Tourist Attractions in Cappadocia, Kayseri, Urgup, Goreme
every tourist's Turkey hit-list, Cappadocia is an enchanting region of swirling
volcanic-rock landscapes that seem to have been fashioned by mischievous elves.
Humans have settled in this area since the Bronze Age and have left their own
mark on this weird and wacky moonscape by burrowing into the soft volcanic rock
of Göreme village is the UNESCO-protected site of Göreme Open-Air Museum, a
monastery cluster of rock-cut churches and monk-cells that hold fabulous
frescoes. The complex dates from the 10th to 12th centuries, when Cappadocia
was an important Byzantine religious center.
several churches and chapels within the complex, but the most important are the
Elmali Kilise (Apple Church), with its Ascension fresco above the door; the Azize
Barbara Sapeli (Chapel of St. Barbara), with its red-ochre interior decoration;
Yilanli Kilise (Snake Church), with its wall-paintings of St. George and
interesting fresco of the hermetic hermaphrodite St. Onuphrius; the stunning
and superbly restored frescoes of the Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church); and the
cavernous Tokali Kilise (Buckle Church), with its dazzling wall-paintings that
cover the entire barrel-vaulted chamber. The museum is one of Turkey's top
highlights, and it's Cappadocia's most famous tourist attraction.
cute and perfectly photogenic, Göreme has been voted one of the most beautiful
villages in the world by several travel magazines for good reason. The village
is half buried into the hill, its stone house facades hiding a maze of cave
rooms below. The fresco-adorned El Nazar Kilise (Evil Eye Church) and Sakli
Kilise (Hidden Church) are both on Müze Caddesi, a short walk from the center
on the way to Göreme Open-Air Museum.
The village is
the main base for walkers itching to head out on a hike, with all the main
valleys branching out from here offering a plethora of trails that lead past
kooky rock formations, known locally as fairy chimneys, and hidden cave
churches up to panoramic viewpoints.
3. Hot Air Ballooning
visitors, going for an early morning hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is one
of Turkey's highlights. In high season, over 100 hot air balloons take to the
skies just after sunrise and give you bird's-eye views of the valleys and their
rock formations. Hot air balloon rides take around one hour (with deluxe
packages lasting around 90 minutes) and are available year-round, weather
permitting. All tours include pickup and drop-off from your hotel.
underground cities first began to be chiseled out of the ground in the Bronze
Age Hittite era, but they are most famous for their early Byzantine history
(6th and 7th centuries), when the region's Christians took to living
underground for long periods to escape from Arab and Persian invaders. Kaymakli
Underground City is Cappadocia's largest example, with a labyrinth of rooms
connected by tunnels that extends for eight levels. Four of these levels can be
explored by visitors.
underground into the mazy network of tunnels is a fascinating experience, but
those with claustrophobia should be aware that some of the tunnels are
knobbly-topped rock cliffs speckled with cave dwellings, walking through Zelve
Open-Air Museum is an experience of the Cappadocia of old. The settlement began
life as a monastery in the 9th century, and by the 20th century was a thriving
village. Due to erosion and rockfall dangers, the village had to be abandoned
in 1952. Now the entire valley is a museum.
There are a
couple of interesting chapels to see — the Üzümlü Kilise (Grape Church) being
the most intact — and a rather picturesque rock-cut mosque. But the real joy of
this site is meandering down the cliffside paths, exploring the fire-blackened
interiors of the cave dwellings, and staring out at the magnificent vistas over
the surrounding countryside.
Underground City is Cappadocia's deepest underground shelter, and just like
Kaymakli, was used by the early Christians to hide from attack. The tunnels
here are quite claustrophobic in places as they travel deeper and deeper into
the ground. There is a cavernous chapel area and many living and storage areas
to explore in this below-ground maze. The ingenious ventilation shaft system
used by Derinkuyu's inhabitants can also be seen.
Kaymakli Underground Cities are close enough together to see both on a day
trip, but if you only want to see one, Derinkuyu is less popular with large
tourist coach loads, so you're more likely to be able to explore the tunnels
here unhindered by crowds.
