Göreme National Park and Cappadocia were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 with its 7 locations as follows:
1- Göreme National Park
2- Derinkuyu Underground City
3- Kaymaklı Underground City
4- Karlık Church
5- Theodore Church
6- Karain Columbaries
7- Soğanlı Archaeological Site
Göreme Valley is a unique design of nature with slopes capped with rock formations so called as fairy chimneys, rich water sources, abundant flora, rock-cut and frescoed churches.
Cappadocian valleys were formed from the hardened tuff of the lava that went out of the extinct volcanoes of Erciyes (3.916 meters/12.850 feet) and Hasan (3.253 meters/10.673 feet) Mountains, which eroded by sand and water erosion through millions of years while the area became the seat of several civilizations over the centuries since the Chalcolithic Era (5.600-3.200 B.C.). Quite a few of underground cities, used as sanctuaries for a long time, are present in the area and these enchanting and partially revealed subterranean Cappadocia cities are known to have deeper levels still awaiting to be explored.
Not only fairy chimneys or rock cut sites, but also the finest examples of Seljuk and Ottoman work of art and architecture are encountered in Cappadocia. Here are some of them:
1- Eğri Minaret
3- Sultanhanı and Sarıhan
4- Taşkınpaşa Mosque-Ürgüp
5- Sungur Bey Mosque
6- Alaaddin Mosque
Avanos, also referred to as Venessa in the antiquity, is located 18 km north of Nevsehir and is sitting on the shores of Kızılırmak River (Halys as standing on the Bible). It's been a settlement area since the Bronze Age (3000 B.C.) and is mentioned in the Assyrian and Hittite tablets. Today there are still traces from the Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman periods. Amongst the architectural structures are Yamanlı Mosque, Alaaddin Mosque, Stone Bridge and Ottoman houses while the town is especially renowned for its pottery thanks to the Kızılırmak River, which flows into the Black Sea and brings fertility to the land for thousands of years.
The pottery tradition in Avanos dates back to the Hittites and is still one of the main source of income for the inhabitants. The red clay and silt brought by the river is the main raw material of potter's clay and they are shaped in the hands of the skillful artisans. This traditional profession has been handed down from father to son over the centuries and today the town of Avanos is still full of pottery workshops.
Belisırma Village, which is the extension of the Ihlara Valley, is located by Melendiz Stream offering a nice break whilst touring.
This village in Güzelyurt Province has been inhabited since pre Seljuk period in the 13th century. The name means "the beautiful landscape" in Greek language. There are historical churches like Ala Church and Direkli Church in the village.
The residents of the village deal with agriculture, vinegrowing and animal raising to make their living.
Amongst hundreds of valleys in Cappadocia Derbent Valley outstands with the rock formations, or fairy chimneys as named by the locals, resembling the shapes of various animals as well as humans. One of the most interesting ones is a rock mass that is likened to a camel. This valley is also referred to as Dervent, Pink or Güllüdere Valley in different sources.
This area is of great importance as it is the place where the monastic education had begun during the early Christianity period. The churches, chapels, monasteries and refectories that were carved into the rocks are dated to the 4th-13th centuries.
These early Christians of the area employed two different techniques on the wall paintings. In the first technique, the scenes were painted directly on the leveled walls without adding any other layer while in the second technique they were painted on layers prepared with materials such as straw and egg. As the depictions of Jesus Christ and Apostles had been prohibited during the Iconoclastic Period (726-843) some symbols like cross, fish and palm tree were also painted during that time. Churches built after Iconoclastic Period display dazzling frescoes.
1-The Nuns Convent, 2-St. Basil Church, 3-Apple Church, 4-St. Barbara Church, 5- Snake Church, 6-Unidentified Church,
7-Refectory, 8-Dark Church, 9-St. Catherine Church, 10-Sandals Church
The Monasteries of Nuns and Monks
The large rock mass located on the left after entering the museum is the Monastery of Nuns dating to the 11th century. This 6-7-story monastery includes chambers, a refectory, a kitchen and a small chapel. Next to it is another structure which was the Monastery of the Monks, which suffered a serious collapse due to erosion.
Apple Church was probably built around mid 11th century and early 12th century. It is erected on a ground plan having the shape of a Greek cross covered by cupolas seated on independent supports and having three apses.
There are two different claims with regards to the name of the church. Some historians think that it has taken the name from the surrounding apple trees while some likened the round figure in the hand of Archangel Michael* to an apple though it should probably refer to the globe (See below). There are 15 holy scenes altogether. The paintings on the layers beneath the frescoes mainly consist of patterns.
