Venturing to the Fascinating Selime Monastery in Cappadocia, Turkey
Most Ihlara Valley tours include also a stop at Selime monastery, located at the very edge of the valley. Visiting this fascinating historical and religious benchmark you will see how the local monks and the bishop used to live and pray in these tuff hills.
What to see at the Selime Monastery
The site where Selime monastery was built between the 8th and 9th centuries is historically important in the matter that shows signs of earlier presence from past civilisations. Among these, the Persians, the Seljuks, the Romans as well as the Byzantine eastern Roman empire have settled there at some point of history.
Inside the different areas of Selime monastery, the walls show beautiful frescoes and it’s possible to visit the rooms where the daily life of the previous inhabitants took place such as the monks’ kitchen.
READ MORE: Top things to do in Cappadocia.
At times, the construction looks like a stronghold made of defence walls, narrow passageways and even trenches. Apart from being a fortress, Selime monastery was also where monks and clergy received their education and a military command post.
One of the largest religious complexes built in Cappadocia, Selime monastery has also been used as a caravanserai where the traders travelling along the Silk Road could stop, spend the night, eat and rest before resuming their journey. Within the monastery, you will also see the paths devoted to the camels the traders used to travel and where they were kept to rest. Caravanserais are always fascinating buildings, some of the most beautiful to visit are in Iran and in Herat, Afghanistan.
READ MORE: Best places to visit in Iran in 10 days.
From the 16th century, the complex of Selime monastery was abandoned and somehow fell into decay. Today it’s one of the famous attractions in Cappadocia and always included in the guided tours to the Ihlara Valley as it’s located right on the edge of the gorge.
The church of the monastery is very big, almost the size of a cathedral and inside is made of pillars and arches. The paintings decorating the church are simple icons as well as frescoes. The frescoes of this fascinating religious complex are little visible and date back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
Obviously today the church is no longer used for functions but it’s just a part of this historical landmark and can be visited inside.
Tips for visiting the Selime monastery
- Book a guided tour with a local to visit the religious complex, alone it’s not an easy sight and you will miss on important explanations.
- Getting to the monastery and the church is a steep climb and goes to a pretty high altitude.
- Wear comfortable shoes, either runners or hiking shoes.
- Wear comfortable clothes. Just like for the shoes, consider that you are going to climb and do a long walk and some staircase. You might want to wear trousers instead of a skirt and cotton or loose material instead of jeans.
- In spring and summer, temperatures can be pretty hot so don’t forget to wear a good sunscreen and/or a hat.
- The walk is tiring and long, and inside the monastery, there is no refreshment kiosk, so carry a bottle of water in your bag/backpack to remain hydrated, especially in the hot season.
Places to visit near Selime monastery
Goreme Open-Air Museum
A large monastic complex, Goreme Open-Air Museum is one of the top places to visit in Cappadocia, unmissable if it’s your first time in the Turkish region.
Red Valley and Rose Valley
Hiking the Red Valley and Rose Valley in Cappadocia is a must thing to do for all nature and adventure lovers.
The largest canyon in Cappadocia, the Ihlara Valley is a favourite tour to take in the region. You can trek throughout the valley, visit Belisirma village built on its slopes, and explore its fascinating cave churches and dwellings. At the end of most tours to the Ihlara Valley is Selime monastery.
Where to stay near Selime monastery
The best towns to stay in Cappadocia are Goreme and Uchisar, but if you feel like staying in a larger city, the closest to Selime monastery is Aksaray, some 28 km away. There are plenty of great hotels in Cappadocia, and most likely, from any of them, you will need a driver/car to reach the monastery.