Places to visit in Cappadocia
Places to visit in Cappadocia
Cappadocia region has lots of places to visit. Some of them are listed below
All About Cappadocia
- All About Cappadocia
- Cappadocia Highlights
- Goreme open air museum
- Caravansarais Cappadocia
- Derinkuyu Underground City
- Devrent Valley Cappadocia
- Forgotton Churches Cappadocia
- Ihlara Valley
- Kaimakli Underground Cities
- Zelve open air museum
- More About Cappadocia
- Hotels in Cappadocia
There are many great things to see in Cappadocia that you could spend a lifetime here and still discover new places. The main mustsee attractions are the two large open air museums and the best of the underground cities. However, there are also many small, all-but forgotten rock cut churches and monasteries, splendid hiking trails, several spectacular caravanserais and many dramatic rock formations well worth going out of your way to visit
Goreme open air museum
The area covered by this Open Air Museum forms a coherent geographical entity and represents historical unity. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches. Each is associated with a church. Most of the churches in Goreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.
In summer, it is better to visit the museum early in the morning or late afternoon, instead of mid-day. There are many churches and chapels in Goreme Open Air Museum but the most important ones are:
St. Barbara Church;
This church is situated behind the rock housing Elmali (Apple) Church. It has a cruciform plan, with two columns. The north, south and west arms of the cruciform are barrel vaulted, and the center, the east arm, and the east corners are domed. There are a main, central apse and two side apses. Motifs were painted in red directly onto the rock. The walls and the dome are decorated in a variety of motifs including geometrical patterns, mythological animals and military symbols. The walls also have motifs resembling stonework. This church dates back to the second half of the 11th century.
Apple (Elmali) Church
One of the most prominent buildings in the area with its vivid colors, the church is a groin-vaulted structure with cross-in-square plan, having four columns and a central dome. It has beautiful frescoes dating to the 11th and 12th centuries. And where these have fallen off, you can see simple red-painted ornaments from the iconoclastic period. The frescoes are narrating scenes from the Bible and the life of Christ, the Hospitality of Abraham and Three Hebrew Youths. The building derives its name from the apple orchard collapsed a long time ago, in front of the main entrance.
The 6-7 storey rock mass to the left of the museum entrance is known as “the Nunnery”. The dining hall, kitchen and some rooms on the first floor, together with the ruined chapel on the second level, can still be visited. The church on the third storey, which can be reached through a tunnel, has a cruciform plan, a dome with four columns and three apses. The templon on the main apse is rarely found in Goreme’s churches. Besides the fresco of Jesus, painted directly onto the rock, designs painted in red can also be seen. The different levels of the monastery are connected by tunnels, and “millstone doors”, such as those found in the underground cities, and were used to close off these tunnels in times of danger.
Snake (Yilanli) Church
This church has a linear plan, consisting of two chambers. The front section is barrel-vaulted, while the back one has a flat ceiling. The red ochre ornaments imitate hewn stone plait. Frescoes dated to the 11th century, are painted directly on the wall. Opposite the entrance, there is an image of Christ with a book in his hand, and at his left, on both sides of a large cross, are Emperor Constantine and Helena. Right next to it, the Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore is depicted. On the opposite wall, Onophrios can be seen with a sapling in front of him, also the Apostle Thomas, and the founder of the building, St. Basileios holding a book in one hand and sanctifying with the other.
Carikli (Sandals) Church
This two columned church (two other columns being in the form of pillars), is cross vaulted, and has three apses and four domes. The well preserved frescoes show the life of Jesus, Hospitality of Abraham, and images of the saints and the donors of the church. Although it resembles both the Karanlik (Dark) and Elmali (Apple) Churches, the scenes of the Way of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross make this church different from the others. The figures are generally large. The footprints under the Ascension scene give the church its name, which means “with sandal”. The church dates back to the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th centuries. The center dome houses a picture of Jesus the Pantocrator with the busts of angels in the insets. On the central apse is Deesis, on the north apse Mary and the Baby Jesus, and on the south apse, a picture of St Michael.
Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise)
The entrance to this church is from the north through a winding tunnel which opens into a barrel-vaulted narthex. You have to pay an extra admission fee (8 TL per person) but it is surely worth it. In the south of the narthex there are three graves, two of which are big and the other, small. The church has a cross plan, the arms of the cross having a diagonal vault. The templon of the main apse has been destroyed. This Church dates to the end of the 12th century. Some of the scenes on the walls are Deesis, Annunciation, Journey to Bethlehem, Nativity, Baptism, Raising of Lazarus, Transfiguration, Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, the Crucifixion and Anastasis.
