Ihlara Valley and Melendiz Stream
The Melendiz Stream (Potamus, Kapadukus-Cappadocia River) traverses 14 km long Ihlara Valley (Ihlara Vadisi), formerly known as Peristremma. The stream originates from Ihlara Town and the depth of the canyon in which the river flows reaches 120 meters at some points. The natural formation and sheltered structure of Ihlara Valley makes it one of the important centers of Christianity. There are many churches that have the characteristics of painting art of the period it was built in the Ihlara Valley, which has become an important monastery center since the fourth century. Due to its natural structure, the valley has been used as a very suitable hermitage by monks and priests as of the fourth century. In the frescoed churches in the valley (such as Sümbüllü, Yılanlı, Kokar, Ağaçaltı, Pürenliseki, Eğritaş, Kırkdamaltı, Bahattin Samanlığı), there are quite rich religious scenes reflecting the art of the Byzantine period.
Ihlara Valley is also a very beautiful natural trekking area. You can walk along the 14-kilometer valley accompanied by the stream and greenery. There are also balloon flights over Ihlara Valley. There are also cafes and restaurants where you can take a break by the water in the valley where you can enter and exit from different areas.
The three-story museum was planned with eclectic style inspired by Anatolian Seljuk vaults, and fairy chimneys in the Cappadocia Region and Aksaray. In the museum, in the archaeological group, a wide variety of artifacts from the prehistoric periods including Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages starting from 8500 BCE to Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Iron, Hellenistic, Roman, Late Roman and Anatolian Seljuk periods are exhibited. In the coin group, you can see coins minted from gold, silver and bronze mines starting from the Classical Period and extending to the Ottoman Period. In the ethnography group, daily items, clothing used on weddings, holidays and special occasions, jewelry and items reflecting traditional handicrafts are presented to visitors. The mummies in the museum will also attract your attention!
Manastır Valley (Manastır Vadisi) looks like a "Small Ihlara Valley" with a stream between high rocks on both sides, willow trees and 28 churches, chapels and underground cities, small and large rock carved churches. The sheltered structure of the region became the shelter of clergymen who opposed the depiction ban applied in the period. Since the end of the 11th century, the region came under the control of the Turks and thereafter Christians living here continued to worship freely. The valley, which housed many people in its monasteries and churches, hides the traces of the first monastic life. Nenezili (Singles) scribe Saint Gregorius Theologos took this region as a center in the fourth century and helped spread Christianity throughout Anatolia.
Aşıklı Tumulus (Aşıklı Höyüğü) has been established 10,500 years ago as the first village settlement of Central Anatolia. The Aşıklı community, which abandoned the hunter, gatherer and nomadic lifestyle and moved to a settled and productive lifestyle, lived in the same place for at least 30-35 generations from the mid-ninth millennium BCE to the mid-eighth millennium BCE. Aşıklı community has had pioneering developments in the history of architecture, history of medicine, agriculture and animal husbandry etc. during their thousand years of life in the Cappadocia Region.
Saratlı Kırkgöz Underground City
Saratlı Kırkgöz Underground City (Saratlı Kırkgöz Yeraltı Şehri) is an important living space from the Roman period. In 2001, three floors thereof have been cleaned and opened to visitors. The underground city, which has a toilet, bathroom, cellar and a total of 40 rooms, has a ventilation system unlike its counterparts in the Cappadocia Region. The underground city is estimated to have seven floors.
In the underground city, water was supplied from wells and cisterns in the hidden city, the breads were made collectively inside, and illumination was provided by lamps working with olive oil or tail fat. Necessary oxygen was provided with ventilation chimneys.
St. Mercurius Underground City
Saint Mercurius Underground City (Aziz Mercuris Yeraltı Şehri) and Church, the second underground city in Saratlı Town, was mostly used as a shelter in the 250's when Christianity was forbidden. Saint Mercurius was a commander who lived between CE225-250. He was born in the Cappadocia Region during the Roman Empire and was exiled to Cappadocia by the king after he announced that he was a Christian. He was killed in this region and his body was sent to Egypt.
Three floors of the seven-floor underground city are open to visitors. While the churches in underground cities are generally small, the church located here looks like a cathedral. A separate room consisting of child and adult graves has been created in the church.
Güzelyurt Gelveri Houses
The Gelveri Houses in Güzelyurt, carved into the rock and embroidered on their front facades, constitute one of the most beautiful examples of Cappadocian architecture. The first settlement of Güzelyurt was the rock places around St. Gregorius Theologos Church. Buildings were added to the front of the rock settlements and as a result, such settlements with rock carving on the back of the building began to be used. In the 19th and 20th centuries, houses were built in rock carvings. Arch system is used in the roofs of Güzelyurt houses. With this feature, Güzelyurt houses have been standing firmly for 100-200 years.
Selime Town is located at the end point of Ihlara Valley. When you exit the valley, fairy chimneys and Selime Cathedral welcome the visitors.
