Alahan Monastery

Top choice in Eastern Mediterranean

Tentatively listed for World Heritage status, this remarkable monastery perches on a terraced slope high above the Göksu Valley, northwest of Silifke. Above the entrance is a cave church chiselled into the cliff face. A grand entry adorned with richly carved reliefs of angels and demons leads into the ruins of the western Church of the Evangelists with its re-erected Corinthian columns. The better preserved 6th-century Eastern Church is considered to be one of most ambitious early examples of domed-basilica architecture.

Although today the location amid the pine-forested slopes of the Taurus Mountains has a middle-of-nowhere feel, during the Byzantine age the monastery sat near Claudiopolis (today's Mut) on a vital trade and communications route, and archaeologists believe Alahan was probably one of Turkey's most important religious centres during the 5th and 6th centuries.

To get here, take the inland (D715) highway from Silifke to Mut (1¼ hours, 75km) and then continue north for another 24km to the village of Geçimli, where a signposted turn-off to the monastery, on the right, leads for 2km up a steep incline.