While the village of Kızılkaya is mostly known for the Neolithic Aşıklı Mound, the old town is also worth a visit. The abandoned stone houses, caves, high red cliff, and willow filled valley below make for a beautiful place to explore.
It was free when we went but that may not always be the case. This site is connected with the MÜZE group of museums so a Müze card would be accepted here if they charge.
Believed to be around 10,500 years old, the Aşıklı City-Mound is the oldest known settlement in Anatolia and an incredibly important site for our understanding of humanity at this time. The 20 or so generations that lived at this sight would have been among the first to cultivate grains, domesticate sheep, and perform brain surgery.
Excavations through the various layers of settlement have revealed that the first dwellings were circular and set into the ground. Later these gave way to square buildings of mud-brick with entrances in the roof. The dead were often buried inside the home under the floor. You can see models of these at the foot of the hill.
The river at the foot of the mound has been eroding one of the sides away, cutting through generations of settlement and opening up thousands of years of history. The ground is littered with little shards of volcanic glass, or obsidian, from the volcanic activity of Mount Hasan.
Aşıklı Mound, like nearly all sites this age (see Çatalhöyük), suffers from a great lack of visual appeal. Layers of different coloured dirt with the odd bone or bit of ash isn’t altogether visually engaging. Even the ruined buildings, being made out of mud need to be covered for protection, or simply become covered in weeds as the fragile bricks slowly melt away. All the finds from this site have been sent to other larger museums. Places like this are treasuries of information to the archaeologist but if you’re not really into archaeology you likely won’t find it very interesting.
The best time of year to visit the site is during the summer when teams of archaeologists will be working. At this time there will be less tarps and sandbags and much more activity than if you come during the off-season.
The Village of Kızılkaya
While the current village of Kızılkaya is much like any other village in the region, the former village of Kızılkaya is so beautiful that it has brought film crews to the area for 50 different films! It’s not hard to see where the town of Kızılkaya gets its name from. The name meaning “Red Rock” comes from the massive cliff that rises behind the old town and has attracted directors over and over again. The slope below the cliff is full of old abandoned stone houses as well as a number of cave homes. At the foot of the slope is a river whose banks are covered in willows. The old town was fully abandoned by the 1960’s after earthquakes had sent car-sized boulders tumbling from the cliff and through houses.
How To Get There
By car head east out of Aksaray city on the Sevinçli road (this will turn into the Aksaray-Güzelyürt road); about 18 kilometres out of the city you will see the turn-off for Kızılkaya to your left.
For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.
Where To Stay
For visiting Kızılkaya you have the choice between the non-touristic city of Aksaray or one of the more touristic centres of Ihlara, Güzelyürt, or Selime. The latter three will have you closer to Aksaray’s beautiful history and landscapes while the city centre will be a bit cheaper.
Planning on visiting Kızılkaya? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the area!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.