Selime Cathedral (Selime Katedrali) was built as two-story and is the largest cathedral in Cappadocia. The cathedral is dated back to the eighth and ninth centuries. There are important frescoes in the cathedral depicting the ascension of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
One of the most important features of Selime Kale Monastery (Selime Kale Manastırı) is that it is the place where the clergy in the region are trained. In addition, the first loud ritual was held in Selime Cathedral. The buildings made by carving the rocks and most as churches bear the traces of Byzantine art. It is also remarkable that the upper part of the cathedral was built as a castle.
There are many religious motifs and frescoes in Yılanlı Church (Yılanlı Kilise), which is the most visited church in this region due to its location. The frescoes are dated back to the ninth century, or between the first half of the 11th century and the 12th century.
The frescoes in the Ağaçaltı (Daniel Pantonassa) Church are dated back to between the ninth and the 11th centuries. The building is entered through the main apse, which is destroyed today. The original entrances are on the north wall of the south and northwest corner room of the west arm.
The frescoes in the church are dated back to between the 10th and 12th centuries. In the apse dome, Mary Blakhernatissa, between Michael and Gabriel is depicted, the bishops are depicted in the lower lane, the Evangel on the south wall of the room in the south, Koimesis (death of the Virgin Mary) on the apsis, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple on the apsis of the northern room, the Jesus Pantocrator on the dome of the main space, the Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace and other saints on the south wall.
There are graves on the floor of the barrel-vaulted chapel to the south of the Direkli Church (Direkli Kilise) and in the niche on the south wall, as well as on the floor of the narthexes of the church and chapel. With the help of the inscription on the north side apse and the molding on the main apse, the frescoes are dated to 976-1025, when the Emperor Basil II and Constantine VIII ruled together.
Kırkdamaltı Church (Kırkdamaltı Kilisesi) is an irregular hexagonal church. It is understood from the destruction of the frescoes that the niches on the walls were mostly made later. There are graves on the floor and niches of the church. Kırkdamaltı Church, also known as is distinguished from all churches in Cappadocia with the pictures on its walls. Amirarzes Basileios, who was an administrator in the region, and his wife Tamara have built a church in the name of Saint Georgios. There are many religious depictions including Jesus Christ on the wall of the church, which was built as a rock carving. In the largest of the frescoes, Basil and his wife Tamara are depicted presenting a model of the church to St Georgios. Basileios is the Christian ruler who ruled this region on behalf of the Seljuks. In this frescoe, Basil is wearing a turban and a kaftan. In other words, he was dressed in the dress of Muslim Seljuk at that time. The depiction of a Christian ruler wearing a Turkish turban and kaftan on the church’s wall at that time is a proof of the tolerance of Turks towards Christians. They are so pleased with the Seljuks that they had the ruler painted on the wall of such an important church with a Muslim turban and kaftan. For this reason, it is very important for Cappadocia and Turkish history. That is why we can describe Ihlara Valley as a valley of tolerance. Because again in the valley, a rock-carved church and a mosque are side by side.
Çanlı Church (Çanlı Kilise), which attracts attention with the mummies found inside, is also an important religious center.
As a result of the excavations, finds such as coins, bulbs made of lead, pieces of glass bracelets, metal earrings, rings, written documents, mummies and mummy pieces were found. The interior of Çanlı Church is decorated with frescoes depicting Jesus and his Apostles. The church and its surroundings contain houses of various sizes carved into rocks, dating from the 10th century to the 14th century.
The frescoes in the building are dated to the 10th or 11th centuries, but it emphasized that the architectural features are close to the Late Byzantine Period. Many depictions introduced in older publications are lost today.
Ala Church (Ala Kilise) is carved into the rock in the north of Belisırma village and on the eastern slope of the valley. It was built after Christianity was liberated. On the upper part of its facade are pictures of the Apostles and saints. The frescoes in the church are dated back to the end of the 10th century or the first half of the 11th century. It draws attention with its rich religious depictions and saints.
Bezirhane, which was carved into the rocks next to the Ala Church, is accessed by an arched entrance. There is a linseed oil pool made of wood in the Bezirhane. Bezirhane is a production place for linseed oil that is used by the people of the region for illumination. Linseed oil was obtained as a result of the processing of oil extracted from a type of grass called Izgin after crushing and processing it in bezirhane. The oil obtained was used to illuminate churches, rock-carved places and underground cities by means of oil lamps.
Paşa Bath (Paşa Hamamı) is the only Turkish bath that has survived to the present day as functional in Aksaray city center. It consists of two parts as women's and men's baths. The bath, constructed of smooth cut stone, has six domes, of which two are small and four are large. The building, which is a typical Ottoman building, consists of six square-planned rooms.
