Thousands of years ago, when Erciyes was an active volcano, the lava from its eruptions covered an area of 20,000 square km. Then the tremendous wind and water erosion shaped the volcanic flows for hundreds of years. As a result the softer rock and soil were eroded away, leaving on tall pillars to form the fairy chimneys of Göreme.
Christians, taking shelter in the valleys because of Arab raids, named this place “gör emi” meaning ‘you cannot see this place. By time it changed to Korama and then to Göreme. With its very interesting fairy chimneys and the rock-cut churches, the valley of Avcılar, 17 km from Nevsehir and 6 km from Ürgüp, attracts travellers’ attention. St Paul considered the town to be more suitable for the training of missionaries.
There are about 400 churches in the vicinity of Göreme which was one of the important centres of Christianity between the 6th and the 9th C.. Goreme area may once have been bigger including Mustafapaşa, Avcılar, Uçhisar, Ortahisar and Çavuşin. But today it’s limited to this small valley.
One o f Turkey’s World Heritage sites, the Göreme Open-Air Museum is an essential stop on any Cappadocian itinerary. A cluster of rock-cut Byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries 1km uphill from the centre of the village, it deserves at least a two-hour visit.
Göreme village is surrounded by the magnificent Göreme National Park. Valleys with gorgeous scenery and a mixture of ancient pigeon houses and even more ancient rock-cut churches fan out from all around the village. A handful of valleys are easily explored on foot; each needs about one to three hours. Most are interconnected, so you could easily combine several in a day. These are some of the most interesting and accessible valleys:
A word of warning: most of the valleys have signposts directing you to them, but nothing to keep you on the straight and narrow once you get there. Nor are they all particularly easy to walk. On top of that, there’s no detailed map available – you’ll have to rely on very basic printouts.