7. Red and
most beautiful intertwining valleys lie between the villages of Göreme and
Çavusin. Here, the rolling and rippling rock faces arc out across the
countryside in a palette of pastel pink, yellow, and orange cliffs, formed by
volcanic explosion and millennia of wind and water erosion. Between the cliffs
are lush orchards and vegetable plots still tended by local farmers, while
carved into the rock are hidden churches and hermit-hideouts, which date back
to the Byzantine era.
dozens of hiking trails, so it's the perfect opportunity to grab your walking
shoes and head out onto the paths. Three particular attractions within Rose
Valley are the Kolonlu Kilise (Columned Church); Haçli Kilise (Church of the
Cross), with its mammoth cross carved into the cave ceiling; and the Uç Haçli
Kilise (Church of the Three Crosses), with its amazingly preserved ceiling
carvings and interesting (though severely damaged) frescoes.
verdant valley at the bottom of this deep (100 meters) gorge in southwest
Cappadocia is a nature lover's delight. Hemmed in by rugged, steep cliffs,
Ihlara Valley is a lush Eden of tall poplar trees and fertile farming plots
beside the babbling Melendiz River, which runs for 14 kilometers from Ihlara
village to Selime village.
Byzantine period, this was a favored retreat for hermetic monk communities, who
carved churches and monastery complexes into the cliff face. The Kokar Kilise
(Fragrant Church), Yilanli Kilise (Snake Church), and Kirk Dam Alti Kilise (St.
George Church) are three of the best, but there are plenty of others to see
along the way. At Selime village, the craggy rock pinnacle of Selime Monastery
is also worth a visit.
attractions in the dinky village of Çavusin are two lovely Byzantine churches.
By the entrance into town is the Çavusin Church (also known as the Big Pigeon
House Church, due to having been used as a local pigeon house in the early 20th
century) with a stunning interior of frescoes. In the old village center, after
hiking high up on the ridge above the tumble of derelict houses, is the Church
of St. John the Baptist. This is thought to be the oldest church in Cappadocia,
and its basilica-like proportions and fat columns are an impressive sight.
valleys of Soganli are scattered with pyramid-shaped rock pinnacles that were
first hollowed out in the Roman era. By the time the Byzantine period was in
full bloom, Soganli had become a major monastic center, its rock pinnacles home
to chapels and monk cells. The Karabas Kilise (Black Hat Church), Yilanli
Kilise (Snake Church), and Sakli Kilise (Hidden Church) have the best preserved
frescoes in this chapel cluster.
Soganli is an
excellent place for a day trip, with the road leading here scattered with
tranquil villages and interesting historic sites. Two of the best attractions
to stop off at are the Byzantine-era Keslik Monastery and the ancient ruins of
mushroom-shaped rock needles of Pasabag valley have made it one of Cappadocia's
most famous landmarks. In the early Byzantine period, a religious community who
were disciples of St. Simeon Stylites (a 4th-century monk, who spent his life
on top of a pillar in northern Syria) devoted their lives to their own stylite
practices here. Instead of pillars, though, they carved monk cells high up in
the pinnacles to lead a hermitic life of prayer. One of these monk cells can still
A trip to
Pasabag valley is easily combined with a visit to Zelve Open-Air Museum. The
sites are about two kilometers apart on the same road.
The village of
Uçhisar is dominated by a mammoth rock-cut fortress riddled with tunnels and
caves. Just like the region's underground cities, this rocky outcrop provided
villagers with protection from invaders during the Roman and Byzantine eras.
The fortress can be climbed to the top, where you are rewarded with sweeping panoramas
over the undulating valleys that surround the village.
also a good starting point for valley walks. In particular, trails through
Pigeon Valley and White Valley run from here to Göreme, making for a very
scenic walk between villages.
