Goreme is probably best known as the city from where to explore Capadoccia’s famous rock formations, but there’s actually a lot more to see in and around Goreme than just interesting rock formations. After reading this post, it may be time to look for some last minute flights and go for a long weekend.
The rock is the most unique aspect of the region. Hardened lava, the rock is relatively easy to carve and became the most popular building material in the region. Instead of building up, the local people built in and down. That’s right; they dug into the rock to create expansive cities, monasteries and churches. Monolithic buildings (made from one rock, also called rock hewn) are rather unusual in the world, and there are only a handful of examples of ancient monolithic architecture. We were fortunate enough to see monolithic churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia and in Goreme, Turkey and the city of Petra in Jordan.
The rock hewn churches in Goreme are unique mostly because of the incredible painting and decoration that remains on their walls. They are considered to be some of the best examples of post-iconoclastic Byzantine painting in the world. More than 1,000 churches have been found in the area, some with complete Byzantine wall-paintings, while others, even after restoration are still severely chipped, showing signs of older paintings underneath.
If you go to Goreme:
Take a trip out to see the rock formations or better yet take an air balloon ride at dawn. Then head out to see the underground cities (you can rent a car relatively inexpensively in Goreme or take a tour). The Goreme Open Air Museum, where most of the churches are congregated is a short walk from town. We rented mountain bikes in Goreme and took to the foot paths and canyons in the area, eventually having to hike our bikes out of the canyon in an unpleasant uphill scramble.