Buckle (Tokali) Church
Even though Tokali church is located down the museum around 50 meters, you can visit the church with the same ticket that you used for Goreme Open Air Museum. It is a complex made up of 4 main chambers. The entrance to the New Church having a rectangular plan with longitudinal axis is made through the barrel-vaulted single-naved Old Church. This rock settlement is divided with arches into three sections. Containing the most important samples of paintings, the building has been decorated in various periods.
In the Old Church section, frescoes dated to early 10th century, painted in bands of rich red and green, represent scenes from the Bible. The indigo dominating the main chamber frescoes in the New Church, is a feature discerning the structure from the others. Among the rock churches in Cappadocia, Tokali has the best paintings narrating the life of Christ in the most detail. The church is decorated with the Infancy (childhood of Christ), Ministry and Passion cycles, with several episodes from the life of St. Basileios.
Especially during the times of Seljuk Sultans Kilicarslan II and Alaaddin Keykubat I, the construction of these buildings increased after the security of the trading roads was provided by the state. The loss of the trades would be met by the states, which is accepted to be the first insurance system. During that period, both domestic and foreign trades prospered. In this way, the Seljuks, who were already economically powerful, became politically strong, too.
In caravanserais, foreign as well as native traders, would be put up for three days. Their shoes would be repaired or the poor would be given new shoes. The ill would be treated and animals would be tended and, if needed horses would be shoed. For their religious practices, they would use the “Kosk Mescid“, a small mosque, in the center of the courtyard. The “Kosk Mescid”, usually located in the centre of the courtyard, was the most important part of the caravanserais. These mosques were normally built on an arched base.
The courtyards are normally surrounded with bedrooms, depots, bath house and bathrooms. “Mangals” (braziers) or “tandirs” (oven in the ground) were used to heat the places whereas candles and lamps were used for light. All services were provided by the people working in caravanserais; e.g., doctor, imam (prayer leader), depot officer, veterinarian, messenger, blacksmith, and cook. Stones cut from the volcanic rock were used in the construction of the caravanserais in the region of Cappadocia. For defense purposes, their walls were constructed like castle walls. Some of the best examples of Seljuk stonemasonry can be seen at the entrances, called “Tac Kapi“. Although dragon, lion motifs and floral designs most frequently used, in Cappadocia geometrical designs were generally preferred. The doors were made of iron.
Caravanserais were built along roads running from Antalya – Konya – Kayseri to the land of Turkomans passing through Erzurum and Tabriz and from the Black Sea region to Iraq via Amasya – Tokat – Sivas – Malatya – Diyarbakir at a distance of 30-40km, a one day camel trek.
It is possible to see some of the most beautiful examples of caravanserais in the region of Cappadocia, especially between Aksaray and Kayseri, since it is an intersection, east to west and south to north; Sultanhani in Aksaray, Agzikarahan in Aksaray and Sarihan in Avanos. The kervansarays of Cappadocia in central Turkey were built of hewn volcanic stone, and their walls were thick and high so that they would be safe from raids by robbers. Decoration was concentrated on the great portals which display the finest examples of Seljuk stone carving.
The richly carved portal of Aksaray Sultanhani which projects from the walls, and the towers at each corner lend the building a monumental aspect. The portal is made of marble of several colors and leads into the courtyard, in the centre of which is a pavilion mosque. Along the right-hand side of the courtyard is a decoratedcolonnade and to the left storage rooms and chambers. To the north is an area where both animals and people were accommodated.
The next caravanserai (kervansaray) located on this route, 15 km outside Aksaray on the Nevsehir road, is Agzikarahan (Black Mouth), which bears the same name as the village where it is situated. It is alternatively known as Hoca Mesud Kervansaray, after its founder. The first of its two inscriptions tell us that its construction was commenced in 1231 by a wealthy merchant named Hoca Mesud bin Abdullah and completed in 1239. The hall was built during this time by Alaaddin Keykubat I and the courtyard by his son Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II (1237-1246). With its great portals, pavilion mosque, towers and other architectural features, this caravanserai is reminiscent of the castle-like royal hans (Sultanhani). The pavilion mosque is raised upon a four arched sub-structure and stands in the middle of the courtyard, which is surrounded by colonnades and closed rooms.
