The small town of Goreme is situated in the middle of the Valley of Fairy Chimneys, surrounded by the eerie shapes and fantastic rock formations that have made the region famous. It is one of the few remaining villages where fairy chimneys and rock-hewn houses are still inhabited, and several pensions, restaurants and cafes are carved into the rock.
Its biggest attraction is the Goreme Open-Air museum with over 30 beautifully frescoed Byzantine rock churches. The town makes an excellent base from which to explore the surrounding rock formations, villages, vineyards and attractions. For shoppers, carpets and kilims are plentiful.
Goreme Open-Air Museum
The Goreme Open-Air Museum is the most visited of the monastic communities in Cappadocia and is one of the most famous sites in central Turkey. It is a complex comprising more than 30 rock-hewn churches and chapels containing some superb frescoes, dating from the 9th to the 11th centuries. Inconspicuous from the outside, the interiors are characteristically Byzantine with a central dome and a floor plan in the shape of a cross. The three columned churches, the Elmali, Karanlik and Carikli churches are the best known, and are superbly painted. The largest and best preserved is the Tokali Church, its interior walls covered in some of the richest frescoes in the region depicting scenes from the New Testament.
The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli
Central Cappadocia was overlooked by most as a dusty, infertile and barren landscape, making it a perfect refuge for the early Christians who established the first Christian communities here. They carved chambers, vaults and labyrinthine tunnels into the soft volcanic rock for use as churches, stables and homes. Of the 40 underground cities and settlements discovered in the area, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are the biggest and most interesting, inhabited by Christians fleeing persecution in the 7th century and hiding from Arab invasions.
These cities were well-hidden complexes, a safe and self-sufficient environment that could accommodate up to 30,000 people. The most thoroughly excavated is Derinkuyu, consisting of eight floors with stables, a school room and dining hall, churches, kitchens, living quarters, wine cellars, store rooms and a dungeon. Original airshafts still function and the maze of tunnels and rooms are well lit. Kaymakli is similar but smaller with only five of its levels having been excavated so far.
Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia
With its high mountain ranges, remote plateaus, lakes and river beds splashed with colour, plus some of the best Turkish architecture anywhere, this region of Anatolia brings history to life. Sivas, Divrigi, Erzurum, Battalgazi, Harput, and Ahlat, allcities in this region, were important centres of Seljuk art. In Eastern Anatolia are the cities of Agri, Bingol, Bitlis, Elazig, Erzincan, Erzurum, Hakkari, Kars, Malatya, Mus, Tunceli, Van, Ardahan and Igdir, while in the southeast are the largercities of Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa, Batman, Sirnak and Kilis. Travelling around the east is more challenging, with huge distances between towns, extremes of climate and fewer facilities, but this is amply compensated bythe remote beauty, relatively unspoilt scenery and of course hospitality of the people.