Avanos is a
bustling provincial town beside the Kizilirmak River. The older part of the
town winds up the hillside in a maze of cobblestone roads lined by dilapidated
Ottoman mansions. Avanos' main attraction is its pottery. This town has a
pottery industry history that stretches back to the Hittite period and now,
like then, local artisans utilize the distinctive red clay of the Kizilirmak
River for their craft. Potter workshops and shops are along the main road in
the town center, beside the river, and many of their owners are happy to let
you watch them work or have a go at creating a simple pot yourself.
The town's new
museum, the Guray Ceramic Museum, celebrates this pottery heritage with an
astonishing collection of ceramics from across Turkey. It's also worth a visit
simply for its location — a series of caves carved underneath the Guray Pottery
kilometers northeast of the town of Nigde in Cappadocia's far south is the Eski
Gümüsler Monastery. This rock church has some very impressive frescoes that
rival those of the more famous churches near Göreme. The paintings date from
the 11th century and include the Annunciation and the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus
flanked by the Archangels Gabriel and Michael.
interesting as the frescoes is the mazy series of tunnels you can explore
within the complex that have been recently restored and opened up for tourism.
They are a bit of a squeeze in parts but great fun to scramble through.
only see Kayseri on their way to and from the airport, but this bustling city
has a handful of interesting Seljuk and Ottoman monuments for those with some
spare time. The Citadel is right in the center of town, squeezed between modern
shops and busy roads. The well-preserved Çifte Medrese in Mimar Sinan Parki was
one of the world's first medical schools and is now home to the Museum of
Seljuk Civilisation, with a beautifully curated collection of artifacts that
ranges from textiles and jewelry to ceramics and stone work.
Archaeological Museum is also worthy of a peek for its exhibits from the
Hittite excavation sites of Kültepe. Mount Erciyes glares down at you from
wherever you are in the city. The town is only a short drive from the mountain
(Cappadocia's highest) and its winter ski slopes. Just to the southeast is the
Seljuk caravanserai of Sultanhani, a good stop if you're driving onwards to
a pilgrimage center for the followers of the Bektasi order of dervishes,
founded by the Iranian philosopher and Sufi Haci Bektas Veli. The museum here
is a place of great devotional worship, including Haci Bektas Veli's tomb, as
well as many interesting exhibits about the faith.
On the road
between the towns of Nevsehir and Hacibektas is the village of Gulsehir, which
is home to two interesting attractions. The rock-cut monastery of Açik Saray
was probably used by monks in the 6th and 7th centuries and contains a number
of interesting cave-cut rooms. A little farther down the highway is the
13th-century St. Jean Church, which is rarely visited despite having an
interior absolutely covered in gloriously colorful and well-restored frescoes.
have many of its own actual sights but it's a popular place to stay for
visitors to Cappadocia because of its boutique hotels and good restaurant
scene. Relics from the Seljuk period include the Karamanoglu Mosque (which
dates to the 13th century) and the Alti Kapi Türbesi (a tomb built by a Seljuk
prince for his family). The old town section, which runs up the hill away from
the modern center, also has some lovely old Ottoman stone houses, many of which
have been finely restored and are now boutique hotels.
Nearby is the
small village of Mustafapasa, which, until the 1923 Population Exchange with
Greece, had a mixed community of Greeks and Turks, and many of the old stone
houses that still line the quiet cobblestone streets are the remnants of its
now departed Greek inhabitants. The Agios Konstantinos-Eleni Church is right in
the center of town, while the 12th-century Ayios Vasilios Church is found by
walking up the hill to the ridge. Some small cave churches are also just out of
town in the aptly named Monastery Valley.
Rides & Hiking in Cappadocia
ballooning gets all the glory but there are plenty more activities in
Cappadocia to help you get the best views of the valleys. Horse riding,
particularly through Red and Rose Valleys, is very popular. Most rides are more
suitable for intermediate riders rather than beginners due to the rocky
All of the valleys have hiking trails winding through the rock formations with hikes ranging from a couple of hours to all-day treks. Many of the local tour companies also rent out bikes to explore on two wheels, and sunset ATV tours are also offered