Güzelyurt is a village in Central Anatolia, on the west edge of Cappadocia 48 km southeast of Aksaray. Its population is falling and in 2021 was 2,570.

Church frescoes in Ihlara valley
This page describes a village in Cappadocia. For the district in Northern Cyprus, see Güzelyurt (Northern Cyprus)

Understand edit

Güzel yurt means "beautiful homeland" or simply "nice place", and there are a dozen or so villages of that name in Turkey, plus one in the north of Cyprus. The one described on this page is surely the nicest of the nice places, and very much on the tourist circuit. Its deep valleys are crowded with ancient Greek churches and dwellings carved into the bedrock, which is soft volcanic tufa. The Greeks, who called the place Gelviri, were deported after Turkish independence in 1923, so their settlements lie deserted. Here and there the tufa has eroded into "fairy chimneys" or hoodoos, though the best of that classic Cappadocia landscape lies further east.

Get in edit

By bus edit

There are no long-distance coaches to Güzelyurt, but local buses from Aksaray:

  • Güzelyurt — Every two hours, takes about 45 min.
  • Ihlara — Hourly for about €0.70

By road edit

By road follow O-21 south from Ankara to the Gülağaç-Derinkuyu road then head west.

Get around edit

There are three main sites: each is explored on foot, but you need a vehicle to move between them.

Hiking down Ilhara canyon is fine, but you don't want to trudge back up to retrieve your car, arrange a second vehicle or taxi at the foot, or just hitchhike.

See and do edit

Lake Nar
  • Necdet Sağlam Cd — It is the main street through the straggling village. It's lined with old buildings but not particularly scenic, as it's a busy thoroughfare with modern accretions. The best is around the main hotels (see Sleep), which are old mansion houses, and in the cobbled alleys such as Hengameci Sk leading off.
  • Yeraltı Şehri — It means "underground city" but in Güzelyurt it's a misnomer. It means the churches and other buildings etched into the hillside as you enter Cevizli Sk towards St Gregory's. These are simple caverns and don't descend through multiple layers as they do elsewhere.
  • 1 Büyük Kilise Cami (St. Gregory's Church / Ologos Nazianos), Cevizli Sk. 24/7. This is the best of the old churches within the village. It was established under Emperor Theodosius in 385 BC but rebuilt in 1835. In 1924 the Greek population were deported and it became a mosque, with the bell-tower converted to a minaret and the iconostasis turned into a mihrab. Steps in the garden lead down to a cave with a holy well. Over 30 saints are called Gregory, which means "watchful shepherd". This fellow is local boy Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390) who Hellenised the early church and developed the theory of the Holy Trinity. The church was converted into a mosque after the Turkish-Greek population exchange in 1924.
  • 2 Sivişli Kilise (St. Anargiros Church) (further up the hill). Ancient, part-cave and rickety, but the oldest original feature is the 19th century fresco within the dome. There's a good view down onto St Gregory's. Anargirios means "without silver", unpaid, and refers to the third century brothers Cosmas and Damian who practised as physicians for free. They were beheaded during Diocletian's persecution. Orthodox iconography depicts them with medical boxes and spoons, and sometimes with urine flasks. In the dome, there are portraits of Jesus and Mary in the middle and the apostles on the sides.  
  • 3 Monastery Valley (at the south edge of town). Daily 08:30-17:00. It has over 50 ancient churches cut into the hillside, but you can enter only a couple of them. In 2022 the area is nominally open at the given times, but you may find the kiosk unattended and can explore at liberty. 20 TL.  
  • 4 Çömlekçi Kilise (Potters Church). It is the first one reached as you descend into the valley.
  • Koç Kilesi (Coach Church) (above Potters' Church on the hillside). For many years used as a farmer's grain store, it has an 11th-century fresco of an angel.
  • 5 Kömürlu Kilisesi (Coal Church) (in the side gorge to the south). 9th-10th century
  • 6 Kalburlu Kilisesi (St. Ephtemios church, Church with Screen). Had been torched at some point so the interior is bare. It's from the 9th-10th century and carved into the rock.
  • 7 Yüksek Kilise (Analipsis Church, "High-up church"). A clue that this isn't in the valley. It's a dinky little 19th-century building perched above the town reservoir, enclosing a Byzantine chapel. An underground passage (nowadays barred) leads who knows where. This hill has evidence of settlement back to the Neolithic Age.  
  • 8 Kızıl Kilise (Red Church, St. Panteleimon Church) (near Sivrihisar). From the 6th century. The quality of the stonework suggests it was a funeral chapel for someone important. It's freestanding on the hill not carved into the bedrock like other local churches, so it's suffered erosion and tourism by goats. The picturesque ruin was partly restored in 2011.    
    Kızıl Kilise, the Red Church

Sofular valley edit

  • 9 Gaziemir Yeraltı Şehri's cave dwellings are permanently closed.
  • 10 Sofular is an ancient village carved into the side of a valley, with hundreds of dwellings, churches and other buildings. It was abandoned in 1973 because of landslide risk, with a new village built on a grid pattern lower down the valley; best leave your vehicle there and hike. The lane over the ridge brings you to Narlıgöl.
  • 11 Narlıgöl is a crater lake. Around it are geothermal springs, but take a look at those sinister sulphurous waters before you sign up for any holistic "treatments" or beautifying slatherings of mud.

