Visiting Göreme Open-Air Museum in Cappadocia, Turkey

Literally “Land of Beautiful Horses”, wherever you turn your gaze in Cappadocia you are confronted with overwhelming natural beauty. While we stayed in Göreme for the night, in the lovely Star Cave Hotel, we have also taken advantage of Turkey tourism organization in this region to discover the top things to do in Cappadocia. Some of the first places we visited were Göreme open-air museum, Uçhisar for its castle and a breathtaking view of Pigeon Valley

We explored the Ihlara Valley first, then Göreme open-air museum, Uçhisar for its castle and a breathtaking view on Pigeon Valley, and finally hiked the stunning Red Valley and Rose Valley.

Declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, seen from its entrance Göreme Park and open-air museum makes for an amazing view, with its tuff peaks and chimneys properly cut to create churches, most of which date back to a time span between the 10th and the 12th century.

What to see in Goreme Open Air Museum

The view entering Goreme open-air museum
The view entering Goreme open-air museum

Göreme open-air museum, a fifteen-minute walk from Göreme village, is a huge monastery complex. Here the austere monks’ and bishop’s dwellings were carved out of the famous fairy chimney, the region’s most pictured landscape elements.

The spartan rooms and refectories where monks’ life took place were briefly interrupted only by simple churches, the interior of which was often embellished with beautiful frescoes. Here are some of the most impressive churches to visit in Goreme Open Air Museum.

One of the churches inside the complex
One of the churches inside the complex

The Nunnery

The "Nunnery" at goreme open air museum
The “Nunnery”, closed to the public when we went.

Right after the entrance, or at the exit, we found the “Nunnery”, a 6-story rock where a kitchen, a dining hall and a couple of churches are connected through narrow tunnels and where only the first two levels can be visited.

St. Barbara Church at Goreme Open-Air Museum

Proceeding with your tour around the monastery complex, one of the first churches you will find is St. Barbara Church. Cross-shaped, this 11th-century church has a central apse and two others on the side. The decorations here are red-painted geometrical patterns, mythological figures, and old military symbols.

Apple (Elmali) Church at Goreme Open Air Museum

The vaulted church includes also four pillars and a dome in the middle. It’s adorned with beautiful frescoes reproducing moments from the Bible. Sometimes you will see the simple red signs belonging to the iconoclast period when images of sacred entities were banned and the existent ones rubbed out. At least the ones within arm’s reach, while the frescoes on the ceilings were mainly untouched.

Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise)

The most beautiful frescoes are in Dark Church, which has an entrance fee of 8TL. Inside this cross-shaped church are graves and beautiful frescoes portraying scenes from the New Testament.

Buckle (Tokali) Church

This is a pretty big complex as it consists of an old and a new church, in total four chambers. The entrance is included in the museum ticket and here you will see probably the most impressive and significative collection of frescoes, so totally a must-visit. Among the rock-carved churches in Cappadocia, this is the one displaying the largest and best paintings of the life of the Christ, from his childhood to the Passion.

Goreme open-air museum from inside.
Another view of Goreme open-air museum from inside. Clearly you can see the “pigeon houses”, literally where pigeon stayed, precious for monks who collected pigeons’ dung to use it as fertilizer.

More churches worth a visit in the Goreme Open Air Museum

Worth your time are also the other worship places such as Carikli (Sandals) Church and Snake (Yilanli) Church where you can see frescoes depicting Emperor Constantine and his mother Helena and the Killing of the Snake by St. George and St. Theodore.

The refectories

If you ask me, apart from frescoes, naves, carvings and paintings, what fascinated me the most was actually being in the refectories. They can really bring you back to those days, to how simple their life was. The refectories were simply made by digging in the rock to create three long aligned stones, two thin to use as benches and one larger in the middle to serve as table. Not so comfy, I thought when I saw it, but then, it really is all we need when we sit to eat.

More Goreme
More of Göreme

Wandering among the rocks, stones and those fairy chimneys that you see from afar arriving in Cappadocia does make you feel you are in a surreal land, another planet altogether. After Göreme open-air museum, we headed to Uçhisar, to see its castle and the view from its top, a spectacular panorama on the Pigeon Valley, fairy chimneys in different hues, from yellow to white to red to brown, as far as the eye can see. A daily treat for whoever has made there their home.

Uchisar Castle
Uchisar Castle

Info and tips for visiting Goreme Open-Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum is one of the top attractions in Cappadocia and a must-see. Although it’s pretty easy to reach and to walk around, there are some things to know and consider before getting there.

  • Goreme Open Air Museum opening hours are 8 am-7 pm from April 1st to October 1st and until 4.30 pm from October to the end of March
  • Entrance fee to Goreme Open Air Museum is 45 TL
  • Address: Museum Road, Goreme, Nevsehir, Turkey
  • Phone: +90 384 213 42 60
  • It takes about an hour to visit the Goreme open air museum
  • Paths are not very harsh, most people can visit
  • Wearing runners of comfortable shoes is recommended
  • In spring and summer do wear a hat and sunscreen
  • Carry a bottle of water

READ MORE: Curious about what else to visit in Cappadocia? Read about our experience in the Ihlara Valley and hiking the Red and Rose valleys.

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11 Comments
  1. THIS is a post that fits the site’s name – COMPLETELY Unexpected :-)

    The church and castle are amazing. I had no idea, thanks much for sharing this wonderful find.

  2. Quel paysage, on dirait qu’il est inventé tellement il est étrange…

  3. Che strani paesaggi, è veo, ha ragione Maria, non te li aspetti proprio, sono sorprendenti…

  4. Wow… Those are natural rock formations made into castles and churches right? Are tourists allowed to get inside?

  5. Hello, great photos! I just came back from Cappadocia and it’s such an amazing place, out of this world!! Did you also try a hot air balloon flight?? Unforgettable experience!

    • Hi Tom, thanks for stopping by! I didn’t do the balloon as when I was there the weather didn’t allow such activities, a pity indeed! I loved Cappadocia though, so much shopping in their local markets :P

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