23-01-2023 - Places

Aksaray Monastery Valley: Faith Journey in Cappadocia

Cappadocia is breathtakingly beautiful with its unique geography and nature. Also in recent years, the hot air balloons flying over the region, made Cappadocia even more photogenic. But there is more to this beauty! 

Cappadocia region has a special place for Christianity. Starting from thousands of years, this area was a safe haven for Christians. Because of its soft volcanic land structure, people dig into the stones and mostly hidden chapels, churches, and schools. There are more than 600 churches found in Cappadocia and many may be found as a result of new archeological studies. 

In Cappadocia, there is one region especially important for Christianity and it is thought of as the place Christianity spread in Anatolia: Aksaray Monastery Valley. In this article, we will be looking at this Valley but if you’d like to see this amazing place by yourself, Cappadocia Travel Pass® includes more than 25+ amazing attractions including Monastery Valley Entrance. Let’s start. 

About Guzelyurt where the Monastery Valley located 

The most popular areas in Cappadocia without a doubt are Ürgüp and Göreme. They draw millions of tourists from all over the world each year. They are among Turkey's top tourist attractions and unquestionably the most memorable travel destinations in this region of the world thanks to their fascinating histories and distinctive landscapes.

The town of Güzelyurt, which is a little to the west of Ürgüp and Göreme, is similarly amazing with its underground cities, about 30 rock churches, and other historic sites. Unfortunately, there aren't any tourists in this small town, so it doesn't get the attention it merits. 

Güzelyurt has a highly significant place in history as the center of the expansion of Christianity in Anatolia. It is thought to be the home of the establishment of Orthodox sectarianism and the development of monastic life.

The majority of Christians living in this region were concentrated in Güzelyurt. The nearly 50 churches and monasteries scattered around the 4.5-kilometer-long valley are the clearest indication of this. Beautiful historical artifacts and ruins may be found along the valley that runs from Sivrihisar Village to the bottom part of the Güzelyurt region. 

Güzelyurt, a tiny rural district in Aksaray, has roughly 10.000 residents. Güzelyurt is sometimes compared to a smaller version of Cappadocia because of its setting and historical attractions.

English translation of the town's name, Güzelyurt, is "beautiful country." It would be true to say that Güzelyurt does everything to live up to its name given its natural grandeur, distinctive geography, and plenty of historical sites. Beyond its historic sites, the town's streets are lined with hundreds of abandoned homes from the Ottoman and Greek periods. You would feel as though you had been teleported back in time if the cars were removed.

There are four important tourist attractions in the town: Monastery Valley, the Red Church, the High Church, and Gaziemir Underground City.

About the Monastery Valley

The Monastery Valley is located 50 kilometers from the Aksaray city center, in the Güzelyurt district of Aksaray. It is a valley that spans 4-5 kilometers and is contained within the Güzelyurt district.

Monastery Valley, Cappadocia's second-largest valley after Ihlara Valley, was home to early Christians. The 5-kilometer-long "Little Ihlara," as it is colloquially known, is a natural wonder where you can find two underground cities, 28 rock-hewn churches, only six of which may be visited, and other interesting features.

Ihlara Valley's history and Monastery Valley's are very similar. In the second century, fleeing harsh Roman persecution, early Christians came here and lived in secrecy for hundreds of years. The Christians were able to freely practice their religion because of its isolation and remote location.

Beautiful historical artifacts and ruins may be found along the valley that runs from Sivrihisar Village to the bottom part of the Güzelyurt region. There are many churches and underground cities from the Byzantine era, including the Büyük Church Mosque, Sivişli Church, Priest House, Kalburlu Church, Kömürlü Church, Hac Saadet Koç Church, Cafarlar Church, Comlekçi Church, and Meryem Church, which are all situated along the valley. 

The Valley conceals the remains of the ancient monastic life despite having housed numerous people in its monasteries and churches. In order to propagate Christianity throughout Anatolia, the theological thinker Saint Gregorius Theologos of Nenezi (Bekarlar) made Güzelyurt his headquarters in the fourth century. As a result, the first monastic settlements best reflect the essence of their time.

What to see in Aksaray Monastery Valley?

There are 28 historical churches in the Aksaray Monastery Valley and these 28 churches in the valley are divided into 17 single-nave, 7 double-nave, 1 triple-nave, 1 free cross, and 2 closed Greek cross structures. In churches in Güzelyurt, 5 of the 7 primary floor plan types found in the Cappadocia Region may be found.

The Iconoclasm Period was brought on by Arab incursions that started in the seventh century (the Prohibition of Depiction). Figurative representations were prohibited during this time, which started at the beginning of the 9th century, as a result of the impact of Islamic rules. This rule was upheld across the region, not just in Cappadocia. Clergymen who disobeyed the restriction on depictions found sanctuary in the area's enclosed structure.

The area had been governed by Turkish states from the end of the 11th century, allowing the local Christians to continue to practice their faith openly. Güzelyurt maintained its identity as a town where Turks and Greeks coexisted up until the population exchange in 1924.

In the Monastery Valley, numerous rock-carved homes, underground cities, and churches have survived to this day. You should include Aksaray's key historical sites like these on your list of places to visit. That’s why we included these places in Cappadocia Travel Pass®. Check out all attractions, museums, and experiences included in this Pass. 

The Underground City in Monastery Valley 

In the Cappadocia region, because of the soft volcanic structure of the land, there are many underground cities. The locals were able to hide from foreign attacks and live safely thanks to these underground structures. There is an underground city also situated at the Monastery Valley's entrance. It is a structure that dates back to the Byzantine era.

At the entrance of this underground city, there is a shelter for animals so locals can live there with their livestock. Tethering points and carved feeding areas can be found on the side walls. Then a tunnel starts in a small cave that is reached by a corridor. There's a barn on the top floor. A staircase leads to the upper floor. There is a covered area at the top of the stone stairs. This covered area was used as an observation deck. It is not possible to move forward via the tunnel because water is constantly coming out of the end of the line that ascends from the observation point. In this underground city, the connections between the floors are considerably different than any other. Here, inhabitants who build this area chose vertical halls to connect the levels rather than horizontal tunnels.

If you want to read more about underground cities, here is an article about Derinkuyu Underground City which is the largest one in the area. 

There is so much to write about Cappadocia’a wonders but the best way to learn is always visiting. So, don’t wait any longer and plan your trip with Cappadocia Travel Pass®. Check here our attractions and if you have a question in mind, please don’t hesitate to reach us via our WhatsApp line or Instagram account. Have a great holiday!


Where is Monastery Valley? 

The Monastery Valley is located 50 kilometers from the Aksaray city center, in the Güzelyurt district of Aksaray.

What is there to see in Monastery Valley?

There are 28 historical churches, an underground city, and a scenic walking route in the Aksaray Monastery.

Is it worth visiting Aksaray Monastery Valley?

Yes, it is one of the best places to see in the Cappadocia region yet is not that well-known. So it is always great to see a place before it gets too much attention. 

Is there an underground city in Monastery Valley in Guzelyurt?

Yes, although because of the water barrier, it is not available to get in deep like Derinkuyu. In this underground city, the connections between the floors are considerably different than any other. Here, inhabitants who build this area chose vertical halls to connect the levels rather than horizontal tunnels.

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