If you want to go underground and get a whole new experience, visit the Derinkuyu Underground City that offers a great chance to explore the past. The name of the city means deep well and it’s the deepest and among the largest underground cities in Cappadocia. Derinkuyu Underground City is located at a distance of 33 km from Goreme town, a favorite touring base for many visitors.
Derinkuyu Underground City has eight floors, connected by tunnels. These floors were carved from a naturally-formed rock. So far, it has been discovered up to 83 meters deep. It is estimated that the city can accommodate 45 thousand people. That tells you how big the city is, and it’s only possible to explore just a small part of the city. As soon as you enter the city, you will be completely mesmerized and you might even forget the world outside.
It was in the 1830s that the first structure was built above the city on the ground. After its discovery as a coincidence in 1963, it was opened to visitors in 1967. Today, you can visit 8 levels in the city and go as deep as 57 meters. It is estimated that the city spans 4.3 square kilometers at least. Some archaeologists say, that the city may have up to 17 to 18 underground levels. When the excavation process is done, it may be possible to go as deep as 80 to 90 meters and 17-18 floors.
Derinkuyu Underground City is one of the most favorite destinations, just like the Kaymakli and Ozkonak underground cities. Even today, this fascinating and mysterious city attracts researchers from different parts of the world. So far, at least 34 underground cities have been rediscovered, and it is estimated that many underground cities are yet to be discovered. Some archaeologists think that Cappadocia could have hundreds of subterranean cities.
It is possible to visit different structures including cellars, storerooms, cowsheds, refectories, and churches, all connected by a network of tunnels. Visitors can also explore the missionary school and get an idea of how the students studied there.
The hidden rooms, alleyways, and tunnels give an idea of life in this city to the visitors. There are extremely narrow and small tunnels where you would find it hard to stand upright. Don’t get the wrong idea that something went wrong during the construction; such narrow tunnels made it difficult for the invaders to pass through and allow the defenders to get rid of them. Some tunnels have dead ends; they builded them, so they could trap the invaders. Rooms have communication holes on the floor and ceiling parts. They have an average diameter of 24 centimeters. The residents used these holes to communicate from one floor to another.
The construction of the city is simply amazing, and when you look at the huge boulders at the entrance of each level, you get an idea of how creative the constructors were. It’s astonishing how big these boulders are, and you can only wonder how they were moved by the occupants. But, they were very useful in preventing the invaders from entering, because it was only possible to roll them from the inside.
The underground city not only has tunnels inside it but it is also connected to other underground cities with different tunnels, some even 6.5 km long. Today, only a few of these tunnels are open. These connected subterranean cities give an impression that Anatolia has a whole country under it.
You must be wondering how this huge city, which, even after decades of its discovery hasn’t been explored fully, was built centuries ago. The rocks that volcanism formed here were softer and easier to carve and process. Metalworking was known in the Bronze Age, and metal pickaxes and shovels were used commonly. Rocks and stones could be shaped using these tools. It’s still a mystery how this city was built at a time when there were no machinery and electricity. Only the excavation work might have required thousands of workers. It is estimated that more than 4.6 million tons of soil and rocks had to be removed.
Before you being exploring the city, keep in mind that some of the narrow tunnels can take you 45 to 50 meters deep. If you have a fear of confined spaces, it won’t be easy for you. But still, if you decide to discover this charming and mysterious underground city, we are thinking that it will be a unique and memorable experience for you.
How to get to Derinkuyu Underground City?
If you want to reach the Derinkuyu Underground City from Nevsehir, you would have to travel a distance of 37 km. The subterranean city is situated in the district of Derinkuyu, Nevsehir Province, Turkey. The Derinkuyu district was called Melogobia a long time ago. The distance from other popular attractions in Cappadocia; it’s 30,8 km away from Uchisar town and 45,7 km away from Avanos town.
If you are in Goreme, you can use public transport to get to the Derinkuyu town. You can also book a tour; there would be many tour options to choose from, just make sure Derinkuyu is a part of them. Renting a car for your trip is also possible. By traveling in a car, Derinkuyu could be one of the many places that you visit.
The temperature inside the city is a uniform 12.8°C. If you suffer from cold sensitivity, wear warm clothing. If you want to take a bag with you, it’s recommended to take a hands-free bag. The ground where you would walk is a bit bumpy, but it would be all right. Lighting is sufficient, but carrying a flashlight is recommended.
In some places, you can pass through by ducking your head, but in other places, you will have to bend over. You move from one level to other using steps. If you feel thirsty or hungry, worry not, as different locations in the Derinkuyu offer food and drinks. It would take you around an hour to complete the visit to the Derinkuyu Underground City. If you are claustrophobic, you should refrain from visiting the city.
Derinkuyu Underground City’s Floor Plans
When you enter the Derinkuyu Underground City, you will have to go round a passageway of small width. The first floor of the city is situated at a depth of about 5 meters from the surface. You should bear in mind that if you feel nauseous or uncomfortable in confined places, exploring the city would be difficult for you.
On the first floor, you will see different structures including stables and living rooms. This is the top floor of the whole city. The incredible stone masonry and carving would definitely astonish you. Another feature of the city is the ventilation system. You should take some time to comprehend the complicated system.
When you get to the second floor, you will see food stores and sitting rooms. This floor also has accommodation places for animals and humans.
