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Göreme Açık Hava Müzesi (Göreme Open-Air Museum)

Göreme Açık Hava Müzesi (Göreme Open-Air Museum) Review

The Göreme Open-Air Museum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its spectacular landscape and amazing collection of cave churches decorated with elaborate Byzantine frescoes that were part of a monastic complex.

The fairy chimney to your left as you enter once housed a six-story convent, which had a kitchen and refectory on the lower levels and a church on the third; large millstones lay ready to block the narrow passages in times of danger. Opposite is a monastery on the same plan. Unfortunately, in 2007 these structures were deemed unsafe and are now closed to visitors. Nearby is the Elmalı Kilise (Church with the Apple), which has wonderfully preserved frescoes of biblical scenes and portraits of saints. There are also simple geometric designs and Maltese crosses painted in red directly onto the stone, over which the frescoes were later painted; you can see the former in spots where the frescoes have peeled off.

The Karanlık Church (Dark Church) was extensively restored by UNESCO, and vividly colorful scenes, dominated by deep blues, decorate the walls and domed ceiling; the painting of Christ Pantocrator on the dome is particularly impressive (entrance to the church is an extra 8 TL). The nearby Çarıklı Kilise (Church of the Sandal) was named after the footprints (some might say indentations) on the floor below the Ascension fresco; some believe these to be casts of Jesus' own footprints. In the nearby kitchen/refectory, a huge dining table that could seat 50 is carved from the rock, and it's easy to imagine priests and members of the early Christian community packing in for meals.

The Tokalı Kilise, across from the main museum complex and a short way down the road toward Göreme (use the same entrance ticket), is one of the most impressive of the Göreme churches. The "Old Church" was built in the early 10th century and less than a century later became the vaulted atrium of the "New Church," which was dug deeper into the rock. Both sections have well-preserved frescoes with brilliant blue hues.

In summer, get an early start to beat the heat and the crowds, who jam these fresco-filled spaces by midday. Or go after 5 pm, when it's cool and the crowds have thinned. The museum covers a large area with dozens of caves, nooks, and crannies to explore, almost all of them easily reachable on paved paths.

    Contact Information

  • Address: About 1½ km (1 mi) southeast of Göreme town center, Göreme, 50180
  • Phone: 384/271–2167
  • Cost: 15 TL
  • Hours: Apr.–Oct., daily 8–7; Nov.–Mar., daily 8–7; last entry 45 min before closing
  • Location: Göreme
Updated: 11-21-2013

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