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zelve open air museum

Zelve Open Air Museum Cappadocia

Zelve was not always a small region, between the 9th and 13th centuries, it was an important religious nucleus to which priests and anchorites withdrew to dedicate themselves fully to prayer. With the passage of time, new tenants came to this region, colonizing the valleys and excavating hundreds of houses in the rock. This peculiar lifestyle lasted for centuries. Nowadays its one of the most visited areas in the region by tourists and hot spot for picturing balloons Cappadocia in the morning.

The Christian and Muslim communities coexisted peacefully until 1924, when there was a massive diaspora of the Christian community for political reasons. This did not mean the abandonment of the valley that continued to be inhabited until 1952, when the Government of the Republic of Turkey determined that this region was uninhabitable due to the poor state of preservation of the houses and the risk of collapse of the houses. They were deserted and its inhabitants founded the new town they called New Zelve (Yeni Zelve) just two kilometers from the valleys of Cappadocia. Due to the historical interest of the abandoned region, in 1967 Zelve became an open-air museum without too many possibilities for restoration due to aggressive erosion.

The museum is located at the intersection of three valleys, two of them interconnected by a tunnel. The environment offers travelers a landscape riddled with slender fairy chimneys, houses carved out of the stone, passageways and tunnels that connect different caves; An especially interesting place to enjoy hiking and climbing. The passage of time has been inclement with the frescoes of the churches, deteriorating the cave paintings that adorned the walls of the temples, nothing to do with the vivid colors that can be seen in the Göreme complex. In addition, it is believed that the inhabitants of the region were opposed to pictorial representations despite the iconoclastic establishment of the Byzantine government.With or without fresco, the excursion through the valleys of Zelve is more than enough incentive to visit this remote Cappadocia region.

What to see in Zelve Museum?

Direkli Kilise, the Church of the Columns: it is accessed through a horseshoe-shaped door and owes its name to the six columns that support the central dome of the room. This temple, built in the early eleventh century, has three apses and three naves. Although the frescoes are very deteriorated, paintings are still preserved in the columns and in the central apse where Jesus Christ is represented, accompanied by the Virgin Mary and Saint Peter. One of the curiosities of this temple is that it is believed that the future monks were formed there.Üzümlü Kilise, the church of grapes: This temple was built around the 10th century, originally it had inscriptions that indicated the name of the temple and its date of construction. Its name is due to the grapes represented in the frescoes that decorated the walls of the church; they are currently in an unfortunate state of conservation. Despite the deterioration, you can see symbols that tell us about the way of life of that time: crosses, motifs related to fishing and of course, the bunches of grapes Geyikli Kilise, the Church of the Deer: Its name is due to the old paintings that cover its walls, now almost unrecognizable, that depict the main symbols of Christianity at that time: the cross, deer and fish. It seems that the fish represented the new faithful of the church. Balıklı Kilise, the Church of the Fish: It owes its name to the fish represented in red in the central apse of the temple. You can also see a huge cross that occupies the center of the apse. Finally, you can visit the remains of an old mosque built with stone and mortar that preserves a beautiful minaret and an old mill that was used until the mid-20th century.

ihlara canyon cappadocia

Ihlara Canyon Valley

The Melendiz River has been crossing the docile surface of the Ihlara Valley for centuries, opening a canyon that reaches up to 150 meters deep in some areas. A haven of peace that did not go unnoticed by the first Christians who made this ecosystem their own home. The mixture of the wonders of nature with the work of human hands makes the Ihlara canyon become a very special enclave within the landscapes of Cappadocia.

This canyon, delimited by the towns of Ihlara and Selime, winds for 16 kilometers through the path left behind by the old Melendiz river. Ihlara Canyon is located 40 kilometers southeast of the town of Askaray and is one of the most splendid natural landscapes in Cappadocia. An environment brimming with life that invites tranquility and tranquility. The strategic location of this valley, together with the wealth and diversity of plant and animal species that populate it, make it an ideal place to hide and develop a discreet life. The Ihlara Valley was the refuge of a large Christian community that took advantage of the discretion and tranquility of the valley to dedicate themselves to meditation. Throughout the valley, hundreds of houses and churches can be counted. An important figure for a valley just 16 kilometers long. Going into the Ihlara canyon is a relaxing exercise. The light rocking of the trees and the melody of the water flowing through the stream produce a calming effect. It is understandable that it was the place chosen by the anchorites to indulge in a life of meditation.