The carved decoration of Agzikarahan is notable for the absence of the human figures, animals and floral motifs typical of the period. The hamam or bath house is in the rectangular building standing apart to the south.
Agzikarahan is followed by Tepesidelik Han (also known as Oresin Han) 17 km away. This caravanserai has a covered courtyard and since the inscription is missing, it is not known exactly when it was built or by whom. Researchers agree however, that it probably dates from the third quarter of the 13th century. The portal and part of the dome are in ruins, but the spaces roofed by cradle vaults and supported by symmetrically placed groups of three columns around the pendentive dome are striking in appearance.
A further 12 km on is Alayhan, one of the first caravanserais built by sultans, but now divided in two by the present Aksaray-Nevsehir road. This building may be what in written sources is referred to as the Kilicarslan II Kervansaray. Royal caravanserais generally consisted of one open and one covered section. Unfortunately the open section of this kervansaray has been completely destroyed, leaving only part of the covered section consisting of three bays roofed by seven vaults. The portal is decorated with geometric motifs and seven rows of mukarnas (stalactite) carving, and features a carved lion with a single head and double body.
We next come to Sarihan Caravanserai in the province of Nevsehir on the road between to Kayseri. Sarihan (also spelled as Saruhan, meaning Yellow Caravanserai) covers an area of 2000 square meters and was built during the reign of Izzettin Keykavus II (1249-1254), perhaps by him, in 1249. It is constructed of smoothly hewn yellow, pink and beige stone. Two contrasting colors of stone are used to decorative effect on the arches of the main outer portal and inner portal. Restoration of this caravanserai, parts of which were in ruins, was completed in 1991. This was the last caravanserai to be built by the Seljuk sultans. Today, the whirling dervishes ceremonie is performed nightly at the Sarihan Caravanserai.
Another important caravanserai is Kayseri Sultanhani in the village of Tuzhisar 45 km from Kayseri on the Sivas Road. The inscription on its hall portal tells us that it was built between 1232 and 1236 by Alaaddin Keykubat I. This caravanserai covers an area of 3900 square meters and its plan is similar to that of Aksaray Sultanhani. The portal in the north wall is flanked by semicircular towers with square bases. Although this partially ruined portal is typical of classical Seljuk portals, the towers enhance its grandeur. A hall with high arches leads into the square courtyard, in the centre of which is a pavilion mosque raised on arches. On the northwest side of the courtyard is a domed hamam in five sections which is entered via a door at the northwest corner of the arcade to the right. This caravanserai was restored in 1951.
The last caravanserai in Cappadocia area is Karatayhan built by Celaleddin Karatay on the old Kayseri-Malatya road, part of the main trade route into Syria. Construction commenced during the reign of Alaaddin Keykubat and was completed during that of his son Giyaseddin Keyhusrev in 1240/1241. The inscription opens with the words, ‘This building belongs to God, who is One, Eternal, and Everlasting’. Celaleddin Karatay came from Kayseri to see the finished building, and was so overwhelmed by its magnificence that he sped away again, afraid that he would be carried away by pride in his own accomplishment. The endowment deed of Karatayhan tells us that it was built to serve both commercial and social functions. The ornately carved portal which dominates the south wall measures 46 by 80 meters, and projects both beyond and above the wall. The decoration includes floriate and figurative as well as geometric motifs, which distinguishes it from other caravanserais. An eyvan (open-fronted vaulted hall) with pointed vault leads from the portal into the courtyard. Along the eastern side of the courtyard is a series of long narrow chambers with pointed vaults opening directly onto the courtyard, while an arcade runs down the western side. Like the towns and villages through which the trade roads passed, the vicinity of the caravanserai once turned into small commercial centers. This was true of Karatayhan, which in the 13th century stood at a junction of roads.
When Europeans found new ways to China, the Silk Road started to lose importance and of course the caravanserais as well. After the 15th and 16th centuries, most of the caravanserais were never used again.
Derinkuyu Underground City
Underground Cities? These troglodyte cave-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 and the deepest one is Derinkuyu underground city, while the widest is the Kaymakli Underground City.
Derinkuyu Underground City
The Derinkuyu underground city is located in the same named town Derinkuyu, which is situated 40km from Goreme (30 minute drive). There are about 600 outside doors to the city, hidden in the courtyards of surface dwellings. The underground city is approximately 85m deep. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc.) Apart from these, a large room with a barrel vaulted ceiling on the second floor was a missionary school, the rooms to the left being study rooms.
