Ihlara is situated at about 40 km from Aksaray, near the town of Güzelyurt, and it is widely known for the nearby valley of the same name, Ihlara valley.
The volcanic eruption of Hasan Dağı mountain left the surface of the region covered with a layer of volcanic rock. The same volcanic activity also put pressure upon the limestone causing it to crack and create natural springs of hot water, which can be seen at Ziga thermal springs between Ihlara and Yaprakhisar. The structural characteristics of the region, produced by volcanic activity, are tuff outcrops which were moulded by wind, erosion and other natural phenomena and this created the strange and colorful fairy-chimney landscape that can also be seen at Selime and Yaprakhisar.
The valley is the result of the collapse of rocks originally erupted by Mount Hasan, which is located to the west of Niğde. A small stream, now called the Melendiz river, found its way through the rocks and in millions of years it enlarged its bed. The resulting canyon is 15 km long.
Ihlara Valley was one of the first areas settled by early Christians escaping from Roman persecution. With the defensive structures of Mount Hasan providing defence against Arab invaders, the churches cut into the rock here were able to continue in peaceful worship. Ihlara valley has protected these rock-cut dwellings and churches with frescoes and made it possible for us to admire this unique historical treasury. These frescoed churches and dwellings are scattered all along the way from Ihlara to Selime through the valley.
The valley features hundreds of churches carved into its volcanic rock caves. The best-known and most-visited churches of Ihlara valley are Ağaçaltı church, Sümbüllü church, Pürenliseki church, Kokar church, Yılanlı church, Karagedik church, Kırkdamatlı church, Direkli church, Ala church, Kemerli church and Egritas church. Most of the churches are located between Ihlara and Belisırma villages.
Work has begun to renovate walking trails and public conveniences for visitors in Ihlara valley. With the new renovation project, the staircases down to the valley and churches and the walking trails will be reorganized. The staircases will be rebuilt from weather-protected wood, and all of the information signboards in the area will be standardized.
Ihlara valley can be visited on the Canyon Hiking Tour, which includes a 7 km hike along the Melendiz river from Ihlara village to Belisirma. The whole valley can be hiked on our private Hiking in Cappadocia Tour.