Red Valley (Overview)

Red Valley is Cappadocia’s most beautiful natural wonder. Surreal rock formations, pinkish-red colors, and ancient cave churches make Red Valley a top destination in Cappadocia.


Visiting


The best way is to experience Red Valley is by hiking on foot. You can tour the area on horseback or mountain bike (rentals in Göreme), but walking is preferable because the routes are technical and challenging. Motorized vehicles (cars, ATVS, motorcycles) are forbidden in Red Valley to preserve the natural beauty.


The best time to hike is morning or sunset. During these hours the colors blend together to create a spectacular landscape. And compared to midday when the sun is directly overhead, the weather is much more pleasant in the morning and evening. Never hike Red Valley at night time.


Red Valley is actually a series of interconnected valleys in between Göreme and Çavuşin. The Valley is 10 minutes from each of these cities by taxi. The best option is to take a taxi to Panoramic View Point (here on Google maps). You can enjoy the views overlooking the valley, hike through the valley, stop to visit Grape Church and Cross Church, and then walk into Göreme. Such a route is 5 kilometers long and mostly downhill. Be sure to get a map from a local travel agent before your hike.

Red Valley, Map of Churches

The unique terrain makes routes are very difficult to navigate. Unless you get lucky, you will not find any churches in Red Valley on the first outing. If you have limited time and want to see the churches or hike a specific route, you should hire a local guide.


History


Red Valleys incomparable landscape resulted from millennia of geological formation. The volcanoes Mt. Erciyes (near Kayseri) and Hasan Dağı (near Aksaray) spewed ash into the air. The volcanic ash settled and consolidated into a light, porous rock called “tuff.” Rain and wind have eroded away the soft rock, leaving behind the swirling cliffs and fairy chimneys.


Red Valley was first developed during the Byzantine period, during the renaissance of the Middle Byzantine Period (900–1100 AD). The Byzantine Greeks developed the valley’s agriculture and cave churches. They carved several kilometers of water channels, dug large cisterns, and terraced the valley floors. Such intensive agricultural investments allowed for a significant population to dwell in the valley. They also carved kitchens, beehives, and pigeons houses into the landscape. Many of these agricultural feature can be seen as you hike through the valleys.


The advanced irrigation system was largely abandoned during the Ottoman Empire. Today, Turkish farmers continue to cultivate their private fields, although Red Valley is part of the Göreme National Park.


Churches


Cave churches are scattered throughout the valley, and they can be hard to find. For more information on any of the churches, click the links below.


The two best cave churches to visit are Grape Church (Turkish, Üzümlü Kilise) and Cross Church (Turkish, Haçlı Kilise). They are fairy chimney churches with well-preserved paintings next to a “Tea Garden.” At both sites, you can examine medieval church frescos, enjoy beautiful vistas, and drink fresh-squeezed orange juice. Life does not get better than that!

Meskendir Monastery, Column Church, and Three Crosses Church are also worth visiting because of their unique cave architecture. You can also explore Rose Valley Monastic Area and St. John the Baptist Church towards the bottom (Western end) of the valley. Three churches in Red Valley are locked: Joachim and Anna Church, Ayvalı Church, and Zindanönü Church.

© 2019 Jason Borges

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