Guide To Visiting Zelve Open Air Museum, 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 SJ

Written by our local expert SJ

Sarah-Jane has lived in Croatia for 10+ years. SJ, as she is known, has been traveling the Balkans & beyond since 2000. She now shares her passion for traveling with her husband & kids.

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 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!

History Goreme Open Air Museum 

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. And 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.

When Turkish nomads migrated to Anatolia, some settled in Zelve and slowly replaced the Christian population of the area. Turkish settlers expanded the settlement to the Zelve valleys surrounding it and founded new villages. Until the population exchange between Greece and Türkiye in 1924, the Turkish Muslim and the Greek Christian populations lived together in Zelve. Between 1949 and 1954, the area’s settlers began leaving their homes, due to rock falls and natural disasters, for another settlement 2 kilometers away from Zelve, called Yeni Zelve (New Zelve). In 1967, Zelve became an open-air museum and archaeological site.

What To See In Zelve Open Air Museum

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 a spectacular visit to guests. The magnificent church also includes a monastic complex and a unique narthex structure.

Aerial View Of Zelve

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. 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.

Costs Of The Zelve Open Air Museum 

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 enter 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.

Zelve Open Air Museum 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 there 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.

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!