Ihlara Valley - the deepest gorge of Anatolia
The township of Ihlara is famed for the nearby valley of the same name, Ihlara Valley, which is a 16 km (10 mi) long gorge cut into volcanic rock in the southern part of Cappadocia, following several eruptions of Mount Erciyes. The Melendiz Stream flows through the valley.
What makes the valley unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants. The whole canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut underground dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period built by the Cappadocian Greeks. The Greeks ended their long history here with the mass exchange of populations between Turkey and Greece in 1923.
Due the valley's plentiful supply of water and hidden places, this was the first settlement of the first Christians escaping from Roman soldiers. In the Ihlara Valley there are hundreds of old churches in the volcanic rock caves. The best-known churches are Ağaçaltı Kilise (Church Under the tree) with cross plan, Sümbüllü Kilise (Hyacinth Church, Pürenliseki Kilise (Church with a Terrace), Kokar Kilise (the Smelly 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).
Kokar Kilise (The Smelly Church)
The Kokar Kilise is located in the first quarter of the valley between Ihlara Village and main entrance. It can be entered through a ruined apse. The original entrance has been blocked by a landslide. There are many frescoes covering the walls of Kokar Kilise. On the left side, you can see the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Proof of the Virgin, the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi scenes. On the right, you will see the Last Supper, the Betrayal, Jesus being Led Away, Jesus before Annas and Caiaphos, the Crucifixion and the Entombment. On the door facing the entrance there is a Deesis above, with scenes of the Flight to Egypt and The Last Supper below was badly damaged when openings were made at a much later date for windows and a door leading into the burial chamber. On the ceiling you can see the Ascension and the Pentecost together with a large Greek cross with the hand of God giving benediction in the centre. On each side of the lower parts of the vaulting there are frescoes depicting the apostles standing and seated.
Purenli Seki Kilisesi (Church with the Terrace)
Purenli Seki Kilisesi is also located in the first quarter of the valley, around 100 m from Kokar Kilise. You have to climb about 25m above the level of the river. It is composed of an entrance, a burial chamber and a double naos, separated by pillared arcades, each having an apse. The church is covered by frescoes classified as «archaic» but characterised by exquisite details, a strong sense of design and amazing freedom of expression.
Agacalti Kilise (Church under the Tree)
When you turn right at the bottom of the stairs from the main entrance, you will find yourself 10 m from the church. Prepare yourself for a surprise when you enter the church through the ruined arch for a totally different style of architecture. This church is quite different from the other churches of the Byzantine world of the 10th and 11th century Cappadocia, with its harmoniously contrasted colours of red, green and yellow, the subjects of its paintings and its decoration of flowers, rosettes and checkerboard patterns, all betraying strong eastern influence. The Church, also known as the Church of Daniel or the Church of Pantassa, has a free cross architectural plan.
On the wall opposite the entrance there is a fresco of Daniel in the Lion's Den. The left cross-arm contains the Annuciation, the Visitation, the Nativity and the Magi. The right cross-arm contains the Flight into Egypt, the Baptism and the Dormition. The Dormition of the Virgin (Koimesis) is unique as far as Cappadocia is concerned. It is composed of two scenes. In the first scene, Mary is lying on a bed, with Christ accompanied by St. John sitting on one side of the bed to recover her soul. In the upper scene Christ is shown holding his Mother's soul, with an Angel behind him.
REGIONS AND SITES OF CAPPADOCIA
♦ Underground City of Derinkuyu - the largest & deepest excavated subterranean city, which could house up to 20.000 people
♦ Underground City of Kaymakli - the next largest excavated subterranean city, which could house up to 5.000 people
♦ Göreme National Park & Open-air Museum - cave churches with frescoes
♦ Zelve Valley & Open-air Museum - an empty cave town with churches
♦ Paşabağ (Monk Valley) - mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys
♦ Ihlara Valley - the deepest gorge of Anatolia
♦ Devrent Valley (Imagination Valley) - animal-shaped fairy chimneys
♦ Uchisar Castle - A rock-cut castle. You’ll see it driving back and forth
♦ Ortahisar Castle - Troglodyte village with rock-cut castle
♦ Sobessos - The only late-Roman/early-Byzantine settlement found in Cappadocia, mosaic pavements, Roman baths
♦ Avanos Town - Town of pottery & craftsmanship
♦ Hacibektaş Town - Centre of Bektasi sect of Islam
♦ Gülşehir Town - First settlements in Cappadocia
♦ Caravanserais - Inns, «caravan palaces» on camel trains through Asia Minor