A well-hidden natural paradise at the south of Goreme lays a small town named Ihlara. It’s renowned as a famous attraction for its valley that formed from the multiple eruptions of Mount Erciyes. Ihlara Valley is a scenic landscape with the Melendiz stream passing through it. Walking through the valley’s route you’ll find several chapels, monasteries and churches, 16 of which are available for the public’s viewing. There are actually 105 churches that exist. What make the churches fascinating are the paintings and carvings housed inside them.
Historically, Ihlara Valley was where the Cappadocia Greeks lived during the Byzantine period, hidden from Roman soldiers. It also figured as a vital religious center where monks can retreat and worship in peace amidst nature. The stream provided water resources and vegetation grew. For centuries, communities lived here proven by the cave dwellings and churches dotting the area.
Sections are divided into 4km loop, 7km loop, 15km loop and the full loop of 32km. The hiking trail starts with a descent of 382 steps. It’s an easy hike and you’d come across different forms of wildlife and catch sight of a waterfall. You can even take a swim on the cool waters. Nature is very abundant as you sweep your eyes upon grassy areas and see eye-catching wildflowers in the trail.
Near the main trails you’ll see the remarkable ancient churches in a variety of architecture. You can pick which ones you want to explore.
Churches of Ihlara Valley:
Kokar Kilise Church (The Smelly Church)
Located in the main area of Ihlara Valley, Kokar Church is painted in gray. This Church showcases several biblical frescoes that display the Anunciation, the Last Supper, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Crucifixion, the Entombment and several religious images. The ceiling also featured the Ascension and the Pentecost.
Purenli Seki Kilisesi (Terrace Church)
Nearby Kokar Church, you’ll find Terrace Church where there’s a burial chamber. There’s also a 25m ascent above the river level that’s required. You’ll find ancient frescoes with strong details and design.
Agacalti Kilise (Church Under the Trees)
Situated in the south entry, the Church under the Trees is designed with vegetative and geometrical figures. This church is a sight to behold for its unique Byzantine architecture. It showcases red, yellow and green frescoes consisting of familiar images such as the Baptism, the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Magi. There are flowers, rosettes and checkerboard designs that can be attributed to Eastern influence. One of the most interesting frescoes is Daniel in the lion’s lair. In fact, it’s also called as the Church of Daniel.
Down the Selime district, you’ll come across the Selime Cathedral. This ancient structure was built for Christians to hold their religious rituals. In fact, it’s known as the location of the first vocal ritual 1,700 years ago. This also functioned as a good hiding place from the Roman soldiers back then.
The other best-known churches in Ihlara are Sümbüllü Kilise (Hyacinth Church), Yilanli Kilise (Church with Snake), Karagedik Kilise (Church with Black Collar), Kirk Damatli Kilise (St George Church), Direkli Kilise (Church with Pillars), Ala Kilise (Mottled Church), Kemerli Kilise (Church with Belt), Egritas Kilise (Church with Crooked Stone) and Bahattin Kilise (Bahattin's Granary Church).
Ihlara Valley can be likened to an open-air museum for its rich history and magnificent natural environment. This “Pearl of Cappadocia” offers amazing hiking trails. There are rest stops along the way like the Belisırma village to have a refreshing drink and some snacks. Find time to wander around this idyllic valley!
Ihlara Valley, Cappadocia, Turkey
$5 USD (30 Lira)
Included in Green Tour
8am - 7pm