ihlara Valley Cappadocia – Aksaray

by Öykü Çağ
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Aksaray ihlara Valley is one of the valleys of the beautiful horse country Cappadocia, which make yourself say “how do I start, how do I to tell” and it is really hard to tell without seeing it.

Ihlara Valley Cappadocia

Ihlara valley is within the borders of Aksaray province in the south of Cappadocia region. It is visited by daily tours from Cappadocia. You will find detailed information about Ihlara valley on our page. If you want to visit Ihlara valley, we recommend you take a tour of Cappadocia Ihlara Valley (Green Tour) which also visit Derinkuyu Underground city. If you want to participate in the private tour with a private vehicle and guide, please contact on the reservation page.

The formation of the valley begins with Hasan Mountain’s eruption of a volcanic layer by spraying lava centuries ago. Over the time, floods, winds and the Melendiz Stream, the route of which is the valley, this volcanic layer is eroded. The floor of the ground is deeply carved and the Ihlara Valley, which looks like a canyon, with its depth of up to 120 meters, and the length of 14 kilometers, forms. Although its geological explanation fits in a short paragraph, this valley, which has deep meanings like mystery of the creation of the world, does not actually have a similar example. The effect it creates is understood when you have passed the 397 step stairs, which some travelers actually counts, and do not want to go up again like the monks who lived here in ancient times. Not from tiredness, but from the energy comes from the valley.

Aksaray Ihlara Valley

Accompanied by Hasan Mountain, Aksaray Ihlara Valley is a place that first does not appear when stepping down the path and make you think ‘is it overrated? where is this valley?’ and then surprises you with its heavenly atmosphere.

The valley starts in Ihlara Village and ends in Selime. According to the standard walking route, you arrive in Belisırma Village before arriving in Selime, in this way, an average of 6 km is walked in the valley, whose total length is 14 km. Both sides of the Melendiz Stream are suitable for walking, if you wish, you can return to the starting point. If you do not finish the route in Belisırma Village, you can go to Selime through the valley and walk the entire valley in about 5 hours.

Melendiz Stream, which is accompanied by the sweet glamor while walking, was called “Potamus Kapadukus”, which means Cappadocia Stream, and according to the former inhabitants of the valley it is called “Peristremma” which means the people of water which spins and flows. This small stream, which is the confidant of the valley for centuries, draws about 30 meanders throughout the valley and reaches a length of 18 km with the meanders it draws, although the valley is 14 km. Melendiz visits Selime, Yaprakhisar, Belisırma villages towards the northwest, takes the name Uluirmak near Aksaray and pours into Salt Lake. It must be the companion of this stream, which allows Ihlara Valley to be stored like a green oasis in this dry steppe. Besides the Melendiz Stream, which has reached the highest water level in spring and winter, there are also healing water sources in the valley. Bath cures of Ziga Spa, which is 3 km away from Yaprakhisar near the end of the valley, is good for gynecological diseases and rheumatism. And the drinking cure is said to be a cure for liver, gallbladder, stomach and intestinal diseases.

While the climate outside the valley is inland, it forms like the Mediterranean in the valley. The wind blows and calms down, the sun does not burn and sweat, the plants diversify and give a luminous glow like emeralds. Vineyards, gardens and many plants, including almonds, walnuts, even pistachios, are growing here with ease. It is also making your soul peaceful to hear the concert of the hoppers which mixed with Melendiz’s voice and the flapping of pigeons and quails. Although we call Melendiz a small stream, you can see carps and trout’s in the water while walking through the valley. Young people living in the region hunt these fish, and restaurants located in the vicinity are masters in cooking.

There are 105 religious’ buildings in Aksaray Ihlara Valley, with steep slopes and protected from the outside world, giving insight into the former owners of this secret paradise. In the early periods of Christianity, the monks and priests used the valley as a sacred place to dedicate themselves to God. These steep rocks were also used as a shelter by those who fled wars from time to time. Churches, monasteries, graves and shelter areas connected by tunnels carved into the rocks have created a city with a never-ending valley. In the valley, which offers surprises as meeting the underground churches in its narrowing shapes while walking, only 14 of 105 buildings have survived to be visited due to the previous collapses. Of these 14 churches, there are 2 Belisırma Churches that can be dated. Since the first floors of most churches built by carving into the rocks are filled with alluvium brought by Melendiz, the 2nd and 3rd floors can be visited. The story of the churches in Ihlara Valley, which is a very important point for the Christian world, includes a history as deep as the valley, and continues from the 4th century until the 11th century. The Seljuks, who conquered the region in the 11th century, do not allow the construction of churches, but they do not ban the worship from continuing in the churches that were built before.

