizier), who was born in Gülşehir and became a minister of state in İstanbul. The most outstanding historical monument in the town is the Külliye built by Kara Vezir Paşa in 1779 in the Ottoman Baroque style. It consists of a mosque, a medrese and fountain. The Church of St. John in Gülşehir is being restored, with beautiful frescoes and open for visitors right now.
The ruins of Açıksaray (Open Palace) are remarkable for its facades and the weird-looking formations, some resembling huge mushrooms, trees, even human faces. This small settlement can be dated back to the 10th or 11th centuries. It covers an area of one square kilometer and contains eight complexes gathered around three-sided courtyards, each with a decorated main facade.
Hacıbektaş 55km from Goreme might look at first sight no different from any other central Anatolian town. Indeed, if you are driving from Ankara, in your eagerness to see Cappadocia, the Ihlara Valley and the underground cities, you might easily pass through Hacıbektaş without even realizing. But if you halt here before continuing on to Avanos, and spare an hour or so to visit the dervish dergâh (lodge) in the centre of the town, you will be able to make the acquaintance of the Alevi order, one of the heterodox branches of Islam. If your visit is timed for august, you will be able to watch the international commemoration ceremonies, and get an idea of the living traditions of the order’s followers. Hacıbektaş is the sacred centre of Alevi Islam, and every year on 16, 17 and 18 August, tens of thousands of people flock here, not just from Turkey, but from Bulgaria, Albania and other Balkan countries. They come from communities which follow the teachings of Hacı Bektaş Veli, whose emphasis on peace and tolerance make his a universally relevant doctrine still widely popular today. During the three days of the ceremonies, people from far and wide: from the Deliorman villages of Bulgaria, Albania, and the Turkish provinces of Isparta, Tokat, Tunceli, Mersin, Antalya, and Erzincan come together here. Teams of Alevi semah dancers from different regions and in colorful costumes perform these ceremonial dances, each of which represents a separate thread in the rich cultural tapestry. The last representatives of the folk minstrel tradition take the stage, sharing it with modern-day theatre companies and music groups. Book and souvenir stands are set up, and for three days the small town is transformed by the festival mood.
The life of Hacı Bektaş Veli is shrouded in mystery. All that is known are stories and legends passed down by word of mouth until they were written down several centuries after his death in a book entitled the Velayetname by a Bektaşi dervish. It is believed that Hacı Bektaş was descended from the Caliph Ali (Alevi means those who follow in the footsteps of Ali), and his date of birth is given variously as 1209 and 1247. The Velayetname tells us that Hacı Bektaş came from Nishapur in Turkistan, where he was the student of Lokman Perende, one of the followers of Ahmed Yesevi. He later migrated to Anatolia, where he settled in Sulucakarahöyük and began to spread the teachings of the Alevi mystic tradition in Turkey.
The town named Mustafapasa is one of the oldest villages found in this region. In 1923, after the Lausanne Pact, The Greek people evacuated their villages leaving countless monuments behind. 'Sinasos' as Mustafapasa was formerly known retains her links with mainland Greece and exchange visits are carried out every year.
The little town is quite self sufficient with several food-stores, an itinerant greengrocer, three restaurants, a post office, a bus service and of course a good selection of teahouses for the local male population.
Within easy walking distance are many an 'enchanted' valleys some cultivated with vines and marrows just as the monks of the monasteries of St Basil and St. Nicholas would have done centuries before.
Mount Erciyes, is a massive extinguished volcano located 25 km south of Kayseri, 85km east of Cappadocia. Erciyes is the highest mountain in central Anatolia, with its altitude 3,917 metres. The volcano is heavily eroded, but may have erupted as recently as 253 BC, as may be depicted on Roman era coins which is found in Kayseri and Cappadocia. Strabo wrote that in his time the summit was never free from snow and that those few who ascended it could see both the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.