Whilst sipping a pomegranate juice watching the sun paint the stones a rich shade of dark pink, I had to admit that the sunset in Red Valley Cappadocia was one of the most colourful I had seen. Until this point other Cappadocia sunsets had not particularly impressed me.
In addition to being a fantastic sunset point there is no better way to spend an afternoon than to hike through Rose and Red Valley. The valleys in Cappadocia are full of picturesque hikes but this is certainly one of the best. Other fantastic walks to consider are through Love Valley, Gorkundere Valley and Sword Valley.
The rocks shine red, ochre and white but one of the most interesting parts of walking through these valleys is exploring the hidden churches. They can be difficult to find but the Red and Rose Valley Cappadocia map below marks the cave churches and viewpoints which should not be missed.
The descriptions in this post tell you everything you need to know to plan a hike and visit the sunset viewpoint.
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Red Valley Cappadocia Sunset Viewpoint
The main reason to visit the Red Valley Cappadocia sunset viewpoint is for the beautiful red rugged cliffs which come into their own during the late afternoon. As the sun sets you will be in no doubt as to why this is called the Red Valley.
This is the most popular sunset spot in Cappadocia with uninterrupted views all the way to Uchisar castle. As I mentioned earlier I found the sunsets in Cappadocia generally overrated but this was the one exception. I would worry less about visiting the other sunset points but definitely make sure to come to the Red Valley.
Try to visit mid-week since Cappadocia is a popular destination for domestic tourists during weekends.
To hike the two valleys start in the mid afternoon allowing a couple of hours for the walk, detailed below. If you don’t want to do any walking you can arrive closer to sunset. However, don’t leave it too close to sunset since it is a popular spot and the hillsides and cafes lining the valley rim fill up early. Many people bring their own chairs and a picnic and find a spot on the hillside.
Solitude is not easy to find during sunset. Your best chance is at the top of the hill with the large flagpole behind the valley. It is easily visible from the parking lot.
It is a hot climb in the afternoon sun so not many people make it to the top. However, the views and relative high likelihood of being on your own make the hard slog up worthwhile.
How to reach Cappadocia Red Valley Sunset Viewpoint
By car or public transport
- Car is the easiest way to get to the Red Valley. Goreme and Urgup have no public transport to this viewpoint but it is only 15 minutes by car from Goreme and less from Urgup. Leaving the Nevsehir – Urgup road, a small sign points the way to the Red Valley so keep a look out for the turn off. Shortly after the exit is the ticket booth where you need to pay for the entrance ticket to the valley
- Since there is no public transport unless you take a taxi or have a rental car the only other option is hiking
The shortest route is along the busy main roads unless you make an afternoon of it and take one of the recommended routes detailed below. I strongly recommend not walking along the main road
- Starting in Cavusin the viewpoint can be reached hiking through Rose Valley
- Alternatively, start at the Meskendir trailhead close to Kaya camping ground and hike through both Rose Valley and Red Valley
- It is possible to hike from Goreme but I would not recommend this option
The Red Valley itself is small. It is a breathtaking sunset viewpoint but for a more interesting hike I highly recommend adding Rose Valley with its astonishing churches and rock formations.
Hiking Red and Rose Valley Cappadocia
Where to start depends on where you want to end. If the answer is the Red Valley Cappadocia sunset viewpoint, this will also be the best starting point.
Since there is no public transport from this spot it is most convenient to have your own car or taxi to take you back to your hotel when it gets dark.
If you don’t plan on seeing sunset, Cavusin or Meskendir valleys are better starting points. It allows you to see more of the area and there is no entrance fee to pay.
Both routes are shown on the map below together with the location of the cave churches and viewpoints. In addition detailed descriptions are included of the route and each of the churches.
Route From Red Valley or Cavusin
Option 1 (marked in red) starts and ends at the car park by Red Valley Cappadocia sunset viewpoint.