As you walk around the rock-cut churches and shelters in the valley, you wonder how the people live here at that time. If you think that life in such a nature and between sheltered rocks is easy and carefree, you are mistaken. There were many epidemic diseases in Ihlara Valley at the time. The mummies, even with preserved hair strands, of the nuns and children who died of smallpox were moved from the tomb section of churches to Aksaray Museum. The worship in Ihlara Valley churches continued until 1924. Even if its doors are no longer opened to monks, it is waiting for its visitors among the rocks to tell its age-old story quietly.

Where is Ihlara Valley, How to Go?

Ihlara Valley is located northeast of Hasan Mountain and starts from Ihlara Town, which is in Guzelyurt district of Aksaray province.

As we mentioned at the beginning of the guide, attending a daily tour is the easiest and most enjoyable way. You can join the Ihlara valley tour departing from Cappadocia. In this way, you will not have problems with the road, and you can also visit 3.4 additional important points.

Ihlara Valley is 40 kilometers away from Aksaray, 100 kilometers away from Nevsehir and 148 kilometers away from Kayseri. There are different road alternatives for coming to the valley. If you are going by your own vehicle, you can reach the valley by turning after the 11th km of Aksaray – Nevsehir road. From this road, you can either enter the Hasan Mountain and Akcakent routes and proceed on a straight road, or if you want, you can also use the Gucunkaya road where you will see the sign. Gucunkaya road takes you to Kizilkaya, Selime and Yaprakhisar and take you to Ihlara Valley turnoff.

If you go by bus, there are also buses from Aksaray at certain times of the day. If you are going to come to the valley with a tour bus, let us tell that you are luckier than those who come by private car or bus. Because tour buses leave you in Ihlara Village and take from Belisırma Village. So, you do not have to go up the stairs you have went down again.

Ihlara Valley Places to Visit

We suggest you take a full day to understand and digest the Aksaray Ihlara Valley, which we call ‘You cannot finish traveling’, it is the place. Because for the valley, you will go on a magical journey that you cannot say ‘I saw the history and nature, it is over.’. They already use the same phrase for the valley, ‘The magic of Cappadocia’!

Aksaray, where the valley is located, was a very important center in the birth of Christianity. Important sect founders such as Basilus of Kayseri, Gregorius of Nazianos came to the region in the 4th century and established a monastic life with a Greek-Slavic system. Contrary to the monastic life in Egypt and Syria, they tried to spread their religion among people who speak different languages without breaking their relationship with the world. The first center of this movement was Belisırma Village, one of the Ihlara Valley stops.

In order to tell Christianity to the people of the region who do not speak Latin, the churches are decorated with frescos in which they draw Jesus, the Bible scenes and saints. In very few of the churches carrying the traces of this formation on the 14-kilometer valley floor, frescoes have remained alive until today. The painting technique used in frescos is classified in two categories regionally. While churches in Ihlara region are called Cappadocia type, churches around Belisırma are considered as Byzantine type.

Cappadocian Type Churches in Ihlara:

In these churches of the first Christian era, the biblical scenes in frescoes were painted according to the understanding of the saints Basilus of Kayseri and Gregorius of Nazianos. Except for the Agacalti Church, which has the last Roman influence in this category, quite long paintings have been made with the eastern traces of Egyptian and Syrian monastic life.

Agacalti Church

When you pass the box office in Ihlara Valley and get down the stairs, you will see the Agacalti Church on your right. Being the closest church to the entrance of the valley made it the most visited church in the valley. The entrance of the church is on the 2nd floor where the apse part is located, and the main entrance is under the ground. According to a narration, since the main entrance was not known, the church was entered with tree branches in ancient times, so it is called ‘Church Under the Tree’. In some literatures, it was called St. Daniel based on the destroyed fresco that the Prophet Daniel showed among the lions, in some it was also referred to as the Panthalassa Church based on an inscription inside. It is remarkable that the fresco depicting lions is unique to Iran, not Christians.

The frescos of the church are dated to the dark period called iconoclasm and between the 9th and 11th centuries. The cross arms of the carved structure with three abscissa and a free cross plan are covered with barrel vaults and the main space is covered with a dome.

The frescoes are painted in red, yellow and gray colors on a white background. The cross in the north is of vegetable and geometric weight, decorated with crowded motifs. In an article inside the church, St. Mary was called the ‘queen of the heavens’ and all the scenes of Mary are divided into two as her death and her way to heaven. The cross arm to the right of the entrance depicts the Migration to Egypt, the Miracle of Lazarus. The Gospel, Birth, Baptism, Revelation, and the Rise of Jesus to the Sky are among the other fresco scenes.

