On your family trip to Cappadocia, Goreme Open Air Museum is a popular stop in Goreme. The painted cave churches are a special treat at this UNESCO World Heritage site. While there can be quite a bit of foot traffic through the site, a quick stop to see the Dark Church, Apple Church, and Sandal is worth adding to your trip itinerary.
Know Before You Go
COST: See the Museums of Turkey App
HOURS: 8am – 7pm
BEST TIME TO GO: Year Round
LOCATION: Goreme, Cappadocia
PARKING: Free or Walk from Goreme
TIME NEEDED TO VISIT: 1 hour
- Kid Friendly | Goreme Open Air Museum is kid-friendly. It is a compact gated area that is great for kids to explore.
- Accessibility | The walkways are paved, and you can easily take a stroller or wheelchair through the Goreme Open Air Museum. You will not be able to take strollers inside the churches as most of them have steps or ladders to access the entrance.
- Photography | Photography is not allowed inside the painted churches but you can take photos outside.
- Food & Drinks | There is a gift shop and market inside to purchase souvenirs, snacks or water.
- Restrooms | There are restrooms near the entrance after you go through the gate..
- Itinerary | After visiting the Goreme Open Air Museum, head to Zelve Open Air Museum and Pasabag Monk Valley.
Goreme Open Air Museum Fast Facs
- Contains 15 Cave Churches
- Part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Goreme National Park since 1985
- Popular Churches On-site: Dark Church, Apple Church & Sandal Church
How to Get to the Goreme Open Air Museum
The museum in located in Goreme National Park. The museum is a short walk up the hill from the Goreme city center, making it an easy stop during your visit to Cappadocia. If you’re driving, there is a parking lot about 50 meters down the hill from the entrance of the museum.
To enter the museum, you can use your Turkey Museum Pass or pay the entrance fee at the gate. The ticket prices change regularly, so please check the Turkey Museum App for the most updated pricing and open hours.
History of the Goreme Cave Churches
Goreme Open Air Museum is made up of cave churches painted Byzantine frescoes that speak of its monastic history under the leadership of the Kayseri Bishop of St. Basil. Many of the churches date back to as early as the 4th century AD. The area was used as a monastery to train and teach religious students until around the 13th century.
Goreme Open Air Museum contains 15 cave churches, all built around the 11th century.
What to See at Goreme Open Air Museum
Of all the churches located at Goreme Open Air Museum, the most famous are the Dark Church, Apple Church and Sandal Church. The church’s columned architecture and vibrant paintings make them the most visited at the museum.
Next, we’ll learn more about what to see when you visit the Goreme Open Air Museum in Cappadocia
Convent and Monastery
When you first walk into the museum, you’ll see the convent over to the left. The convent stands 6-7 stories tall in the Goreme Open Air Museum, but you can only visit the first 3 floors. The convent is connected throughout with narrow tunnels similar to the underground cities in Cappadocia, like Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. Due to erosion and some of the rock collapsing, it is not safe to go further up. Next to the convent is a monastery, where you’ll find only the first 2 floors open to explore.
Buckle Church (Tokali Kilisesi)
The Tokali Church is Cappadocia’s largest and earliest cave church in Cappadocia, built around 960 AD. The church inspired other monasteries and churches to be built in the valley, which you can also see in the Goreme Open Air Museum.
Dark Church (Karanlik Kilisesi)
The Dark Church in Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the best-preserved churches in the museum. Due to its location and lack of sunlight, the Byzantine paintings on the church walls are vibrant in color. To protect the painting, you can no longer take photos inside the cave church. To enter the Dark Church, there is an additional entrance fee you will pay after you enter the Goreme Open Air Museum, so be sure to have cash on hand.
Apple Church (Elmali Kilisesi)
The Elmali Church is one of the most popular churches at the Goreme Open Air Museum. The Apple Church is painted in a similar style to the Dark Church and Sandal – most likely painted in the same time frame. The colors are vibrant with detailed story telling in each wall painting in the church. A few scenes you will see in the Apple Church:
- Jesus Baptism and Transfiguration
- Birth and Death of Jesus
- Entry into Jerusalem
- Last Supper
Sandal Church (Carikli Kilisesi)
The Sandal Church is an 11th-century church that shows detailed paintings at the Goreme Open Air Museum. The Sandal Church is part of the monastery built on the second floor of the complex. Below you’ll find the refectory with the 7-meter table and rock benches carved into the volcanic rock.
Church of St. Barbara
The Church of St. Barbara is decorated with red geometric designs and dates to around 1100 AD. The interior is made up of several columns and arched ceilings.
Snake Church (Yilanli Kilisesi)
The Snake Church was originally carved to be the entry to a much larger church but was not completed. The cave church is a small room with several simple paintings including saints, St. Basil, St. Thomas, and Jesus.
When to Go
You can visit the Goreme Open Air Museum year round. If you go in the summer months which are also the high season for tourism, we suggest going in the morning. The site can get crowded and it gets hot in the afternoons.
Sites Near Goreme Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum rivals Goreme Open Air Museum in its history and sites to visit. Zelve Valley was known as a monastery although its churches do not have the colorful paintings of the Goreme Open Air Musuem. Zelve is a great morning stop to hike through after visiting Goremem Open Air Museum.
Pasabag Fairy Chimneys
About a 5-minute drive from Zelve Open Air Museum is the fairy chimneys of Pasabag. You can stop and park, then wander paths through the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia.
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloons
Goreme is home to the takeoff and landing spots of the sunrise hot air balloon rides. Plan on taking a ride in a hot air balloon or get up early to see hundreds of balloons in the sky at sunrise.
Read our Top 10 Things to Do in Cappadocia.
Underground Cities of Cappadocia
The underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu are a must visit when you go to Cappadoca, Turkey. Walk through the rock-cut tunnels and going 4 -5 stories underground to see kitchens, wineries, stables, churches, and monasteries.
Don’t miss trying your hand at throwing pottery in Avanos. We recommend visiting Chez Hakan for a pottery making demonstration beforing trying yourself. Its a fun few hours for everyone.
Final Thoughts on Goreme Open Air Museum
Ultimately, Goreme Open Air Museum is a wonderful stop to enjoy the paintings of the popular Dark Church, Apple Church, and Sandal Church. While there are a lot of visitors to the open air museum, you can easily make a quick stop and take 30 minutes to an hour to see the most popular cave churches.
Also, don’t miss our route guide on how to get from Antalya to Cappadocia and everything you can do along the way.