Derinkuyu: the Deepest Underground City of Cappadocia
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Derinkuyu Underground City

Skinny long tunnels

Best Known for
Ventilation

Built
4th century BCE

Civilization
Byzantine

Suggested Duration
1 hr

Hidden beneath Cappadocia’s landscape are some of the most mind-boggling underground cities in the world. Of all the underground towns in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu is the deepest, continuing beneath the ground for 8 levels.

The city was discovered in 1963 by accident when a resident was doing renovations to his home. When he knocked down one of the walls, he found a strange room, and upon further digging, he found an intricate tunnel system with cave rooms.

Those already familiar with the region know that the predominant soft volcanic rock allowed ancient civilizations to sculpt incredible structures into the terrain. These included houses, churches, and even entire cities- underground! As a result, this region is littered with more than 30 underground cities, and one of the most visited is Derinkuyu underground city.

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Hidden beneath Cappadocia’s landscape are some of the most mind-boggling underground cities in the world. Of all the underground towns in Cappadocia, Derinkuyu is the deepest, continuing beneath the ground for 8 levels.

The city was discovered in 1963 by accident when a resident was doing renovations to his home. When he knocked down one of the walls, he found a strange room, and upon further digging, he found an intricate tunnel system with cave rooms.

Those already familiar with the region know that the predominant soft volcanic rock allowed ancient civilizations to sculpt incredible structures into the terrain. These included houses, churches, and even entire cities- underground! As a result, this region is littered with more than 30 underground cities, and one of the most visited is Derinkuyu underground city.

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Planning a trip to Cappadocia? Answer this trip planner and get your FREE quotation within 24 hours.

The History

Layers

Ventilation

Key Features

Tips & Etiquette

The underground city of Derinkuyu dates back thousands of years ago, and it was called Elengubu in ancient times. While some speculate that the Cappadocian Hittites dug this impressive town around the 15th century BCE, others believe that it is Phrygians’ work in the 7th century BCE.

Despite the disagreement on the architects of the town, there is a general consensus that the underground metropolis served to hide its inhabitants from their enemies. This purpose was especially crucial during the Byzantine period when Christians were fleeing from their Roman persecutors.

When the Christians got to Cappadocia and discovered the city, they expanded and modified its existing structures by adding churches, schools, wineries, and other chambers that suited their needs. It is estimated that Derinkuyu could sustain up to 20,000 inhabitants and their animals at a go.

When the city was discovered in 1963, archeologists started excavation works before it was opened to the public in 1965. To date, only 40 meters of the town have been excavated.

Today, Derinkuyu is one of the largest underground cities ever discovered in Turkey. With an estimated depth of 85 meters and 8 levels, the city is the deepest in Cappadocia. Nonetheless, you can only explore eight stories, which is still quite impressive.

Housed in the second level of the town is an impressive room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The type of ceiling is unique to the complex. It is believed that the room served as a religious school, with spaces for the elites at the back and study and punishment rooms on the sides. The third level was crucial to the town’s survival because it housed pantries where food was stored in large quantities. Therefore, the town’s inhabitants would be able to sit out a siege for months within the city’s safety.

Homes and meeting rooms were dug out from the fourth level downwards. Lighting was achieved via oil lamps; you can still see their remains in holes in the wall. On the seventh level, there is an impressive cross-shaped chapel. Unfortunately, there are no frescoes here due to the high humidity levels in the town.

As much as the city’s inhabitants had enough food and lighting to see them through a month-long siege, they still needed fresh, clean air. To solve this challenge, the architects of the city designed ventilation channels that reached up to the deepest floors. The channels were distributed so that an enemy could not poison the town via the ventilation during an attack.

  • There is a well, 55 meters deep, that supplied the city’s inhabitants with water. It had an outlet to the surface.
  • Over 600 entrances to the town have been discovered in private residences and courtyards.
  • There are half-ton stone wheels between tunnels connecting one level to another. This allowed each level to be closed off independently from the inside in case of an invasion.
  • The city has several exits that were used as a last result when the evacuation was necessary.
  • It is believed that there is a nine-kilometer tunnel connecting Derinkuyu underground city to the underground city at Kaymakli.
  • This city is not recommended for people with claustrophobia, heart diseases, and pregnant women in their later months due to the narrow tunnels.
  • The best way to explore underground cities is in the company of an experienced guide.

Visiting the Underground City of Derinkuyu

Derinkuyu underground city sits in a small town with the same name. The town is 40 km and a 30-minute drive away from Goreme town, which hosts most tourists in the region. Don’t worry; you won’t get bored along the way as the drive is actually quite scenic.

The underground city of Derinkuyu is so big that visitors can only explore a fraction of its massive size. Here you get to explore a ghost city that could host up to 20,000 inhabitants- underground! The city will blow your mind and stimulate your imagination from the moment you set foot through the first entrance.

During the tour, visitors get a glimpse of how life went on in an underground city in the alleys, secret rooms, and tunnels that dot this massive labyrinth. Only in these rooms and tunnels can you truly appreciate and understand some of the town’s design features. For instance, some tunnels are quite narrow and small, making it difficult to stand upright. You would think there was an issue during construction, but it is actually a defense mechanism; invaders would be forced to enter the city crouched over and in a single file, making it easy for the defenders to eliminate them at the other end of the tunnel.

The school at the second level is another astonishing room in the underground city. This massive room allowed the town’s young citizens to continue their treasured religious education even when the surface was burning.

The massive boulders at each level’s entrance are other fine examples of the ingenuity that went into constructing the city. The sheer size of these boulders is staggering, and only your imagination can give you an idea of how the inhabitants were actually able to move them. Nonetheless, they could only be rolled from the inside and were thus extremely effective in keeping invaders out.

Another feature that will surprise you is how the citizens could maintain clean air and sanitation in the underground town. As mentioned earlier, there were ventilation shafts, but their execution will surprise you. There were also systems to get rid of sewerage, and learn how all these worked will make an interesting lesson.

Entrance Fee
50 TL per person.

Opening Hours
From April 1st to October 1st, the city is open between 8 am and 7 pm.
From October 1st to April 1st, it is open between 8 am and 5 pm.

Cappadocia Tours

What is Nearby

Derinkuyu underground city is only a few kilometers away from the underground city at Kaymakli. The whole region is home to magnificent attractions like Goreme and Zelve open-air museums, Pasabag valley, and the small town of Avanos.

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