From the 3rd and 4th floors onwards the descent is by way of vertical staircases which lead to a cruciform plan church on the lowest floor.
The 55m deep ventilation shaft was also used as a well. Not every floor was provided with water wells up to the surface in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. Derinkuyu contains at least 15,000 ventilation ducts that provide fresh air deep within the underground city. The Derinkuyu Underground City was opened to visitors in 1965 but so far less than half of it can be visited.
It is unlikely that the underground cities were ever intended for permanent dwelling, or even long stays, but they were clearly built to withstand attack and could support large numbers of people and their domestic animals, for extended periods of time. The urban organization was very complex, and there was probably always work in progress.
The 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!
Devrent Valley Cappadocia
Devrent Valley, which is also known as Imaginary Valley and also as Pink Valley does not have cave churches like the other valleys of Cappadocia. There are no Roman castles or Roman tombs in Devrent Valley, either. Actually it was never inhabited. So what makes it so famous? The lunar landscape!
Devrent Valley (also spelled as Dervent Valley) reveals many different rock formations and is only a 10 minute drive from Goreme. The small fairy chimneys in the valley form a lunar landscape, or moonscape, by their strange look. The valley also has many animal shaped rocks. It looks like a sculpture zoo made by nature. Some of the most important, or the easiest seen animal shapes are camel, snake, seals, and dolphin. If you let your imagination run free you will find many others. It is like looking at clouds and seeing a dragon. There is even a rock pillar which looks like Virgin Mary, holding Jesus Christ
Forgotton Churches Cappadocia
Cavusin (Nicephorus Phocas) Church: This barrel-vaulted church, with one nave and three apses, is situated 2.5km from Goreme on the Goreme-Avanos road. Its narthex is collapsed. The church was built around 964/965.
On the vault are the Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgin, Flight into Egypt, Joseph’s Dream Ii, Blessing and Mission of the Apostles, Adoration of the Magi, Massacre of the Innocents, Pursuit of Elizabeth, Killing of Zacharias; on the west wall are Entry into Jerusalem, Raising of Lazarus, Healing of the Blind Man, Descent from the Cross, Women at the Tomb; on the wall of the apse the Transfiguration; on the north apse Emperor Nicaphorus Phocas and his family, which held power and authority in Cappadocia.
Rose Valley and Red Valley connecting Goreme to Cavusin also has some cave churches decorated with frescoes. The most important ones are:
Uzumlu Church: The Uzumlu (Grape) Church is located at the beginning of the Red Valley, to the west of the town of Ortahisar, about 1 km from the road. The fairy chimney, in which the Grape Church is found, is hollowed out like a monastic complex where monks lived. The lower level of the fairy chimney is the church and the upper level is a chamber -which can be seen from outside due to the partial collapse of the walls- with a cross relief on the ceiling. The Uzumlu church has a square plan with one apse and one nave. At the far endof the nave is a grave niche. This church is also called The Church of St. Nichlitas due to the presence of an inscription of St.Nichlitas in the dedication inscription of the church. The nave with a flat ceiling is decorated with rich embelishments. The orange-colored surface is decorated with a cross composed of circles and rectangles and bunches of grape and geometrical motifs around it. The border is embellishments using medallions with Maltese crosses. Although it is not proven, the common belief is that this church dates back to the 8th or 9th century. Fresco Scenes in the Uzumlu (Grape) Church: On the apse the Enthroned Mary holding Baby Jesus and Archangels Michael and Gabriel by their sides, on the north and south sides of the nave twelve apostles and doctor saints.
Hacli Kilise (Church with the cross):
Hacli Kilise (Church with the Cross) is located in Red Valley and it is usually confused with Church with the Three Crosses in Rose Valley. The church located on top of hill can be reached by a narrow path. The hill where Hacli Kilise is located also has a fabulous view of the valley. The church has a single nave and apsis in synthronon style. There is a perfect acoustic in Hacli Kilise (Church with the cross). If you hike in Red Valley starting from Ortahisar sunset view point, you can see the church.
Ihlara Valley (often misspelled as Ilhara Valley), near Mount Hasan and Mount Melendiz (two 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 with Selime Monastery at Selime village after making 26 bends along 14 kilometers.
It is believed that the valley housed more than four thousand dwellings and a hundred cave churches decorated with frescoes. Around eighty thousand people once lived in Ihlara Valley.
