Aksaray and the Ihlara Valley

Situated in the heart of Cappadocia, Turkey, the town of Aksaray is sometimes overlooked by travellers in favour of Kayseri and Göreme National Park. However, the town and surrounding area are full of tourist attractions, particularly in the Ihlara Valley, the second largest canyon valley in the world. In the centre of Aksaray, Mount Hasan, a majestic volcano now extinct, rises to over 3,250 metres. It is particularly popular with sports enthusiasts, thanks to its ski trails through the eternal snows.

The town of Aksaray is an ideal stopover during your stay in Cappadocia, and deserves at least half a day's visit. Alongside its museum and mosques, this modern town is also known for its caravanserais, the resting places of ancient merchants. The most famous, the caravanserai Sultanhanı, is one of the largest stations on the old Silk Road: a cultural visit not to be missed under any circumstances.

Clock Tower Park, downtown Aksaray, Turkey

- © Munzir Rosdi / Shutterstock

How do I get to Aksaray?

The town of Aksaray is linked to the country's main cities by major secondary roads. There are several buses to Aksaray from Ankara, Kayseri and Konya. The nearest airports are Nevşehir (around 60 kilometres) and Kayseri (134 kilometres).

Clock Tower Park, downtown Aksaray, Turkey

- © Ivanova Tetyana / Shutterstock
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The Aksaray Archaeological Museum

Housed in a new building inspired by Seljuk architecture, the Aksaray Archaeological Museum contains relics from all the eras that have marked the history of Cappadocia, from the Neolithic period to the Ottoman era. In the various rooms of the museum, you'll discover exhibitions of ancient objects and coins from several excavation sites in the region. The museum's extensive garden also boasts a rich collection of funerary stelae and other stone curiosities.

View of the archaeological museum in the town of Aksaray in Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

The Great Mosque of Akrasay

Among Aksaray's remarkable tourist attractions, the town's mosques will leave no traveller indifferent. In the town centre, the large Karamanoğlu Ulu Camii mosque dates back to 1408. Built on a rectangular plan, this building is one of the finest examples of Seljuk architecture in the region.

The great Karamanoğlu Ulu Cami mosque in Aksaray, Cappadocia (Turkey)

- © MDart10 / Shutterstock

The minaret of Eğri

Standing on Nevşehir Street in the centre of Aksaray, the minaret of Eğri has the distinctive feature of being slightly inclined, reminding tourists of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. This characteristic has earned it the nickname of the "Leaning Tower of Aksaray" since its construction in the years 1220-1230. Also known as the "Crimson Minaret" because of its red bricks, this minaret is over 30 metres high and has become one of the symbols of the town.

Winter view of the Egri Minare mosque in Aksaray, Cappadocia

- © Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

The Sultanhanı caravanserai

Considered to be the largest Seljuk caravanserai in Anatolia, the Sultanhanı Caravanserai is located on the outskirts of Aksaray town centre, 45 kilometres to the west. This gigantic 4,500 m² building was constructed in the 13th century. It served as a refuge and stopover for merchant caravans travelling along the ancient Silk Road.

Aerial view of the Sultanhanı caravanserai in Aksaray, Cappadocia

- © Konevi / Shutterstock

From the moment visitors enter the immense 13-metre-high marble entrance, they cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty of the site. Whether it's the inner courtyard, the mosque or the large winter building, this caravanserai has been preserved over the years and is now a must-see in Cappadocia.

Détails de l’entrée du caravansérail de Sultanhanı, à Aksaray en Turquie

- © Konevi / Shutterstock

The Ihlara Valley

Fans of hiking and trekking will be delighted by the Ihlara Valley, located near the town of Aksaray. A true natural wonder of Cappadocia, it was once known as Peristremma. Today, nature, art and culture mingle in this valley, renowned for its troglodyte churches and breathtaking panoramas.

The Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia is one of Turkey's most famous valleys for hiking excursions.

- © el_cigarrito / Shutterstock

Formed several thousand years ago by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, the Ihlara valley contains the only canyon in Cappadocia. At the heart of the gorge, the River Melendiz allows lush vegetation to develop, contrasting with the other arid landscapes of the region.

The Melendiz river, in the Ihlara valley

- © Sener Dagasan / Shutterstock

🍴 Where to eat in the Ihlara Valley

There are several cafés and restaurants in the Ihlara Valley to enhance your visit and provide refreshing breaks. Directly above the Melendiz river, thanks to platforms on stilts, several restaurants promise an unforgettable taste and cultural experience.

Restaurant platform on the Melendiz river in the Ihlara valley

- © Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock
by Faustine PEREZ
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