Surrounded by valleys and numerous fairy chimneys, Goreme is the heart of Cappadocia in terms of places to visit. Although it is called ‘Goreme’ like a curse, if only everyone could go to Cappadocia and see this fabulous land!
The wonders of nature meet with the mysteries of history exactly at this point, Goreme. It is among the Unesco World Heritage sites, with its unique view, mystical atmosphere and historic artifacts, saying of ‘do not die without seeing me’ The balloons that decorate the sky in the mornings and the fairy chimneys illuminated in the evenings like a movie scene settle at the top of the list which are ‘unforgettable from Cappadocia’.
5 km west of Ürgüp, 12 km east of Nevşehir and in the central district, Goreme is a mysterious ancient place that still arouses curiosity for centuries. It was first called ‘Korama’ in a written document believed to belong to the 6th century. Later, it was also called Matiana, Maccan, Avcılar, but gradually it became Goreme.
The geological formation of Goreme’s tuffaceous lands dates back to 60 million years ago when Mount Erciyes was an active volcano. After the flowing lava cooled down, the power of wind and water sculpted it patiently. As a result, fabulous cone-shaped fairy chimneys appeared in the Cappadocian valleys and Goreme area. The reason why the region was so attractive as a settlement in the past is that these fairy chimneys are so soft that they can easily be carved. Since Goreme is in a hole compared to the region, the erosion revealed only the bodies of the rocks, not the ends and created a unique town texture.
The history of the region dates back to the Paleolithic age, but the known history began with the settlement of the early Christians who escaped from the war between the Sasanids and the Byzantines at the beginning of the 7th century and from the Arabian invasions. In the following 8th and 9th centuries, the number of refugees increased due to severe Iconoclasm movement in Byzantium. According to some archaeological sources, approximately 360 churches and monasteries have been built in the Goreme Valley, and the Biblical scenes were engraved on the walls and ceilings. Although the decorations began to contain geometric figures when the iconoclasm period arrived, they were recreated with other shapes after the period and the layers revealed the history of the area. The best place to see these examples is the Goreme Open Air Museum, the first place we suggested among the Goreme attractions which have churches arranged like classrooms.
At the center of Goreme, a Roman tomb carved as two columns in one of the large fairy chimneys was found. Other tombs found in the vicinity strengthened the view that Goreme was used as a cemetery by the people of Avanos during the Roman period.
When you come to Goreme down the road descending from Uçhisar, we suggest you admire the scenery lying below instead of describing it to you. You will feel the civilizations whose memories were hidden in the spiky roofs, houses carved into the rocks and hotels like a landscape designed by a capable architect. When you arrive at Goreme from below, you will see fairy chimneys some of which were carved as churches, resembling large buildings and worthy of its reputation. If you prefer to walk down the dirt road, you will encounter other churches outside the Open Air Museum.
Goreme has a very crowded route in terms of places to visit. While moving ahead on the route during the day, at night you will encounter a view decorated with lights waiting for you when you look towards Uçhisar.
The new face of Goreme today is shaped by the restoration of old buildings. Concrete were not used much while the boutique hotels were being built in harmony with the history and texture of nature. The transportation in Goreme is also very easy. You can find buses, minibuses and taxis from Nevşehir all the time.
Goreme Places to Visit
Goreme Open Air Museum
Everyone who visits Cappadocia should stop by Goreme Open Air Museum which is only 2 km away from Goreme. It has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage since 6 December 1985. One of the top places to see in Goreme, it fascinates visitors with the art it exhibits. Opened in 1950 before it was registered by Unesco, the museum is the largest open-air museum in the country. When you pass through the turnstile and enter inside, you actually change the age you live in andset out on a journey starting from the 4th century BC until the 13th century AD. You are going on a journey of time extending into the century. What will you see there? The highest point of Byzantine churches reached in architecture and art, the monastic devotion of the monks, and what is left from them today…
The area, which is called Goreme Open Air Museum and constitutes a valley, hosted a very busy monastery life for 1000 years. St. Basil, the Bishop of Kayseri who held an important place in the history of Christians, came here in the 4th century and started the monastery system where religious and thought education was given. The churches carved into rock blocks, chapels, living areas, dining halls, toilets, tombs, and details that tell you about history are of a kind you will not meet elsewhere.
