The Domed Church and the Hidden Church are two small churches that you reach via a short 1/2 km hike through a local farm (with friendly cows). The Domed Church was carved into a natural rocky outcrop and is one of the few rock churches in Cappadocia with carving on the outside as well as the inside. Unfortunately, the dome from which it takes its name has cracked in two, and half of it lies at the base of the church. You can enter both the small dome room and the larger church which was carved out of a chamber one level beneath it.
The Hidden Church is about 30 meters away from the Domed Church and is, as its name suggests, concealed in a cave that goes back into the hillside. Both the Hidden Church and the Domed Church also have monk's caves surrounding them. At the back of one of the caves in the Hidden Church complex, we saw a millstone similar to the ones at the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu. Does it protect a passage to another underground city? We didn't have time to find out and left that mystery for someone else to investigate.
Yilanli Kilise, the Church of St. George (also called the Church of the Snake) is located at the end of the Upper Soganli Valley. Unfortunately, its frescoes have suffered quite a bit of damage from neglect and vandalism over the years, but part of the artwork is still intact. As its name indicates, this chapel was dedicated to St. George, a leading saint in the Catholic and Orthodox churches, who was legendary for slaying a dragon or serpent. Like the other churches in the valley, this church was carved into the hillside and is part of a complex of other caves where the monks and priests ate, slept, and worked.
The Karabas Kilise is the first church that you reach after entering the Upper Soganli Valley. We assume that it got its nickname, the Black Head Church, due to the dark skin colors used in its frescoes, which are still mostly intact, but with definite signs of wear and some vandalism. In addition to the church, you can explore the adjacent caves where the monks and priests lived and worked.
This is one of the easier churches to explore in the Soganli Valley because it is right next to the road and doesn't involve any significant hiking or climbing.
In the town of Soganli, there are a number of women selling handmade dolls, the area's best-known handicraft. You will see vendor selling Soganli dolls all over Cappadocia. They are inexpensive (YTL 5 or less) and make nice souvenirs and gifts. By buying in them Soganli you can cut out the middlemen and put money directly into the pockets of the town where they are made and the women who make them.
Throughout the Soganli Valley, you will see complexes of small holes outlined with white along the mountainsides. These are dovecotes, which structures were built by the monks to house doves. Doves were raised by the monks both as a food source and for their droppings, or guano, which was used as a fertilizer for crops. The white paint attracted the doves to the holes, which were carved into the mountainsides in order to give the doves places to nest.
The Soganli Valley is away from any large town and does not have the infrastructure that many other tourist sites in Turkey posess. For example, we did not see any gasoline stations, so fill up before you start your trip. Also, bring water and snacks. There is a small restaurant in the Soganli town, but nothing in the Upper Soganli Valley.
If you don't like isolated areas, this area may not be for you. In a full afternoon of sightseeing, we only saw about 10 other people the entire time. The churches and caves in the valleys are unattended. However, there are two large cellphone towers on one of the narby mountaintops, so hopefully your mobile phone will work if you need to call for help.
Don't let these warnings scare you off, we just want to ake sure that people understand that the Soganli Valleys are a very different tourist experience than many of the more developed tourist sites in Turkey. We felt safe while we were there and had no problems, even though we were there in 35 degree heat with a 7-year old child.