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Discover exquisite ruins of monasteries, houses, and churches carved into scintillating, soft volcanic rock from the epic 4th century. Göreme Open Air Museum is a designated world heritage site and a must visit for everyone vacationing in this part of the world. An essential checkpoint on any Cappadocian itinerary, the museum has been a sought-after tourist destination ever since the 17th century. The museum offers a rare collection of monasteries along with several rock-cut churches and chapels.
Walk Around a Charismatic Chain of Ravishing Rock-Cut Churches
Among various places of interest in and around the Open Air Museum, St. Barbara Church, located on the back side of rock housing Elmali (Apple) Church, is the most sought after. It has been built in a cruciform plan having two columns. The north, south and west arms of this cruciform look like a barrel while the east corners and the east arms are domed-shaped. There is this main apse on two sides of the church and at the center. Motifs are red and have been painted on the rock directly. Each wall and the dome are beautifully decorated, with several geometrical patterns, including military symbols and mythological animals.
Apple (Elmali) Church is one of the most prominent buildings here, featuring vivid colors on its walls. The church, which flaunts a groin-vault shape, has been built according to the cross-in-square plan with four graceful columns along with a central dome. It also consists of several beautiful frescoes from the 11th and 12th century that reflect various stories from the Holy Bible and the life of Christ. Various messages pertaining to the Hospitality of Abraham and Three Hebrew Youths can also be explored.
Snake (Yilanli) Church consists of two chambers constructed as per a linear plan. The front section of this church is barrel-vaulted whereas the backside features a flat ceiling. The red ochre follows the example of the hewn stone plait. Frescoes depicting the 11th century are directly painted on the wall on the opposite side of the entrance. One of the major highlights of the church is the divine picture of Jesus Christ with a book in his hand whereas massive pictures of Emperor Constantine and Helena are displayed on the left. Other spectacular images on the church walls are of St. George and St. Theodore.
The entrance to the Dark Church, which dates back to the 12th century, is a blockbuster affair. The gate through the north runs across a winding tunnel that opens up into an aesthetic barrel-vaulted narthex. South of the narthex rest three graves. The church has been built in line with a cross plan, the arms featuring a diagonal vault. Some of the scenes painted on the walls depict the Deesis; Annunciation; Journey to Bethlehem; Nativity, Baptism, Raising of Lazarus, Transfiguration; Entry into Jerusalem, Last Supper; Betrayal of Judas; the Crucifixion, and Anastasis.
It's a two-column church with two pillars in a cross-vaulted form consisting of three apses and four domes. The frescoes, which have been preserved safely since many centuries, portrays the life of Jesus, Hospitality of Abraham, and several spectacular images of the saints and church donors. Although it resembles the Karanlik (Dark) as well as Elmali (Apple) Churches, the scenes of the Way of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross make it different from the rest. The figures are generally large. The center dome homes an image of 'Savior the Pantocrator', with the busts of angels within the insets.
How to Get Tickets?
You can buy tickets at the entrance. The queue at ticket counters are generally not too long and, therefore, you can grab a ticket in some 10 to 15 minutes. Note that the museum's most sought-after highlight, the Karanlık Kilise, has an additional entrance fee of 10 Turkish Lira. The same ticket is valid to visit all the churches.
How To Get Around?
You can walk comfortably walk along the well-maintained pathway to visit the church of your choice and even the magnanimous Karanlık Kilise.
What Should I Wear?
As for Turks and church customs, prefer wearing smart casuals such as sleeved summer dresses or knee-length skirt and sleeved top for women, long trousers and a short-sleeved shirt for men. Footwear can be sandals or shoes. Avoid sleeveless tops or shorts, and wear socks for walking on the carpets.
Best Time to Visit
Turkey sees cold winters and hot summers with snow being a widespread and expected feature. Spring and autumn, between April and May, and September and mid-November, respectively, are considered the most perfect times to visit Turkey when skies are clear and the temperatures are pleasant.
Will I Need a Guide?
You do not need a guide to reach or explore Goreme Open Air Museum. Moving around is hassle-free and all the necessary information is available on this website.
How To Get There?
For overseas visitors, Kayseri Erkilet Airport in Kayseri is the nearest touch point, located at a comfortable driving distance of 1 hour (74.7 KM) from the central Cappadocia region. Buses connect Cappadocia to all leading nearby cities like Izmir, Bursa, Konya, Çanakkale, Istanbul, Ankara, and Antalya. Most buses lead to Göreme and Nevsehir from all these cities.
Do not forget to carry enough water for your trip in the hot and blazing afternoon sun. Consider visiting in the morning or early evening so as to avoid much of the heat.