The rupestral sanctuaries of Cappadocia constitute an unique artistic achievement in a region of superlative natural features, providing irreplaceable testimony to post-iconoclast Byzantium. The dwellings, village convents and churches retain the fossilized images of a province of the Byzantine Empire between the 4th century and the Turkish invasion.
The eroded plateau of the Göreme valley is a spectacular example of the effects of differential erosion of the volcanic tuff sediments by wind and water. Typical features are pillars, columns, towers, obelisks and needles that reach heights of 40 m. The major remnant of erosion, Akdağ (1,325 m), is the dominant feature in the valley. The nearby Erciyas volcano is still active with occasional minor eruptions. Its outstanding example represents the Earth's evolutionary history. Within these rock formations people have excavated a network of caves which served as refuges, residences, storage and places of worship dating from the 4th century. The surrounding landscape is agricultural with a number of small scattered rural villages.
The historical setting, the rock-hewn churches and the unusual eroded landforms combine to produce a mixed cultural/natural landscape of unusual appearance. Architectural styles are based on the local stone and the valley has changed little over the centuries.
Although the area has been extensively used and modified by man for centuries the resulting landscape is one of harmony and consideration of the intrinsic values of the natural landforms. There has been some earthquake damage to some of the cones and pillars but this is seen as a naturally occurring phenomenon. In the ruin like landscape of the Cappadocia plateau where natural erosion has sculpted the tuff into shapes which are eerily reminiscent of towers, spires, domes and pyramids, man has added to the workmanship of the elements by digging cells, churches and veritable subterranean cities which together make up one of the world's largest cave dwelling complexes. Although interesting from a geological and ethnological point of view, this phenomenal rupestral site excels especially for the incomparable beauty of the decor of the Christian sanctuaries whose features make Cappadocia one of the leading examples of post-iconoclast Byzantine art.