Option 2 (marked in blue) starts and ends in Cavusin.
The points of interest shown on the map are:
- Red Valley Cappadocia Sunset Viewpoint
- Rose Valley Viewpoint
- Hacli Kilise – Church of the Cross
- Kolonlu Kilise – Columned Church
- Uc Hacli Kilise – Church of Three Crosses
- Best for: Hidden churches and red, ochre and white rocks glittering in the afternoon sun
- Distance: Option 1: 4.5 km – Option 2: 6 km
- Time: 2-3 hours
- Difficulty: Easy
Starting From Red Valley Cappadocia
The trail winds through cave dwellings and past colourful cliffs with the iconic shape of Uchisar castle in the distance. In the late afternoon or early morning the colours of the scenery come to life. For most of the day half of the valley is in the shade.
Making your way through the valley and up and down the hills it takes about 20 minutes to get to the cave church Hacli Kilisi (see below) from the car park. From here follow my description of the hidden churches and viewpoints in Rose Valley below.
When returning for sunset the cafes lining the valley ridge are clearly visible from a distance, as are all the people waiting for the sun to set.
Starting From Cavusin
If starting in Cavusin there is no entry fee for Rose or Red Valley and plenty of free parking. It is also easy to get a bus to Cavusin from Goreme and other towns in Cappadocia.
The downside is that the hike starts off with a boring slog along dusty roads. Quad bike tours often shoot past in the afternoon kicking up dust clouds. However, the hidden churches shown on the map above are not accessible to quad bikes so this part of Rose Valley is best explored on foot.
If you have a rental car another consideration of starting here is that you must return to the same point at the end of the walk. Therefore I recommend either hiking the two valleys from the Red Valley car park or do two separate trips – one to watch the sunset and one to hike Rose Valley. Make sure you do both whilst in Cappadocia.
Churches to Visit in Rose Valley Cappadocia
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of carved churches are hidden in the hills and cone-shaped rocks in Cappadocia. Stumbling across these old dwellings, castles, churches and frescoes is part of what makes hiking in the area so exciting.
You will pass many but the three churches marked on the hiking map and described below should not be missed on your walk.
Hacli Kilise – Church of the Cross
This church is sometimes described as being in Red Valley and sometimes in Rose Valley. Either way it is difficult to think of a more picture-perfect setting for a church and café than at Hacli Kilise.
Dug into a pink coloured cone-shaped rock a set of stone steps lead to the cave church high above the valley floor. The interior is small with one wall covered in detailed and well-preserved frescoes.
A large cross is carved into the roof and is thought to have given the church its name.
At the bottom of the steps is a wonderful little café which serves fresh juice and other refreshments and snacks.
One of my favourite memories from our time in Cappadocia is having a pomegranate juice looking over the deep red colour of the cliffs which surround the church. Given the elevated position of the café there are also sweeping views across the valley below.
Kolonlu Kilise – Columned Church
From the outside it looks like any other dwelling accessed via an unstable wooden bridge. When entering the rock cut room my first impression was affirmed – nothing special. That was until I climbed the concealed steps to my right.
In front of you a magnificent church opens up complete with columns and what felt like a 10-metre-high ceiling. I was blown away.
The walls and ceilings are not decorated in frescoes, unlike other churches in the region. Although it is a bit dark inside the bright white stone creates a special atmosphere and I think this was my favourite church we visited during our stay.
Being hidden away and a bit difficult to find this church is less visited than Hacli Kilise. It is also so different from anything you will see anywhere else so don’t miss this church during your hike!
Uc Hacli Kilise – Church of Three Crosses
Both Uc Hacli Kilise and Hacli Kilise have frescoes which are as good as those found in any of the museums in the region. The positive is that you don’t need to pay and you won’t have to deal with the crowds.
The ceiling fresco has been damaged but many of the paintings are colourful and well-kept. Three large crosses are carved in the ceiling, hence the name of this church.
