Ancient Cave Towns of Cappadocia, Turkey

The unique and beautiful region of Cappadocia in Turkey is known for its original rock formations, balloon flights and cave towns where people have lived for millennia. The soft sandstone made it easy for the locals to carve out caves large enough to create their own homes inside. Some of the ancient settlements are located in cliff walls, others in the mountains and some are even composed of a complex network of underground tunnels resembling a termite mound! In this post I'll describe the most spectacular as well as easy to reach ancient cave towns that we visited near Goreme - don't miss them while exploring the region!

 

Goreme town

 

Goreme is unique in the sense that the ancient cave towns where the local communities lived for centuries are still used until this day! Now, you can enjoy your own accommodation (there are some nice and simple options that are very affordable!) inside a cave - the way it has been in Cappadocia for centuries. It's an amazing experience, especially that the views around are out of this world!

Just walking around you can encounter wall paintings and other, abandoned abodes that were used in the past. Not only people live in the caves in Cappadocia - pigeons do too! There are hundreds of pigeon houses also carved out of the various rock formations. Take a look at my full article about the town of Goreme and it's rock columns, caves and valleys nearby.

 

Goreme Open Air Museum

 

Goreme Open Air Museum is located only around 2 km (1.25 miles) from Goreme - you can easily get there walking. It is an "ancient district" of Goreme where all the cave homes and churches had been used by Byzantine Monks and later the area became a pilgrimage site.

Goreme Museum is mainly famous for its beautiful, lavishly decorated with colorful frescoes, temples (especially Karanlik Kilise) which are entirely carved out off the sheer sandstone wall. Besides the churches, I also loved the kitchen, dining room and ordinary houses - all inside the caves. It's amazing to experience something so unique.

The only annoyance about Goreme Open Air Museum is that is has the atmosphere of a museum rather than a real ancient site, due to the high numbers of visitors. If you want to visit less touristic, completely untouched sites similar to this, check my articles the cave towns in neighboring Georgia and Armenia.

 

 The town of Goreme

The town of Goreme

 A room in a cave

A room in a cave

 Goreme Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum

 Goreme Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum

 Dining room

Dining room

 A stove

A stove

 Ruins of a church

Ruins of a church

 Another beautifully decorated dining room

Another beautifully decorated dining room

 Frescoes on the wall

Frescoes on the wall

 Karanlik Kilise Church

Karanlik Kilise Church

 

Kaymakli Underground City

 

Kaymakli is located only a 30 min drive south of Goreme. You can get here by taking a tour (there should be plenty tourist offices offering tours to all the cave towns) - they are not too expensive and can save you some time. If you prefer to come to Kaymakli on your own, you can also do it by taking a mini van to Nevsehir and then to Kaymakli - this way you can see this amazing site almost for free!

Kaymakli Underground City (dating back to as early as 8 century BC!) is my favorite of all cave towns in Goreme. This is because the entire city is located underground - all the houses, churches and even wineries are carved out of rock. It was a perfect place to live as well as to hide from invading armies. A complicated network of tunnels connect different chambers and parts of the city. As I've said before it all looks like a termite mound and it's so simply extraordinary to explore the tight passages - mind your head!

 

Guzelyurt and Selime

 

Guzelyurt (90 km/55 miles from Goreme, around 1 h 30 min drive) is located right beside the spectacular Ihlara Valley (which I've described here). To get to Guzelyurt, apart from driving, the easiest way is to take a tour in Goreme. You can also do it by mini buses but you'll have to change multiple times: Goreme - Nevsehir - Aksaray - Guzelyurt.

The main attraction in Guzelyurt is the amazing Selime Monastery which was the place where first Christians settled after fleeing persecutions inflicted by the Romans. The monastery is highly impressive with its massive columns, frescoes and chambers. It also offers great views over the area. Nearby Ihlara Valley boasts over 10 000 homes carved out of rock!

Please not, that unfortunately there is a fee (ranging from 5-10 EUR/7-14 USD) at every cave town.

 

 Map of Kaymakli Underground City

Map of Kaymakli Underground City

 Kaymakli Underground City - stone used to grind grapes for wine

Kaymakli Underground City - stone used to grind grapes for wine

 Winery - grape juice flowed into this container

Winery - grape juice flowed into this container

 Squeezing through the narrow passages

Squeezing through the narrow passages

 Passages of Kaymakli

Passages of Kaymakli

 Kaymakli

Kaymakli

 A deep shaft used for ventilation as well as transporting goods

A deep shaft used for ventilation as well as transporting goods

 Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

 Narrow passage

Narrow passage

 Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

 Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

 Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

 Selime Monastery

Selime Monastery

 View over Ihlara Valley

View over Ihlara Valley

 View from Selime Monastery

View from Selime Monastery

 

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