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Cappadocia Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley,  a magnificent canyon


From Aksaray take the Nevşehir asphalt for 11 km and you will see on your right the turnoff fort he Ihlara Vadisi. The valley is actually approximately 33 km. from Aksaray. Also known as the Peristrema Valley, the Ihlara Valley continues through  Belisırma and Yaprakhisar and ends at Selime Köyü. Ihlara can also be reached via  Niğde and Derinkuyu. Four kilometers of the 14km-long valley are easy to see and tour.
During the tertiary geological era, the tectoic  movement  that caused  the eruptions of Mount Erciyes in the east and Hasan Dağı in the west resulted  in the surface of  the region being covered with a volcanic layer. While the mixture of different types of  lava created Rolling plains, the hard lava layers at their outskirts with dense concentrations  of andesite and basalt eventually were transformed into layers  of volcaic tuff and limestoe. In addition to the effects of natural phenomena such as rain, snow and wind, the Melendiz Çayı’s [Stream] erosion of this lave over millions of years eventually caused the formation of the long, deep Ihlara Valley, which has the appearance of a canyon, surrounded as it is by 100-150 meter-high rocks and step cliffs. The Melendiz Çayı, winding its way along the cracks it had eroded,was origially amed Potamus Kapaduks,meaning  Cappadocia River. After passing through Ihlara, the Melediz Çayı passes through Belisırma, and near Aksaray takes the name Ulu Irmak [meaning ‘great river] before flowing into Tuz Gölü, ‘Salt Lake’.

During the tectonic movements mentioned above, naturally hot water sprang through the broken faultlines to form the Ziga Kaplıcaları [thermal springs ] located between Yaprakhisar and ıhlara. The surroundings of Selime Köyü are filled with fairy chimneys of  different shapes and colors.
Considered oe of the world’s most important and beautiful canyons, the Ihlara  Canyon, together with the Valla and Kara Cehennem canyons in Kastamonu, the Çoruh Valley, the Eşen, Köprülü, Saklıkent and Güver canyons of Antalya and the Lamas and Mut  canyons of Mersin, are among Turkey’s major  canyons. Before beginning to tour the Ihlatra Valley, take a look at the general panorama from the sightseeing terrace. Listen to the birdsong coming from the incredibly  beautiful emerald-gree trees. Then descend the roughly 400 steps to start your tour in the direction of the flowing water among the  acacia, willow, pistachio, nettleberry, poplar, almond and walnut trees and bushes of rosehips.

The characteristic geography and strategic location of the Ihlara Valley provided an appropriate location for clerics and monastics for worship and seclusion from the earliest years of Christianity. In the four th cetury Saint Basileios and Saint Gregory established the regulations for a  form  of religious life different from that practiced in Egypt and Syria; this was the cenobitic, or  communty form, of  monastic life which did not rest on cutting off all ties with the world. This new concept flourished in Belisırma and was widely imitated, later giving birth to the Greek and Slavic systems that were an alterative to the monastery systems of Egypt and Syria.
Known to be born in 329, Saint Gregory became a  leading Christian Saint in large  part because of the different interpretation he made of the  Holy Trinity accepted  at the Council of Nicea(present-day İznik) which had taken  place Son of God and the four Bibles were affirmed.

In later eras the churches carved from the rock would appear in Güzelyurt, Belisırma and Ihlara. In some cases the churches and monasteries were connected by  tunnels. Even during the era of Arab invasions the well-hidden  churches in the valleys continued to  function. The frescoes in the churches of the Ihlara Valley are dated to different periods, from the sixth through the thirteenth ceturies.

While the wall paintings in the churches  close to te Ihlara Valley are somewhat remote from Cappadocian art, with a visible Oriental influence, the churches close to Belisırma show a marked Byzantine influence. In the churches that were generally constructed in three storeys, the first levels have been filled with alluvial deposits carried by the  Melendiz Stream. Of the churches that are in a condition to  be toured, it is generally their second and third storeys that can be viewed.Of the 105 churches that include those that have been demolished or buried in debris, the number of churches stil standing is only about fifteen.


Cappadocia Ihlara Valley