By Zekeriya Karadavut
AKSARAY, Turkiye (AA) - The Ihlara Valley, which is among the world's largest canyons and resembles an open-air museum with its historical and natural beauty, attracts hikers looking to walk along trails of unequaled winter views.
The valley, located on the borders of the Guzelyurt district in Turkiye's central Aksaray province, is described as "the pearl of Cappadocia."
It takes visitors on a journey through history and nature under a fresh snow cover.
Hikers can go down into the valley gazing at the breathtaking view while descending the 382-step staircase.
Nature and history lovers are also fond of the Melendiz Stream, snaking along the deep gorge.
They can trek through the trees three routes on either bank of the stream.
Visitors can also explore historical sites in the valley, like the Egritas, Agacalti, and Yilanli churches, as well as other chapels and monasteries carved into the rock, while the winter season promises the joy of snowball fights among the canyon walls.
Guzelyurt District Governor Nurullah Cemil Erciyas told Anadolu Agency that despite the coronavirus pandemic, the town had met its goal of attracting 1 million tourists last year.
The valley alone hosted nearly 600,000 local and foreign tourists last year, said Erciyas.
"Ihlara Valley is becoming a center of attraction for winter tourism. With a length of 14 kilometers (9 miles) and living spaces such as churches and monasteries, the valley has a special place in the world," Erciyas added.
Greek tourist Eleni Michalaki said: "We had a snowball fight with friends. We're having a great time. The view is magnificent here."
*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz.