The ancient Derinkuyu underground city proves what man can achieve when a threat is made to his life. Sitting in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, this complex network of tunnels forms a city 100 meters under the ground. Hundreds of years ago, when invaders attacked the area, citizens fled to the underground city and stayed until they could re-enter the land of the living. These days, Derinkuyu opens to the public as one of the top tourist attractions in Cappadocia. Yet, Derinkuyu is not a place to visit if you have claustrophobia, high blood pressure, a dickey heart, or panic attacks.
Visiting Derinkuyu Underground City
When visiting Cappadocia, I entered the underground Derinkuyu caves and explored eight levels of this man-made city. Unfortunately, walking down the flight of stairs into the underground Derinkuyu City sometimes became so cramped, I lowered my head and felt suffocated by the lack of space. To find your way around masses of tunnels, follow the arrows put there by the association which manages the city. Red means going further into the city, blue means you are going out and back up to the surface.
The general layout of the big and complex city made sense. 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 who built Derinkuyu thought of everything. This city was not intended for permanent living; however, locals could stay there for months 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, they tied them to stone slots using 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 a deterrent because if anyone got caught on the surface, they could be tortured and give away the secret of hundreds of people living underground.
- Stone wheels were rolled across entrance ways to form doors that could only be opened from the inside.
- The fresh well 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.
I have to say; I was glad to come out into fresh air. I felt suffocated just spending an hour in there, but imagine how people felt in the past when they had to spend months underground? Be prepared for a rush of touts selling souvenir items when exiting Derinkuyu. Additionally, if underground cities are your thing, then make your holiday a long one, as Cappadocia boasts of more than 40.
More Attractions in Cappadocia
As much as Derinkuyu underground city is fascinating, there is much more to the Cappadocia region. Browse the travel archives to find ideas of where to go and what to see. Alternatively, if you plan to visit more places in Turkey, we have lots more ideas for you as well. From the east to the west, north and south, this country is a delight to explore.