Located in Central Anatolia, Goreme is a small town in the heart of the historic region of Cappadocia. First inhabited by the Romans, Goreme was the setting of a Christian monastic complex in Middle Ages.
Today tourists flock the area to admire the scenic unusual landscape and take an up-close look at the unique rock formations, which surround the town, or visit the Byzantine churches and monasteries which are cut into the rocks.
Women travellers are suggested to dress modestly, since revealing clothes will attract unwanted attention all over Cappadocia.
Goreme (Göreme, pronounced guh-reh-meh, uh like er in “her”) is a town in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. The town is in the middle of an internationally popular region that is best known for its natural rock formations, often called “fairy chimneys”. The rock formations are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Nevtur, Göreme Tur and Kapadokya have bus services from Istanbul to Göreme -it takes about 10 hours. There are also services to Nevşehir, 20 minutes down the road). You can catch a bus from Istanbul by catching a ferry to the Harem ferry port. Make sure you book a couple of days in advance in peak times as buses book out. There are connections to Konya (3½ hours), Ankara (5 hours including a transfer in Nevşehir, 40 TL), Alanya (9 hr), Antalya (9.5 hr, 60 TL in Nov 2017), Bodrum (13 hr), Canakkale (17 hours), Denizli (10 hr), Kayseri (2 hr, 15 TL), Kusadasi (12 hr), Marmaris (13 hr), Pamukkale (10 hr), Selçuk (12 hr), Çıralı (10 hr), Trabzon, Van.
If you book your ticket directly to Göreme, make sure that the bus (or a smaller van associated with the bus company) will drop you off at the Göreme bus station (otogar) even if the bus ticket says Göreme. It is a common occurrence for a bus company to sell you a ticket that says Göreme but then drop you off somewhere in Nevşehir, sometimes at a tour office, and hope that the folks at the tour office will help you get to the o bus station. The Metro Turizm bus company is reliable, and the transfer is included in the ticket.
There are numerous buses from Göreme to other parts of Turkey.
The closest airports to Göreme are in Kayseri or Nevşehir Kapadokya Airport. To Kayseri Airport, Turkish Airlines, Onur Air or Pegasus have several flights a day from Istanbul. SunExpress is another low-cost option. Turkish also flies daily to Nevşehir.
Cheap Flights to Kayseri
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Outside the airport are only taxis (cost 12 TL to the main bus station, otogar) and arranged shuttle buses, no dolmuş. The stop for city buses is a bit down the road following the airport exit. The Kayseri otogar is far from the airport. From otogar, there are very few direct lines to Göreme (10 TL), but more frequent lines to Avanos, where you can transfer to a local bus for the remaining 9 km to Göreme; the station is unmarked and the ride costs 2.5 TL.
If you have a hotel transfer option, take it: it is much more convenient, and will cost about 20 TL per person from Nevşehir Airport, 50% more from Kayseri Airport (Nov 2017).
Turkish Airlines offers a shuttle from Nevşehir Airport to Nevşehir, Uchisar and Göreme for 12 TL (Nov 2017).
The town of Göreme is fairly small, and walking is your best option. Walking also provides excellent views of the surrounding canyons, which are sights themselves. Available for rent are mountain bikes, scooters, motorcycles and all terrain quads.
There is regular bus service to Nevşehir every half hour 07:30-19:30 (Nov 2017), and from there to regional destinations including the underground cities at Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. Dolmus service also runs about every hour to nearby cities like Avanos and Urgup. Make sure you know when the last bus back to Göreme is.
You can easily explore the town of Goreme on foot, since distances are very short. For exploring the surrounding area you will need to hire a car or scooter. If you feel fit enough, bike rentals are a popular choice as well. Goreme is connected with nearby towns by “dolmus” services (local shared taxis with pre-set routes).