As soon as you enter Goreme Open Air Museum, you encounter Female and Male Monasteries, dating back to the 11th century and of these multi-storey buildings only two floors of the Female Monastery and one floor of the Male Monastery can be visited twice. Saint Basil Chapel dated back to the 11th century is at the entrance of the museum again and dated structures. When you visit the Elmalı Church, you will be fascinated by the art festival you are exposed to. This church was painted between the 11th and 12th centuries. It was named Elmalı because the object in the hands of Michael on the dome in front of the main apse looks like an apple.
Saint Barbara Chapel dated back to the 11th century was devoted to Saint Barbara, who was martyred by her father since she converted to Christianity. Yılanlı Church is a semi-finished church of the Goreme Open Air Museum and dates back to the 11th century. You understand why it is named Yılanlı when you see the green dragon, which resembles a snake, among the frescos.
Karanlık Church must have received this name because it is difficult to reach and gets light only from a tiny window. However it has preserved the frescos since the 11th century. The ticket to the open air museum is not enough for you to enter this church; you need to buy a separate ticket. If you ask if it is worth it, let’s remember again that it is the most preserved church in Cappadocia. Of course, yes…
You arrive at Saint Catherine Chapel after Karanlık Church. A christian donor named Anna is thought to build this chapel Which dates back to the 11th century. After Saint Catherine Chapel comes Çarıklı Church, which was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. The size and length of the figures here are the most striking details. It was called Çarıklı because of the frescos which have footprints looking like boots.
Even though it is outside Goreme Open Air Museum, Tokalı Church can be visited with an entrance ticket. You will see the most beautiful Virgin Mary frescos in this largest church of the region.
With Goreme Open Air Museum, the region was taken under protection in Historic Goreme National Park in 1986.
Goreme is a very attractive sightseeing area with its numerous valleys. When you do trekking especially before sunset or early in the morning walks, you will feel like you set out on an inner journey.
The length of Güvercinlik Valley lying between Uçhisar and Goreme is about 4 km. And it is one of the longest, most beautiful valleys in the Cappadocia region. One of the two entrances is Uçhisar and the other one is Goreme. The valley was named after pigeonholes people carved into rocks. In the middle of the valley flows Vasıl River and splashes down a waterfall, which we suggest you definitely see. The manure of pigeons fed in these holes was used in vineyards while the eggs were used to make plasters used in frescos.
If you are overwhelmed by the noise of the city you live in and if you want to embrace the nature, walk bicycle through this valley in Goreme, among bird songs and in green nature. We only describe the experience. It is you who are going to realize it.
You walk 5,600 meters when you enter Zemi Valley, which is the east of Goreme and extends to Goreme Open Air Museum, from Babacık on Nevşehir-Ürgüp road. If you go there in spring, birds and butterflies will accompany you in this walk and you will eat the fruit hanging from the trees.
You will see four churches hidden in Zemi Valley which is worth seeing with not only its nature, but also history. These churches are El-Nazar Church dating from the 10th century, Sarnıç Church, Saklı Church and Görkündere Church, dating from the 11th century. This valley which reveals the wonders of Goreme is worth seeing with its fairy chimneys rising like huge pillars, tunnels and Roman tombs.
If you follow Avanos – Goreme road and take the Zelve turning, you will meet Paşabağ Valley. This valley was also called the Valley of the Priests or Monks, and in ancient times it was the place of worship for those who gave up all the worldly things. As you walk through the valley, you will see many mushroom shaped fairy chimneys and you can observe early and late formation phases of fairy chimneys and compare them. You will understand why the monks chose this place as you begin to feel the peace inside you. Paşabağ Valley offers one of the best Cappadocia backgrounds to take lots of photos. In addition, there are events with lights. If you happen to see one, you are really lucky.
