The Zelve Open-Air Museum, consisting of three valleys, is one of the oldest historical semi-underground settlements in the Cappadocia Region of Turkey which was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 by UNESCO. Particularly in the first valley, there are a lot of underground openings of different sizes carved in a soft tuff next to the valley cliffs used for cliff settlement in the past and several antique churches with some geo-engineering problems. In addition, steep natural slopes in this valley are prone to toe erosion resulting in stability problems. In this study, it is aimed to investigate engineering characteristics of the surrounding tuff and factors affecting them, and to assess the effect of rate of toe erosion on the stability of steep valley slopes and structural stability of some selected typical underground openings with large spans subjected to spalling. For these purposes, some observational, experimental and numerical modelling studies were conducted. Experimental results indicate that strength and deformability properties of the weak tuff surrounding the openings drastically reduce when it becomes wet or saturated. This situation suggests that possibility of occurrence of failures is expected to be higher in rainy seasons due to increase in water content of the tuff. Experimental results also suggest that spalling commonly observed in the valley is related with freezing-thawing and wetting-drying cycles in nature and that the process of freezing and thawing accelerates further the degradation of the rock. The long-term measurements at selected locations suggest that erosion in the tuff is important, which increases particularly in winter and spring seasons and results in the loss of support accelerating the occurrence of further slope failures. The 2-D numerical solutions indicate that no significant change in shear and tensile stresses in steep valley slopes prone to toe erosion would be expected after 100 years. However, the solutions obtained from the 500- and 1000-year scenarios suggest that failure zones due to the tensile stresses would develop in the form of slabs with thicknesses of 50-60 cm and 90-100 cm, respectively, which would break off from the slope and fall down. The results from 3-D numerical solutions indicate that failure (yield) zone resulting from tensile stresses around the semi-underground openings will develop parallel to the sidewalls. These results confirm the observed spalling of the tuff in the form of slabs parallel to the walls of the openings. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.