Ihlara Valley & Picnicking with Turks

Some of my friends hiked the Ihlara Valley several years ago, and we decided to check it out on our girls weekend. (Ihlara is about 50 miles southwest of Göreme.)

We asked the hostel owner how best to get there. He said there were too many of us to hitchhike and public transportation would require too many transfers. He said we could go with a tour group, but we didn’t want to see the other parts of the tours. We ended up hiring a mini-bus. There were 7 of us, and it cost 38TL each (about $18 USD). It worked our perfectly. The driver dropped us off at the entrance and picked us up about 5 hours later at the end of the trail.

Ihlara Valley has four entrance points. We decided to hike the entire 16 km. Entrance to the valley cost 5TL (or was free with the Müzekart).




For whatever reason, I thought we were going to a crater-type area that would be very flat and desert-like. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It didn’t look or feel like we were in the Cappadocia region!




The canyon was absolutely gorgeous. The Melendiz Stream ran along the trail:












There were a couple of rock churches along the way. Two were right next to each other. I wonder how that worked way back then… Was it like parts of America where there’s a church on every corner? It’s always cool to see the frescoes:




Very few people hiked the first section. As we got closer to the middle of the valley, the trails became crowded. There were several restaurants near the entrances. The tour groups and Turks didn’t go very far, though. By the time we got to entrance three, we had the trails to ourselves again.








It looked like we lost our way a couple of times on the last stretch. It weaved in and out of farms. These ladies waved and said hello. They were hard at work!




We ran across a shepherd a little further down. He was excited to meet us and offered to take our photo.




This is what he took:




Carved into the canyon walls were rock houses from the Byzantine period. Wikipedia says: 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.






Near the end of our hike, we passed a family of Turks picnicking by the water. The little boy with the yellow ball motioned to us and said, “Come!” The Turks also motioned and said, “Gel!”




And so we did. They had a feast of a picnic set out. After we finished eating, they packed everything up, so I think this was all their leftovers:




The family was so sweet. The boy and one other man spoke some English. Between that and the Turkish we know, we had a grand time. They took lots of photos with us and we enjoyed the mid-hike snack and çay. Turkish hospitality is the greatest. This was one of my favorite Turkish cultural experiences:






The trail ended at Selime Monastery. We explored it for a little while, but were all tired. Our driver picked us up and we went back to Göreme. I loved Ihlara! I definitely want to bring David back here sometime.


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