Ihlara Canyon History The explanation of this canyon begins in the periods of greatest volcanic activity, when the giant cones of fire expelled lava and pyroclastic materials, which flooded the surface of Cappadocia. The passing of the centuries and the abrupt tectonic movements tore the earth’s crust in this region of Anatolia, exposing hot springs that began to cover the surface of the valley. All the ingredients that we have mentioned changed the morphology of this region, however the true person in charge of the aspect of the canyon is the Melendiz river, that formerly was known like Potamus Kapadukus, that is to say river of Cappadocia. The current of water eroded the volcanic surface of the valley to give it its current appearance.

Ihlara Canyon, a mystical refuge

The possibilities of this canyon are almost endless, from trekking routes running parallel to the stream to visiting the dozens of churches that are hidden in the canyon walls. Any activity that takes place in this fascinating canyon will be to the liking of the travelers. Apart from the natural beauty, the footprints that the first Christians left in this valley are important. Various religious orders reflected in Ihlara their way of understanding spirituality, protected by the natural fortress of the mountains.The monks excavated churches and houses in the rock that were later decorated with colorful frescoes. The passing of the years has determined the conservation status of the frescoes, deteriorating them, but there are still many examples of this rock art that can be seen in the Ihlara valley. There are more than 100 temples along the length and breadth of the canyon.Among the most important rock churches in this valley are the temples of Egritas, Kökar, Pürenli Seki, Agaçalti, Sümbüllü, Yilanli, Karagedik, Kirk, Bahattin, Direkli and Ala. All of them scattered throughout the canyon with such particular characteristics that they deserve a separate mention.

Derinkuyu Underground City

There are those who compare Cappadocia to a huge Gruyère cheese and it is not surprising. The soft rock that predominates in this region of Anatolia favored the ancient civilizations to carve the stone to build their houses, their churches and even their cities. This is the case of the underground city of Derinkuyu, a perfect hideaway in a time when it was convenient to go unnoticed. Cappadocia is a strange place. You can climb upto cloud by hot air balloons Cappadocia and go deep down in earth in underground cities.

Dug into the bowels of the eponymous village, the underground city of Derinkuyu is one of the most impressive examples of the Cappadocia region along with the underground city of Kaymakli. Located thirty kilometers south of Nevsehir, following the road leading to Nigde, it was known as Elengübü in ancient times, when life depended on the ability of peoples not to be seen by enemies. Although there is no consensus on the date of its excavation, various niches housed in the surroundings of the city suggest that the Phrygians were the first to inhabit it around the 7th century B.C. Conversely, other studies indicate that the first level was built by the Hittites centuries before. The period of greatest splendor of the city occurred during the Byzantine period when Christians occupied the galleries of the city trying to flee from their Roman persecutors. Christians expanded the number of excavated galleries and modified established structures to comfortably develop every aspect of their religious life. Hidden for centuries, the underground city of Derinkuyu was discovered by chance in 1963 when a local neighbor downed the wall of your house. Since then, about forty meters deep have been excavated, which represents approximately ten percent of the entire city. It was opened to the public in 1965.

Derinkuyu can boast of being one of the largest underground cities in Turkey. It is equipped with all the necessary spaces to develop a community life away from hostile eyes: pantries, kitchens, stables, winery, chapel, baptistery, wells, and even a school, although you can only visit 40 meters deep and eight floors , it is believed that the depth of this city is 85 meters and that it has about twelve more levels yet to be explored. There are more than a thousand galleries that could host a community of more than ten thousand people. A fabulous architectural work.

The plants were ventilated through ventilation channels, which reached the last floors but distributed in such a way that the city was prevented from being poisoned in the event of an enemy attack. It also has a 55-meter-long well that supplied water to the city’s inhabitants. This well had an outlet to the outside.

