The Ihlara valley, located near the Hasan and Melendiz mountains (extinct volcanoes of Cappadocia), is a unique canyon about 100 m deep, formed by the Melendiz river thousands of years ago. Its length is 14 km, and it takes its beginning in the village of Ikhlara, and ends with the Selim monastery in the village of Selim. It is believed that there were more than four thousand homes and about a hundred rock churches decorated with frescoes. About 80 thousand people used to live here.
There are 4 entrances to the valley. The first is located at the very beginning of the valley in the village of Ihlara. The second, the most popular, is located on the 4th kilometer and it starts from the stairs, which has more than 300 steps. The third entrance is in the village Belisirma on the 7th km, in the middle of the valley. If you come by car, this entrance will be the most convenient for you, because here you can park your car freely. Also, in Belisirme, you can find several restaurants that are located on the Melendiz River, and a tasty meal. The last entrance is at the end of the valley in the Selim Monastery.
It is believed that the most beautiful part of the valley is the first 7 km (from the village of Ikhlara to the village of Belisirma). This is where you can see most of the churches and all the natural beauty of this place.
Not only tourists, but also local residents say that it is very pleasant to stroll along this centuries-old canyon among growing vineyards, poplars and pistachio trees to the soothing sounds of the Melendiz river, surrounded by rich wildlife: lizards, frogs, butterflies, birds, and others larger mammals such as lambs and sheep. The valley is also famous for its rock churches. Most of them contain scenes similar to those we could see in other churches in Cappadocia. They are a bit like the early churches of Syria and the Coptic churches of Egypt. The texts in the churches of Ihlara are unusually long.
One of the most important churches in the Ihlara valley is the Church of Kokar (Kokar Kilise - Smelling Church). It is located in the first quarter of the valley between the village of Ihlara and the main entrance. There are a lot of frescoes. On the left side you can see the "Annunciation", "Meeting", "Immaculate Conception", "Christmas" and "Adoration of the Magi." Right - The Last Supper, Betrayal, Crucifixion, Resurrection. On the door facing the entrance is the Deesis, and next to the scene “Flight into Egypt” and “The Last Supper” (the picture was badly damaged when, after a while, holes were made for the windows and the door leading to the burial room). On the ceiling, you can see the Ascension of the Lord and the Holy Trinity. On each side of the lower parts of the vault there are murals depicting standing and seated apostles.
The Purenli Seki Church (PürenliSekiKilise) is also located in the first quarter of the valley, 100 meters from the Kokar Church. It is completely covered with frescoes with exquisite details.
Agachalti Church (Ağaçalti Kilise - church under the trees) is located at the main entrance just 10 meters from the foot of the stairs. This church is made in a completely different architectural style and is very different from other churches of the Byzantine world of Cappadocia X-XI centuries. Here, more than anywhere else, the Eastern influence is felt. This church, also known as the Church of Daniel or the Church of Panthas (on the wall, opposite the entrance, is the fresco of Daniel in the lion's den). In the left part - "Annunciation", "Meeting", "Christmas" and "Adoration of the Magi." In the right - "Escape to Egypt", "Baptism" and "Assumption".
Other churches of Ihlara valley:
Egritash Church (Eğri Taş Kilise - Church in a steep rock)
Church of Sümbülü (Sümbülü Kilise - Church of Hyacinths)
Church Yilanli (Yilanli Kilise - Snake)
Karagedik Church (Karagedik Kilise)
Kirm Damulti Church (Kirk dam alti Kilise - Church under a lot of roofs) or St. George
Bahattin Samaklygi Church (Bahattin Samanligi Kilise - Church in the Bahattin barn)
Direkli Church (Direkli Kilise - Church with columns)
Ala Church (Ala Kilise - Colored Church)