Our 2nd day in Göreme was busy but fun! Hot air balloons watching from our hotel, Zelve Open Air Museum (Zelve Açık Hava Müzesi), the Fairy Chimneys (Paşabağları Müze ve Örenyeri), and the Kaymakli Underground City! This post will talk about hot air balloons and the Zelve Open Air Museum. I’ll do future posts for the others.
If you’d like to read about our first day in Göreme and the Devrent Valley area, go here.
Every nice morning, hot air balloons rise over Göreme and Cappadocia to take in the beautiful landscape and sunrise. Some also take off at sunset, though not as many. Wind and poor weather can prevent take offs, so if you are doing a hot air balloon ride, try for your first morning so you can reschedule if needed.
We did not do a hot air balloon ride, but I did want to see them. Luckily for us, in November the sun rose about 7:30 am. Of course, you need to actually be up earlier as the balloons are in the air before sunrise. That first morning, I got up on the roof of our hotel with a couple other residents and watched the balloons. This was easy as I could be in my pjs (and winter coat and hat!) and the kids and DH could still sleep. Once the kids woke up, I brought them up on the roof too. They were so excited!
The view you get depends on your hotel. For us, the Vineyard Cave Hotel overlooked Göreme and so our view was a bit of mountains with the city. Some hotels overlook the fairy chimneys or more of the natural structures.
We then ate a very filling Turkish breakfast and headed out to Zelve Open Air Museum. It opens at 8 am year round, though we didn’t get there at opening. The earlier you get places the better though because tour buses come and they fill up! We got there a little after 9 and it was fine. But I think in the summer it would be full by then as the sunrise is earlier.
Zelve Open Air Museum is a series of walking/hiking paths that take you up to cave churches, homes, wineries, etc. All ancient and not used any more. You scramble around, peak through rock windows, and explore. There are signs and paths–some just a slight path through grass and rock worn smooth from visitors and some much more official looking. We really loved it. It was foggy when we arrived and the fog made it even more mythical. Some of the rock formations are crazy cool.
Zelve was an important settlement and Christian religious center, particularly in the 9th to 13th centuries. It was a monastic retreat during this time period. Then it became a village. The Zelve Archeaological Site and Open Air Museum consists of 3 valleys. The first valley has a mill for making bulger, churches, and a winery. The second valley has the Church of the Holy Cross. The third valley has a village square and mosque. There are also pigeon houses high up in the rocks.
What is most fascinating is people lived in the caves until the middle of the 20th century! Muslims and Christians lived together in peace until 1924, when the Christians were forced to move to Greece (and Muslims in Greece came to Turkey) when the countries exchanged minorities. Muslims continued to live in the Zelve valleys until 1950s when they had to leave due to dangerous erosion.
Within the caves, you’ll find religious paintings and carvings of crosses, fish, and deer. The kids really enjoyed scrambling all over the paths and rocks and it was a great fresh air experience!
Location: Zelve Open Air Museum is about a 15 min drive from downtown Goreme and is located here. Easy parking in a large lot.
Hours: 8-7 summer (April-October) and 8-5 winter (October-March). Ticket booth stops selling tickers 45 min before closing.
Cost: 18 tl (about $3.25) for a combo ticket for Zelve Open Air Museum and Paşabağları Archaeological Site (Fairy Chimneys). Also included in the MuseumPass. Our kids (6 and 4) were free.
Bathrooms: We didn’t use them here, but am pretty sure there were bathrooms
Food and Drink: Several cafes were attached to the parking lot
Kid Considerations: These are rocky, uneven paths. Our kids (3 and 6) loved it. It is not stroller friendly and not ideal for a new walker. You’ll need a baby carrier for young ones.