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.
ZELVE OPEN-AIR MUSEUM IN CAPPADOCIA
In this blog post, I will share with you everything you need to know about the Zelve Open Air Museum in Cappadocia.
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 a private taxi service 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. Hitchhiking in Cappadocia was actually a great way to get around and how we reached the start of many hikes in Cappadocia.
At the museum entrance, there is a small ticket office where you will be your ticket for 15 Turkish Lyra, which is approximately $ 3 USD. This is half the price of the other popular museum in Goreme called, the Goreme Open-Air Museum.
There was a sign here that flying a drone was illegal, so mine would have to stay tucked away in my bag.
TOP 3 PLACES TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA
Zelve Open-Air Musem Tour
There is a tour of Cappadocia that includes many of the highlights around Goreme that also includes a visit to the Zelve Open-Air Museum. It is a great way to enjoy a guided look at the most important locations in Cappadocia. The tour is also pretty reasonably priced. You can check out which other places the tour visits and book online here.
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 valleys 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 giving 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 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 its 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 drive.
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 one day we were gifted three separate lifts.
One of the best ways to get around is to hire a driver that will allow you to create a customized itinerary. That way you can visit all the spots you are interested in. To hire a private car with a driver/guide you can book online here or you might be a bigger group and in that case, it can be cheaper to hire a van in Cappadocia, which also comes with a driver.
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. The buffet breakfast spread was amazing as were 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 photoshoot on the roof!
HOW TO GET TO CAPPADOCIA
Cappadocia isn’t actually a town as many people think but it is an entire region. Within this region are towns such as Goreme (the most popular tourist spot), Uchisar, Urgup, and Ortahisar among others. There are two airports that serve Cappadocia.
- Kayseri Airport (70km/60 minutes) is the main airport and takes just over an hour by van/bus to reach Goreme Town
- Nevsehir Kapadokya Airport (/40km/40 minutes is the secondary airport, which is closer to Goreme but only by about 20 minutes.
The big difference here is that Kayseri is a bigger airport, with more flight options, and often has cheaper flights. It is very convenient and quick to fly into Kayseri and I did it twice.
To get from Kayseri (or Nevsehir) you need to pre-book your shuttle or be prepared for an expensive taxi. The cheapest and easiest way to do that is to book online here. For under $15 you can ride in a shared, air-conditioned airport transfer or a private transfer from $50.
THE 3 MOST POPULAR CAPPADOCIA TOURS
- Sunrise Hot Air Balloon: My number one recommendation is to do a sunrise hot air balloon flight and be blown away by this magical experience.
- Cappadocia Sunset ATV Tour: The best way to spend sunset in Cappadocia is on the ATV tour amongst the amazing rock formations.
- Cappadocia Red Tour & Goreme Open-Air Museum: All of the best tourist sites in one day!
HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT THE REST OF MY CAPPADOCIA BLOG POSTS?
Click on one of the articles below to check out all of the places you should visit while in Cappadocia!
The big guide! This post has all of my favorite activities, which I personally did while in Cappadocia for ten days: 24 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA
The hiking guide! Find out about all of the best hikes in Cappadocia with details, directions and lots of photos: 8 AWESOME HIKES IN CAPPADOCIA
Thinking about flying in a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? Read this first: CAPPADOCIA HOT AIR BALLOONS: THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU FLY
Have you heard about the castles in Cappadocia? Check these out:
Not sure where is the best region to stay? Wondering which hotel provides the best value? Check out this guide that will help you decide: WHERE TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA: THE BEST HOTELS & HOSTELS
OR… I write a post about the 12 BEST CAVE HOTELS IN CAPPADOCIA that you might find interesting.
I’ve written a blog post for almost all of the places I’ve visited while in Cappadocia. You can find every single one of these articles right here: CAPPADOCIA ARCHIVES