Konya to Ihlara Valley
From Konya to Cappadocia was a pretty straight route on D300 highway which was a four lane state road. A direct drive to Cappadocia would need about 3 hours, but we planned for 2 stops. The first was Sultanhani which was about midway and the second stop was a detour from the highway to Ihlara Valley.
The road was so straight, it go on and on. Our car speeded straight ahead, slowing down at intersection/roundabout, slowing down near exit and entrance to side roads. It was amazing to see such never ending long long road.
Sultanhani was about 1.5 hour drive from Konya. From the beautiful farcade of the front entrance of Sultanhani we thought this place was a palace or a mosque. But after reading the history of Sultanhani we found out that it was a rest stop, a roadside inn, a caravanserai where travelers could rest and recover from the day’s journey. Caravanserais supported the flow of commerce, information and people across the network of trade.
Today Sultanhani was not longer functioning as a caravanserai/reststop but opposite the Sultanhani were many shops and cafes which served as a great place for visitors to stop and rest and have tea/coffee
After our coffee break we carried on our journey from Sultanhani along D300 state road towards IHlara Valley, at Aksaray town we detoured off D300 and went southwest ward. About 11km from our destination we saw some very interesting natural geographical formation.
Behind some modern houses by the road were sharp conical shapes hills. We parked our car by the road and walked into a village . Wewalked passed the houses, walked toward the back of the houses to have a closer look at these the conical hills. The wonders of nature (volcanic eruptions and years of erosion) created these conical hills. Ancient civilisation had dug holes into these conical hills to living quarters and cities!
The locals did not mind us walking through their backyard, some even invited us in for tea, which we politely declined. We left the village and drove about 0.5km, passed a road bend and came to an entrance of “some sort”. At the entrance was a carpark, cafes and restaurants and a ticketing booth.
The entrance was to Selime Guzelyurt (Selime ancient town). We did not went in as it offered exactly the same sight as those seen on our visit into the backyard of the modern village 500m down the road. This part of Selime from the “entrance” extended to the village backyard.
We drove into Ihlara village which was one end (southeast end) of the Ihlara Valley/Gorge. From there was a stairway with almost 400 steps descending over 100m down into the canyon.
The canyon walls was sheer vertical drop! There were big and small holes carved into the walls which looked like an whole city was striving in this canyon. We would have loved to trek the entire canyon from one end to the other.
The canyon was15 km long reaching to 150 m deep in the southwest end. This canyon/valley was formed in prehistoric times by the Melendiz River. From the 7th century AD, the valley was settled by Byzantine monks who dug their houses and churches out of the tuff stone. There were around 50 rock-hewn Christian churches and numerous rock-cut building in the valley.
It would be a 30 km return trek to our car if we trekked the entire length of the canyon. We decided to skip the 30km trek as it would take too long and we had already seen the valley from the Northeast end (Ihara village) and the Southwest end (Selime). We took another option which was to drive to the village “Belisirma” located in the midlength of the valley.
At Belisirma Village there was a road that lead down to the base of the canyon. Hurray we did not have to trek down to the canyon!! At the based of the canyon there was a huge carpark and many river side restaurant. It was so fun to eat our meal in one of the many circular seats extended into the river.
We had a wonderful day, Ihlara Valley was beautiful, unique and much more than our expectations. Most visitors would go straight to the famous Cappadocia and skipped Ihlara Valley. It was great that we had planned a three night stay in Cappadocia which gave us plentiful of time to visit Cappadocia and its other surrounding beautiful wonders.