IHLARA VALLEY – AMAZING RIVER GORGE IN CAPPADOCIA

The Ihlara Valley is an incredible gorge with a stunning river running right down the heart of the valley for 16km within the volcanic rock. It is near the province of Aksaray but still considered part of the southern Cappadocia region. It’s a great spot for a relatively easy walk amidst some peaceful, leafy nature as well as being a hub for cave churches, of which you will find many along the trail.

 

HOW TO GET TO IHLARA VALLEY

Most people visiting Cappadocia will stay in Goreme or Uchisar, both of which are quite far from Ihlara Valley. We decided to rent a small car for the day, which cost us $40 USD plus gasoline. Ihlara Valley is an 80-minute drive from Goreme. However, along the way is the popular Derinkuyu Cave Village, which we visited. This broke up the drive and is also considered one of the top attractions in Cappadocia. On our day-trip from Cappadocia we visited Derinkyu Underground City, Ilhara Valley and then boosted down to see the pink salt lake, Lake Tuz.

Below you can see the Ihlara Valley Map, which shows the gorge in the southern part of Cappadocia.

 

 

TOURS THAT TAKE YOU THROUGH IHLARA VALLEY

The GREEN TOUR in Cappadocia is a pretty awesome day out and includes a short trek in Ihlara Valley.

  • Visit the Derinkuyu Underground City, the largest underground city in Turkey and the deepest in Cappadocia
  • Explore Ihlara Valley, a picturesque destination which begins in Ihlara Village and ends in the Selime Monastery
  • Witness hundreds of churches carved into the walls of the gorge, which date from the 7th to 11th centuries
  • Drive to Pigeon Valley, filled with pigeon houses and dovecotes, and enjoy great panoramic views of the city

You can CLICK HERE to check the prices and make your booking now for the Green Tour.

 

ABOUT IHLARA VALLEY

Ihlara is a small township 80km south of Goreme, Cappadocia and 40km from Aksaray Province. The Ihlara Valley is the most popular attraction in the region with the 16km-long gorge cutting its way through the volcanic rock. It was created after several eruptions of the nearby Mount Erciyes, which I’ve photographed in the background of the town below. The Melendiz Stream winds through the gorge creating an idyllic, peaceful atmosphere with birds chirping, dragonflies zipping about and even turtles and frogs on the river banks.

The Ihlara Valley is mostly comprised of the section running from Selime to Ihlara Village. Along the route, you will come across lots of churches. 16 of the 105 churches are open to visitors and there in intact paintings and carvings inside.

The Ihlara Valley has a unique ancient history, which is evident from all of the cave dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period built by the Cappadocia Greeks. This local population was forced to leave the area and move to Greece in 1923 during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece.

If you are keen to see amazing architecture and cave dwellings from this era but don’t want the big drive to Ilhara you can visit Goreme Open-Air Museum or Zelve Open-Air Musem, which are both near Goreme.

 

MY EXPERIENCE AT IHLARA VALLEY

We rented our car in Goreme and drove to Derinkuyu Cave Underground Village before continuing on to Ihlara Valley. Before we began the hike we grabbed a bite to eat at a small local shop called Baba Kebap, which had a lovely father-son combo dishing up some great meals. I highly recommend it for before or after your hike and this is right next to the main parking lot near the mosque and cafes.

While there was a sign here for Ihlara Valley it was still a bit confusing to find the entrance/trailhead but of course, the locals pointed us in the right direction and we headed off up the hill for 500 meters to the ticket office/entrance, which I’ve pictured below to help you find it.

 

The entrance fee was 30 Turkish Lyra, which is about $5 USD. There is a very useful map at the entrance and at the parking lot near the cafes. It shows you the different sections and the lengths. There was a 4km loop, 7km loop, 15km loop and the full loop of 32km. Of course, you could exit at other points, getting a ride back but we decided to try and do the 7km loop, which in my opinion is probably the best as the valley is quite consistent throughout the journey as I’ve been told and witnessed from the aerial. So by doing the 7km loop or 15km loop, you will see more than enough churches, cave dwellings, wildlife, and waterfalls!

 

The entrance wound down the stairs in what would be the biggest decline/incline of the whole hike. It’s relatively flat and easy-going along this trail. Before the trail had even started we were off into a waterfall. Can you believe there is a waterfall in Cappadocia!? At first, we just checked it out but when we returned after the loop, we actually went for a swim in it. There were lots of rocks under the surface so it isn’t good for cliff jumping but the cool water was very refreshing.

 

From here on the trail runs alongside the river for the rest of the walk. I think this spot will blow a lot of people away because it is such a dry, brown landscape in Cappadocia typically, but in Ihlara Valley you are in a green oasis. 

For a few hours, you can forget you are out in the dry, desert and experience the sounds of the forest as you walk beneath tree arches, clamber over boulders and stroll through the grassy openings. Wildflowers of all colors paint the sides of the path and lead your eyes off the trail and toward the towering cliffs on either side of the gorge.