Among the structures that can be found in the city of Derinkuyu, the school that is housed on the second level is striking. The roof of the room is a barrel vault, a unique example within the excavated cities. At the back of the room are the spaces for the elites and on the sides are the study and punishment rooms for the pupils. On the third floor were the pantries, where the inhabitants of the city deposited food in Sufficient amounts to withstand a multi-month-long siege. The fourth level is intended for citizens’ homes and meeting rooms. They were illuminated with oil lamps as evidenced by the remains found in the holes in the wall.Finally, the cross-shaped chapel of the seventh level, with dimensions of 20 meters by 9, which once must have been decorated with colorful frescoes that have disappeared due to humidity.

The city had various security elements to prevent enemy introspections. The planning itself in the form of a maze already prevented direct access to the city in a simple way. In addition, each of the levels could be plugged independently of the rest by means of titanic half-ton stone wheels that could only be activated from inside the city. This favored the evacuation of the inhabitants to the safest levels. The second issue to be covered was the provisioning of the population in case of siege. The numerous pantries and stables guaranteed the subsistence of the inhabitants for several months without the need to go outside. The well guaranteed the supply of water in case of site. As a last alternative, there are several exits to the outside that could allow a safe evacuation. In fact, a tunnel is believed to exist connecting the city of Derinkuyu with the underground city of Kaymakli through a nine kilometer long passageway.

como llegar a capadocia

How to go to Cappadocia from Istanbul

How to go to Cappadocia from Istanbul?

As we always say, Cappadocia Turkey is the second most visited tourist spot of Turkey following Istanbul as its known as the motherland of Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia for thrill-seeker as well as many other offerings such as hiking, horse riding, ATV Quad Bikes and much more! However its easier to participate our 2 days Cappadocia tours from Istanbul but you can also make the hotel bookings and travel arrangements on your own and enjoy this mysterious land free guided however its wide spread to 270 square kilometers and not easy at all.

If you are travelling on a budget, then we can suggest you to travel from Istanbul by a night long bus ride about 12 hours to Goreme. This is tiring way of travel but comfortable Turkish intercity buses makes it a bit easier with domestic flight a like reclining seats to sleep a while. Your arrival will be early in the morning and you may also witness the balloons in the air if they are permitted to fly that day.

how to go from istanbul to Cappadocia

They other option is travel by plane. There are two major airports where you can fly to: Nevsehir or Kayseri. Nevsehir airport is bit more closer to the region. If you are intending to stay one night and explore in 2 days, then book a flight early in the morning to make the most of your stay in 2 full days in the region. Roundtrip flights are around 90-110 USD per person by Turkish Airlines. The hotel that you will stay in Cappadocia would be happy to help you for airport transfer to the hotel. If not, you can also apply to transferman in the airport to participate in their shuttle services. Taking a taxi from airport would be a bit expensive as they distance is around 60-75 km in total to Goreme or Urgup towns.

For further details about what to do in Cappadocia or where to see in Cappadocia you can take a look at our other blog posts.

cappadocia tours

Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia Turkey

Cappadocia Turkey with its peculiar capricious and rocky formations and the architectural inheritance from the remains of millenarian cultures have given shape to a landscape that you will hardly find anywhere else in the world and also crown the region one of its kind with Cappadocia hot air balloon spot. Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Turks have left their mark and Cappadocia was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.

It is highly possible that when talking about Turkish travels while you are chatting with your friends,  the image of hot air balloons flying over unique rock formations with festiveness comes to mind , without a doubt Cappadocia in Turkey is one of the best places in the world to fly in a hot air balloons.

Attractions go far beyond the experience to get carried away by the wind and, once there, it would be unforgivable not to spend two or three days more to know what is hidden on the other side of the rocks in the undergrounds.