There are 4 entrances to Ihlara valley. The first one is at the start of the valley in Ihlara Village. The second one opens to the 4th kilometer of the valley and it is the most popular entrance, and has more than 300 steps down to the valley. The third entrance is Belisirma village which allows you to enter the valley by driving. It is located in the middle (7th km) of the valley. If you will visit the valley by your car, this is the best spot to park your car. Belisirma has also some restaurants by Melendiz River to have lunch. Most of the guided tours end their walking here after lunch. The last entrance is the end of the valley at the Selime Monastery. Some of the trekking tours which walk the whole valley start from this end. The best part of the valley is the first 7km part from Ihlara Village until Belisirma Village where you can see most of the churches and natural beauty.
It is very pleasant to walk through the Ihlara valley by the vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees to the soothing sound of the rushing water (Melendiz River), and surrounded by a rich wildlife of lizards, frogs, butterflies, birds and sometimes eagles and other mammals like lambs and sheep.
There many cave churches in Ihlara Valley. Most of them 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 churches are unusually long.
Some of the most important churches in the Ihlara Valley are:
Kokar Kilise (The Smelly Church)
The Kokar Kilise (The Smelly Church) is located in the first quarter of the valley between Ihlara Village and main entrance. It can be entered through a ruined apse. The original entrance has been blocked by a landslide. There are many frescoes covering the walls of Kokar Kilise. On the left side, you can see the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Proof of the Virgin, the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi scenes. On the right, you will see the Last Supper, the Betrayal, Jesus being Led Away, Jesus before Annas and Caiaphos, the Crucifixion and the Entombment. On the door facing the entrance there is a Deesis above, with scenes of the Flight to Egypt and The Last Supper below was badly damaged when openings were made at a much later date for windows and a door leading into the burial chamber. On the ceiling you can see the Ascension and the Pentecost together with a large Greek cross with the hand of God giving benediction in the center. On each side of the lower parts of the vaulting there are frescoes depicting the apostles standing and seated.
Purenli Seki Kilisesi (Church with the Terrace)
Purenli Seki Kilisesi is also located in the first quarter of the valley, around 100m from Kokar Kilise. You have to climb about 25m above the level of the river. It is composed of an entrance, a burial chamber and a double naos, separated by pillared arcades, each having an apse. The church is covered by frescoes classified as “archaic” but characterized by exquisite details, a strong sense of design and amazing freedom of expression.
Agacalti Kilise (Church under the Tree)
When you turn right at the bottom of the stairs from the main entrance, you will find yourself 10m from the church. Prepare yourself for a surprise when you enter the church through the ruined arch for a totally different style of architecture. This church is quite different from the other churches of the Byzantine world of the 10th and 11th century Cappadocia, with its harmoniously contrasted colors of red, green and yellow, the subjects of its paintings and its decoration of flowers, rosettes and checkerboard patterns, all betraying strong eastern influence. The Church, also known as the Church of Daniel or the Church of Pantassa, has a free cross architectural plan.
On the wall opposite the entrance there is a fresco of Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The left cross-arm contains the Annuciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Magi. The right cross-arm contains the Flight into Egypt, the Baptism and the Dormition. The Dormition of the Virgin (Koimesis) is unique as far as Cappadocia is concerned. It is composed of two scenes. In the first scene, Mary is lying on a bed, with Christ accompanied by St. John sitting on one side of the bed to recover her soul. In the upper scene Christ is shown holding his Mother’s soul, with an Angel behind him.
Some of the other important churches of Ihlara Valley are:
• Egritas Kilise (Church with Crooked Stone)
• Sumbullu Kilise (Hyacinth Church)
• Yilanli Kilise (Church with Snake)
• Karagedik Kilise (Church with Black Collar)
• Kirk Damalti Kilisesi (Church of St. George)
• Bahattin Kilise (Bahattin’s Granary Church)
• Direkli Kilise (Pillard Church)
• Ala Kilise (Mottled Church)
Kaimakli Underground Cities
Underground Cities? These troglodyte cave-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 and the widest one is Kaymakli underground city, while the deepest is the Derinkuyu Underground City.
Kaymakli underground city is built under the hill known as the Citadel of Kaymakli and was opened to visitors in 1964. The people of Kaymakli (Enegup in Greek) village have constructed their houses around nearly one hundred tunnels of the underground city. The inhabitants of the region still use the most convenient places in the tunnels as cellars, storage areas and stables, which they access through their courtyards. The Kaymakli Underground City has low, narrow and sloping passages. While the underground city consists of 8 floors below ground, only 4 of them are open to the public today, in which the spaces are organized around ventilation shafts.