 

Throughout the trail, there are lots of churches, many of which you can explore. They all take a small trail off from the main path and you choose which ones you want to visit or to stick to the path and continue down the gorge. We choose to visit a couple and they both had paintings inside, which were in great condition. It’s truly remarkable to witness all of the architecture and styles of living in the Cappadocia region.

 

When most people think of Cappadocia, it is balloons, fairy chimneys and a dry desert that comes to mind. Never did I think I would come across wildlife in rivers and waterfalls. However, in Ihlara Valley we not only saw frogs, fish, dragonflies, birds, and lizards but also a turtle!

 

The Ihlara Valley seems to go on forever but it is up to you how far you want to venture down. After a couple of hours, we turned back and completed the loop of the gorge we had set out to visit. It seemed to be similar the whole way down but you never know what you might find if you continue on the whole trail through the gorge.

If you need a change-up from the dry desert, a journey out to Ihlara Valley will definitely be a good dose of green and a fun little swim in the waterfall!

 

WHERE TO STAY IN GOREME, CAPPADOCIA

Where I stayed: Design Cave Suites Cappadocia – I was lucky enough to stay at the Design Cave Suites in Goreme. The location was great and I walked to all attractions. The rooftop garden was awesome for sunrise balloon watching. Buffet breakfast spread was amazing as was the cave style room designs.

Best Cave Hotel with Pool: Local Cave House Hotel– This cave hotel rose to fame because of its incredible pool. Make sure you click the link and check out how epic the pool backdrop is, with those classic Cappadocia rock formations in the background and traditional cave rooms it is a top pick.

Cave Hotel with Best Roof View (and dogs): Sultan Cave SuitesThis cave hotel became famous because of its epic rooftop area for sunrise viewing. Guests can lay out on traditional pillows and carpets while watching the hot-air balloons flying above. The hotel dog might also join you for a photoshoot on the roof!

Budget Option in Goreme: Emre’s Stone HouseFor just $6 USD per night you can enjoy Cappadocia and this budget accommodation even has an epic rooftop to enjoy. It’s the best value in Goreme, Cappadocia.

OR

Save money in Cappadocia by staying at an Airbnb! Get a FREE $40 Airbnb Coupon by using my code when you book! I use Airbnb on about half of my travels and find you always get more value than a hotel.

 

TRANSPORT IN CAPPADOCIA

Hire a Private Driver: Hiring a driver for a few hours to take you to several sites will cost about 100 Turkish Lyra depending on the car and your negotiation, which is about $20 USD. This is a good idea if you want to see 1-2 locations in an afternoon.

One of the best ways to get around is to hire a driver that will allow you to create a customized itinerary. That way you can visit all the spots you are interested in. To hire a private car with a driver/guide you can book online here or you might be a bigger group and in that case, it can be cheaper to hire a van in Cappadocia, which also comes with a driver. 

Rent a Mountain Bike: We thought about renting a mountain bike but they were 150 Turkish Lyra for the entire day so it would have been 300 Turkish Lyra for both of us just to transit around. That’s almost $60 USD. It would have been fun but once we fund out everyone wanted to help us by giving us lifts there wasn’t much need. We either walked or hitchhiked.

Rent A Scooter/Moped: A scooter costs about 150-200 Turkish Lyra ($30-40 USD) per day and could be handy if you want to explore some attractions a bit further away or venture over to Uchisar.

Rent an ATV: Given the rough terrain in Cappadocia, an ATV is a fun option to help you explore the natural wonders and rock formations of the region. Prices are about $40 USD for two hours. If you are keen to head out on an ATV there is an awesome Quad-Bike Safari Tour that takes you through Sword, Love and Rose Valley during golden hour!

 

HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT THE REST OF MY CAPPADOCIA BLOG POSTS?

Click on one of the articles below to check out all of the places you should visit while in Cappadocia!

The big guide! This post has all of my favorite activities, which I personally did while in Cappadocia for ten days: 24 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA

The hiking guide! Find out about all of the best hikes in Cappadocia with details, directions and lots of photos: 8 AWESOME HIKES IN CAPPADOCIA

Thinking about flying in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? Read this first: CAPPADOCIA HOT AIR BALLOONS: THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU FLY

Have you heard about the castles in Cappadocia? Check these out:

THE UCHISAR CASTLE VIEWPOINT

ORTAHISAR CASTLE VIEWPOINT

CAVUSIN CHURCH, VALLEY & CASTLE

Not sure where is the best region to stay? Wondering which hotel provides the best value? Check out this guide that will help you decide: WHERE TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA: THE BEST HOTELS & HOSTELS

OR… I write a post about the 12 BEST CAVE HOTELS IN CAPPADOCIA that you might find interesting.

I’ve written a blog post for almost all of the places I’ve visited while in Cappadocia. You can find every single one of these articles right here: CAPPADOCIA ARCHIVES

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