The region known as Cappadocia includes the centres of Ürgüp, Göreme, Avanos, Üçhisar, Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı and Ihlara. It is a stunning area of other-worldly rock formations, subterranean churches and underground dwellings, the scale of which is over-whelming. The area is also famous for its carpet-weaving, wines and the distinctive red pottery of the Avanos area. Cappadocia was a refuge for the early Christians, who escaped persecution by living and worshipping underground. There are an estimated 3000 rock churches in this region, not all of which are open to the public
The village of Göreme itself is at the heart of the area’s tourist industry, and many of its villagers still live in cave dwellings, some of which have been converted into pensions. Surrounding the area are the amazing rock formations known evocatively as Peri Bacaları or ‘Fairy Chimneys’.
Located to the west of Niğde, is the stunning Ihlara Valley, a gorge which is 10 km long and some 80 metres wide. Popular for trekking, about 12 of its 60 churches are open to the public including the impressive Eğritaş Church.
There are hundreds of underground cities in the regions. Two of the most impressive are Kaymaklı, which has 8 levels, and Derinkuyu, which reaches down to 55 metres. They were used by the Christians fleeing persecution in the 7th century, who created a self-sufficient environment underground including bedrooms, kitchens and storage rooms.
The Hattis, followed by the Hittites, Phrygians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, and Ottomans were all enchanted by the allure of Cappadocia and left the imprint of their own presence here including important trade routes, such as the illustrious Silk Road which traversed east, west, north and south. As a result of this heavy traffic, the region was a complex web of historical and cultural influences. Cappadocia was the place where different faiths and philosophies met and influenced one another. Frescoed churches and dwellings carved into the cliffs extend from Ihlara Valley, which is 40 km from Aksaray, and as far as 14 km to the town of Selime. Some of these structures can be dated back to as early as the 4th century A.D. Among the many sights worth seeing are the Eğritaş, Ağaç Altı, Kokar, Yılanlı, Pürenli, Kırkdamaltı, Ala, Direkli, the Kale Manastırı churches, and the Selime Cathedral.
Because of its location, Cappadocia was an extremely critical and strategic region. As Cappadocia’s trade and resources were tempting prizes, the region was frequently invaded, raided, and looted. To protect themselves from such depredations, the local inhabitants took to living in the region’s caverns and grottos whose entrances could be concealed, so as not to be noticed by trouble-making outsiders. Since it might have been necessary to lie low for extended periods of time, these troglodytic dwellings eventually became subterranean cities that included sources of water, places to store food, wineries, and temples. Some of them date back to before the Christian era.
WHAT TO SEE
The splendid scene of the town of Uçhisar, seven kilometres from Nevşehir has an appeal that is irresistible. From the heights of the Uçhisar citadel, you have a magnificent and unrivalled view of the whole region.
Göreme and its environs, located ten kilometres from Nevşehir, are thought to have been used as a necropolis during Roman times by the inhabitants of Venessa (Avanos). The Göreme region is often referred to as the “belief centre”. The Göreme Open-Air Museum is where the “educational system that unified all the ideas of Christianity” of St. Basil the Great and his brothers, was born. In the Tokalı church, the Convent of Monks and Nuns, the Chapel of St. Basil, and the Elmalı, Yılanlı, Karanlık, and Çarıklı churches, the architectural details and frescoes seem as alive today as when they were when they were new.
Ürgüp, near Göreme, is a famous city with wines, as its historical places and natural beauties. Whether your wine is served to you in a rustic earthenware pitcher or an elegant crystal goblet, it will be an experience that you’ll never forget. Although some local winemakers have adopted modern techniques of wine-making, there are still many that remain faithful to the ancient and time-proven methods.
Six kilometres south of Ürgüp is Mustafapaşa (Sinasos), a town justifiably famous for its splendid stone works. The Chapel of St Basil is decorated with motifs reflecting the Iconoclastic system of thought. In Avanos, located 18 kilometres from Nevşehir, there is a tradition of pottery-making that has been alive since Hittite times.