Heading on an Ihlara Valley hike is one of the best things to do if you’re heading anywhere around this region in Turkey and love the outdoors. It’s particularly popular among those who are heading to Cappadocia and is an impressive canyon trek that can be tailored to almost any type of walker’s fitness level, making it highly accessible.
In this guide, I’ll let you know everything you need to know ahead of this epic canyon hike, including information about the history, how to get there and what to expect on the day. I’ll also cover things such as what to wear, the best time to visit and what facilities are along the trail. At the end of the guide, you’ll also find some information on where to stay, as well as an FAQ.
Ihlara Valley history
The Ihlara Valley is an impressive 16-kilometre-long gorge which was formed after numerous eruptions from the nearby Mount Erciyes volcano, which paved the way for the Melendiz Stream.
In the 7th Century AD, Byzantine monks arrived at the valley and began building homes in the rock in order to settle. In addition, they built over 100 churches in the area, 16 of which can be seen along the trail through the Ilhara Valley today.
Where is the Ilhara Valley located?
The Ihlara Valley is located in the Aksaray region of Turkey and is popular among those who are staying in Cappadocia, which is approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes away by car.
Below is an interactive map so that you can view the exact location.
Ihlara Valley hiking details
Distance | the trail runs from Ihlara to Selime which is 10.5 kilometres long. However, since there are no buses around here, you’ll need to get back to the starting point of your walk, making this out-and-back route 21 kilometres long if you were to complete the whole thing.
That being said, you can tailor the length of this walk to suit you and turn back at any point. At a minimum, I would suggest walking at least 3.5 kilometres before turning back so that you can enjoy some local food at a restaurant along the Melendiz Stream.
Elevation | from Ihlara to Selime, you’ll cover 292 meters of elevation which is very minimal over this distance. On the return, you’ll be faced with 400 steps to climb in order to reach the car park. This is no mean feat but even novice hikers shouldn’t worry about this too much – you’ll just need to take a few breaks here and there. Plus, there is no way to avoid this unless you’re being collected from another point along the way.
Duration | if you’re thinking of tackling the 21-kilometre out-and-back route, then you’ll need to allow around 6 to 7 hours to complete the hike. If you’re considering only walking 3.5 kilometres one way before turning back, then you’ll need to factor in around 2 hours.
Difficulty | this is one of the easiest walks in the area since it is mostly flat. As mentioned just now, the only real challenge is the 400 steps which you’ll potentially need to climb to reach the car park upon your return.
How to get to the Ihlara Valley
Since most people are likely to be heading on a hike through the Ihlara Valley from Cappadocia, I’ll base the below information on this. However, if you’re coming from elsewhere in the country, then I suggest using Rome2Rio. This is my go-to platform when trying to figure out how to get from A to B in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way.
By car | your first option is to rent a car from one of the many car rental companies in Cappadocia and drive yourself to the Ihlara Valley. This is approximately 80 kilometres from Cappadocia and will take you just over an hour. This is likely to cost you around £30 plus petrol for the day and will give you a lot of flexibility.
To get to the trailhead, you’ll need to put ‘Ihlara Valley Trailhead‘ into your navigation system and take 55 Turkish Lira (less than £3) for parking.
There are also some other attractions nearby that you can tag onto this trip, which I’ll mention in the FAQ section at the end of this guide.
Check prices: Rentalcars.com
By public transport | you’ll only be able to get a bus as far as Acıgöl before having to take a taxi for the remainder of the way. As such, I do not think getting public transport to the Ihlara Valley from Cappadocia is a viable option.
Hire a driver | a great way to get around to many of the sites quickly and easily is by hiring a driver. This definitely isn’t the cheapest option, but if you’re tight on time and have the budget then it’s definitely worth it.
Check prices: Private Driver
Join a tour | the other way to see the Ihlara Valley is by joining the Green Tour. This covers a number of attractions and includes a 3.5-kilometre walk through this gorge. It’s a short walk that sees most of what’s on offer here and finishes with lunch on the Melendiz Stream. You’ll also avoid the 400-step climb back to the car park since there will be a driver to pick you and the group up from the restaurant.
Check prices: Green Tour
What to expect on the day of your Ihlara Valley hike
The hike begins by clambering down 400 steps that lead into the 150-meter-deep Ihlara Valley. You’ll be faced with two options: the first zig-zags its way down and is ultimately easier and the second is almost directly down, but ultimately quicker.
Whichever you choose, you’ll arrive at the base of the canyon and be met by your first church. You can take some time to venture inside the church before you begin to move along the trail which hugs the Melendiz Stream.
Initially, you’ll notice a number of wooden figures which have been carved by locals to add some character to the area. Once you pass these, you’ll continue along the path and admire the impressive rugged walls which you’re now wandering between. These are enormously different to what you would have seen in Cappadocia but no less impressive.
The route twists and turns for most of the way, occasionally leading over a rustic wooden bridge or passing natural water sources for locals to fill up their bottles. If you’re not a local, it’s not recommended that you drink the water from here as your body will not be used to the quality.
