Scenery east of the town of Trai Mat near Da Lat, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Da Lat, Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Not sure yet!

Saturday, April 9, 2022

The cave churches of Ihlara Valley

Ihlara Valley is more of a canyon than a valley. The Melendi River runs about 14 kms (9 miles) through the gorge. The valley was a significant religious center from the 4th to the 11th century and contains 105 different churches carved into the stone walls. 

There are three different paid entrances to the gorge, with walking paths running the entire length, often on both sides of the river.

We did Thursday overnight at a roadside pull off at the top of the valley. 

View of Ihlara Valley from where we were parked.

Max, at his overnight spot.
GPS 38.244926, 34.313227

Max's odometer hit 10,000 kms the other day.
That doesn't sound so meaningful in miles (6,214).

There are many of these natural spring water sources where Max can get a drink.

People have been living in the village of Ihlara for over 1,500 years.

The village itself is interesting to wander around.

Valley map.

We found the ticket office and we were the first customers of the day at 10:30am. The tickets cost 55 lira ($4.70 CAD, $3.75 USD) each, which we think is fair but it's unfortunate that they are only valid for one day since it would be a long day of hiking to experience the whole thing. We would have to pay again to see more today which we won't be doing.

Entrance to Ihlara Valley at the town of Ihlara.

Looking down on the Melendi River.

The river flows down from the mountains and there is a lot of snow melting right now so the river is quite high. There are spots where it is overflowing the path at this time of year.

The river is high.

Ruth, trying not to get wet feet!

Ruth exploring.
There are over 10,000 openings carved into the canyon walls.

Unfortunately there is a lot of trash on the riverbanks.

Not nice.

Ruth, doing some more water avoidance maneuvers!

The first church we made it to was the Kokar Church. The frescoes in these churches date from the end of the 9th century to the middle of the 11th century.

It's a shame that the churches went unprotected for hundreds of years, and there has been a lot of vandalism. We saw one date scratched into the walls from 1936.

There was another church we wanted to see on the opposite side of the river but the bridge was a little on the sketchy sides. I risked it first, and Ruth took a video of me going across...

Crossing the bridge.

I made it, so Ruth decided to go for it too!

The Dark Castle Church.

I took a video for you inside this one to give you a better idea of the size of some of these places. We can't figure out how much time it must have taken to carve these things out of the rock using what hand tools they may have had available at that time.

Sometimes we feel like Indiana Jones...

Exploring inside the Dark Castle Church.

We made it to the middle entrance, which is the main one where all the tour groups enter the canyon. There are a lot of steps!

The bridge at this spot is a little more sturdy!

Most tourists only see this area of the canyon.

The Jacinth Curch.

Again, the frescoes are not in very good condition.

We saw two lizards sunning themselves outside.

This one was at least 6" long.

Inside the Serpent Church.

A view of the valley.

Inside the Daniel Pantonassa Church.

This is the most visited church because it is located right at the base of the middle entrance. We took the stairs out at this point and walked back to Max on some paths at the top of the canyon.

Looking down.

Lots of stairs!

Ihlara Valley.

Ihlara Valley.

We drove up to the village of Belisırma which is also located in the canyon and is where the third entrance is located. We found a great overnight spot with a view and were joined later by a family in a Turkish rental motorhome. There is enough to keep us busy here without the need to pay to go back into the canyon, and there is another hiking trail following the river north.


And in Canada...


  1. I would constantly be in awe! I'd sit there and just let my imagination wander thinking about what took place there, how they spoke and what it sounded like. Too much to take in just from the blog.

    1. We pretty much were in awe when we saw these churches and where they were built. Our constant question was, how did they do it, especially the ones that were up really high that looked like there was no access to them. And, our other question was, how long did it take to carved these structures out?! It is true, the blog and the pictures don't to them justice, it is something that needs to been seen in person.


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