Zelve Open Air Museum

Zelve Open Air Museum is a great place to observe the fairy chimneys. It is one of the most historic residential areas in Turkey. There are many caves, tunnels, and passages as once used as churches and residences. The site is like a museum that not stuck inside a building as can understand its name. Moreover, the view of the Zelve Open Air Museum is magnificent thanks to fairy chimneys that exist many in the region. Zelve Open Air Museum is a must-see place in Turkey because of its historical importance and natural beauty.

The fairy chimneys have been used by people throughout history in Cappadocia. People have carved the fairy chimneys thanks to their soft-rock structure and have created naturally safer castles, residences, and passages. The fairy chimneys have been created by nature, specifically the combination of volcanic activities and weather activities. However, the final formation of fairy chimneys was given by humans that have lived there once.

The view of the valley from the edge of the valley is stunning. Furthermore, there is more than a view on the inside of the Zelve Open Air Museum. Caves that once used as houses, churches, passages, and tunnels promise a great historical experience in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Visiting Zelve Open Air Museum

Visiting Zelve Open Air Museum would be a satisfying trip to do in Turkey. The museum is an open-air valley that consists of a lot of historical churches and residences. The valley is a must-see place by itself, yet there are some specific artifacts to see and recommended activities to do in the Zelve Open Air Museum. There are 15 churches that just a part of the Zelve such as Üzümlü ve Balıklı Church, Geyikli Church, Direkli Church.

Every year, about 1 million tourists visit the Cappadocia, and the Zelve Open Air Museum is a common stop for these tourists. The site is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, which underlines the historical importance of the Zelve Open Air Museum.

The Zelve Open Air Museum can be visited in three parts. In the first part, a mosque carved from a rock should be seen. In the second part, a residential area can be investigated. Finally, churches and many residential areas can be visited.

The valley is a great location for trekking. Many tough but joyful paths waiting for their adventurers. There are easy paths for those who do not want too many adventures, yet it is possible to catch better views throughout the hard way.

How do you get to Zelve Open Air Museum?

Zelve Open Air Museum is in between Avanos and Göreme. The site is about an equal distance from most of the popular spots in the Nevşehir district. The museum is 1 km away from Paşabağ Valley, 10.5 km away from Ürgüp, 6.1 km away from Avanos, 7.2 km away from Goreme, and 11.6 km away from Uçhisar. You can reach the museum from all of these locations, still, the most famous way to reach the Zelve Open Air Museum is going to be discussed.

There are a couple of ways to get to the Zelve Open Air Museum. The first thing to do is to get to the Nevşehir district. You can reach the Nevşehir by plane, bus or private car. Flight time from Istanbul to Nevşehir is about one or one and a half-hour. Travel time with a bus and a private car are about eleven-hour from İstanbul, yet with a private car, you can get to the Zelve Open Air Museum easily without changing the bus.

Once you get to the Nevşehir, you should reach a town called Göreme. It is a small town which is a great choice for accommodation and eating. Zelve Open Air Museum is about 8 km away from the Goreme and you can get to the museum in either a private car or a minibus in about 15 minutes. There is an open car park in front of the Zelve Open Air Museum.

Nonetheless, there are some other options to get to the Zelve Open Air Museum from Goreme. You can either:

  • Rent a bike
  • Walk
  • Hire a driver

Renting a bike in Goreme would be an enjoyable option to get to the Zelve Open Air Museum from Goreme. There is a couple of different options to rent a bicycle in Goreme, yet there is no solid price information. However, there is some information on the internet that claims the cost of renting a mountain bike is about 150 Turkish liras for the entire day. Even though, speaking with the dealer for the bargain would be better during the renting process.

Walking is another option to get to the Zelve Open Air Museum from Göreme. Nowadays, many travelers chose to walk in a foreign land to explore nature and the lifestyle of that region better. Distance between Goreme and the Zelve Open Air Museum is about 8 km as mentioned above, so a 1 or 2 hour walking time might be enough to reach the Zelve from Goreme. However, I would like to remind you that visiting the Zelve Open Air Museum is already consists of lots of walking. Therefore, this issue should be also considered while deciding.

Hiring a driver will be the final recommendation. Despite its high price among others, hiring a driver might be the best choice to travel in Cappadocia. There are many places to visit in Cappadocia other than Zelve Open Air Museum. Therefore, you can visit every other place with a private driver comfortably. Depending on your car choice, you can hire a private driver for a couple of hours for about 100 Turkish Liras. Nevertheless, there is no any certain information about the pricing of hiring a driver, it would be better to get in contact with local renting firms to get proper information.

Hours

Visiting hours of Zelve Open Air Museum differs in spite of the season. Between April and October, the summer season, visiting hours are between 08:00 am and 07:00 pm. However, between October and April, the winter season, visiting hours are between 08:00 am and 05:00 pm.

