If you want to explore cave-churches and have fun off the beaten track, Soganli Valley is an ideal location. It’s a peaceful valley located 40km southeast of Nevsehir. The area features several hiking trails, old churches, and pigeon houses. If you are looking for a peaceful hiking experience surrounded by historical structures, your visit to Soganli Valley would be perfect. The historical importance of this area is comparable to Goreme Open Air Museum and Ihlara Valley, but it does not get the recognition that it deserves.
There are more than 20 ancient churches here, from which only 10 are worth-mentioning. You will also see a number of pigeon houses and ancient roman tombs on the valley cliffs. Most of the people that visit this valley just spend a couple of hours and return without exploring the main features of the valley. We recommend you not to make this mistake and take a full day to explore every part of the valley.
Located in the district of Yesilhisar, Kayseri, this area appears a bit unusual and abandoned village. When you get to the main road coming from the village of Guzeloz, follow the signs. After driving through the modern village for a few kilometers, you will reach the park entrance. Just as you enter, you will see the ancient village plaza, which is now abandoned.
The ancient village site comprises of caves and stone rooms. The homes were made by carving rooms into the hillside and underneath the homes lay the foundations of the 6th-century church. From the village center, you can get to several churches and monasteries by walking a short distance.
At the plaza, the road splits as presents two options. You should stay right and go over the bridge, so you can get to Karabas and Snake Church. After that, you can visit the Domed (Turkish: “Kubbeli”) and Hidden (Turkish: “Sakli”) Churches. From there, turn left, to visit St. Barbara Church, Geyikli Monastery, and Han. After about 1 km, at the exit, you can visit Buckle and Sky Churches.
If you couldn’t plan a full-day trip and are there for just a few hours, you shouldn’t try to visit every church. You can just visit the best sites: St. Barbara Church, Geyikli Monastery, Karabas Church, Domed Church, and Hidden Church.
There are two cafes in the valley where you can drink and eat. You will enjoy eating traditional Turkish foods being served in the garden, near the creek. Both cafes offer quality products in a pleasing setting that makes the valley one of the best places to eat in the whole region. As the valley is at a remote location, around 1 hour from other notable sites, these cafes are your best options to eat. If it’s winter, you can eat inside in a heated environment.
Cafe 1, called as Hidden Apple Garden is located just before the entrance gate. Cafe 2 lies next to Snake (Turkish: “Canavar”) Church, at the end of the north fork. You can also purchase a popular product, the Soganli doll, made by the local women. They have been making the dolls for many years, using Anatolian fabrics. There is a popular story associated with the origin of the doll, so it will be a special souvenir to take with you.
The history of the area is very unique and fascinating. The area was a large, agriculture settlement in the Roman-era when it was called the city of Soandos. The earliest church AK Church dated back to the 6th century, as evident from the paintings and architecture of the church. It was located in the city center and was destroyed during WW1. From the design of the church, it’s easy to assess that a skilled architect was hired to design the structure.
When the Arabs started raiding the Cappadocia in the 7th and 8th centuries, just like the rest of the region, the city also declined. The area again came to life during the Byzantine Period when several courtyard complexes and churches were built. The area held great military value as indicated by the church inscriptions. Different military or political figures built three churches: St. Barbara Church, Geyikli Monastery, and Karabas Church.
Turkish farmers started settling in the area during the Ottoman Period. They changed the name of the area to Soganli which means “with onions”.