Ihlara Valley’s attraction for tourists increases every year
AKSARAY - Anatolia News Agency
What makes the Ihlara valley particularly unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants and the anicent buildings. The Ihlara Valley hosts many churches representing the typical features of the periods in which they were built. The churches built from carved rocks meet the plant cover formed by Melendiz River.With its natural and historic beauties, the Ihlara Valley in the Central Anatolian province of Aksaray’s Güzelyurt district is receiving an increasing number of tourists from all over the world every year.
Regarded as one of the most spectacular canyons in the world, the Ihlara Valley is a 14-kilometer long canyon formed after several eruptions of Mount Erciyes, located in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. The Valley hosts dozens of churches and monasteries dating back to fourth century. Built by the early Christians, these ancient structures formed a natural wonder by meeting the waters of Melendiz River that runs through the valley, offering a spectacular view. The visitors can descend to the inside of the Ihlara Valley with a 382-step stairway.
Due to its natural structure, the Ihlara Valley was used as a hermitage by monks and priests for centuries. There are various icons with Biblical themes and figures on the walls of the churches, making the area a major destination for faith tourism.
The Ihlara Valley hosts many churches representing the typical features of the periods in which they were built. The churches built from carved rocks meet the plant cover formed by Melendiz River.
The number of tourists visiting the valley is increasing steadily every year. In 2010, a total of 244,972 people visited the valley, 113,210 of whom were from abroad. In 2011, this figure had risen to 297,835 tourists, 152,800 of whom were foreigners.
Although the valley was recently closed to tourism for two months due to the danger of rocks falling, the increase in the number of tourists also continued in 2012. Last year, a total of 323,799 tourists visited the Ihlara Valley, 179,799 of whom were foreigners.
Aksaray Culture and Tourism Deputy Director Mustafa Doğan said the Valley hosts an unlimited amount of historic and natural wonders. Doğan said the valley, which is often called “the heart of Cappadocia,” preserves its beauty in every season, adding that they aimed at increasing the number of visitors even further through various promotional works.
What makes the valley particularly unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants. The whole canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut underground dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period.
Due the valley’s plentiful supply of water and hidden places, here 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 most well-known churches are Ağaçaltı Church with its cross plan, the Sümbüllü Church, the Pürenliseki Church, the Kokar Church, the Yılanlı Church, the Karagedik Church, the Kirkdamatli Church, the Direkli Church, the Ala Church, the Kemerli Church and the Egritas Church.