Possibly one of man’s greatest architectural achievements is Derinkuyu underground city in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Conspiracy theorists say aliens built it. They didn’t but regardless, a mass network of rooms, tunnels, and different levels that are away from sight, at either ground level or a bird’s eye perspective are worth seeing with your own eyes.
Sitting 18 miles away from the bustling city of Nevsehir, Derinkuyu meaning “deep well” is the biggest of roughly 35 underground cities in that district, although historians and experts say there are hundreds throughout Cappadocia and much more are still undiscovered.
The eight level compound reaching 55 metres underground may have been linked via a long tunnel to another similar settlement in nearby Kaymakli. The discovery of Derinkuyu underground city happened accidentally in 1963 when a cave wall collapsed revealing a passageway. From there, experts carried on and on to be finally amazed at the large size.
Visiting Derinkuyu Underground City
Descending down into the underground city, the first level housed animals, and an impressive stable even has niches in the rock walls to tie the animals up. Nearby is a large wine press, and descending further down into the underground city, we see the chapel, school, and living quarters. Here there was also a designated room to store the deceased since there was nowhere to bury them but likewise, they didn’t want disease to spread.
Large round mill doors that could only be opened from the inside guarded the entrance and other structures within the city. Ventilation shafts also provided air and a well supplied much-needed water.
Altogether experts say this city housed roughly 30,000 people but why would anyone build a city underground?
Although the cities were used as usual habitats in later years, the primary reason for their existence is protection against invaders of which the underground cities would have been extremely useful during the Arab raids and also for Christians fleeing from Roman persecution.
Other Underground Cities of Cappadocia, Turkey
Although Derinkuyu is the most famous and celebrated underground city of Cappadocia, many others exist, and roughly, 20 are open to the public. Kaymakli is very similar to Derinkuyu just smaller, while Mazi Underground City is unique in that as well as descending downwards, it also weaves its way to into a large rock above surface level. Read more about the other cities here.
When it comes to major attractions of Cappadocia, the churches are the first must-see, but underground cities should be 2nd on your list of things to do. Our 9 day Best of Turkey Tour tour does both and much more. Find out about it here.