You’ll reach a point where you’ll find numerous huts which are floating in the water – these are part of the restaurant here. Although this is early on the walk, this is one of the best places to stop and I highly recommend taking a quick break for some fresh juice at the very least.
The route is very much the same for most of the way, which is utterly idyllic and a welcome break from some of the more intense hikes in the area. If you’re hiking all the way to Selime, then you’ll come across some more floating restaurants along the way, yet none of which are as nice as the first location in my opinion.
Once you’ve completed enough of the Ihlara Valley hike, you’ll turn back the same way (unless you’re on the Green Tour or have a private driver collecting you). You’ll need to prepare yourself for the only real challenge of the Ihlara Valley hike – the 400 steps which lead back to the car park.
Ihlara Valley hike map
Upon arrival at the trailhead, you’ll notice a large board which details a number of hiking trails. However, a local told me on the day that the distances on this board should not be trusted as they are not accurate.
As such, you’re better off downloading the app ‘Alltrails’ and following the map which I have linked below. This is my go-to platform for hiking as you’re able to download the map ahead of time so that you do not get lost if you lose signal – something which is very common in Turkey, even when using a local sim card.
The map below is the 10.5 km route from Ihlara to Selime. If you’re wanting to cut this short, then you’ll need to keep an eye on the map on the day and turn back at the appropriate time.
Map: Ihlara to Selime
Facilities along the trail
Surprisingly, the hiking trails in Turkey are pretty decent when it comes to facilities along the way.
And this trail is no different.
In fact, this is one of the best-equipped trails I took during my time in Cappadocia and the surrounding area. There are numerous restaurants, juice stops, toilets and mini-markets along the way.
Some are better than others, and these are front-loaded towards the first few kilometres of the trail, as typically there are more hikers along the first 3.5 kilometres of the trail.
I highly recommend factoring in a break for something to eat and drink at the first restaurant, as this is the nicest one to stop at. Instead of stopping here on the outward journey, it may make more sense for you to stop here on the return journey as a well-earned treat after almost completing your hike. Plus, you may need some fuel ahead of the 400 steps which are coming up!
Best time for trekking through the Ihlara Valley
The best time to go hiking in this area of Turkey is during the shoulder season, which is April, May, September and October. This is when temperatures will be warm, but not sweltering and hiking will be comfortable. However, if you’re tied to a certain time of year, then below is what you can expect:
Winter | December, January and February will see snow on the ground in this region of Turkey. It’s undoubtedly incredibly picturesque, but you’ll need to be prepared for temperatures which can reach -20 degrees in the height of winter.
Spring | March, April and May see significant shifts in temperature as you move through the year. In March there will almost certainly still be snow on the ground. As April comes around, it’s still cold with temperatures around 15 degrees and occasionally a dusting of snow overnight. As we move into May, things start to warm up rapidly, with average daytime temperatures of 22 degrees.
Summer | June, July and August is the peak season in Cappadocia with temperatures soaring above 30 degrees in July and August. Towards the tail end of the month, things start to cool down slightly, but not significantly. You’ll need to head on your hiking trip with plenty of fluids and food if you’re planning to be here during this time.
Autumn | September, October and November is another season which sees a significant change from the start to the end. September and October will see some comfortable hiking temperatures, yet November drops down to an average of 13 degrees during the day and falls below 0 degrees at night. With a few layers, it’s still doable to plan a hiking trip during this time.
What to wear for hiking in Cappadocia
Depending on the time of year you’re heading to Cappadocia and the Ihlara Valley, you’ll need to adjust what you’ll be packing. Given the information I provided about the temperatures earlier on, you can work out what basic clothing you’ll need to pack. However, regardless of what time of year you’re heading out there, you’ll definitely need the below.
I’ve given some recommendations of products which I have been using for some time and absolutely love. Although these links are affiliated through the amazon partnership programme, I’m not being sponsored by these brands to recommend their products – I just genuinely own these myself and find them really great.
- Hiking Boots
Nearly all the trails around here are desert-like at times and will require a decent pair of hiking boots to keep you upright.
The boots which I’m currently wearing are these Karrimore hiking boots. For someone who does A LOT of hiking, these are cheap boots. But, they’re just SO comfy. These were my first hiking boots and since I loved them so much, I’ve just replaced them with the exact same pair ever since. Nothing fancy and super budget-friendly. If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it!
No matter what time of year you’re hiking, you’ll need to head out with a backpack stuffed with plenty of water, snacks and a first aid kit.
My go-to backpack for as long as I can remember is the Osprey Daylite. It’s a perfect size and fits really well on almost anyone with the adjustable straps. For a premium brand, I think the price point is pretty decent and I love that it comes in a variety of colours.
- Waterproof Jacket
Regardless of what time of year you’re heading to Cappadocia and the Ihlara Valley, it’s always worth carrying a waterproof jacket, as even these desert-like surroundings can get a sprinkle of rain, particularly in the shoulder season.
