The Göreme Open-Air Museum resembles a vast monastic complex composed of scores of refectory monasteries placed side-by-side, each with its own fantastic church. It is obviously the first sight to be visited by any traveler in Cappadocia, standing as it does in the very center of the region with easy access from all directions.
It is only 15 minutes walk (1.5 km) from Göreme village center. It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes(wall paintings) whose colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique.
The Göreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.
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 Göreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.
Göreme, in which there are many fairy chimneys and churches, is declared as an open air Museum. Tokalı Church, the Priestesses and Priests Monastery, Saint Basil Chapel, Elmalı Church, Saint Barbara Chapel, Yılanlı (Saint Onuphrius) Church, Karanlık Church, Çarıklı Church, El Nazar Church, Saklı Church, Mother Mary (Kılıçlar Kuşluk) Church, Saint Eustathios Church and the Durmuş Kadir Churches, all of which are found within its territories, are valuable places to visit.
The valleys, which are composed of tuff rocks, between Göreme Valley and Aktepe, are known as Büyük and Küçük Kılıçlar. Kılıçlar Church is found in this valley, which has an impressive appearance with tunnels, fairy chimneys and curious shaped rocks.
The most stunning examples of the local landscape and the Fairy Chimneys can be seen along the route to Avanos. Many of these rock formations resemble animal (camels and rabbits can be seen frequently).
As a centre of grape and wine production, Kızılçukur, a couple of kilometres northwest of Ürgüp, contains churches cut into the strange rock formations and decorated with grape figures. The rocks are adorned by different colours, making them a spectacular sight at sunset.
This village, 3 km southeast of the Göreme Valley, is most famous for its 50m high rock-castle, which is visible from the main road. It is possible to climb the rock, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area. This attractive farming village also exhibits the traces of the monastery lifestyle, and is a prominent cultural and commercial centre. Other places of interest in this area include the Harim Church, Sanca Church and Cambazlı Church.
About 5 km from Avanos and 1 km from Paşabağları, Zelve was founded on the steep northern slopes of Aktepe. Consisting of three separate valleys, the ruins of Zelve is the area with the most ‘fairy chimneys’ – a famous sight special to Cappadocia – which here have sharp points and thick trunks. It is not known exactly when people began living in the dwellings carved into the rock, found in places like Uçhisar, Göreme, Çavuşin and Zelve. What is known is that Zelve sheltered a Christian community and became a religious centre in the 9th and 13th centuries, where, the first religious seminars for priests were held in the vicinity.
Çavuşin (Nicephorus Phocas) Church
This ancient city is found beside the Göreme-Avanos road, 2.5 km out of Göreme. The narthex of this church has fallen down. It has tunnel vaults, a high nave and 3 apses. It dates back to 964-965 A.D.
Güllüdere (St. Agathangelus) Church
This ancient city is located in the far left draw of the Güllüdere valley, about 2 km from the village of Çavuşin. It was founded at the mouth of the draw on top of a steep slope.
The shape of the nave is square, with a flat ceiling, and it has a single broad apse. The apse was added in the 9th or 10th century to the main structure dating back to the 6th – 7th century. There are 2 or 3 layers of frescoes in the apse which indicates that it was painted regularly. Symbols of Gospel authors are drawn symmetrically and are sitting on the right and left of an enthroned Jesus.
In the middle of the flat ceiling is the relief of a cross in the middle of a circle surrounded with palm leaves and garlands. This sort of relief, most probably, belongs to the Iconoclastic period. The people of the area had a great love for the cross and it continued to be used as a motif after the Iconoclastic era because it symbolized the “Holy Cross” in Jerusalem.
Özkonak Underground City
Located 14 km northeast of Avanos, this underground city was built on the northern slopes of Mount İdis, in an area with strata made up of volcanic granite.
The extensive galleries of the city are spread out over a large area and connected to each other by tunnels. The underground cities in Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, are very narrow (5 cm) and there are long holes between the different levels of the city that were used to provide communication between the different levels of the city.
The ventilation of these neatly carved out rooms was provided by these holes when the city was sealed up against enemies.
The city was discovered in 1972 by the local Müezzin and farmer Latif Acar, when he was trying to find out where the water disappeared, which was supposed to run towards his crops.
Similar to Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu, Özkonak has a ventilation system, a water well, a winery and rolling stone doors.