All of the Byzantine and medieval churches in Cappodocia are carved into the soft volcanic tufa rock, and are found in the Goreme Valley Open Air Museum. It is one of the most famous attractions in Turkey, and Cappodocia churches tours are taken by virtually all vacationers who visit this area of the country. The many monasteries in Cappodocia carved out by Orthodox monks are also located here.
The majority of these Cappodocia churches and monasteries were carved out and embellished between 900 and 1200 AD, inspired by three noted Eastern Orthodox theologians: St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Basil the Great, and his brother St. Gregory of Nyssa. Together, the Cappodocia churches in the Goreme Valley comprise a vast UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Goreme Valley and churches in Cappodocia are located almost exactly in the center of the country. It is more than 400 miles from Istanbul as well as the ruins located along the west coast in places like Ephesus and Izmir that draw the majority of tourists to Turkey. For this reason, most people who embark on Cappodocia churches tours will book vacation packages of 10 to 14 days in length that include several destinations in their itineraries. Generally, the best hotels in the region suitable for international tourists and close to Goreme will be found in the nearby city of Nevsehir. However, there are some truly unique boutique hotels that are actually located in caves located closer.
There are a good dozen or so Cappodocia churches that you can explore. The Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise) is named so because it is reached via a long, winding tunnel that allows little light to penetrate. Used as a pigeon coop for many generations, it took more than a decade to scrape off the pigeon droppings. But the reward was finding the most well-preserved Byzantine frescoes in the group, and an additional fee is charged for entrance to the Dark Church because of that. Your museum ticket allows entry to all the others. Vacation packages will include this main entry ticket, but you might want to ask if that includes entry to the Dark Church. Even if it doesn’t, the additional fee is nominal.
The largest of the churches in Cappodocia is the Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise). This cave also should not be missed. This church contains the finest frescoes, with the richest colors and greatest detail adorning gracefully carved arches and soaring, barrel-vaulted ceilings. The frescoes chronicle the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary and his baptism to the crucifixion and resurrections.
If your Cappodocia churches tours follow the order of the marked path after the entrance to the museum, the last one you will explore is neither a church nor a monastery. It is a remarkable six-story convent, complete with multiple rooms, hallways and stairways, tunnels, dormitories and sleeping cells, and sanctuaries. It is believed that as many as 300 nuns were housed here. If you have time after visiting the Open Air Museum, you may want to explore the little village of Urgup, which is quite close by. Here modern houses are nestled in between the ancient chimneys and rock-carved living quarters of the ancient residences. This is where you will find the boutique hotels inside caves.