Fairy chimneys are the most famous postcards of the amazing geography of Cappadocia. Located in the center of Turkey, Cappadocia is a region of just over 200 square kilometers that is characterized by having a geological profile comparable to that of lunar landscapes, with shapes capriciously carved by the erosive forces for several million years. You can book our Cappadocia tour from Istanbul to explore this magic land with a guide escort in small groups.

The majority of tourists visiting Cappadocia with the dream of flying in a balloon. The number of people who want to enjoy the flight is incredible and that is why it is almost always necessary to book well in advance,  there are several companies that organize the hot air balloon tours cappadocia. In the low seasons during the winter, you can reserve a couple of days back and maybe one day before. But in the high season it is necessary to ensure trip booking weeks or months in advance.

Architectural Treasures in Cappadocia Turkey

Both the fairy chimneys and the great majority of the rock formations of the region are made up of calcareous tuff, which is a very moldable stone. This allowed not only the work of erosion but also of man, who has built his dwellings in these rocks for centuries, digging them and creating artificial caves. The absence of wood in the area favored the almost exclusive use of these rocks as housing for the different civilizations that inhabited here. And so they reconverted these formations in the buildings, temples, towers and fortifications that were an essential part of their cities.

The most iconic and famous city in Cappadocia is Goreme. Its origins date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries, when the first Christians arrived in Asia Minor founded several monasteries excavated in the rocks here. Some of these ancient temples are part of the fabulous Goreme National Park, located around the city. Goreme is like a memory inside another…

Göreme/Goreme Open-Air Museum
The Göreme open-air museum can be reached on foot from Goreme town itself and we recommend it to be one of your first visits. It is a closed enclosure in which several Christian monastic complexes excavated in the rock are concentrated, many of them with frescos in their interior of the XI and XII centuries in excellent state of conservation. The churches of Santa Barbara, the Apple, the Serpent, the Dark, the Carikli or the Buckle are some of those that you can not miss, the magnificent state of their paintings make them the best in all of Cappadocia.

Rose Valley

Rose valley along with Red valley are among the most famous. Their names are due to the hue of the valleys. Inside the Rose valley there are two churches that you should not miss: Hacli Kilise with its frescoes by a Pantocrator and the 9th century apostles, slightly damaged during the iconoclastic period and a carved cross on the ceiling, and the Columned Church, with its sculpted columns in the stone, in the latter, climbs the small stairs to the upper room.

Red Valley
More or less parallel to the Rose valley. Do not miss the Üzumlü Church with its frescoes. At the end of the valley, if you are in good physical shape, you can climb to the top of the mountains from where you will have spectacular views of the entire Cappadocia. If going up there is too much, there is another viewpoint a little further down that can be easily reached even by car.

cave church cappadociaLove valley
They call it love valley but they should call it differently…/shame!!! You can judge the shape of the rock formations for yourself once you come and you will agree. There is a viewpoint above with a heart and everything for you to take photos of yourself there. From the viewpoint you can also go down into the valley, which We recommend a lot because it is very beautiful.

Çavusin Castle and Church of Juan Bautista
This small town has an imposing castle that was completely carved out of the rock. A little further on is the church of San Juan Bautista, for which you have to pay admission.

Swords Valley
It is the closest valley to the city of Göreme in the direction of the Open Air Museum. If you are going to walk to the Red Valley you are going to pass through here for sure.

Pigeon Valley
Comparing to other valleys, it does not have many of the typical spike formations for which Cappadocia is famous, but worth a visit though if you have time in Cappadocia

The name “valley of pigeons” receives it because this is the valley where “houses” for pigeons were excavated as a farm in the stone. It is believed that it was to collect their droppings and use them as fertilizer in the vineyards in the area.

There is an observation point when you arrive at the valley from Uçhisar that leave anybody breathless. If you are going to walk on it, we recommend that you start on the Uçhisar side in the direction of Göreme and thus the path is downhill.

White valley
It is the continuation of the Love valley towards Uçhisar and as its name indicates it is very white.

Devrent Valley
Or Imagination valley. The most famous part of this valley is a camel-shaped rock formation. It is right at the entrance, next to the road. If you walk a little among the rock formations you can find (or imagine) other forms of animals on the rocks.

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