This valley is situated 40 km from Aksaray and can be reached making a turn at the 11th km of the Aksaray-Nevsehir road.. The canyon was created by the cracking and collapsing which occurred as a result of basalt and andesite lave from Mt.Hasandag’s eruption. The Melendiz river found its way through these cracks, eroding the canyon bed and helping to form canyon we see today. The Melendiz river was used to be called “Potamus Kapadukus” which means the River of Cappadocia. The 14km long, 100-150m high valley begins at Ihlara an ends at Selime. There are numerous dwellings, churches and gravesbuilt into the valley walls, some of which are connected by tunnels and corridors.
The valley proved to be an idela place for the seclusion and worship of monks, and a hideaway and defense area for people during times of invasion. The decorations in the churches can be dated to various times from the 6th to the 13thcenturies, and the churches can be classified into two groups. The churches near to Ihlara display frescoes with Oriental influence. Those nearer to Belisirma display Byzantine type decorations. Very few Byzantine inscriptions in this area can be read. Above a 13th century fresco in the church of St.George (Kirkdamalti), the names of Seljuk Sultan Mesud II (1282-1305) and the Byzantine Emperor Andronicos II are inscribed. This is proof of the tolerance of the Seljuk rulers.
The best preserved frescoes are to be found in the churches of Agacalti, Purenliseki, Kokar, Yilanli and Kirkdamalti.
Agacalti Church (Beneath The Tree)
The plan of this church is cruciform, with domes, a barrel vaulted ceiling and three apses. The main apse and the southern apse are collapsed. Entrance to the church is by this collapsed main apse. It is also known as the church of St.Daniel, due to the picture of St.Daniel on the wall opposite the entrance. Red, grey and yellow were used on a white background to decorate the church. The vault of the north arm of the cross is covered in various motifs.
This church belongs to the Pre-Iconoclastic period or between 9th and 11th centuries.
Scenes: Annunciation, Visitatino, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Flight into Egypt, Baptism, Koimesis (Falling Asleep of Mother Mary), Daniel among the Lions; on the dome are Ascension and portraits of the saints.
This single nave, barrel vaulted church is entered by way of the collapsed apse. Beyond the nave the rock was further dug out to form a burial area. The main color of the paintings is grey. A large cross is painted on the well-preserved vault, and a hand painted within a square in the center of the cross symbolises the Triple Sanctitication and around it an embellishment, divided into 4, full of geometrical patterns. The church is dated to 9th century.
Scenes: Deesis, Annunciation, Visitation, Proof of the Virgni, Nativity, Adoration of the Magi, Baptism, Three Young Men in the Fiery Furnace, Flight into Egypt, Last Supper, Betrayal of Judas, Crucifixion, Women at the Tomb, Ascension, Entombment, Pentecost and portraits of saint.
Yilanli (Snake) Church
This barrel vaulted church has one apse and is built on a cruciform plan. Monks’ graves are housed in the chapel on the north wall. The church gets its name from the painting of four naked, sinful women being attacked by serpents on the west wall. As the inscriptions have been worn away, the sin of the first woman attacked by 8 serpents is unknown. The second woman’s breast is being attacked because she did not breast feed her baby. The third woman is being attacked on the mouth for telling lies, and the fourth’s ears are under attack because she was disobedient. This church dates back to the end of the 9th century.
Selime is situated at the end of the Ihlara valley. Fairy chimneys rest on the steep hilside, and a basilica style cathedral, the Seljuk tomb of Selime Sultan, whom the town was named after, a hollowed our citadel and churches are also found here.
Guzelyurt is 45 km from Aksaray and 15 km from Ihlara. With its beautiful nature and 19th century architecture it is an important place for visitors to Cappadocia.
Gregory of Nazianzus, who worked hard to spread Christianity in the area, turned Guzelyurt into an important center.
Churches found in guzelyurt are, Yuksek, Kizil, Silvisli, Ahmatli and Koc. Guzelyurt also boasts a church built in 1891, now used as a mosque.