Zelve Open Air Museum and Fairy Chimneys Guide – Cappadocia
The Zelve Open-Air Museum is an incredible site composed of 3 valleys. It’s located 7km from Göreme and for that reason is less popular with tourists than Göreme Open Air Museum. Zelve housed one of the largest communities in Cappadocia. In this incredible cave town, you can walk amongst historic houses and ancient churches carved into the mountain. Located just 1km away the Paşabağları Valley known also as ‘Monks Valley’, attracts attention with its unique fairy chimneys. Both sites can be visited in one day and with the same ticket. We spent amazing time discovering this area and wandering freely around. In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know before visiting Zelve and Fairy Chimneys.
Zelve Open Air Museum
It’s hard to imagine, but Zelve Open Air Museum was a inhabited town just until 1950′. The Christians and Muslims lived here together in perfect harmony until 1924. Because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, Christians had to leave the Valley. The Muslims were forced to evacuate the Valley in the 1950’s due to cave collapsing and risk of erosion. Life in the town carved into the mountains became too dangerous.
There are 3 main trails in Zelve: Valley 1 which is 170m long, Valley 250m long and Valley 3 1km long. We walked all of them and advise you to do the same. After passing the entrance gate turn left and head over to the first houses carved into the mountain. Then proceed along the path in a clockwise circle. The paths are well made and lead through out the whole site. You can choose to walk through the centre of the valley or, like us, explore further and climb also on the higher parts to admire the fantastic scenery.
↬ Note : One of the things we loved most about this site it that you are free to wander almost anywhere. There are some parts of the ancient city that are enclosed, but the rest can be discovered and climbed onto.
Each part of the trail presents something unique that should not be missed. Like that big chamber where we took some of our favourite pictures from this trip (it’s located just after the mill).
↬ TIP : Stop at one of the restaurants at the exit for traditional Turkish crepes, “Gozleme”. You can choose a filling between spinach, cheese, aubergine or beef (or mix few of those). One gozleme costs 15 TRL (2 EUR).
Next in this guide: head over to the Fairy Chimneys, located just 1km from Zelve. You can easily walk there as the road passes through a beautiful scenery. Alternatively, ask somebody at the parking lot to give you a ride. Locals are very friendly towards tourists. Hitchhiking was our main way of transportation in Cappadocia. ?
Paşabağları Valley- Fairy Chimneys
Pasabag Valley contains some of the most striking fairy chimneys in Cappadocia with twin and even triple rock caps. This style is unique even for Cappadocia and these fairy chimneys are named mushroom-shaped fairy chimneys.
An interesting fact
Pasabag Valley was once inhabited by Simeon monks. Saint Simeon was living in seclusion near Aleppo in the 5th century. When rumours spread that he performed miracles, disturbed by attention, he moved to the top of a 2m high column and later moved to another one that was 15m high. From there, he would only descend occasionally to get food and drink brought by his disciple. They began to follow his example and distanced themselves from the world by cutting into fairy chimneys rather than living on top of columns, creating rooms at 10-15m high. There is a chapel dedicated to Saint Simeon, and a hermit’s shelter built into one of the fairy chimneys with three heads.
Visiting Fairy Chimneys
The best way to visit the site is by walking around the path around the valley first. The fairy chimneys are very impressive. Make sure to climb into some of the chambers (the ones closer to the ground) to see how the monks used to live here.
↬ Note : Pasabag Valley is one of the most visited sites in Cappadocia. There is a big chance that the place will be crowded. We didn’t manage to shoot a lot because of the amount of people on the site. At one point, few school buses pulled up and the mess and noise kids made was unbearable. We had to escape to the higher levels to continue visiting in peace.
After you visit the lower valley, head up to the hill on the right for fantastic views of the surroundings. The rock is slippery and crumbles so be careful where you place your feet.
↬ Note : The next stop that day was Cavusin. Standing on top of the hill we could see that walking across the valley will shorten the distance a lot compared to going back to the main road. So we walked down on the opposite side of fairy chimneys. There was an actual path as farmers get to their land by a car, but it leads a bit around. We walked across pointing the google maps in the right direction. It took 45 min and the walk was rather pleasant. If not for very spiky, dry plants that stuck to our socks and shoes every few steps. Nevertheless, if you plan to visit Cavusin after Zelve and Fairy Chimneys, it’s a great adventure and a fun way to guide you to your next visit.
1 April – 1 October
1 October – 1 April
The ticket costs 18 TRL (2,8 EUR). One ticket is valid for both Zelve Open Air Museum and Fairy Chimneys so don’t pay twice (as we did…).
How long does it take to visit
We suggest at least 2h to visit the Zelve Open Air Museum. We stayed there even longer, as we loved climbing the rocks and lurking inside each cave.
To wander around Fairy Chimneys reserve around 1h. The site is not large, but gets very busy. Sometimes you’ll need to wait in a queue to enter some caves and passages.
How to get there
Zelve is located 7 km from Göreme. The easiest way is taking a taxi. It took us less than 10 min drive and 30 TRL (5 EUR) to get there. From Zelve to Fairy Chimneys we got a ride from 2 Turkish guys we stopped on the way.