*Archangel Michael was first seen as a healing angel during the 4th century in the Catholic sanctuaries, who was afterwards deemed as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.
Saint Barbara Church
The most distinguishing feature of this edifice is the tile red motifs. A great deal of the interior space is decorated with various reddish figures such as birds, crosses, mythological animals, plants, geometric patterns, symbols and parallel lines which gives a “cut stone wall” impression. According to some historians who claim that there is no any Cappadocia churches from the Iconoclastic Period these figures that have been dyed with ochre pigments represent a kind of magic aimed at evicting demons and providing protection from evil. On the walls there are also depictions representing St. Barbara, St. George and St. Theodore.
It is architecturally different from the other churches as there are no domes and columns as in the other ones. There is also a section of tombs covered with a flat ceiling next to the main rectangular space. The church derives its name from the fresco on the left wall from the entrance. Here the mounted Saint George and Saint Theodore are depicted fighting against a dragon-shaped snake. Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena holding the “cross” are depicted on the right side of this scene.
On the right side from the entrance there is another fresco with three figures; Saint Onuphrius behind a palm tree, Priest Saint Thomas canonizing and Cappadocian Saint Basil holding the Holy Scripture. This fresco depicts the legend of Onuphrius. There are two legends in this regard.
According to the first one, he was originally from Syria and spent 60 years of his life in the deserts by eating only date and plants. Saint Paphnutius who wandered the deserts to investigate the lives of Hermits, Christian anchorites living in Egyptian deserts in the 1st century A.D., stayed with him until his death. Saint Onuphrius is regarded as the symbol of self-denial and truthfulness, and he is commemorated with religious ceremonies held on June 12 every year.
The second legend takes Onuphrius as a female. She invoked God to change her, when she became uneasy against the interests of men. Her prayers were answered and she became ugly with a beard growing on her face. On the basis of this story, Onuphrius is always depicted as an androgynous person.
The three adjacent chambers located between Snake Church and Dark Church was used as the Larder, the Kitchen and the Refectory. The foods gathered in the region were stored in the niches of the Larder. As seen on today’s Anatolian villages the tandoors and ovens were used.
The huge stone table could easily seat 30 people. The head of the table was always used by the high priests. The grapes were placed in the pit on the ground and were pressed to transform them into wine.
The Dark Church
The reason why it is called Dark Church is the lack of daylight inside with only a small window and therefore it is one of the best preserved churches with vivid colors of frescoes. It is dated to the 12th-13th centuries. There is also a tomb chamber at the entrance of the church. This church can be visited with an extra cost.
It means “Almighty, All Powerful, Ruler of All” in Greek, used by Apostle Paul to describe the Lord, and is one of the most common religious images of Orthodox Christianity. It generally occupies the central dome of the church and half dome of the apse or the nave vault.
This scene depicts the betrayal of Judas. When Christ went to the Mount of Olives together with his disciples he encountered a crowded group with sticks who had been prepared by Judas saying that the one he will be kissing is to be Jesus Christ. In the scene, Judas is depicted on the foreground embracing Christ while the figures on the background represent the angry group.
When Jesus Christ went to the mountains together with James, John and Peter he felt that he was going to die before the Crucifixion and told this to the prophets Elijah and Moses. Then Jesus began to shine with bright rays of light and therefore Jesus is always portrayed in rays of light in Transfiguration scene while the three figures hiding themselves at the bottom symbolize James, John and Peter.
Jesus is being crucified in Mount Calvary, a hill outside ancient Jerusalem
The Chapel of Saint Catherine
The reliefs and geometric motifs on the wall attract the attention in this chapel dating to the 11th century. There are 11 tombs in the ground of the chapel.
The Sandals Church (Çarıklı Kilise)
This is the smallest one among the colonnaded churches in the Göreme Open Air Museum. Some say its name is derived from the footprints on the ground attributed to Jesus Christ while others claim the footwear of the saints depicted in the frescoes was likened to sandals by the local people. There is also a small refectory on the lower floor of the church.
This scene exhibits the infant Jesus, his mother Mary along with her husband, Joseph, as well as shepherds, sheep and angels near the manger in a barn.
The Buckle Church (Tokalı Kilise)
This is the largest one in the area and deemed as a “cathedral”. It has three sections with complex and eclectic architecture built on three different periods. It was used from the 10th century until the early 11th century.
Like the other parts of Cappadocia region this area, also called as Peristrema, was also formed by the volcanic layer shaped by wind and water while this valley is somewhat different as the Melendiz Stream flowing through has created a narrow and deep canyon, which is 14 kilometer long and 150-200 meter deep. The valley has quite a few hidden places, offered an ideal place to priests and hermits as a shelter and worshipping place in their religious activities since the 4th century A.D. There are more than 100 churches in this region.
