Guide To Visiting Zelve Open-Air Museum – Cappadocia Türkiye

Chasing the Donkey may include affiliate links - if you decide to make a purchase through these links, we receive a commission without any additional cost to you. Disclaimer & privacy policy.
Post author Enes

Written by our local expert Enes

Originally from North Macedonia, Enes is a well-traveled enthusiast residing in Türkiye. He combines his extensive knowledge and avid wanderlust to bring you insightful narratives of his Turkish adventures.

Here is your guide to the Zelve open-air museum in Turkey. We have covered what to see in Zelve, where to go, and ideas on places to stay. 

Turkey Travel Blog_Guide To Visiting Zelve Open Air Museum Turkey

Anatolia is a land rich in culture and history, where you’ll come across a historic settlement or the ruins of an ancient city wherever you travel.

However, if you ask, “Where should I go in Türkiye this summer?”

Cappadocia, with its picturesque open-air museum and famous locations like Pasabag and Avanos, would undoubtedly be at the top of the list. Besides being some of the oldest settlements in human history, Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist attractions.

And a must-see destination in Cappadocia is the Zelve Open Air Museum, a historical and cultural site known for its rock-cut houses, churches, and underground cities. If you’re planning a trip to Cappadocia for your holidays, continue reading our post to learn some tips and make the best of your trip!

Goreme Open Air Museum In Cappadocia History

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia Turkey

Although there are few artifacts from the earliest civilizations that lived in Zelve, it is possible to trace the history of the settlement back to the ancient Hittites, who lived in the region around 2000 BC.

The Hittites were known for their sophisticated system of underground cities, which they used as a means of defense against invaders and protection against natural disasters. The emergence of the first underground cities in Zelve might have happened during the Hittite rule.

After the Hittites, different civilizations inhabited the region, and each left its mark on the area that can be seen at the Zelve Open Air Museum today. However, the first large-scale settlement in Zelve, built by Christians, thrived in the seventh century CE.

In the following centuries, Christian settlers continued to develop and maintain their settlements, becoming one of Anatolia’s most notable religious centers between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries.

The migration of Turkish nomads to Anatolia marked a significant period in the history of Zelve, intertwining with the broader narrative of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey. This movement resulted in a gradual shift in the area’s demographics, where the incoming Turkish Muslim settlers began to integrate into the region originally inhabited by a Christian population. 

The historical exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, particularly evident in Zelve, was a crucial element of the 1924 agreement. This agreement mandated the relocation of Christians from Zelve to Greece, while Muslims from Greece moved to Turkey.

This exchange of minorities led to a dramatic transformation in the cultural and religious landscape of Zelve, transitioning it from a mixed community where Christians and Muslims lived together to a predominantly Muslim area.

Following the exchange of minorities, the Turkish settlers in Zelve expanded their settlement into the surrounding valleys, founding new villages. However, the area faced natural challenges; between 1949 and 1954, the inhabitants, due to the threat of rock falls and other natural disasters, had to relocate. This led to the creation of Yeni Zelve (New Zelve), situated 2 kilometers away from the original site.

In 1967, Zelve was converted into an open-air museum and archaeological site. This transformation served to commemorate and preserve the history of the region, particularly highlighting the period when Christians and Muslims lived together and the subsequent impact of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, which led to the Christians having to leave Zelve.

What To See In Zelve Open-Air Museum, Cappadocia

Zelve Open Air Museum - Houses carved into the rock in Zelve. Turkey

Zelve is home to many fairy chimneys, typical of Cappadocia, ancient buildings, and stunning rock-cut churches, which early Christians used as places of worship. Every corner of Zelve offers its visitors a spectacular discovery and provides them with an unforgettable adventure. Here are some of the best spots in Zelve you might want to see!

Üzümlü Church

Many of Zelve’s churches contain well-preserved frescoes and gorgeous decorations. One of these spectacular churches is Üzümlü Church, or the Church of Grape, the oldest and most significant of all the churches in the area. Üzümlü Church, located in the first valley in Zelve Open Air Museum, got its name from the red and green grapevines decorating its walls; there is also a cross carving in the church’s ceiling.

Kutsal Haç Church

Kutsal Haç Church, or the Church of Holy Cross, got its name from the cross reliefs on its walls. The enormous alcoves in the walls and beadle graves beneath the floor enhance the church’s splendor. The well-preserved church welcomes tourists into a magical atmosphere, filling them with unusual nostalgia and even homesickness for a century and a land they have never been to.

Rock Cut Columbaria

The population of Zelve had extensive vineyards and produced wine. And since pigeon guano is a fantastic fertilizer, they built columbaria, or pigeon lofts, for pigeons to live -and poop. This way, they could obtain enough fertilizer to produce their famous wine. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many pigeons as there once were, but the structures still provide excellent sights.

Dark Church

Although Zelve contains numerous small churches spread throughout the valley, none is as elaborate as Dark Church. The vibrant frescoes and vaulted ceiling of Dark Church offer guests a spectacular visit. The magnificent church also includes a monastic complex and a unique narthex structure.

