Fresco hunting in Jurassic landscapes: exploring Gökbel Valley

We’ve already mentioned Gökbel Valley’s and the Menderes Massif’s extraordinary landscape and the Latmos Mountains in a few of our other posts. The rock formations here are almost other-worldly, and you get to enjoy them to their fullest when hiking to Yediler Monastery, above Lake Bafa, or when making the descent to Gerga, probably one of Turkey’s most mysterious sites. But there are many more surprises hidden in these mountains. The 1.500-year-old frescoes painted on a cliff not too far away from the Adnan Menderes reservoir are part of those wonders, and we’ll tell you exactly how to find them in this post. Time to discover the spectacular boulders of Gökbel Valley, the legend of Marsyas, and these particular frescoes!

Read More About Yediler Monastery Near Bafa On Slow Travel Guide Click here to read our post about hiking to Yediler Monastery, right above Lake Bafa
These Could Be Modern Art, They're Hundreds Of Millions Years Old

These Could Be Modern Art, They’re Hundreds Of Millions Years Old

Gökbel Valley: the story behind the unusual rock-formations

What’s so special about the Menderes Massif that we keep talking about it? We’ve even added this particular section as a ‘hotspot’ in our Turkey Trip Planner. If you haven’t seen those yet, check them out. Hotspots are interesting stops, great buildings, beautiful views, or other points of interest that are worth marking on your itinerary map. We do not have a separate post for these, but you may decide to include them in your trip with our photos’ help.

Click here to go to the ‘Hotspots’ on Turkey Trip Planner

Trust Us, You Can Never Get Enough Of These Gökbel Valley Boulders!

Trust Us, You Can Never Get Enough Of These Gökbel Valley Boulders!

We’ve often wondered how those boulders were formed and where they got their shape from. So, we did a little research, and as mentioned in the paper Pan-African magmatism in the Menderes Massif: geochronological data from leucocratic tourmaline orthogneisses in western Turkey, “these granitoids represent the products of the widespread Pan-African acidic magmatic activity, which can be attributed to the closure of the Mozambique Ocean during the final collision of East and West Gondwana“. In short, this landscape dates back hundreds of millions of years, to Jurassic Times.

The geological framework of the Çine submassif – where the Gökbel Valley is located – is dominated in the northern part by Pan-African basement units, which are surrounded to the south by Paleozoic–early Tertiary cover series that form a continuous, more than 200 km long zone. Trust us when we say that it’s a fabulous landscape, and planning a hiking day here is something that you won’t regret.

Mind Blowing Rock Formations

Mind-Blowing Rock Formations

Even The Trees Are Playing Along In This Magnificent Landscape

Even The Trees Are Playing Along In This Magnificent Landscape

The Legend of Marsyas

Gökbel Valley is also home to the legend of Marsyas. Locals even call it Marsyas Vadisi, Turkish for Marsyas Valley. In short, this is how one of the versions of the (sad) Legend of Marsyas goes. Marsyas, a Phrygian Satyr, found a flute that had been thrown away by the Goddess Athena. He almost instinctively knew how to play it and later challenged the God Apollo – who played a different instrument – to a contest. When Apollo insisted on a second round to be played with their instruments upside-down, Marsyas lost.

They had agreed that the winner could deal with the defeated party any way he desired, and Apollo decided to tie Marsyas to a tree and flay him alive. The tears of those who mourned his death were the river Marsyas’ source, now the Çine stream. Today, there is nothing sad about this beautiful valley where nature dominates with splendor. One of the places that deserve to be explored is the part of the Gökbel Valley, where your hike comes with the bonus of spotting 1.500-year-old frescoes.

Outer Worldly Is The Right Term To Describe Gökbel Valley

Outer Worldly Is The Right Term To Describe Gökbel Valley

Hiking Gökbel Valley

Hiking Gökbel Valley

How to hike to the Gökbel Valley frescoes?

HIking Gökbel Valley isn’t always a walk in the park. To access some places, you’ll need to cover some rougher terrain from time to time. To find the stunning frescoes, you’ve taken the first hurdle by reading this post. The second one is accessing the valley from the main Muğla – Aydın road. You’ll find a pin with the exact location of the frescoes on our Turkey Trip Planner. This will help you to figure out where to park your car. Our preferred choice is to park the car before reaching the little house used as a reference point on where to access the valley. Click here to see the location and get the coordinates.

From there, walk in the direction of Çine – Aydın until you spot a little house on a hilltop, just off the main road. When in doubt, check the photo below for comparison. A word of warning: to get access to the valley, you’ll have to climb over (or under) the guardrail. There’s also some barbed wire. This isn’t meant to keep you out of the valley, but keep the animals such as cows and goats in.