This is the most important underground city along with Derinkuyu Underground City as they both give apparent hints about underground life and their sizes. The inhabitants of Kaymaklı Village, which was named as Enegüp in the past, are connected with the underground city though some 100 tunnels as almost all the houses were built on the mouths of these tunnels. These tunnels are used as storerooms or stables as was the case thousand years ago.
The first four floors of the underground city can be visited today. The passages are narrow and low and therefore two persons cannot walk side by side. There are well marked signs showing the directions, but not recommended for those with claustrophobia, nyctophobia and bathophobia. Within the city there are water wells, winery, sitting rooms and a church.
By the entrance, at the first floor, is a stable with its watering through and mangers. The gate with a sliding stone on the wall of the stable leads to the second floor where there is a church with a baptismal font. Next to the church there are tombs that probably belonged to the clergy of the city. Behind the church are the living rooms. Kitchens, wineries and storerooms can also be seen around. On the refectory floor there is a 57-hole andesite stone in which metals - especially copper - were melted and also another mortar stone.
Ortahisar, similar to Uçhisar in shape, is located on the foot of a huge rock formation and interesting with its traditional stone houses and old neighborhoods. The chambers and passages that can still be seen today inside this stone mass had been used for protection and sheltering by Christian communities. The natural cold storage rooms that had been used during the Byzantine period are still used these days to store fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits such as oranges and lemon brought from the Mediterranean region.
The long walking tracks between Kızılçukur, Güllüdere, Akvadi and Cavusin offer excellent opportunity for those who would like to see the off-road vantage points. Çavuşin is one of the oldest settlements in the region while the life in the rock formations had continued until 1960s when the village was abandoned because of the rocks falling down due to erosion. There is an ongoing project to revive the village.
The most important structure in Çavuşin is the Nicephorus Phocas Church (Çavuşin Church), known to have been built in the 10th century for the Byzantine Emperor Phocas who defeated the Arab armies.
At the end of the rocks on Çavuşin hill is another spacious construction named Basilica of St. John or John the Baptist, built in the 5th or 6th century. The large courtyard in the front side of the church was demolished by the rocks that fell due to erosion.
There is also a small and snow-white mosque amongst the rocks in the center of Çavuşin, which is still open to worship. The miniature mosque with its four-columned stone minaret, single-unit interior space and the single plant motif on a column, was repaired in recent years.
The fairy chimneys in Paşabağı along with the neighboring Zelve and Derbent have quite different shapes; they are like original statues. Some of them are pointed while some others have caps and three heads. Paşabağı was formerly called as “Valley of Priests or Hermits” as it had been inhabited by hermits. This area was an important training center until the 13th century. It was inhabited until 1952.
The most striking example is the Saint Simeon (Symeon) Chapel. It is believed that Saint Simeon of Aleppo had lived in this three-headed fairy chimney during his seclusion. The steep stairways inside the huge rock lead up to the cell of the hermit. As in many other places of the world Cappadocia monks also lived in seclusion without meeting anybody for many years and contended themselves with the water and bread left in front of their doors while they slept on their stone beds in their cells illuminated by narrow windows.
Soğanlı Valley, located in the Yeşilhisar district of Kayseri and 50 km far from Nevsehir, is similar to Ihlara Valley with its more than 100 churches and dovecotes spread on the rocky slopes. It is known for its rag dolls. Most of the cavities hidden inside the rocks in the valley house a church or a burial chamber. Yılanlı, Tokalı, Karabaş and Tahtalı (Saint Barbara) churches are amongst the most important ones.
Kubbeli (Domed) Church
Kubbeli (Domed) Church, a Byzantine structure dated to the 14th century, is one of the interesting churches with its look resembling a miniature chateau on a huge rock. Its exterior form was shaped from the tuff layer. It has two storeys with its columns and traces of frescoes.
Saklı (Hidden) Church
Next to the Domed Church is the small Saklı (Hidden) Church, resembling a mausoleum, with its three chambers. There are no remarkable frescoes or decorations, though.
Tokalı (Buckle) Church
Located on the right side on the entrance to the valley, the church draws the attention with its steps formed by the steep rocks on the slope. It was restored in early 1980s while its frescoes date back to the 9th, 11th and 12th centuries. The interior space consists of four parts.
Yılanlı (Snake) Church
It is carved under a large rock. It has a courtyard and sections such as the kitchen, dining rooms, burial chambers and corridors. It takes its name from the fresco depicting Saint George killing the snake.