Aerial View Of Zelve Valley

Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cost & What You Need To Know Before You Ride

The last and the most majestic sight on our list is the aerial view of Zelve, including the spectacular erosion patterns that shape the three valleys. Going to Cappadocia and not taking a hot-air balloon would be a shame. So, when you’re at Zelve, take a hot-air balloon and see the spectacular Zelve valley, its rock-cut churches, and stunning natural formations from the air. Also, don’t forget to bring your camera, as you’ll have the chance to take lots of Instagrammable pictures.

What To Expect While At The Open Air Museum Goreme

Why visit Turkey - Aerial view of majestic landscape in goreme national park_Turkey

When visiting Zelve, you should expect to take lots of superb pictures, see numerous historical landmarks, and discover some of the most picturesque natural formations in the world. As a part of the Cappadocia region, Zelve is home to many fairy chimneys with rock-cut houses and churches carved into them. So, if you’re interested in natural wonders,

Zelve is the best destination for your next holiday! Plus, visiting the underground cities of Zelve and making your way through the narrow corridors will offer you a glimpse into the past of the earliest communities in Anatolia, who often built underground cities to hide from invaders and raiders. Overall, Zelve is the perfect destination for seeing historical and natural landmarks.

Zelve Open Air Museum Entrance Fee

Since there is more than one archaeological site in the area, each of them might charge you a different entrance fee -for example, Paşabağlar Archaeological Site charges a fee of 65₺. If you want to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum, you pay a fee of 150₺. Also, the services within the museum, like hot-air balloons or restaurants, have differing prices. Plus, if you want to visit Dark Church, one of the most famous churches in the area, you’ll need to pay a fee of 50.

Visiting Zelve Tips

Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Cost & Tips - Sunset Over Cappadocia
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons

One of the best parts about visiting somewhere is the opportunity to discover new and different things. However, going to a foreign place without knowing anything about it is never a good choice. Therefore, we’ll give you some excellent tips that’ll come in handy during your visit to Zelve.

  • Plan your visit: Zelve Open Air Museum is a popular tourist destination. So, if you don’t want to wait in huge queues and get lost, plan your visit in advance.
  • Get ready for a long walk: The Zelve Open Air Museum is spread over a large area, meaning you’ll do a lot of walking. Therefore, wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water – we recommend using these collapsible water bottles.
  • Avoid the underground cities if you have agoraphobia: We believe you don’t need any further explanation. Going through narrow streets and being in tiny spaces might be one of the worst scenarios for a person with agoraphobia.
  • Follow the rules: There are rules to protect ancient structures and ensure the safety of visitors. Make sure to follow these rules and be respectful.
  • Don’t Rush: You’re visiting an extensive and fascinating settlement with a lot to see and explore. Make sure to allow yourself enough time to fully experience the site to make the best of your trip.

Brands We Use And Trust


Where To Stay In Cappadocia

Want to be close to the fairy chimneys, a monastery, or stay in a cave hotel? Then read the below guide on Cappadocia accommodation. 


What is the Zelve Open Air Museum?

The Zelve Open Air Museum is an incredible site located in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. It features cave dwellings, rock-carved churches, and exhibits showcasing Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.

Where is the Zelve Open Air Museum located?

The Zelve Open Air Museum is situated in the Zelve Valley, known for its unique fairy chimneys, in Cappadocia, Turkey.

What can I see at the Zelve Open Air Museum?

You can explore cave dwellings, Byzantine-era cave churches, a mosque, and a monastery complex as you walk along the path through the different valleys of Zelve. The museum offers a glimpse into the Cappadocian way of life and the historical significance of the region.

How much time should I plan for a visit to the Zelve Open Air Museum?

A visit to the Zelve Open Air Museum takes at least two hours to fully explore and appreciate the various attractions and historical landmarks.

Is there an entrance fee to the Zelve Open Air Museum?

Yes, there is an entrance fee of 65 Turkish Lira to enter the Zelve Open Air Museum. If you have a museum pass, the entrance fee is included.

Are guided tours available at the Zelve Open Air Museum?

Yes, guided tours that include the Zelve Open Air Museum are available. They provide in-depth information about the history and significance of the site.

What is the best way to reach the Zelve Open Air Museum?

The Zelve Open Air Museum is easily accessible by car or by booking tours from nearby towns such as Göreme or Geyikli. Renting a car or joining a tour group are convenient options to consider.

Is there parking available at the Zelve Open Air Museum?

Yes, there is parking available near the entrance gate of the Zelve Open Air Museum.

What other things can I do in Cappadocia?

Cappadocia offers a range of activities and attractions. Some popular options include hot air balloon rides, visits to the Göreme Open Air Museum, exploring other valleys and fairy chimneys, and exploring the ancient castles in the region.

Are there accommodation options in Cappadocia?

Yes, there are various accommodation options available in Cappadocia to suit different budgets and preferences. You can choose from cave suites, traditional hotels, and guesthouses.

How do I get around Cappadocia?

The easiest way to get around Cappadocia is by renting a car or by joining organized tours. Renting a car allows you to explore the region at your own pace, while organized tours provide guided transportation to different attractions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Move This Adventure To Your Inbox & Get An Instant Freebie

Subscribe To Unlock Your FREE Customizable Travel Packing List & All Our Best Tips!