Sumbullu Church

The Sumbullu Church, just to the left of the valley entrance, got its name from the hyacinth flowers grown in the region. Since the entrance to the church is through a narrow window, it is one of the most memorable churches among the churches visited in the valley. The church was originally built as a cross between the 11th and 12th centuries as a monastery church. The first floor carved into a large rock mass with 2 floors is left as a cave without considering an architectural plan. The second floor, which is reached by stairs, is divided into 5 places; two doors, four rectangular columns and 3 windows are made. A dome that looks flat on the east side of the flat ceiling is carved. It is covered with a barrel vault.

Like all Cappadocia churches, the Sumbullu Church is decorated with frescos. St. Mary pictured between Michael and Gabriel in the apse, The Death of St. Mary, The Birth of Jesus, Three Jews and Christ in the Oven and saint depictions are the most important frescoes.

Yılanlı Church

When you pass Ihlara Valley entrance tolls and go down the stairs, it is located on the left side of Selime. When you cross a bridge and go 20 meters, you reach the stairs. Due to its location, it leads the way in the most visited churches of the valley. The Sumbullu Church is located on the opposite slope of the church.

Yılanlı Church is a church that differs from other Ihlara Valley churches with its plan and frescos. While other churches mostly feature scenes from the Bible, there are also paintings of the other world in the frescos of the Yılanlı Church. Again, although the actual construction date is unknown, it is dated between the 9th and 12th centuries.

Yılanlı Church arms are built with a wide, long Greek cross plan and in an advanced style. The main entrance to the north is destroyed, the church is entered from a region that used to be at the end of the entrance corridor. From the corridor located on the south of the church, the only abscissa of which is carved on the left long wall, is entered into the narthex closed with a barrel vault. The cross arms in the north and south surround the central space with an embossed cross on the ceiling. There are monk graves in the flat ceiling chapel in the north of the narthex. The church was left unfinished for an unknown reason.

Yılanlı Church got its name from the depiction of four sinful naked women attacked by 8 snakes painted on the western wall. The pictures are quite evident, but the crime of the first woman attacked by snakes is unfortunately not understood as the inscription is destroyed. According to some sources, she is a woman who abandoned her child and that is why snakes bite her all over. In the continuation of the description, the snakes bite the second woman from the chest because she did not breastfeed her child, the third woman from the tongue for lying, and the fourth woman from the ear for not listening. Again, on the same wall, there is the ‘Last Judgment’ scene, where 24 saints and 40 Martyrs Portraits from Sivas are painted.

Other paintings include the Entrance to Jerusalem, the resurrection of Lazarus, the death of Mary’s family, Yoakim and Anna, and the burial of Mary.

Kokar Church

Kokar Church, one of the oldest churches of the valley dated to the 9th century, has managed to come by preserving the frescoes thought to have been built in the second half of the 11th century. It is possible to enter the church with a cross plan through its apse covered with frescoes. Built with a single nave, single storey, barrel vault, the church was enlarged further inward during the Byzantine period. There are two grave chambers inside, and it was the first among these rooms with its red paint.

Gray is used as the dominant color in church frescos. The topics covered are quite extensive. On the vault in the central space of the church, a large cross is depicted, emphasizing Jesus. In the square frame inside the cross, the ‘hand symbol’ with a three-blessing sign is used and its surroundings are decorated with geometric shapes. Scenes depicted in church frescoes; The Last Supper, Jesus’ Birth Annunciation, Baptism, Crucifixion, Ascension, Judgment Day, escape to Egypt, Duties of the Apostles, Going to Jerusalem. The subject integrity is observed in the scenes and it is depicted as watching a story.

Purenliseki Church

The church, which is thought to have been built between the 10th and 12th centuries, got its name from the puree grasses grown in the valley. It lies to the north of the Kokar Church in the valley. It consists of 4 sections carved into the rocks and 2 naves covered with barrel vaults. While the entrance opens to the hall, other sections are passed from the hall. There are also grave rooms on the narthex floor to the west of the northern nave of the church. Despite having a primitive style and frescos in dark colors, descriptions in their frescos are very important. The narthex has the scenes of “Forty Martyrs from Sivas and Deesis” in the north and the “Last Judgment” in the west.

Prophet’s Prophecy in the southern nave, in the apse dome, in the lanes towards the bottom, Mary with the bishops, depictions of the prophet, Annunciation, Water Experiment, Visit, Travel to Bethlehem, Three Worshipers and Shepherds, Last Supper, Entrance to Jerusalem, Women in the Empty Grave was painted.

Egritas Church

Egritas Church is one of the oldest buildings of Ihlara Valley and it has built at the end of the 9th century and before iconoclastic era. The most prominent feature is being the biggest and graves of the region. It is understood that the building has built to tribute for St. Mary from the inscriptions on the west walls. In the west of the temple, which has a single nave and barrel vault, a separate space was built that connects the church with graves, but some parts were destroyed. The area where the funeral ceremonies were held on the downstairs of the church, which was built as two floors, was connected to the cemeteries with this place.

