ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM IN CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
The Zelve Open-Air Museum is an incredible site that once housed one of the largest communities in Cappadocia. In this incredible cave town, you can walk amongst historic dwellings, churches, and religious chambers as well as the town square.
MY EXPERIENCE AT ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
Zelve Open-Air Museum is just 8km from Goreme city-center so we decided to walk there. There didn’t seem to be any shuttle buses and only private taxi’s so off we set. Minutes after beginning our walk, two young Turkish lads pulled over and told us to get in and they ended up dropping us all the way to Zelve Open-Air Museum.
At the museum entrance, there is a small ticket office where you will be your ticket for 15 Turkish Lyra, which is approximately $3USD. There was a sign here that flying a drone was illegal, so mine would have to stay tucked away in my bag.
Once inside you have a few options. The trail is quite small but it leads off in many directions. As you can see in the photo below there are several different sized loops. I advise bargaining to spend about 1-2 hours in Zelve Open-Air Museum and walking down all the trails. We started by heading out along the right trail and then trying to visit all of the spots in the three different valleys as they all provide something unique and have lots of smaller dirt paths darting off from the main trails.
Zelve Open-Air Museum is quite an incredible location, which once housed one of the largest communities in the region. Throughout the walk in the three valleys, you will find dwellings, religious chambers, secular chambers, stables, and even the town square.
I personally enjoyed the second and third valley the most. We spent several hours ducking in and out of the cave houses and exploring every little trail that split off from the main path. They have done a great job at this location by creating an easy path to navigate but also given adventurous people paths and trails to explore a bit further. There’s nothing worse than being stuck on the tourist track when there’s so much more to see but you can really immerse yourself in amongst the scenery here.
Christians and Muslims lived in Zelve in harmony until 1924, when Christians had to leave the valley because of the exchange of minorities between Turkey and Greece. Then the Muslims were also forced to leave the valley in the ’50s via evacuation because the erosion of the caves made life in Zelve too dangerous. The community set up a modern village nearby, which they called Yeni Zelve meaning New Zelve.
In the first valley, you will find some of the oldest paintings on the rocks, which are all that remain from the totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (Church with the Deer). Paintings include the Cross, deer, and fish. Inside the first valley, you will also come across the monastery complex on the right and a metal ladder that connects the first valley to the second valley.
In the second valley there are lots of dwellings, you can enter and explore, often reaching a second and third level. Tunnels and cave rooms are spread all throughout this middle valley.
The third valley is the most impressive as the path leads you to the Uzumlu Kilise (Church with Grapes), a symbol representing Christ and the Balikli Kilise (Church with Fishes). Here is the town square and inside the sloped cave is said to be where the community held it’s feasts and important events.
ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM ENTRANCE FEE
The entrance fee was 15 Turkish Lyra, which is $3 USD. Also important to note was that at the ticket office there was a sign that stated no drones are allowed to fly inside the Zelve Open-Air Museum.
HOW TO GET TO ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM
The most popular region for tourists to stay while exploring Cappadocia is a town called Goreme. Uchisar is the other nearby town, which is also an option but Goreme is the popular choice by far. Goreme is packed with hotels, restaurants, and cafes, while Uchisar is a little quieter.
From Goreme town center to Zelve Open-Air Museum the distance is 8km, which takes 16 minutes by driving.
We decided to walk there but after only five minutes of walking, we were picked up by locals and they dropped us all the way to Zelve Open-Air Museum.
There are a few other modes of transport in Cappadocia that I will detail below, although I suggest walking and trekking because there are lots to see on the way to each attraction and locals will pick you up and drop you further down your route. We never tried to hitchhike but on one day we were gifted three separate lifts.
TRANSPORT IN CAPPADOCIA
Hire a Private Driver: Hiring a driver for a few hours to take you to several sites will cost about 100 Turkish Lyra depending on the car and your negotiation, which is about $20 USD. This is a good idea if you want to see 1-2 locations in an afternoon.
Rent a Mountain Bike: We thought about renting a mountain bike but they were 150 Turkish Lyra for the entire day so it would have been 300 Turkish Lyra for both of us just to transit around. That’s almost $60 USD. It would have been fun but once we fund out everyone wanted to help us by giving us lifts there wasn’t much need. We either walked or hitchhiked.
Rent A Scooter/Moped: A scooter costs about 150-200 Turkish Lyra ($30-40 USD) per day and could be handy if you want to explore some attractions a bit further away or venture over to Uchisar.
Rent an ATV: Given the rough terrain in Cappadocia, an ATV is a fun option to help you explore the natural wonders and rock formations of the region. Prices are about $40 USD for two hours.
WHERE TO STAY IN GOREME, CAPPADOCIA
Where I stayed: Design Cave Suites Cappadocia – I was lucky enough to stay at the Design Cave Suites in Goreme. The location was great and I walked to all attractions. The rooftop garden was awesome for sunrise balloon watching. Buffet breakfast spread was amazing as was the cave style room designs.
Best Cave Hotel with Pool: Local Cave House Hotel– This cave hotel rose to fame because of its incredible pool. Make sure you click the link and check out how epic the pool backdrop is, with those classic Cappadocia rock formations in the background and traditional cave rooms it is a top pick.
Cave Hotel with Best Roof View (and dogs): Sultan Cave Suites – This cave hotel became famous because of its epic rooftop area for sunrise viewing. Guests can lay out on traditional pillows and carpets while watching the hot-air balloons flying above. The hotel dog might also join you for a photo shoot on the roof!
Budget Option in Goreme: Emre’s Stone House – For just $6 USD per night you can enjoy Cappadocia and this budget accommodation even has an epic rooftop to enjoy. It’s the best value in Goreme, Cappadocia.
Save money in Cappadocia by staying at an Airbnb! Get a FREE $40 Airbnb Coupon by using my code when you book! I use Airbnb on about half of my travels and find you always get more value than a hotel.