I’ve been wearing my North Face Lightweight Waterproof Jacket since around 2016 and it’s still going well. It rolls up to be really small which means I can shove it in my backpack easily and since it’s so lightweight, I barely notice it’s there when I’m not using it.
The only thing I regret is buying it in white as it gets filthy at times. Again, the price point on this is very good for a premium brand and I can vouch for the fact it lasts forever!
Alright, you can’t head here and not take a decent camera. It would be sacrilege. The landscape is like nothing I’ve seen before and I reckon you’ll be in the same boat.
This is a big ticket item, but it’s worth every penny. I splurged and bought the Sony A7Riii and the 24-105 mm F4 a while ago and it was the best decision I ever made.
The capabilities of this combination are insane and whilst I’m still learning the ropes, each time I go on a trip, the images are coming out better and better.
I also love the fact that the camera is fairly lightweight by comparison to others out there, which makes it the perfect camera to take hiking.
Where to stay in Cappadocia
If you’re heading to Cappadocia, then there really is only one town that you will want to consider staying in and that’s Göreme. There are some smaller towns nearby such as Uçhisar, but they’re not really well equipped for tourists at the moment. That’s not to say in the future that they won’t expand, as this region is becoming incredibly popular and even Göreme is constantly being developed.
Below are some recommendations of places to stay in Göreme, however, you can also find an extensive guide linked here:
Check out the full guide: Best hotels in Cappadocia
Budget | The Dorm Cave By Travellers
The Dorm Cave By Travellers is where I stayed for my trip to Göreme and it was pretty decent for budget accommodation. It’s both a hotel and a hostel and for most of the time I stayed in the dorm room, but for 2 nights I stayed in a hotel room.
The dorm rooms are big with a capacity of 14, but they’re really nice and you get to experience staying in a cave. There are plenty of bathrooms that are detached from the room and the breakfast is as good as it gets for a hostel. Of course with a room of this size, it can be quite disruptive, particularly as there are always a few people who are getting up early to watch the hot air balloons. It’s also luck of the draw as to who you get in your room.
The hotel rooms are really sweet and traditional and come equipped with everything you’d need for your stay. The room I was staying in also have a huge terrace which was perfect for watching the hot air balloons early in the morning.
It’s just a few minute’s walk to the centre of Göreme and even though it’s tucked away on a side street, it felt very safe walking back at night as a solo female traveller.
Check prices: The Dorm Cave By Travellers
Mid-range | Caftan Cave Suites
Caftan Cave Suites offers travellers the opportunity to stay in an old cave whilst still having the luxury of modern facilities at a fair price.
They’re situated at the top of the main street that runs through Göreme, meaning they’re away from the hustle and bustle whilst still being just a few minute’s walk from where the atmosphere is.
Whilst they’ve got their own amazing terrace to watch the balloons at sunrise, they’re also less than ten minute walk from the main viewing platform that everyone heads to in order to witness the magic.
Check prices: Caftan Cave Suites
Luxury | Aza Cave Cappadocia
Aza Cave Cappadocia is hard to beat when it comes to finding a luxurious hotel in the area. Their King Suites are absolutely dreamy and come equipped with fancy baths, top-quality linen and a private balcony which overlooks the valley.
They’re situated a little further away that my other two recommendations, but still within walking distance to the main centre. They’re one of the few hotels in Cappadocia that have a swimming pool whilst still maintaining excellent views of the hot air balloons each morning.
Check prices: Aza Cave Cappadocia
- How much is the Ihlara Valley entrance fee?
To embark on the Ihlara Valley hike, you’ll need to pay 55 Turkish Lira which is less than £3.
- Is the Ihlara Valley worth visiting?
In my opinion, it is absolutely worth visiting. It’s quite different to many of the other hikes in the area and offers a serene and idyllic opportunity to hike through an area that’s filled with history.
- Are there any tours which include the Ihlara Valley?
To my knowledge, the only tour which includes the Ihlara Valley is the ‘Green Tour’. I personally took this tour and can vouch for the fact it’s a good one to take.
Check prices: Green Tour
- Are there other things to do nearby?
If you’re heading here as part of the Green Tour then you’ll not need to worry about this one.
However, if you’re heading here solo then I’d recommend that you also take a trip to the Selime Monastery before heading back to Göreme as it’s next to the Ihlara Valley hike. It’s a place which is falsely rumoured to have been where Star Wars was filmed – and it’s easy to see why – but I can confirm this is not true.
Explore Cappadocia further
If you like the sound of this Ihlara Valley hike and you’re looking to do some more hiking in Cappadocia, then you may also enjoy the Cappadocia Red Valley hike, the Red Valley hike, the Pigeon Valley or the Love Valley Cappadocia hike.
I’ll soon be posting more guides about not just hikes, but all of the amazing things to do in the area such as ATV Tours, so keep your eyes peeled!
Alternatively, you could switch things up and follow this Istanbul itinerary.
Stay Wild Travels.
Disclosure: just a heads up that some of the links within this blog are affiliated which means that we may receive a small commission. We only recommend things that we truly believe in. If you use any of these links, it really helps support our blog, so thank you!