When you make a trip to Cappadocia, Zelve Open Air Museum is a must for your itinerary. Zelve Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular stop between Goreme and Avanos and right down the road from Pasabag Monks Valley. Explore the famous fairy chimneys, Byzantine cave churches, and monasteries.
We highly recommend this stop when traveling in Cappadocia with your family.
Know Before You Go
COST: See the Museums of Turkey App
HOURS: 8am – 7pm
BEST TIME TO GO: Year Round
LOCATION: Zelve Valley – Cappadocia
PARKING: Parking fee | See parking attendant
TIME NEEDED TO VISIT: 1-2 hours
- Kid Friendly | Zelve Open Air Museum is kid friendly with lots of opportunities to climb and wander through the cave churches, homes, and magnificent landscape.
- Accessibility | There are paths you can take a stroller on but to really explore, you’ll need to leave the stroller and use a carrier or walk with the kids.
- Trails | There are some paved paths, dirt paths, and some stairs or places you’ll need to climb once you get further back into the valley
- Food & Drinks | There is a market at the entrance to purchase snacks or water.
- Restrooms | There are restrooms on-site at the entrance.
- Itinerary | After visiting the Zelve Open Air Museum, drive about 5 minutes down the road to visit Pasabag and explore the famous fairy chimneys.
Zelve Open Air Museum Fast Facs
- Part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Goreme National Park since 1985
- Was a monastery and seminary training center in the 8th – 13th centuries
- Inhabited until 1952
How to Get to Zelve Valley in Cappadocia
Zelve Open Air Museum is in Zelve Valley located between, the popular Cappadocia towns of Goreme and Avanos. We like to rent a car when we visit Cappadocia so that we have the freedom to stop and explore with our kids. There are various small group tours or you can plan a custom tour that provides the freedom to change your itinerary on a whim.
History of Zelve Valley
Zelve Valley, also known as the Zelve Open Air Museum is one of the oldest and last abandoned valleys in Cappadocia. It consists of two valleys that are connected through hand-carved tunnels, homes, and churches.
Zelve was used as a monastery and seminary to train priests in the 9th to 13th centuries, during the Persian and Arab invasions. It was inhabited until 1952 when the people abandoned the valleys and founded Goreme village just down the road.
Now Zelve is open to exploring with dramatic fair chimneys, churches, and tunnels. While it does not have the same painted frescoes as you see in Goreme Open Air Museum, the valleys are open and ready to climb and explore. Zelve became an Open Air Museum in the 1960s and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985 as part of Goreme Nationa Park.
What to See at Zelve Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum is a favorite site in the heart of Cappadocia to explore with your family. On a recent trip to Cappadocia, we took our family to explore Zelve Valley and Pasabag. There are paved paths that will take you through the valley. You can step into the various cave homes, churches, and mosques as you wander your way through the valley.
The kids enjoyed Zelve Open Air Museum because of its openness and freedom to climb and explore. We started exploring the valley farthest to the right and ended up spending over an hour in this valley alone. We found most of the areas to be open. Some of the tunnels and monastery rooms are roped off now due to erosion and wanting to protect the landscape. Do not let this keep you from visiting as there is so much to see.
Zelve Valley is a great place to go if you enjoy hiking and being outside to enjoy the dramatic landscape of the fairy chimenys in Cappadocia. The open-air museum makes for a nice walk with its paved paths or for those looking for more adventure, you can climb through the cave churches.
When to Go
While you can visit the open air museum year round, it can get quite hot in the summer months. We enjoy visiting Cappadocia in late spring or early fall for ideal conditions for hiking and being outside. If you do go in the summer, but sure to have a bottle of water with you. Once you get back into the valley, there are no markets or places to fill your water bottle.
There is a small market at the entrance to purchase water if you need it.
Next, we’ll look at others sites to visit near Zelve Open Air Museum.
Sites Near Zelve Valley
Pasabag is right down the road from the Zelve Open Air Museum. You can make a quick 30-minute stop to go walk among the fair chimneys in the valley. Then you can head to Avanos to enjoy your hand on the wheel making pottery.
Zelve Open Air Museum vs Goreme Open Air Museum
Zelve Open Air Museum and Goreme Open Air Museum are two very different places. They have both become more popular and have more foot traffic than ever before. I used to always suggest going to the Goreme Open Air Museum, but after our last trip there I have a different opinion.
The Goreme Open Air Museum is famous for its cave churches and the frescoes painted on the walls. The Dark Church is the best-preserved fresco and is worth seeing for the extra fee. Also, the Goreme Open Air Museum is smaller and has a more concentrated amount of cave churches.
Next, the Zelve Open Air Museum is made up of 2 valleys that form a Y shape. It is more spread out with a path that runs about 1.5 km in length. You’ll find the churches, monastery, and history of Zelve fascinating, although you will not see the frescoed paintings that you see at Goreme Open Air Museum. You can still enjoy a leisurely walk through the valley without too many crowds if you visit in the morning.
Ultimately, we enjoy the Zelve Open Air Museum because of fewer crowds and getting to be outside and explore the area. The Goreme Open Air Museum was crowded with many of the cave churches closed due to vandalism. We were disappointed but we did enjoy our time at Zelve and highly recommend making a stop on your family trip itinerary in Cappadocia.
Hot Air Balloons in Goreme
Start your day in with a sunrise hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, before getting out to see the sites. It is an amazing experience seeing all of the balloons in the sky – regardless if you’re flying or observing from the ground. It’s a must-do experience in Cappadocia.
Final Thoughts on Zelve Open Air Museum
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a great stop to be outside, hike, and climb, Zelve Open Air Museum is a must-stop during your trip to Cappadocia. Its rich history, hand-dug cave churches, homes and monastery make it one of the top things to do in Cappadocia.
Also, don’t miss our route guide on how to get from Antalya to Cappadocia and everything you can do along the way.