Zelve Open Air Museum (Zelve Açık Hava Müzesi)

Zelve Open Air Museum (Zelve Açık Hava Müzesi)

Zelve Open Air Museum (Zelve Açık Hava Müzesi)

Zelve Open Air Museum was Zelve village just 60 years ago.

Zelve open air museum view

If you are coming to Cappadocia on your own (not part of a group tour) you might want to add Zelve Open Air Museum to your itinerary.

But then again, you might not. I will paint the picture for you and you will have to decide.

I pulled into the parking lot and paid my 2TL to park and got my 10TL museum ticket and off I went.

I did not see a layout of the park and asked if there was a brochure or a map to which the museum employee pointed and showed me a map 50 meters ahead on the path.


“Would it be just like the open air museum of Göreme”, “How would it be different”, I asked myself.

First of all, save for one, there were no frescoes remaining in the caves. Secondly, apart from the two other couples I saw, there was nobody at this park (but I did go in the winter when crowds are small everywhere). Thirdly, Zelve had a great mix of professional restoration while maintaining a natural feel.

Roughly four times as big an area as Göreme’s Open Air Museum, Zelve Open Air Museum has four churches. However, only one of these churches has any of the classic paintings that you would find in Göreme. So if you are looking for the amazing frescoes of Byzantine history you will not find them at Zelve.

Zelve open air museum cross
The fact that there are far fewer people who visit Zelve Open Air Museum should be a draw. Unlike the other open air museum, at Zelve it is possible for you to “have the place to yourself.” Take as long as you like at one of the churches, there is no one behind you waiting to get in. Want to see the grainery where they crushed the wheat into bulgar? No problem, there is no waiting in line for people to leave so you can have a space.


The best thing that Zelve offers that Göreme does not is the valleys. Zelve consists of three valleys. Unlike Göreme, contained in a relatively small area, Zelve is a meandering 1.5 kilometers of sightseeing. I was impressed with the brick pathways and bridges the government has put in, along which you find historical markers explaining what you are seeing. But one does not need to stick to the paved path. There are plenty of roads-less-traveled to be explored. And for this reason alone I think Zelve is worth a visit. It is not just a museum; it is a hike. The plethora of trails to innumerable caves will keep you discovering for hours. I was in no hurry and stayed for 1.5 hours. I left half a valley unexplored. If you have kids they will enjoy climbing the rocks and imagining what it would have been like to live in the caves.

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