Ihlara Valley constituted an important religious center during the first years of the spread of Christianity. The natural protection provided by the Ihlara Valley made it an important base for Christianity. The valley became a center for monasteries from the 4th century on, and housed many churches decorated with frescoes and paintings. The churches of which founders are known are of special importance for the scientific community, since it is very difficult to determine the exact construction dates of the churches in this valley. The churches with one or two naves carved into rocks, which were built on closed Greek cross plans or free cross plans, are lining up along both sides of the Melendiz Stream, on the steep slopes of the valley.
Thanks to its natural features, the Ihlara Valley was used as a place for solitude by hermits and priests from the 4th century on. Christianity had begun to spread among people speaking different languages. Low rates of literacy and the unpopularity of the Latin language had made the spread of this religion difficult. Thus, in order to spread Christianity, the life of Jesus Christ, the themes in the Bible, prominent religious figures and the events related to them were depicted on church walls via frescoes.
In the frescoed churches such as the Sümbüllü (Hyacinth), Yılanlı (Serpent), Kokar (Fragrant), Ağaçaltı (Beneath-a-Tree), Pürenliseki (Platform), Eğritaş (Crooked Stone), Kırkdamaltı (St. George) and Bahattin Samanlığı (Bahattin’s Granary), scenes of the Birth of Jesus, Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Visitation, Flight into Egypt and the Last Supper can be seen.
Some Tips: Ihlara valley is about 100 km far from Goreme which takes roughly around 1,5 hours. There are 4 different entrances of the valley which are: from Ihlara town, main entrance, from Belisrma Village and from Selime Village. IF you choose to start from Ihlara Town entrance, it takes you through Purenli Seki, Kokar and Agacalti Churhes and then joins you to the second entrance which is the main one with a lot of tourists. If you keep walking from the left lane, you can see Sumbullu and Kırkdamaltı Churches and finally reach Belisirma Village where all the restaurants are located. The distance between the first and second entrance is about 4 km and another 3 km to reach Belisirma Village. If you keep walking from Belisirma Village for another 7 km, you will eventually arrive at Selime Monastery and Village. By showing your entrance ticket that you bought for Ihlara Valley, you can visit the monastery for free of charge. The biggest problem is to get back to your car after arriving which you can get some help from the officers in Selime or you can hire a car + driver that can drop you off in the beginning of the valley and pick you up at the end. The rate for the car + driver will be 100 Euro including the petrol.
There is an entrance fee of 20 Turkish Lira per person for Ihlara Valley of which you can enter Selime Monastery as well. The GPS Coordinates of the beginning of the valley is 38°14’36.2″N 34°18’29.6″E.