Things to see and do in Goreme
Included in Unesco’s World Heritage Site List, Goreme’s Open Air Museum is one of Cappadocia’s most popular attractions. Extremely easy to reach, it is a less than 15 minutes on foot from the town’s centre. The visitor will follow paths that lead to ancient monasteries cut into rocks. Each monastery houses its own church, most of which are decorated with fascinating vivid frescos. If visiting during summer time, avoid the midday hours when the temperature reaches uncomfortably high levels.
Once entering the museum, you will come across The Nunnery. Featuring no less than 7 floors, the monastery is open to visitors, who will change floors by entering rock cut tunnels. One of the museum’s most popular churches, Apple Church took its name from an apple tree that once grew next to it. Dating back to 12th century, it presents well-preserved frescos depicting scenes from the Bible.
Featuring an extra entrance fee, Dark Church offers the most vibrant and well-preserved frescos of all of the museum’s churches. Its name derives from the lack of sunlight due to the very few windows, which is actually the fact that contributed the most to keeping the frescos intact. Except the fascinating frescos, the visitors will also see three ancient graves near the church’s narthex.
The ticket of the Open Air Museum also covers the entrance to nearby Buckle Church. Goreme’s largest church, Buckle Church features four main chambers: Old Church, New Church, Lower Church and Paracclesion. The New Church was curved at the eastern side of Old Church about a century after the original construction, while both sections feature interesting frescos from different periods. The Lower Church houses a burial crypt.
Rock-churches around Goreme spread beyond the grounds of the Open Air Museum. Hike the trails of nearby Gulludere (Rose) Valley, to explore more churches and enjoy some fascinating views of the impressive chimney-like rock formations. A cave-café is also available within Gulludere’s grounds. Neighbouring similar valleys include Pigeon and Love Valley.
Five kilometres away from Goreme, stands Uchisar Castle. Located on Cappadocia’s highest spot, the castle also features dozens of rock-cut chambers, some of which had been used as churches in Byzantine times and some of which are still being used from local farmers as dove cots. Many of the chimney-rocks surrounding the castle had been hollowed and used as graves in by the Romans.
While in Goreme, find some time to treat yourself at the town’s Turkish Baths, or window shop at the local craft stores. The area is known for its traditional textiles and carpets, as well as its ceramics. Bargaining is part of the game here, so don’t forget to negotiate the price before purchasing.
Göreme has a wide selection of natural and cultural wonders. Walking through the village you will be amazed at the bizarre ‘fairy chimney’ rocks cut naturally by the wind and rain.
Several tour operators offer one-day packages (green tour, red tour, blue tour) that may include a stop at a caravansari, one of the amazing underground cities, a walk through the ancient churches decorated with frescoes, and finally a stop at a carpet, pottery or onyx shop. These one-day tours can make your journey significantly easier. Prices can vary, e.g. 145 TL per person in Sept 2017, or 100 TL in Nov 2017.
You can usually book tours through your hotel. Avoid buying at the shops, as you pay 2-3 times higher through commissions.
Red tour: the red tour could include:
- Göreme Esentepe for panoramic view over the town of Esentepe, and the surrounding landscape of fairy chimneys;
- Göreme Open Air Museum, a collection of monasteries, churches and chapels that date back to the Middle Ages. Its religious buildings exhibit elaborate and beautifully preserved frescoes.
- Pasabag – Monks Valley for its three-headed fairy chimneys located in a vineyard.
- Devrent Valley, a lunar landscape of small, pointed fairy chimneys.
- Avanos Pottery workshop
- Three Beauties (or Three Graces) are three fairy chimneys located near Urgüp.
Green tour: the green tour could include:
- Meskendir Valley for a 450-m trek through magnificent landscape and visit to famous Meskendir Church, adorned in geometric red embellishments.
- Rose/Red Valley for its beautiful rock formations and hidden rock-carved churches.
- Cavusin Cavusin Village, one of the oldest villages in the region, known for its cave houses which are a labyrinth of ruins chiselled into the rock face, and for the 5th-century cave church, the Church of John the Baptist.
- Underground City: Of the 36 underground cities built by the Christians to escape persecution, this is the widest and most famous. It has 8 different levels, of which you can explore 4, and has a network of wineries, kitchens and living areas.
