Lystra, known as Kilistra in Turkish, is an ancient city located 45 km (28 miles) southwest of Konya, at the village of Gökyurt in Hatunsaray town in Central Anatolia. It's 1373 meters (4500 feet) above sea level. The whole area is sitting on a large tuff rock formed by volcanic eruptions in ancient eras, similar to Ihlara.
The history of the region dates back to the Late Bronze age. Lystra was inhabited during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. It was located on the ancient Royal Road, known as Via Sebaste. Due to its strategic importance in the southern tip of the Roman Empire, the city was made a military colony by emperor Augustus in 25 BC; the 7th Legion was stationed here.
Lystra became an important city during early Christianity especially between 6th and 13th centuries, it is mentioned in the Acts of the New Testament. In the 1st century AD Saint Paul and Barnabas visited Lystra after Iconium (modern Konya), hence spreading Christianity in the region. After Lystra, their journey proceeded for Derbe, Pisidian Antioch (today's Yalvaç), and Seleukia (today's Silifke).
The region was attacked and plundered many times by primitive Homonad tribe, and also its Christian inhabitants were disturbed by Jews and pagan Romans who lived nearby. Therefore the city had to be suitable to hide and defend, so houses were carved into tuff rock which are architecturally similar to the settlements in Cappadocia.
When emperor Constantine accepted Christianity as the religion of Byzantine Empire in the 4th century, Lystra started to developed further. The city was sacked by the Persians in the beginning of 6th century and then Arabs between 7th and 9th centuries. In the 11th century Seljuks arrived to the region, then Karamanoglu Principality ruled it after 13th century, and finally was captured by sultan Mehmet II in 1466.
During the excavations in Lystra archaeologists discovered structures carved into the rock between 2nd and 8th centuries; churches, residential rooms, tombs, shelters, watch towers, cisterns, wineries, as well as a bridge and underground city. There is also a small fortress, monastery and other structures at the nearby All-Sumas mountain. There is a small museum in the town.