Everybody stops at Hacli Kilise but Uc Hacli Kilise is less visited since it is more difficult to find and even more challenging to get into. Located halfway up a cliff it is a scramble to get both up and down.
On the plus side it means that you are more likely to have the wall paintings and frescoes to yourself.
Although severely eroded the multilevel cave complex has many rooms to explore. It was once a large monastery and behind the nave are dormitories and rooms where animals were kept.
Finding the Way
Red arrows on the rocks point the way to Hacli Kilise. The other two churches are less well marked and are easier to miss.
To ensure you locate all three and the viewpoint I recommend setting the route in the maps.me app. The app and local maps can be downloaded to your phone and then it won’t need to use any data. It is a great app for setting hiking routes or using as a satnav whilst driving.
If you have read some of my other hiking posts you will know that maps.me is my favourite app for directions. For further information on how to use the app read the relevant section of this post.
Why Are There so Many Churches in Cappadocia?
In the 1st Century AD the first Christians in the area were hermits seeking solitude, settling in caves or carving their own quarters in the soft volcanic rock. This is also the reason why so many of the churches and dwellings are high above ground. It was about seclusion rather than protection from enemies.
Ever larger Christian communities followed and the number of religious and residential buildings continued to grow. However, it was only in about 600 AD that the large-scale construction of rock cut dwellings, monasteries and churches started both above and below ground.
Whilst the first few hermits were looking for isolation and seclusion these cities were built for protection. From 642 the Arabs started to invade the region so safety was the main concern and resulted in people trying to hide where they lived.
The concealment worked and Christians continued to inhabit the area for centuries. In fact they prospered with hundreds if not thousands of churches dug into the cliffs during this period. Nobody knows the exact number.
Only around 1100 did the decline for the Christians in the area start. At this time gradual emigration of Christians resulted in Turkish farmers taking over the dwellings. Since security was no longer the main concern entrances were built on many dwellings which before had been disguised among the rocks.
The last Christians left in 1923 as part of a population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
To this day many locals still live in the cave houses in the region but the larger monasteries are now all museums. One of the last to be abandoned was Zelve, in the 1950s, after erosion and an earthquake made the buildings too dangerous to live in.
At quieter times of year it is worth driving through Cavusin village to park closer to the Rose Valley trailhead. To get to the small car park a few hundred metres into Rose Valley, keep right when the road forks by the old village ruins. After a couple of hundred metres you will find a car park next to a stable where horses are kept for the sunset tours.
The town itself is not that interesting, mainly full of modern houses. However, it is a good starting point for walks and activities such as horse riding or quad bike tours.
Cavusin also has a couple of interesting churches and the old village ruins high up on the hill beg to be explored. The sights worth seeing before or after your walk are
- Old village ruins
- Church of St John the Baptist
- Cavusin Kilise
The village looks sleepy but it is full of good value mid-range hotels. Some of the best hotel options are
- Agarta Cave Hotel: A small hotel with 16 cave rooms. It has good views of the hot air balloons as they fly overhead in the morning from its many terraces. The hotel also arranges tours.
- Phocas Cave Suites: The terrace with a hot tub has views of the old village ruins and is perfect for seeing the balloons fly overhead at dawn. With only 12 rooms it is one of the more intimate hotels in Cavusin.
- Jacob’s Cave Suites: a boutique hotel that consistently gets good reviews from travellers. Larger rooms have separate sitting areas and views over the mountains.
- Azure Cave Suites: restored from the ruins of an old cave house, Azure Cave Suits has 14 rooms. Situated on a hill the views of the landscape from the rooms and its terrace are fabulous. The hotel offers free pick up at the bus station for guests.
- Garden Inn Cappadocia: One of the larger hotels in Cavusin with 27 rooms, 2 restaurants and a bar. The hotel is built in stone to give rooms a feel of being in a cave. It provides good value for the services on offer.