Among the places to visit in Goreme, Güllüdere valley, famous for its fairy chimneys that change color with daylight, is between Goreme and Çavuşin village. When you enter the valley from Goreme, you pass through Meskendir Valley. In the foothills of Bozdağ, this large valley spread in a 4 km area is one of the most beautiful trekking points of Cappadocia. Here you can walk while eating fruit hanging from trees and you can visit the churches and the monk cells touched by history. Güllüdere valley forks off in two directions. On the road called Güllüdere I, there are Yovakim -Anna Church and Direkli (Sütunlu) Church. Güllüdere II has Ayvalı Church, Haçlı and Üç Haçlı Churches.
Aşk (Bağlıdere) Valley
There are a lot of things that make you feel the love Aşk Valley called the Hill of Lovers. Fairy chimneys especially with their cylinder bodies, various colors and different hats look as if they were the smurfs standing behind each other. You will also enjoy vast greenery in this valley with a course of approximately 4900 meters. You can enter the course following the signs on the Goreme – Avanos road (remember this is a steep course) or from the Uçhisar – Goreme road, next to the carpet store.
In the Goreme Open Air Museum area, Kılıçlar Valley houses a separate church group from the museum. The entrance is from the pathway opposite the large car park underneath Goreme Open Air Museum. Every season is beautiful in the valley also known as Büyük – Küçük Kılıçlar, extending between Aktepe and Goreme, and the nature of the valley offers a unique view. Through the area falling to the north of Goreme road, you will see tunnels, different rock silhouettes besides fairy chimneys that have interesting shapes and waterways inside. The valley, which can only be reached on foot, hosts Kılıçlar Church also known as Aynalı Church and Meryem Ana Church also called Kılıçlar Kuşluk Church.
Goreme What else to visit?
There are also hidden treasures waiting to be discovered besides the Open Air Museum and the valleys, which are always popular on the Goreme list.
What comes to mind first when you speak of Cappadocia in terms of tourism is Goreme visited by lots of tourists every year. It is enough to spare a half day to discover the inside and see these hidden treasures of Goreme.
Durmuş Kadir Church
Since the name of the church, which is at Karşıbucak (Maşat) of Goreme and close to Goreme Municipality, is not known, it is named after the owner of the vineyard it is in. The history of the church was not certain, but it is presumed that it was built in the 6th or 7th century in the Early Byzantine period.
If you like history, we suggest you go and see this church because of its different characteristics compared to other Cappadocian churches. With no frescos but the finest examples of rock embroideries, this basilica was made of squared stone and exhibits a very impressive style of architecture. The priest throne made of stone with three steps on each side and standing in the middle of the church, baptistery, the big and small tombs carved into the walls and the large rectangular pillars are the features which cannot be found in other churches in Cappadocia. Bigger than the other churches in Cappadocia, this church has a rectangular plan and was carved into rocks with three apses and was placed on 6 columns. The entrance to the church is through a tomb chapel.
Yusuf Koç Church
Yusuf Koç Church is one of the churches whose old name is not known; therefore it was named after its owner Yusuf Koç who changed the church into a pigeon nest. You reach the church located on the slope between Durmuş Kadir Church and Bezirhane Church by passing through Göreme and then the vineyards in Adnan Kahveci Street in Karşıbucak and going 250 meters ahead. The entrance to the church is high, so a 13-step iron ladder is used to reach to the church. The church carved entirely into the rocks was not visited for a long time because it is a private property.
It is thought that Yusuf Koç Church was not a church where public rituals were held but a church which was used for baptism, confession and vows. This idea comes from the small size of the church and fascinating frescos on almost every wall that are still in good condition. The frescos generally depict the founders who were a couple, their son in a military uniform and saints whose names are legible. On the right side of the entrance are Helena and Constantine with a cross in their hands, and on the left side are the Holy Virgin Mary and gospel scenes. Gabriel and Michael are depicted in the ceiling dome.
Although the church was actually built on 6 columns, none of the columns was able to survive. The church built with a cross vault and a cross plan has 2 apses. The building, whose style resembles Saklı Church in Zemi Valley, dates back to the 11th century.
