Nobody has the time to visit the hundreds of cave churches in Cappadocia. So, which churches are the best to visit?
Here is CappadociaHistory.com's official list of “The Top 10 Cave Churches in Cappadocia.” The criteria for selecting these churches included:
the quality of preservation,
the beauty of the setting,
and the skill of artistry.
The list involves a variety of unique churches. You can learn more each church by reading the related article.
1. Tokalı Kilise/Buckle Church (Göreme OAM)
Tokalı Kilise is actually four churches and a hermit’s cell, all in one space. New Tokalı Kilise is the finest church in Cappadocia, in terms of painting and architecture. This is the crown jewel of Cappadocia that art history books always reference. Read more here.
2. Karanlık Kilise/ Dark Church (Göreme OAM)
Dark Church features the most vibrant and impressive paintings, thanks to recent restorations. Detailed frescos from the life of Jesus meticulously fill this compact space. Learn more here.
3. Grape Church/ St. Niketas (Red Valley)
This church has beautiful floral designs covering the ceiling. The setting is absolutely stunning—inside a fairy chimney overlooks the beautiful Red Valley. Nearby are beehives, a winepress, a hermit’s cell, and graves. Read more here.
4. Pancarlık Kilise/Beet Church (Ortahısar)
The eccentric shape of Pancarlık Church reflects a long, rich history. This is one of the longest used church spaces in the entire world. Plus it features robust paintings within a peaceful valley. Read more here.
5. Elmalı Kilise/ Apple Church (Göreme OAM)
The frescos are abundant, brilliant, and well-preserved. This church is similar to Karanlık Kilise, though slightly less impressive. Read more here.
6. Ağaçaltı Kilise (Ihlara Valley)
This small church features bright pastel colors and a very sophisticated dome. The church is in Ihlara Valley, the most beautiful setting for any Cappadocian church.
7. El Nazar Kilise (Göreme)
The physical context of El Nazar Church is simply iconic—a perfectly shaped, stand alone fairy chimney. On the inside, frescos are nicely preserved and the dome is impressive. Read more here.
8. Eski Gümüşler Monastery (Niğde)
Eski Gümüşler is the only four-sided courtyard complex in Cappadocia. The impressive design overwhelms and inspires. The church inside is impressive, but not finished. Read more here.
9. Çanlı Kilise (Aksaray)
Çanlı Kilise is Cappadocia’s finest masonry church. The church is monumental and detailed. About 25 courtyard complexes with chapels surround this abandoned historic site that overlooks Hasan Dağı. The area of Çanlı Kilise, though remote, is enchanting and inspiring. Read more here.
10. Kubbeli Kilise/Domed Church (Soğanlı)
Kubbeli Kilise is actually three neighboring churches with external domes that shape the skyline. The architecture is creative and ambitious. The setting, just uphill from the creek and opposite the large Karabaş Monastery complex, is serene and idyllic. Read more here.
These pictures alone should get you going. All 10 of these churches are easily accessible, so visit them all!
If you are looking to visit certain areas with multiple nice churches, the top spots are the Göreme Open Air Museum and Ihlara Valley. Both areas have about 10 nice churches in a beautiful context. They are easy to visit, but are the most crowded. For less crowded areas with some churches, you can visit Zelve, drive to Soğanlı Valley, or hike Red Valley.