The first floor of the underground city is the stable. The small size of this area suggests that there could be other stables in sections that have not yet been opened. The passage to the left of the stable contains a millstone door and leads into the church. To the right of the corridor are rooms hollowed out as living areas.
The church on the 2nd floor has a single nave and two apses. In front of the apses is an altar, and on the sides are seating platforms. There are also some living areas on this floor.
The most important areas of the underground city are on the 3rd floor. Besides numerous storage places, wineries and kitchen, the block of andesite with relief-texture found on this floor is very interesting. Recent research has proved that this stone was used as a melting pot for copper. The stone was not brought here from outside but was part of the andesite layer unearthened while hollowing. To be able to use it as a melting pot, 57 holes were carved on the surface of the stone. The copper ore, about 10 cm in length, would be put into one of those holes and would be hammered using a hard piece of rock. This technique has been known since the Prehistoric Periods.
The copper brought to the Kaymakli Underground City was probably dug from a quarry between Aksaray and Nevsehir. (The same quarry was also used by the people of Asilikhoyuk, the oldest known settlement in Cappadocia Region.)
The fact that there are a lot of storage rooms and places to put earthenware jars in the wineries on the 4th floor indicates that the people living in this underground city were economically stable. The ventilation shaft can also be seen from the 4th floor. It is a vertical well and passes all floors down like on the elevator in an apartment. The depth of the ventilation shaft is about 80 meters in total.
Even though the whole city has not been completely opened, and since only 4 floors have been uncovered, it is certain that Kaymakli is one of the largest underground settlements in the region. It is accepted as the widest underground city of Cappadocia, among the explored ones. The number of the storage rooms in such a small area supports the idea that a great number of people resided here. Archeologists think that this could have been up to 3500 people
Zelve open air museum
The Zelve Open-Air Museum, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region is an amazing cave town, honeycombed with dwellings, religious and secular chambers. Zelve is situated about 10 km out from Goreme on the Avanos road. 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 risk of erosion. 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 a ghost town and the erosion still continues. The three valleys in the Zelve open air museum offer a heaven 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 frescoes 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. 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 long, cave tunnel.
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 Uzumlu Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself, in a country famous for its Dionysiac rituals. Just next to Uzumlu Kilise, is the Balikli Kilise (The Church with Fishes). On the apse above you will be able to discern paintings of fish in a very faded red.
Uchisar is situated at the highest point in Cappadocia, on the Nevsehir-Goreme road, just 5 km from Goreme. The top of the Uchisar Castle, provides a magnificent panorama of the surrounding area with Mount Erciyes in the distance.
Many rooms hollowed out into the rock are connected to each other with stairs, tunnels and passages. At the entrances of the rooms, there are millstone doors, just like the ones in the underground settlements, used to control access to these places. Due to the erosion in places of this multi-leveled castle, it is unfortunately not possible to reach all the rooms. Most of the rooms, located on the north side of the castle are in use as pigeon houses (dovecuts) today. Farmers used these cave pigeon houses to collect the droppings of pigeons which is an excellent natural fertilizer for the orchards and vineyards.
There are also many other pigeon houses in Pigeon Valley (Guvercinlik Vadisi in Turkish) which connects Uchisar to Goreme. Most of these cave dwellings have been painted white to attract the birds and their valuable droppings.
The fairy chimneys to the west, east and north of Uchisar were hollowed out and used as graves during the Roman period. Inside these rock cut tombs, the entrances which generally face west, are klines or stone slabs on which the bodies were laid.
Many rock cut churches have been discovered not only on the outskirts of the castle but also inside it. The reason for this may be that Goreme, having numerous churches and monasteries, is very close to Uchisar.
The simple Byzantine graves on top of the castle are not very interesting as they have been eroded and ransacked. It is said that in towns with citadels, e.g. Uchisar, Ortahisar and Urgup (Bashisar), long defense tunnels reached far into the surrounding areas. However, since the tunnels have collapsed in places, this theory cannot be confirmed, but is a popular myth as to the great distances they cover.
There are minibuses between Goreme and Uchisar which depart at every half an hour on weekdays and every hour on weekend. You can also walk through the Pigeon Valley which offers a fascinating landscape. A hike from Goreme to Uchisar through Pigeon Valley takes about two hours.