Entrance fee

The entrance fee of Zelve Open Air Museum is 20 Turkish Liras that is about 3 US Dollars. In the entrance, a sketch of the Zelve Open Air Museum is given for free.

Best time to visit

The best time to visit Zelve Open Air Museum in the late spring or early autumn. Cappadocia is a natural beauty that can be visited every season. However, in some seasons the district would be quite crowded and the weather conditions might not be great for a trip. Therefore, visiting the Zelve Open Air Museum might not be that enjoyable compared to more suitable seasons.

Summer is the most crowded season in the Cappadocia and the Zelve Open Air Museum. Moreover, the hottest season of the year in the area is summer. The average highest temperature of summer is about 27 °C, and the lowest temperature of summer is about 1.3 °C, according to the Turkish State Meteorological Service. Even though the weather conditions would seem perfect for an open-air museum trip, visiting the Zelve Open Air Museum in crowded conditions might not be perfect. In this situation, the answer depends on the preferences of the traveler.

Autumn might be a suitable season to visit Zelve Open Air Museum. The average highest temperature of autumn is about 18 °C, and the lowest temperature of autumn is about -14 °C. If the vacation dates could be arranged wisely, a calm and warm Cappadocia can be experienced. Early autumn will the best for a trip to the Zelve Open Air Museum. The weather could be warm and the number of visitors would not much as summer.

Winter promises magnificent views for your photographs and the least crowded season of the Cappadocia, in generally. Nevertheless, winter is also the coldest season in the area. The average highest temperature of winter is about 5 °C, and the lowest temperature of winter is about -19 °C. Visiting the Zelve Open Air Museum in the winter season will not be quite comfortable. Still, if you are resistant enough to the cold air, you should definitely experience the charming view of the Zelve Open Air Museum.

Spring will be another suitable season to prefer other than autumn to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum. The highest average temperature in the month of May is about 32 °C. The same weather conditions could be valid for early autumn. Therefore, suitable weather conditions make it comfortable to visit the valley in Spring and Autumn. Moreover, the population of tourists is not as much as the summer season in both spring and autumn. In conclusion, late Spring and early Autumn are the best dates to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum. 

How Long To Spend

Zelve Open Air Museum is located in a wide area. There are many churches, mosques, and residences to see. Moreover, there are lots of paths to walk. One of the things that make the Zelve Open Air Museum so unique is that its trails provide a unique view of the valley. Finally, in order to see everything in the valley, about 3 or 4 hours must be spent.

History of Zelve Open Air Museum

The history of Zelve Open Air Museum dates back to at least the 9th century. However, there is no enough information about the exact history of the Zelve Open Air Museum. What is certain is that the fairy chimneys had been formed by nature and people had carved the fairy chimneys to create a safe residential area.

The fairy chimneys had been formed for millions of years because of atmospheric events. 10 million years ago, volcanoes like Erciyes Mountain vomited lava for years and years. Tuff had been accumulated because of the volcanic activities in the area, called Cappadocia. Atmospheric events like rains and wind had been eroding for years and years. Finally, the shape that can be seen today, had been occurred after millions of years.

There are many fairy chimneys in Cappadocia and thanks to their soft structure, people had used them as a shelter by carving these fairy chimneys, they had created villages by the fairy chimneys. Ancient people, especially pioneers of Christianity, had built safe residences, passages, and churches to live a safer life. The Zelve Open Air Museum is one of these locations that people had chosen to live, once.

In between the 9th and 13th centuries, the Zelve had been used by Christians as a safe shelter against the Persian and the Arab attacks. Until 1952, people were living in caves, yet the government decided to transfer the local people to a new village called Yeni Zelve, which means New Zelve, in 1952 because of safety issues of caves.

Further Information and Tips

The third valley might be proposed as a tip to a Zelve Open Air Museum trip. The valley is suggested by many travelers for its great paths and magnificent view alongside the path. In addition, at the end of the valley, The Uzumlu Church and Balıklı Church are waiting for their visitors. Both of these churches had been carved inside a cave and both of these churches are great representations of early Christianity.

For accommodation, there are hotels that are serving inside the caves. Staying in a cave at night make human feels like an ancient resident in Zelve. The atmosphere of the cave hotels is definitely authentic. There are many hotels, yet some of these are special because of their viewing areas. You can easily find a great authentic hotel with short research. 

There is a small buffet in the entry area of the Zelve Open Air Museum. You can eat a toast with a local tea called “çay”, or you can eat a local snack called “gözleme”. Moreover, there is a couple of gift shop in the entry area of the Zelve Open Air Museum. You can find handcrafted bags, small fairy chimney sculptures, and many more.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...