Former names of the town have been Korama, Matiana, Maccan or Machan, and Avcilar. When Göreme Valley nearby was designated an important tourist destination, a "center" for all tourism in Cappadocia, the name of the town was changed to Göreme for practical reasons.
The Göreme National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985.
The time that the Göreme was first settled is unclear, but it could date back as the Hittite era, between 1800 and 1200 B.C. The location was central between rivaling empires, such as the Greeks and Persians, leading the natives to tunnel into the rock to escape the political turmoil. During the Roman era, the area became home to Christians retreating from Rome. Christianity prevailed as the primary religion in the region, which is evident from many rock churches that can still be seen today.
Among Göreme's historically important sites are Ortahane, Durmus Kadir, Yusuf Koc and Bezirhane churches, in addition to the richly decorated Tokali Kilise, the Apple Church, and a number of homes and pigeon houses carved straight into the rock formations in the town.