The most prominent fresco, which inspired by the Bible telling, of the Church is Virgin Mary pictured between six bishops and two angels. Other than that, there are many special frescos are worth seeing.

Byzantine Churches in Belisırma Village

Different from the churches that close to Ihlara Valley, there are churches that reflecting Byzantine features both their architectures and fresco depictions. The construction date of two churches in Belisırma are known exactly. These are Direkli Church which is dated from 976 -1025 and Kirkdamalti (Saint Georges) Church which is dated from 1283 – 1295.

Direkli Church

Direkli Church was built as a monastery, but it named Direkli, because of its central dome architecture which was built on 6 poles. The Church is important about its inscription in Latin on the wall. In this inscription has the construction date and donor Isaak. It consists of a closed Greek cross and consists of three apse and one dome. In order to enter the Church, the door at the North are used and through the door in the Church can be reached to the monk’s graves and the rooms of church members.

It is thought that the damaged pictures of the churches made by 2 painters and in different times. The frescos on the walls were damaged but Jesus, with the disciples and saints can be noticed.

St. Georges (Kirkdamalti) Church

St. George Church, which is in the Ihlara Valley and 1 km far from Belisırma Village, is located the top of the valley. It was constructed between 1283 – 1295 years and dedicated to St. George according to epitaph on the wall. On the frescos both Bible depiction and Sultan of Seljuks II. Mesut were depicted.

This depiction II. Mesut’ proof for being a supporter to build this church and this is the reason to make the church more important. Different depictions about Jesus can be seen on the wall.

Karagedik Church

Karagedik Church has the architecture that belongs to Late Byzantine from 11th century. Ancient people of Belisırma Village named it as St. Ermelo’s. It looks like in a circle. Almost the whole building was devastated. From the remaining frescoes, it can be seen a part of the death of St. George’s description.

Ala Church

Ala Church is located on the north of the Belisırma Village and on the west of the valley. It was built, when the date for acceptance of Christianity, at the beginning of the 11th century the facing of the church was decorated and corrected.

A part of the building was converted to a place for producing linseed oil for light. Big part of frescoes in the church was devastated but still can be seen something about saints and other descriptions.

Bezirhane Church

Bezirhane Church is located at the rear of the Ala Church. It has lost its actual beauty because they built at 12th and 13th century and it was not protected until today, so the frescoes cannot be seen clearly. Also, since the place was used for producing linseed oil so the inner place, some parts blackened. 

Bahattin Hayloft Church

 While you are walking through to Belisırma Village, you will see Bahattin Hayloft Church at the west of the Melendiz Stream. Frescoes of the church, which are colored at the end of the 10th century and at the beginning of the 11th century, were protected well until today.

It is named from a countryman who used this place as a hayloft. The church was built with rectangular plan, single apse and one nave. Killing of Prophet Zechariah, Dream of Yusuf and Water Experiment, Crucifixion of Jesus are some depictions on the wall.

Batkin Church (Acikel Aga Church)

This church is dated from 8th century and just a ruin remained. While walking through from the west to Belisırma, you will encounter the terrace. The church is located under this terrace.

What is more in Ihlara Valley?

If you walk throughout Ihlara Valley to Selime, you will see two churches in Yaprakhisar Village. These churches are located on the east of the valley. Davullu Guvercinligi Church is one of these two churches and it is located at the right corner and it has some iconoclast depictions. Koyunagili Church is the other one and it is located at the left corner and it is dated from 11th century.

When you arrive at Selime, Castle Monastery Church will welcome you at the out of the valley. Castle Monastery Church is one of the biggest religious buildings in Cappadocia and very special for Byzantine art. The church has the most popular times in between 8th century and 14th century and it is still very special for Orthodox. The Ascension of Jesus, St. Mary and Mary and Gospel are scenes on the frescoes.

During the walking in Ihlara Valley, you will see a house like a shed on the Melendiz Stream. You can take a break sitting on these sheds, can drink or eat something. In Ihlara Valley which is known as ‘The Magic of Cappadocia’, you can dream about the life in these carved stone buildings. Take many photographs at the outside because it is forbidden to take photos in church.

Ihlara Valley Entrance Fee 2020

Ihlara Valley entrance fee 2020 is 45 TL. If you have MuseumCard you can visit it two times in a year, if you have MuseumCard Plus you can visit unlimited.

Visiting Times

April – October (Summer season)

07:00 – 19:30

November – March (Winter season)

08:00 – 17:00

For the regulations, museums and archeological sites are closed on the first date of religious holiday until 13:00.

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