- Pigeon Valley which has pigeon houses carved into the cliff faces over centuries — farmers used pigeon manure as a source of fertiliser for their crops.
- Uchisar Castle panaroma – the highest peak in the area which offers spectacular views across Cappadocia and Erciyes Mountain.
- Love Valley and its huge phallic formations naturally formed by erosion of the volcanic rock 9-13 million years ago and up to 40 metres high.
What to do in Göreme
- Sunset Point – Every night local guys will be up at the highest point in town (North) showing off horses, ATVs, family-owned caves or private gardens to female tourists willing to listen. The spectacle alone is worthwhile. The view at sunset (or sunrise with the balloons) is well worth the 10-minute walk uphill. Everyone in town knows Sunset Point.
- Hiking – Following the paths along the valleys is an amazing (and free) option. Check with your hotel owner or the tourist office for a map of the area with suggested walks and trails. There are several nice loops on packed dirt, sand and rock, that maintain a constant elevation and pass through the scenic valleys.
- Pigeon, Love, and Red & Rose valleys can be walked individually or together and each ‘trail’ offers different landscapes. Pigeon valley walk starts from the end of the street Flinstone’s Hotel is on and leads to Uçhisar (approx 1 hour). Love Valley starts from the Onyx Factory at the bottom of Uçhisar and takes you to Çavuşin (approx 1 hour). Red & Rose Valley is on the way back to Göreme and can be seen on a 2-hour 15 TL sunset tour (available everywhere) or you can easily spend 1-4 hours walking around the valleys independently. All stunning landscapes and fun to walk around. The paths are poorly marked.
- Hamami/Turkish Bath – There is a Turkish bath near the center of town to relax after a long day of hiking. The standard service for steam room, mud face mask, soap massage, and scrubbing is 80 TL (Nov 2017). An additional tip for your bath attendant is strongly urged.
For a cheaper option take the 15-min scenic minibus ride to the nearby city of Nevşehir where you can get the same service in a non-tourist place for as low as 25 TL. Just get off at the main intersection in Nevşehir and ask around for “Hamam”.
Pottery – Avanos, 10 km away, has been a pottery center for centuries. Many stores will sell pottery in Göreme, and you may end up at a pottery workshop at the end of a tour, but for the best prices, head into Avanos and wander around the back streets. Compare the prices and quality, and if you are worried about it surviving shipping or your backpack, ask them to stand on it to test the strength (vases, jugs, and larger objects should take their weight). While the quality in touristy shops is often high, you will be paying 2-3 times what you otherwise would.
Carpets – Göreme and the surrounding area are known as one of the top places to buy carpets in Turkey. Their proximity to well known local weaving villages means the prices are generally cheaper than Istanbul and the atmosphere for purchasing far more relaxed with few if any hassles. Try Tribal Collections -Nomadic Ruga & Textiles- they get the best reviews.
Göreme has a wide selection of typical kebabs and pide, and some unusual ‘pottery’ dishes (testi kebap) that are prepared and served in a clay pot which you can ‘break’ open. Often the ‘pottery kebabs’ are cooked earlier in the day so check around to see which restaurants require a ‘pottery kebab’ booking – it’s likely that they will be the places that make the kebab on the spot (they take about an hour to cook). Many of the restaurants and bars change hands on a regular basis, making specific recommendations difficult.
- Alaturca, with mains from 15-20 TL, is considered to be one of the finer dining establishments in central Turkey, but is overpriced for the quality of food and a stiff service that is out of place in an otherwise informal town. Alaturca is on the secondary road that heads towards the Open Air Museum.
- There is a large concentration of stray animals here in the high-season.
Hiking is mild, not notably strenuous or fraught with danger that can’t be ascertained by oneself. Women, however, should not go hiking in the valleys alone as there have been a few incidents over the years.
Hotels in Goreme
Move on to Malatya or Kahta and take a tour to Mount Nemrut. (UNESCO World Heritage site)
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