This cave town will give you Goosebumps at every turn. These honeycombed looking caves once housed thousands of souls. 60 years ago this open-air museum was a town. And here comes the matter of harmony, in those caves Christians and Muslims lived together and peacefully. Those caves are living evidence of history and religion. The cave town was abandoned many years ago due o erosion. You will be thrilled to think these caves were inhabited 800-1000 years ago. Have you ever seen a cave church? Yes, that's another fascinating fact about Zelve Open Air Museum. Christian monks used to hold seminaries there. There are four Byzantine churches in those caves. One of them is called the 'Dark Church.' Once upon a time, all the walls were adorned by the fascinating Frescos but time faded them. Ministry of Culture is working on restoration. And it's a UNESCO site right now.Anyways, if you want to explore the entire open-air museum and the valleys, then you have to tie your shoes for a little trekking experience, and those are worth witnessing. If you want to enjoy the local flavors, then you must visit the shops in the parking area, from Turkish handbags to authentic cookbooks, you'll find it all here.
ZELVE OPEN AIR MUSEUM: A LIVING HISTORY
Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer)
Geyikli Kilise or the church with Deer is in the first valley of Zelve. The 11th Century Fresco is still there with its glory. You can see the most ancient painting remains that depict the oldest Christian religious symbols like the Cross, Fish, and Deer. But unfortunately, due to erosion, the Geyikli Kilse is on the verge of collapsing.
Uzumlu Kilise (The Church with Grapes)
This church is in the second valley. The word 'Uzum' means grapes. This church got its name from the grape frescos in the wall of the church. It is believed that those grapes represent Christ himself. There are several inscriptions as well. This church was curved in the 10th Century.
Balikli Kilise (The Church with Fishes)
After Geyikli Kilise you will find yourself in a monastery complex and a bowl-shaped rock-cut upside down stone, and there you will see the Mosque. There are remains of a beautiful minaret. A church and a mosque in the same complex or valley may remind you about the 'Universal Brotherhood.'
Balikli Kilise (The Church with Fishes) is almost adjoining to the Uzumlu Kilise. The primitive paintings, Fishes in red are still there. This will take you to another eon.
Fairy Chimney is a beautiful rock formation. You have to climb the chimneys to explore it completely. Climbing and entering those secret chambers is allowed, and it's free. Fairy Chimney is just five mins away from the main Zelve museum.
How to Get Tickets?
There are three kinds of tickets you can get in Zelve Open Air Museum. To park a car, you have to get a ticket for 3lt. There is a small entry fee, 10tl per adult. To use the lavatory you have to pay 1lt. The Dark Church has a special entry fee.
How To Get Around?
The entire open-air museum is rock-cut. And as already mentioned there are three valleys. So you have to trek a little to get around the caves and the valleys. It will take almost 2 hours to cover the entire valley.
What Should I Wear?
Best Time to Visit
During December, January, and February the weather of Cappadocia is chilling without any doubt. The temperature remains between 2 to - 2-degree Celsius. The best time to visit Zelve Open Air Museum is from March to September. Zelve is a remote area, so it will be best to visit in the morning because you need a long time to explore the caves.
The only currency you can use is Turkish Lira.
Will I Need a Guide?
Getting a Guide is the best idea. It's a historical site. If you don't take a guide, those caves will remain just caves for you. I don't think you want that! So get a guide. Listen to stories of how the Christians left those caves and Muslims, the ceremonies and the final evacuation. It will give you a different feeling.
How To Get There?
By car, you need 30 minutes from Urgup to reach the valley, and from Avanos, it will take 10 minutes. Public transport is not a good option for you. There is a large parking zone. You can take a Taxi as well from Avanos or Urgup.
It will be best to wear canvas or hiking shoes. The entire valley is full of steep rock, and few formations are high. So shoes are a must. People with cardiac issues may face trouble in exploring Zelve.