Ihlara valley edit

Ihlara Valley, the canyon of Melendiz River

The valley is a canyon 14 km long and 100 m deep, where the Melendiz stream has cut through the soft tufa. There are dozens of old churches and other structures. It draws many hundreds or even thousand of visitors a day. At €5 entrance, they canyon is a little overpriced for just being a canyon.

Hiking is the only way to see most churches on the trail down Ihlara valley. The keen hiker will be rewarded by hiking in for free at the 1 northern east trail entrance in Belisırma–north of which you will also find sufficiently many sites to camp or can just stay in the cave churches there. The recommended direction for the hike is Yaprakhisar to Ihlara, which takes half a day.

Fairy chimneys above Ilhara valley
  • 12 Fairy chimneys (Peribacası) are the weird pinnacles that define Cappadocia. They form when a very soft rock such as volcanic tufa is eroded, but a harder capstone protects the top.
  • 13 Ihlara village at the canyon trailhead has cafes.
  • 14 Pürenli Church has 10th-12th century frescoes of biblical scenes.
  • Belisırma is a village midway down the canyon with road access and eating places. Ala cave church is just north.
  • 15 Bezirhane was a 12th-13th century linseed oil factory; the oil was burned in lamps.
  • 16 Selime Cathedral is the largest of the churches carved out of the bedrock. The canyon here broadens to a valley.
  • 17 Aşıklı höyük was a village occupied between 8200 and 7400 BC. It's been excavated and some dwellings reconstructed.

Further destinations edit

  • 18 Ersele Underground City.  
  • 19 Saratlı Kırkgöz Underground City.  
  • 20 Narlıgöl Crater Lake (Lake Nar / Acıgöl). Crystal clear waters silently surrounded by other mountains at an altitude of 1,363 m, and 65–70 m deep. It has 2 large geothermal hotels, but they might be closed. There is still geothermal activity in the area, which has given rise to hot springs around the lake. But it seems that the geothermal waters have been pumped up to nearby hotels for use in their hot baths. Also there is terrace with viewpoint, where villagers are serving samovar tea.    
  • 1 Thermal springs of Ilisu (Ilisu Hamami), Ilisu (hitchhiking from Ihlara is possible, in case there is no bus). A convenient hamam worth the experience, providing several cabins to enjoy and get clean with the warm waters of this hot spring. Inquire the key from the supermarket next to it. They might want to rent you the whole place, but a little bit of bargaining will get you the per person price in case there are no other people. 30 TL per person / 100 TL per family as of 2022.
  • Ziga Thermal Springs (Ziga kaplıcaları), Yaprakhisar. A quite commercialised hot spring at temperatures of 47°C and 150 litres per second. But the location not so clear, it seems that there are just spa hotels which cater for your needs.

Buy edit

  • A101 is a small supermarket in Güzelyurt open daily 09:00-21:00.

Eat edit

  • Small eating places in Güzelyurt are Aliem, Güzelyurt Pide Salonu, Ata Restoran and Kalvari Döner.

Drink edit

  • Underground City Cafe Bar in village centre is open daily 08:00-22:00.
  • Gelveri Manufactur make wine.

Sleep edit

The three selling points of the village are Cappadocia, Ihlara and caves, so many places use that combination in their name, be careful which one you're booking. This may be one reason why travellers have arrived to find bookings denied.

  • Osmanoglu Hotel, Prof Nejdet Saglam Cd 33, Güzelyurt, +90 545 546 5568. Small hotel at the edge of the village, great welcome from the owners. B&B double 1000 TL.
  • Cappadocia Ihlara Mansions, Akropol Sk, Güzelyurt, +90 554 541 1402. Smart friendly hotel in an old stone mansion, but not caves at this one. B&B double 1000 TL.
  • Cappadocia Ihlara Mansions & Caves, Çarşıiçi Sk, Güzelyurt, +90 382 451 2426. Charming mansion with some rooms in traditional stonework and the restaurant in caves. They mostly accommodate package tours but can take independent travellers. B&B double 1000 TL.
  • Karamanlı Konağı, Çarşıiçi Sk, Güzelyurt, +90 507 817 1881. Atmospheric 12-room hotel in a historic Greek merchant's house. B&B double 1000 TL.
  • Cappadocia Antique Gelveri Cave Hotel, Akropol Sk, Güzelyurt, +90 507 740 5847. Mixture of stone and cave rooms in this historic mansion. B&B double 1000 TL.
  • Cappadocia Mayaoglu Hotel is next to Cappadocia Antique Gelveri Cave Hotel, similar price and quality.

Connect edit

As of Dec 2022, Güzelyurt has only a basic mobile signal from Turkcell Mobile. Coverage is better on the approach roads, with 4G from all Turkish carriers. 5G has not yet rolled out in Turkey.

Go next edit

  • Aksaray — A laid-back city and great hub for the surrounding attractions near Güzelyurt, or like Tuz Gölü ("Salt Lake"), the second largest lake in Turkey is becoming a popular day trip from the Cappadocian towns, to wade across it shallow waters and to take a few pictures of its vivid, dreamlike views. It also has two 13th-14th century mosques, but its distinctive features are the stout caravanserai on its approach roads.
  • Göreme — The main base for exploring Cappadocia to the east.

This city travel guide to Güzelyurt is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.