97km (60 miles) southwest of Nevsehir; 49km (30 miles) southeast of Aksaray; 15km (91/3 miles) southwest of G├╝zelyurt

A hike through the canyon is an opportunity to see the Cappadocia of more than 1,000 years ago. Only 49km (30 miles) south of Nevsehir, the barren scape of the Ihlara Valley splits open to reveal a 15km (9 1/3-mile) fissure created by the force of the Melendez River. In contrast with the dusty expanses of the rest of Cappadocia, the bottom of the canyon, nourished by the riverbed, is verdant with vegetation supporting village life much as it did centuries ago. Local women wade along the banks of the river, their traditional baggy trousers trailing in the river's edge as they do the day's washing.

As residents are drawn to Ihlara's canyon fertility, so were the earliest Christians: The canyon is home to over 100 churches and an estimated 4,000 dwellings sculpted into the soft rock face of the valley.

The canyon descends over 90m (295 ft.) in some places, twisting and turning at the beckoning of the river along wide trails lined with poplars and pistachio trees or narrowly navigable paths. There are a number of official entry and exit points along the canyon, past modest yet viable troglodyte villages. Official entry and exit points at the villages allow for either full-day or abbreviated hikes, but you should leave time for detours to the area churches and to pet the donkeys tied to a tree along the river's edge.