Located on the central plateau of Anatolia, in a volcanic landscape carved by erosion that has formed a succession of mountain ridges, valleys and peaks known as "fairy chimneys" or hoodoos, the Göreme National Park and the rocky sites of Cappadocia extend over a region that covers the cities of Nevşehir, Ürgüp and Avanos, the sites of Karain, Karlık, Yeşilöz, Soğanlı and the underground cities of Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu. The area is flanked on the south by extinct volcano chains such as Erciyes Mountain (3916 meters) on one side and Hasan Mountain (3253 m) on the other. The density of its cells, churches, troglodyte villages and underground cities dug in the heart of the rock makes it one of the largest and most striking rock monuments in the world. Fascinating from a geological and ethnological point of view, the incomparable beauty of the setting of the Christian sanctuaries also makes Cappadocia one of the best examples of the Byzantine art of the post-iconoclastic period.
It is believed that the first signs of monastic activity in Cappadocia date back to the fourth century, when small anchorite communities, following the teachings of Basil the Great, bishop of Kayseri, began to occupy cells dug into the rock. Later, in order to resist the Arab invasions, communities began to regroup in troglodyte villages or underground cities such as Kaymakli or Derinkuyu which served as refuges.
Monasticism was already well established in Cappadocia in the iconoclastic period (725 AD-842 AD) as illustrated by the decoration of many sanctuaries that had only a minimum of symbols (usually crosses carved or painted with tempera). However, after 842, many rock churches in Cappadocia were excavated and richly decorated with brightly colored figurative paintings. Among the churches in the Goreme Valley are Tokalı Kilise and El Nazar Kilise (10th century), St Barbara Kilise and Saklı Kilise (11th century) and Elmalı Kilise and Karanlık Kilise (late 12th century-early 13th century).
Criterion (i): The rock sanctuaries of Cappadocia constitute, by their quality and density, a unique artistic achievement offering an irreplaceable testimony to the Byzantine art of the post-iconoclastic period.
Criterion (iii): The dwellings, villages, convents and rock churches preserve the "fossilized" image of a province of the Byzantine Empire between the fourth century and the arrival of the Seljuk Turks (1071). They are, therefore, the essential vestiges of a vanished civilization.
Criterion (v): Cappadocia is a prominent example of traditional human habitat that has become vulnerable under the combined effects of natural erosion and, more recently, tourism.
Criterion (vii): In an impressive landscape, dramatically testifying to the forces of erosion, the Goreme Valley and its surroundings offers world-renowned natural formations of hoodoos.