Somuncu Baba Tomb and Complex
Somuncu Baba is one of the leading scholars and saints who grew up in Anatolia during the foundation years of the Ottoman Empire. Sheikh Hamid-i Veli, who was born in Kayseri in 1349 and known as Somuncu Baba, achieved superior degrees in mysticism and science. Somuncu Baba, who came to Aksaray (Şehr-i Süleha) on the return of pilgrimage, continued his science and guidance activities here until the end of his life and died in Aksaray in 1412. His grave is in the Ervah cemetery in Aksaray. The Somuncu Baba Cultural Center, built right next to the Somuncu Baba Mausoleum, has been designed as religious venues for faith tourism open to the public, and it reminds its visitors the atmosphere of Somuncu Baba's period with shopping units, a bakery and a wooden portico-roofed mosque with a capacity of 800 people, which reminds the Seljuk and early Ottoman masjids.
Ervah Cemetery (Ervah Mezarlığı) is a cemetery where more than seven thousand saints are buried in Aksaray. Here is actually the real center of Aksaray. Ervah literally means “spirits”. We see the most important information about Ervah in Evliya Çelebi's travel book named “Seyahatname”. The oldest grave in the cemetery is dated to 1250 CE.
Güvercinkayası sheds light on the history of Anatolia with its seven thousand years of history. The settlement, which is located on a high rock mass in Mamasın Dam Lake (Mamasın Baraj Gölü) today, is dated to 5200-4750 BCE. The settlement also dominates the old migration routes in the region. Güvercinkayası, which survived to the present day from the Middle Chalcolithic Period, is the first known and oldest example of the settlement type that we can define as "castle city" in Central Anatolia. However, the findings of this settlement, which can be defined as a regular village, provide very important information about how the Anatolian type cities, which will be established much later, evolved. Stamp seals and some pottery found during excavations also point to the relations of the settlement with distant regions, especially Eastern Anatolia-Northern Mesopotamia.
The famous Assyrian city Puruşhattum, which is mentioned in the Akkadian and Hittite inscriptions, known as Acemhöyük today is known to be the most popular mine production center of Anatolia four thousand years ago.
Acemhöyük is one of the largest tumuluses in Anatolia. As a result of the excavations, at least 12 layers were found in the tumulus from the Late Bronze Age and Assyrian Trade Colonies Age. While the city was developing gradually from 2500 BCE, it lived its most brilliant period in the Assyrian Trade Colonies Age. A violent fire, of which cause is unknown today, surrounded the entire city in the 18th century BCE and put an end to this brilliant period. The city was built twice by survivors of this disaster, but was completely abandoned in the 17th century BCE. The last settlements concentrated on the western and southern elevations of the tumulus after a long break continued from the 6th century BCE until the early Roman Period.
Musular Tumulus (Musular Höyüğü), one of the oldest examples of settlement history in Aksaray, is located in the west of Melendiz River (Melendiz Nehri). It was found that Musular was first settled 8000 years ago. Two main periods have been identified so far. The first of these is the aceramic period, which is called “neolithic without pottery" in prehistoric terminology. The next settlement period belongs to the "pottery" phase. During this period, the settlers leveled the previous building remains, laid a thick layer of yellowish soil on it, and built their own buildings on this plane.
Erdoğdu Underground City
When one enters through the entrance of the underground city, four rooms can be seen. It is stated that the underground city has 40 separate rooms, but not all of the rooms are accessible due to the collapse of the tunnels.
Nora Ancient City
Nora Ancient City (Nora Antik Kenti) is within the boundaries of Helvadere Town in the central district. At the foot of Hasan Mountain (Hasan Dağı) and on the king's road, there are ancient city ruins from the Roman and Byzantine periods. During the period, one thousand civilian dwellings were built. Therefore, Nora Ancient City was one of the most densely populated cities of the 5th and 6th centuries. This city is one of the largest and best preserved ruins in the Cappadocia region. Apart from the dwellings in the ancient city, which was established on an area of 200 hectares, 32 church structures and 20 cisterns were found together with the ruins.
Eğri (Leaning) Minaret (Crimson Minaret)
Eğri Minaret stands out with its resemblance to the world-famous Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy. Located in the city center of Aksaray, on Nevşehir Street, Eğri Minaret is one of the most important historical artifacts from the Seljuk Period. The minaret was named Eğri (Leaning) Minaret by the people because of its lean of 3° 11' degrees. It is also known as Crimson Minaret because of its red bricks. Eğri Minaret, one of the 13th century Seljuk artifacts, is dated to 1221-1236. The Egri Minaret, which has a balcony and 92 steps, is 30.6 meters high. It has always been wondered whether the Eğri Minaret has been built as leaning or it leaned later. According to the researches, the generally accepted opinion is that the Egri Minaret was made leaning by its master.
Ulu Mosque (Karamanoğlu Mehmed Bey Mosque)
Ulu Mosque (Ulu Cami), one of the most beautiful examples of Seljuk architecture, was first had built by the Anatolian Seljuk ruler Rükneddin Mesud (1116-1155). The mosque, which was expanded and repaired during the Karamanoğulları period, is also known as the "Karamanoğlu Mehmet Bey Mosque".
The pulpit in the Ulu Mosque, where we see the best examples of stonework in every detail, is a masterpiece of Seljuk woodwork. This pulpit, made of ebony wood with kündekari technique, is one of the oldest pulpits belonging to the Anatolian Seljuks.