Zelve open-air museum, which once was the home of one of the largest communities in the region, is an amazing abandoned cave village. Zelve is situated about 7 km from Göreme. Christians and Muslims lived together here in perfect harmony until 1924. Then Christians had to leave the country because of the exchange of minorities between Greece and Turkey, and Muslims in their turn were forced to leave the village in the 50s, when life became too dangerous because of the risk collapsing as a result of erosion. They set up a modern village, a little further on, to which they gave the name Yeni Zelve (New Zelve).
Now old Zelve is a ghost village and the erosion still continues. The three valleys in Zelve open air museum offer a heaven for rock climbers. It takes at least two hours to walk through the three valleys, which also contain the oldest examples of Cappadocian architecture and religious paintings.
You can start by visiting the first valley on the right. While walking along the path, on the right you can see some paintings on the surface of the rock. These paintings are all that remains from the now totally collapsed Geyikli Kilise (the Church with the Deer) and are examples of the oldest paintings displaying the principal religious symbols of Christianity, like the Cross, the deer and the fish.
On entering the first valley, on the left, you will see a rock-cut mosque, with a lovely minaret obviously influenced by the bell-towers of the monasteries. There is also a monastery complex on the right resembling an upside down bowl cut into the rock. Immediately opposite, there is a rock-cut complex accessible by a metal ladder and connected to the second valley by a tunnel. You can also enter the second valley by following the path in front of the mosque.
At the entrance of the third valley you can see a rock-cut mill with a grindstone which was in use until the 50s. There is also Üzümlü Kilise (The Church with Grapes) named after the bunches of grapes, a symbol representing Christ himself. Next to Üzümlü Kilise is the Balıklı Kilise (The Church with Fishes).On the apse above you will be able to see paintings of fish in a very faded red.
The museum is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm in winter and 7 pm in summer and the entrance fee is 8 TL. It can be visited on our private Off-the-beaten-track Cappadocia Tour.