Located in Karşıbucak of Goreme, Bezirhane Church, which was carved into rocks, is one of the churches used for manufacturing linseed-oil of Cappadocia and therefore it is called Bezirhane Church. Like all linseed-oil factories, the church was covered with thick soot inside. It was built on 6 big columns that resemble the Roman style, just like Yusuf Koç and Durmuş Kadir Church. 4 of these columns have survived today.
It is thought that the rather large Bezirhan Church was built without any frescos.
In order to reach the church, you need to follow Adnan Menderes Street, turn right after the municipal building, enter Kağnı Yolu Street and walk 400 meters. The church was named after the area where it is located and its historical value was not understood for a long time because it was used as a pigeon nest.
According to a paper based on recent research, it is thought to be St. Sergios Church. The church was built with a single apse, a single nave, and entirely carved from rocks. Also, a large cross was carved into the roof of Naos, and one of the arms of the cross was worn away gradually. A symbol of tree of life was engraved next to the cross. On the walls of the apse, the frescos most of which were damaged depict Saint Sergios, Saint Bakhos and martyr soldiers holding long spears in their hands.
The church was also used as a grave chapel at the same time.
Saint Hieron Chapel
Located on the left while going from Goreme to Uçhisar, the chapel is dedicated to St. Hieron, who it was named after. It is reported that Hieron was born in Göreme (Korama) at the end of the 3rd century and was martyred with his 30 friends in Malatya, and his hand which was cut off was brought to his mother in Korama. According to another legend, it is believed that he escaped from prison and came to Göreme, where he lived in underground wine cellars for a long time. He is not one of the saints the Christian world is familiar with; he was a local soldier who was declared saint after he died. Tokalı Church at the Göreme Open Air Museum has a fresco depicting the owner of this tragic story, Saint Hieron. Another proof that reveals this saint was an important and influential figure in the region is the large painting in Direkli Church of Belisırma Village. Koroma, Göreme’s first known name, was also found in this chapel for the first time. Maccan, one of Göreme’s old names, was actually the mother of St. Hieron’s mother.
The tomb was built with a rectangular plan and single apse. It was carved into the rock and embossed with a fairly smooth stone workmanship. No frescos were found in the chapel. There are only embossed crosses in a room with tombs at the entrance of the chapel. One of the walls of the chapel was destroyed.
Orta Mahalle Church
The church received this name because it is located in the central district of Goreme. In fact, the exterior of the church, which is a private property, looks like a typical Goreme house and it is semi-demolished today. The interior of the church is also quite neglected. That’s why it’s not open to visitors.
Orta Mahalle Church was built with a rectangular plan and single apse. With a dome on the roof, the church has geometric designs in red color in the upper part and frescos depicting the gospel of Virgin Mary and Saint Hieron in the lower sections.
Altough Ağzıkarahan Inn is a little outside Göreme region, we highly recommend you see the inn before you leave. The building, which is named after the blackness at the entrance gate, is one of the largest caravanserais of the Cappadocia region on the Silk Road. Compared to Saruhan Caravanserai built in the Seljuk period, it is smaller, but the stonemasonry at the gate is spectacular.
If you follow the Aksaray – Nevşehir direction from the beltway, you will encounter the sign before coming to Acıgöl. If you come to the region on a tour, remember that tour buses do not stop by here.
What to eat in Goreme?
Goreme houses lots of treasure in terms of tourist attractions and to be able to literally say “I saw all the places in Cappadocia” your route must contain this beautiful town. On a local table prepared by a capable cook, it is possible to taste different dishes and desserts such as Nevşehir tavası, dalaz, bulama, osbar kebabı, ağpakla, ayva dolması, dıvıl, bitirgen kayısı, köftür, büzme baklava. You can find the famous dishes of Turkish cuisine and the world almost everywhere. You will remember Nevşehir and Central Anatolian cuisine as much as attractions in Goreme
We talked about almost everything about Goreme.
Go there, see the attractions, taste the dishes, and enjoy everything.