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10 Must-Visit Sites in Cappadocia

10 Must-Visit Sites in Cappadocia

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The Cappadocia region in central Turkey has one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. The deep valleys and soaring rock formations are dotted with numerous archaeological wonders. There are homes, chapels, tombs, temples, and entire subterranean cities harmoniously carved into the natural landforms and just waiting to be explored.

Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey

Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey. ( ninelutsk /Adobe Stock)

Derinkuyu is Cappadocia’s most thoroughly excavated and explored underground city . Visitors can explore eight levels of rooms, tunnels, and passageways, reaching depths of over 280 feet (85.34 meters). Guided walking tours of Derinkuyu allow visitors to explore the remains of underground stables, cellars, storage rooms, churches, kitchens, wineries, wells, a prisoner holding area, and living areas, as well as peeking into the gigantic ventilation shafts left behind by the original creators centuries ago.

Kaymakli Underground City

Kaymakli Underground City is contained within the citadel of Kaymakli in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey

Kaymakli Underground City is contained within the citadel of Kaymakli in the Central Anatolia Region of Turkey. ( Mariana Ianovska /Adobe Stock)

Derinkuyu and Kaymakli Underground Cities are close enough together to see both on a day trip.  Kaymakli Underground City is Cappadocia's most spread out underground city, with a maze-like layout, although it doesn’t go as deep as Derinkuyu. Visitors will be taken through a labyrinth of rooms and passageways across four levels, to see ventilation shafts, massive stone doors, a winery, church, stables, and a unique stone used as a melting pot for copper.

Zelve Open Air Museum

Zelve open air museum, Cappadocia, Turkey

Zelve open air museum, Cappadocia, Turkey. ( anahtiris / Adobe Stock)

A visit to Zelve Open Air Museum gives visitors a unique look at one of the largest cave-dwelling communities in the region, which began life as a monastery in the 9th century AD. Visitors can wander through an amazing cave town where Christians and Muslims once lived together in harmony. The valleys are honeycombed with ancient dwellings and you can visit ancient churches, a monastery, and a rock-cut mosque.

Ihlara Valley

Selime and Ihlara valley in Cappadocia, Anatolia, Turkey

Selime and Ihlara valley in Cappadocia, Anatolia, Turkey. ( olenatur /Adobe Stock)

Ihlara Valley is a narrow valley at the bottom of a 330-foot (100.58 meter) deep gorge in southwest Cappadocia which once housed more than 4,000 dwellings and 100 cave churches , many decorated with frescoes. It was once a favored retreat for Byzantine hermetic monks, who carved churches and monasteries into the cliff face. Visitors begin at Ihlara village and end with Selime Monastery at Selime village after an 8.5-mile (13.68 km) walk through the valley.

Çavuşin

Çavuşin, Cappadocia, Turkey

Çavuşin, Cappadocia, Turkey. (Thorsten Schier /Adobe Stock)

In the quaint village of Çavuşin, dozens of abandoned houses and churches remain carved into the hillside and are open for exploration. It is also dominated by two old Byzantine churches. The upper church is the great basilica of St John the Baptist , which is thought to be the oldest and biggest cave church in Cappadocia, dating to the 5th century AD. The lower church, Çavuşin Church, used to be called the Big Pigeon House Church as it was used as a local pigeon house in the early 20th century. Çavuşin Church was built in the 960s AD and was founded by a Byzantine general.

Göreme Open Air Museum

Religious art at the Göreme Open Air Museum

Religious art at the Göreme Open Air Museum. ( iridica /Adobe Stock)

Göreme Open Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited sites in Cappadocia. It consists of a 10th-12th century complex of rock-cut churches, chapels, and monasteries featuring fine monastic Byzantine artistry , as well as an important Byzantine monastic settlement that once housed around 20 monks. The history of Christianity in the region goes back as early as the fourth century AD, when St Basil established monastic communities there.

Hacibektas

Dervish doing a ritual in Cappadocia with balloons in the background at sunrise.

Dervish doing a ritual in Cappadocia with balloons in the background at sunrise. ( danmir12 /Adobe Stock)

Hacibektas is a pilgrimage center for the followers of the Bektasi order of dervishes, founded by the 13th century Iranian philosopher and Sufi mystic Haci Bektas Veli. Visitors can view the dervish dergah (lodge) which is a museum today, cilehane (suffering house), asevi (refectory), hamam (baths), and a cemevi (a temple where sacred services were held). A final gateway in the complex leads to the tomb of Haci Bektas Veli. Nearby is a cave located on Mt Arafat, which was used by Haci Bektas Veli as an ordeal cell. Local belief holds that a person who passes through the hole in the rock will be purged of his sins. Also nearby is a sacred spring and a theater which seats 5,000 people.

Paşabağ

Volcanic tuff stone rocks in Pasabag in Cappadocia, Turkey

Volcanic tuff stone rocks in Pasabag in Cappadocia, Turkey. ( marimarkina /Adobe Stock)

Paşabağ valley is famous for its mushroom-shaped rock formations, sometimes called ‘fairy chimneys’. Paşabağ is also known as Monks Valley because in the early Byzantine period a group of disciples of St. Simeon Stylites (a fourth century monk, who spent his life on top of a pillar in northern Syria) devoted their lives to worship here. They carved their dwellings high up in the pinnacles of the rock formations to lead a hermitic life. Visitors can look inside a hermit’s shelter and a chapel dedicated to St. Simeon which has been built into one of the fairy chimneys.

Uçhisar Castle

Uchisar castle in Cappadocia

Uchisar castle in Cappadocia. ( IgorZh /Adobe Stock)

Uçhisar Castle is the highest point in Cappadocia from which you have a 360-degree view of the region. Filled with tunnels, the tall volcanic-rock outcrop was used for centuries by villagers as a place of refuge during attacks. Since the Ottoman Period , it was also used as a lookout and early warning system from where soldiers sent messages using light or mirror reflections.

Soğanlı

Monastery in Soganli Valley

Monastery in Soganli Valley. ( Bettina /Adobe Stock)

If you haven’t had enough of rock-cut churches and monasteries by the time you’ve completed the first nine, then the twin valleys of Soğanlı are the place to go. The valleys are scattered with pyramid-shaped rock pinnacles that were first hollowed out in the Roman era for burials, and then later used by the Byzantines as places of refuge and worship. Dotted along the pathways are numerous hidden churches, rock-cut chapels with frescoes, and monk cells.

Top Image: Cappadocia has spectacular sites! Source: Repina Valeriya / Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan

Ancient Origins Turkey Tour

In September, 2021,  Ancient Origins Tours  is partnering with award-winning tour operator  Travel the Unknown  to provide its readers with comprehensive escorted tours throughout the mysteries of the region, visiting classic destinations as well as more obscure locations where the magic of the past remains as strong today as it did thousands of years ago. Your hosts are Jim Willis, author of  Lost Civilizations: The Secret Histories and Suppressed Technologies of the Ancients , and Micki Pistorius, Ancient Origins Premium Editor.

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