The ventilation system goes to the depth of the city. Its center is on the 3rd level that also has a missionary school. There are a lot of barrel vaults on the ceiling, which is spectacular. Other structures include a burial ground, confessional areas, and a church. Amazingly, the church is cross-shaped. After these, there is a 8.5 km long tunnel. You might be thinking about where does this tunnel leads; it is generally thought that the tunnel leads to other underground cities, like Kaymakli. Unlike many other tunnels in the city, this tunnel allows people to walk without the need to bend. This is because of its ceiling which has a height of 2 meters. The tunnel also has good width, making it possible for 4 persons to walk alongside each other. As of today, the tunnel remains closed for visitors. It may open in the future.
On the fourth floor, you might see a dungeon. Most probably, the need for security on this level must have become more important; this is the primary reason why underground cities are built. This is evident from the shelters on this level. This floor also has water wells, burial grounds, cisterns and ventilation channels forming a network.
The fifth level can be considered the city’s heart, as it’s the distribution center. You can get there from the previous floor using the stairs. The tunnel that begins from the third level ends here. A tunnel begins from there, going down to the seventh level. It is important for us to mention that from the fifth level, it won’t be easy for you to go to lower levels. From this point forward, you will come across tunnels where not even two persons can move side by side. It might be hard for you if you are claustrophobic.
The seventh level is very spacious; the broadest part of the Derinkuyu Underground City. This level has a burial ground, a church, and a meeting room. It also has a water well. After that, you will reach the eighth floor and your tour would end on this level. This floor has a room that has an airshaft. Keep in mind that the levels you explore and the structures you see are only a small section of the city. The rest of the city as well as many structures are yet to be discovered.
Some interesting attributes of the city
The Derinkuyu Underground City’s plan was based on urban design, and it might as well be right to call it a complicated plan. It had all the basic things that you would expect from a city to have, and enough supplies. There are many wells that served as sources of freshwater. It meant that all their primary needs were met within the city.
Many structures were carved into stone including storehouses, passageways, meeting places, and churches. There was no gas or electric lighting at that time, so they probably used candles for lighting.
There were many secret ways of entering the city. Huge stones were placed at these entry points, and as they could only be moved from inside, it made sure that the invaders were not able to enter through those points.
Every floor had stone doors, as part of the city’s defense system. The weight of these doors was around half a ton. Every floor was designed as such to allow every door to close individually.
It had several underground pits where the corpses would be stored. They would remain there before they were taken for funeral rites.
The ventilation system is quite complicated, yet very impressive, and it did a great job in enabling the residents to breathe.
Most kitchens in the city have distinctive ovens. To store foods and drinks, they used huge containers that were made of clay.
Creating narrow tunnels was a defense strategy. They wouldn’t let invaders pass easily, and they would have to bend over and move one by one in a line. Due to their slow movement, the defenders would be able to take action in time. They also created holes into ceilings and floors, so it would be possible to communicate from one level to another.
Adversaries contaminating the water was a possibility, so to prevent this, they created wells in a way that they couldn’t be accessed from the ground.
Derinkuyu Underground City has cultural heritage value and this is recognized by UNESCO as well.
During severe weather, the city would prove to be a great shelter. Doesn’t matter how was the weather on the top, the atmosphere would be comfortable underground. This made it possible for them to keep animal and edibles.
Different theories on who built the city
There is not a clear consensus on who built the subterranean city, and not even its true size is confirmed, but whatever has been discovered so far is enough to captivate you. For those who have a keen interest in ancient history, the origin of this city is like a riddle that’s unsolved yet. It can’t be determined, with the conventional dating techniques, when the city was built, as it was carved from naturally formed caves and other structures. The city can possibly be linked with Phrygians, Persians, and Hittites, so its origin remains a mystery. It was also used by different societies made changes to it according to their needs.
It is believed by some researchers that the Hittites excavated the city between the 15th and 12th centuries BC. Another theory is that it was excavated between the 8th and 7th centuries BC by Phrygians. Some think that Derinkuyu was built by the Persians, though this theory is less popular. Doesn’t matter what the truth is, what’s certain is that the city is ancient and fascinating.
There is, however, consensus on the fact that through the ages the city was improved as well as enlarged. It was passed not only through generations, but civilizations as well, and when you explore the city it becomes pretty clear. The presence of Greek inscriptions and the Christian chapels support this fact. The tunnels that are were dug by the Byzantines also support this fact. These tunnels are very long and they dug them, so they can establish a connection between Derinkuyu and several other subterranean cities.
The researchers don’t agree on who built the city but is believed widely that the city was used by the residents to protect themselves from the enemies. The city must have been very helpful to the Christians who were being punished by the Romans in the Byzantine era. After the Christians discovered this city and used it to hide from Romans, they expanded and improved the city and made new structures like schools, churches, and storerooms.
When the Turks and Greeks decided to exchange population in 1923, the Greeks inhabitants of Derinkuyu had to relocate to Greece. When they were gone, the city was left empty, and maybe it would have remained a lost part of history, had it not been rediscovered.
Since then, excavation work is being carried out to discover the city completely. The work is continuous and every year we see new progress and discoveries. This gives us the hope that someday, maybe, we will finally get to explore the whole city.