What to see
The Fairy Chimneys
The soft rocks were created over millions of years by flowing volcanic lava, wind and rain, and have formed into the shapes known as fairy chimneys. These conical forms of standing rock have something resembling hats on top of them, and are the star attraction for tourists in Cappadocia. The fairy chimneys have become one of the landmarks of Cappadocia and you can find them all over the region. Paşabağ Valley has some of the area’s best examples, and there are also many formations at Zelve, Ürgüp and Göreme. Because the fairy chimneys are so easy to carve into, throughout history they’ve been used for many purposes including housing, churches, and even as storage. It’s well worth visiting the fairy chimneys for their natural beauty, their history and their architectural features.
Going up on a balloon tour at dawn has been popular in Cappadocia for a long time, and that popularity has only grown in recent years. As the wind carries the balloons through the sky, they glide gracefully among the fairy chimneys, and afford some truly stunning views of Cappadocia’s dramatic topography. The memories will be ones to cherish as you enjoy the privilege of going the through the sky and enjoying the views over Cappadocia, and making marriage proposals up in the clouds has even become popular over recent years. The views over Cappadocia are absolutely magnificent so make sure you bring your camera or you’ll regret the chance you had to capture the region in all its glory.
Tokalı Church (Tokalı Kilise) right at the entrance to the Göreme Open Air Museum is one of the oldest known churches. Set in rock, it’s composed of four spaces – the Old Church, the New Church, the Church under the Old Church, and the Chapel on the Northern Side of the New Church. Each of these is literally like a picture gallery. With vibrant colors and incredible depictions they are galleries full of frescoes well worth admiring, and your attention will be immediately drawn to the deep hues of the lapis lazuli blue common in all the frescoes. Tokalı Kilise, carved right into the rock face, is reckoned to date back to somewhere between the middle of the 9th and 10th centuries. The frescoes in the inner wall portion and upper portion of the vault deal mostly with the life of Jesus, and there are also depictions of the life of Saint Basil of Caesarea and many other saints. Tokalı Kilise is a great place to see and examine the frescoes of Byzantine art.
Göreme Open Air Museum
From the 4th century to the 13th, the Göreme Open Air Museum was mostly used as a monastery and today is very popular due to all its incredible structures set into the rock face. There are many different types of places carved into the rock that at one point in time met all the needs of the people who lived there. Churches, chapels, dining halls and houses were all carved into the rock, and as you walk around, you’ll almost feel as if people are going to jump out of the rock doors at any moment! The Nunnery and Monastery, Church of St. Basil in Caesarea, Elmalı Church, St. Barbara Church, Yılanlı Church, Karanlik Kilise, Çarıklı Church, and Tokalı Kilise are all in the Göreme Open Air Museum. This should be high up on the list of places to visit while you’re in Nevşehir, as it shows how nature and art can become a way of life.
This church dating back all the way to the 11th century can be reached only by passing through a long tunnel. Amongst the frescoes you can see are scenes like the Deesis (supplication), the Raising of Lazarus, Christ on the Cross, the Burial of Jesus, and the Last Supper along with scenes of saints and bishops with the symbolic fish. Some of the oldest decorations in Elmalı Church (Apple Church) are the cross and geometric motifs all along the walls in red paint. The church in general, with its figures, motifs and incredible colors will leave you with a real sense of wonder.
This museum in Nevşehir is one of the most visited open air museums in Turkey, which means the city center also gets quite a few visitors along with the museum. There are two exhibition halls with archaeological and ethnographic artifacts in the museum. Amongst the fossils found in the region, some of the most interesting are those of ancient sea creatures, which prove that this region was once under the sea. The terracotta artifacts, coins and statues brought in from the surrounding ancient cities are all part of the museum’s collections showing the past ways of life in Nevşehir.
This incredible place was carved out of the top of the hill’s rock face, a characteristic of Cappadocia. For over a thousand years, in fact all the way up until 1950, people lived in this spot carved out of the rock. When you begin to climb the hill to the castle the views get all the more stunning as you go up, and words can’t describe the views from the peak. At that point, the only sound you’ll hear is the sound of your camera clicking away at the breathtaking vistas of the oldest settlements, modern structures, rock formations and the many other scenes quintessential to Cappadocia. Central to this amazing view are the glorious Mount Hasan and Mount Erciyes rising up before you.
As with everywhere else in Cappadocia, Ürgüp is dotted with the stunning fairy chimneys and full of the rest of what nature has to offer. You can see the traces of settlements all over, and explore the vineyards that also form a part of the area’s history. Ürgüp features stone houses, built in harmony with the features of the land, and which still stand the test of time. The architecture and churches of Mustafapaşa is just one settlement of particular interest. The settlements carved into rock of Halacdere and Fıratkan and their churches are incredible, with the surrounding Tağar Church, Pancarlık Church, Ala Church and Kepez Church also historically important. Seljuk works dating to Saruhan and the Karaminids include the Taşkın Paşa Mosque, one of Ürgüp’s unmissable sights. Also be sure to visit the rock carvings at Ortahisar when you make your journey through Ürgüp.
Derinkuyu Underground City
There are many underground cities in Cappadocia, all carved out of the soft rock. While it may not be known exactly when and why they were built, it’s generally believed that the underground cities were built for the purposes of defense and concealment. You’ll be left astounded as you discover the scale of these underground settlements. The biggest underground cities are Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı right next to it. In addition to these, you’ll find Özkonak, Mucur, Örentepe, Gümüşkent, Tatlarin, Ovaören and Gökçetoprak. In Derinkuyu, narrow corridors connect all the halls, cellars, kitchens and food stores, ventilation shafts, water wells and churches that in turn are protected from outside danger by huge stones that cover up doorways. The underground city of Kaymaklı is unusual in that it contains a missionary school, a confessional and a baptismal font. The city has eight original floors, four of which are open to visitors today. The city descends a total of 55 meters underground, and you can really see how people used to live as the traces of the past are etched into the city’s mysterious corridors.
What to eat
Ağpakla originally got its name from the local “kurufasulye,” or haricot bean dish. Traditionally it too was cooked with meat on the bone. The ingredients are placed in pottery and cooked slowly in a tandoor with white beans, oil and meat, taking about 3 to 4 hours to cook. Ağpakla is put in the tandoor around noon so that it’s ready for dinner. After eating ağpakla straight from the broken pottery, it won’t be long before you’re already planning your next visit!
Sütlü Çorbası (Milky Soup)
The soup is made by adding milk to boiled bulgur, and despite its simple composition, it tastes wonderful. This soup is one of the most popular dishes of the region, and it’s especially great when the weather turns cold, to warm you up and keep you from catching colds. Sütlü Çorbası is served with black pepper, and you certainly won’t regret trying some on your visit to Nevşehir.