Ihlara is a township with own municipality in Aksaray Province, Central Anatolia, Turkey. It is situated at about 40 km (25 mi) from the province seat of Aksaray and near the town of Güzelyurt. The township is famed for the nearby valley of the same name, Ihlara Valley, which is a 16 km (10 mi) long gorge cut into volcanic rock in the southern part of Cappadocia, following several eruptions of Mount Erciyes. The Melendiz Stream flows through the valley.
What makes the valley unique is the ancient history of its inhabitants. The whole canyon is honeycombed with rock-cut underground dwellings and churches from the Byzantine period built by the Cappadocian Greeks. These local people were forced to leave the area and move to Greece in the 1923 Population exchange between Turkey and Greece.
Due the valley's plentiful supply of water and hidden places, this was the first settlement of the first Christians escaping from Roman soldiers. In the Ihlara Valley there are hundreds of old churches in the volcanic rock caves. The best-known churches are Ağaçaltı Church with cross plan, Sümbüllü Church, Pürenliseki Church, Kokar Church, Yilanli Church, Karagedik Church, Kirkdamatli Church, Direkli Church, Ala Church, Kemerli Church and Egritas Church.
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