Derinkuyu.The Ancient Underground City

The ancient underground city of Derinkuyu is proof of what man can achieve when his life is threatened. It is a complex network of tunnels and rooms that formed a city 100 meters under the ground.

Hundreds of years ago, when the area was attacked, citizens used to flood to the underground city and stay until it was safe to re-enter the land of the living.

Warning about Derinkuyu Underground City

The ancient Derinkuyu underground city is not a place to visit if you suffer from claustrophobia, high blood pressure, a dickey heart or panic attacks. Walking down the flight of stairs in the Derinkuyu City sometimes becomes so cramped that you begin to lower your head and feel suffocated by the lack of space.

There is a mass of tunnels and rooms and the only way to find your way is by following the arrows put there by the association that manages the city. Red means you are going further into the city, blue means you are going out and back up to the surface. When visiting Cappadocia, I entered the Derinkuyu caves and explored eight levels  of this man made city which makes me give credit where it is due.

The Derinkuyu underground city is impressive and shows man’s commitment to self-preservation and what he can achieve when everything he has ever known is threatened. ( Note, there is eleven levels to the city but not all of them are open  to the public).

Cappadocia derinkuyu caves

The city was big and complex but there was a general layout to it. Animals were crowded into the top level of the city; the kitchens were placed on the next level, domestic living rooms on the next level after that and so forth. The citizens that built the Derinkuyu underground city thought of everything. This city was not intended for permanent living however it could be months that they stayed in there until it was safe to go back up.

Facts about Derinkuyu

  • Sometimes people would go crazy. Days without sun and fresh air can affect a man’s mind. If people went crazy, there were stone slots that they were tied to with a piece of rope. This would prevent them from trying to escape to the surface or attacking other people.
  • If anyone tried to sneak out of the underground city, they would be crucified and their bodies were all put in one room to prevent disease. This was done as a deterrent because if anyone got caught on the surface, it is possible they would give away the secret of hundreds of people living under the ground.
  • Stone wheels were rolled across entrance ways to form doors and they could only be opened from the inside.
  • There was fresh well that provided water to certain levels and air ducts ensured a fresh supply of oxygen.
  • Weekly prayer took place in the church. A storage room would hold the supply of wheat and grain while a winery would produce alcohol so everyone could get drunk and forget where they were living.

Derin kuyu Caves

I have to say, that when I come out into fresh air, I was very glad. I felt suffocated just spending an hour in there; can you imagine how people felt in the past when they had to spend months in there?

Be prepared for a rush of touts selling items when you leave the underground city, apart from that it is a fantastic place to visit and makes you feel very humble indeed. If underground cities are your thing, then make your holiday a long one as there are 36 of them to see in Cappadocia.

derinkuyu caves cappadocia

derinkuyu underground caves

Caves of Derinkuyu

underground caves derinkuyu

Derinkuyu caves

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Hi. My name is Natalie Sayin and I am the author of The Turkish Travel Blog. I am an Internet addict with a passion for history. Read my story here or leave a comment below to join the discussions.
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  1. Brenda Farrell says

    Did you know that there are more than 30 of these underground cities in Cappadocia. If you wish to avoid the “rush of touts” as you exit, try Kaymakli, where there is a small market on exit and where I like to buy something small from the women’s co-operative stall. Women helping women.

  2. says

    Hi Brenda, yes, the guide said there were 36 of these underground cities. I never made it Kaymakli but would of liked to have done.

  3. says

    Pretty unique site… feel similiar to those catacomb in Italy expect no bone in the picture..

  4. says

    I have never heard of the ones in Italy Sarah. I will have to look it up.

  5. says

    Que lugar tan fantástico!!! Felicitaciones por el excelente blog, y gracias por compartir estos maravillosos lugares.

    Saludos desde Argentina!!!

  6. says

    Hi Esteban,

    I used Google translator for your comment as I do not know Spanish. Thanks for your greetings and glad you like the blog.

    ( Translation – That such a fantastic place! Congratulations on the excellent blog, and thanks for sharing these wonderful places.

    Greetings from Argentina! )

  7. victor says

    hi natalie, thanks for your post. did the guide mention how old are the caves in derinkuyu?

  8. Mark says

    A show on the History Channel says the caves were built by aliens. How can you argue with the History Channel?

  9. says

    I have never heard that before Mark. Will try and watch that program because it would be interesting.

    • warbaby says

      I believe the program he is talking is Ancient Aliens. It has been on for several seasons now and you would be crazy to miss it. Very well done.

  10. Fatima says

    Hi Natalie,

    Great site! Which guide did you use to explore Derinkuyu? Please post their site or contact information if possible.

    Thank you!

    • Nat says

      Hi Fatima, I signed up for a green tour which was sold in Goreme and it takes you to all different places. Sorry but I can not remember the name of the company or tour guide. Most of them will supply private tour guides if that is what you want, otherwise most tour guides are very good because they have to be qualified and licensed.

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