What A Fabulous Place To Hike!

What A Fabulous Place To Hike!

Not Long After Entering Gökbel Valley, You'll Spot The Rock With The Frescoes

Not Long After Entering Gökbel Valley, You’ll Spot The Rock With The Frescoes

Once you’ve accessed the valley, walk up to the little house and take the path to the left of it. Keep following that path, which is more of a goat track than an actual hiking trail, and work your way down. There are no markings or signs anywhere, but the walk to the frescoes is rather short, so you should be fine as long as you’re wearing decent shoes and you keep following the track until you spot the rock with the frescoes.

Spotted The Frescoes!

Spotted The Frescoes!

Impressive, Isn't It?

Impressive, Isn’t It?

As soon as you’ve spotted the rock, pick whichever access route you prefer; you can always take a different one as you walk back up. The sight is phenomenal, and it’s hard to believe that you’re standing less than a kilometer away from the main road. Here, in this extraordinary rocky landscape, when Christianity started to spread some 1.500 years ago, people have painted frescoes of Jesus Christ and some saints on a massive wall of rock. This is the place they chose to come and pray in secret.

The ‘smaller’ frescoes are about 1.5m high, whilst the biggest one easily is 2m in height. The level of detail is amazing, and while the frescoes have somewhat been damaged, they’ve been protected from the elements thanks to the chosen location.

Detail Of The Entire Series Of Frescoes

Detail Of The Entire Series Of Frescoes

A Former Secret Praying Spot, Now A Hidden Gem

A Former Secret Praying Spot, Now A Hidden Gem

More frescoes were painted towards the lower end of the rock. You can still see the outlines, but the paintings have been entirely removed over time. There have been talks about the opening of a Geopark for tourists for years, but so far, this has remained a project on paper. If you ask us, the magic of this place lies in the fact that it has remained largely untouched, if you forget about the reservoir. So we’re quite happy to climb over a few fences or guardrails to explore the valley.

The Outlines Are All That Remain Of The Lower Series Of Frescoes

The Outlines Are All That Remain Of The Lower Series Of Frescoes

Practical tips for visiting the Gökbel Valley frescoes

The frescoes are not too far away from the Muğla – Aydın main road. Still, while this is a short hike, it doesn’t mean you should undertake it unprepared. Wear proper hiking shoes, bring protection from the sun, and plenty of water, especially during the hotter season. This isn’t a walk for people with mobility issues, but anyone in reasonably fit condition can do it. Put the car park coordinates in your GPS before leaving; there are no particular signs to point you in the right direction.

If you’re relying on public transportation, talk to the driver before getting aboard. There are no official bus stops nearby, but it’s safe to stop at the indicated parking lot if the driver agrees. If you miss it, don’t panic; hop-off at the next one, which is only slightly farther away.

Consider combining your visit with a few other gems in that area. There are too many places to name them all, but Lagina, Stratonikeia, or Alabanda pop to mind. Check out our map of Turkey to discover them all.

Click to see places to stay near Gökbel Valley on a map
Look At The Size Of That Rock!

Look At The Size Of That Rock!

✔️ Have you been to the frescoes in Gökbel Valley? Then please head over to our Turkey Trip Planner to leave a review. Alternatively, if you plan on visiting, you can add the hike to your bucket list.
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Fresco Hunting In Jurassic Landscapes: Exploring Gökbel Valley
Fresco Hunting In Jurassic Landscapes: Exploring Gökbel Valley
Fresco Hunting In Jurassic Landscapes: Exploring Gökbel Valley
Fresco Hunting In Jurassic Landscapes: Exploring Gökbel Valley
Fresco Hunting In Jurassic Landscapes: Exploring Gökbel Valley

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Check the weather

Never wonder about the weather in Turkey again. The Turkish climate is as diverse as the country with significant differences between the regions.

This page contains the current weather and weather statistics for all regions in Turkey.

Prepare your trip

How to order a tourist visa for Turkey?

What about public transport?
Can you skip the line at Istanbul Airports?

General Turkey travel information, essential to help prepare your trip, on one page!

LISTS & REVIEWS

Bookmark your favorite places, find other destinations nearby, get directions from your location, and read or leave reviews.

Our Turkey Trip Planner wad designed to do just that. You'll find all our favorite spots in one place, including scenic road stops.

Map of Turkey

Do you like to see things on a map? On our interactive tourist map of Turkey, you'll spot nearby points of interest right away. We've done the heavy lifting for you. Just click on the icons to go to each post.

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Fresco hunting in Jurassic landscapes: exploring Gökbel Valley