Derinkuyu and Kaymakli Underground Cities
Beneath unassuming villages in the southern reaches of the Cappadocia region, a vast and intricate secret lies underground - cities capable of holding thousands and extending hundreds of feet below the surface. In fact, over 200 of these underground cities are found in the area, a number that seems to increase over the years. Perhaps the two largest, and definitely most well known, are the Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities, connected via a 9-km long tunnel. In 1963, a resident of a village unearthed a tunnel while renovating his home, leading to the rediscovery of the long-forgotten Derinkuyu city. Derinkuyu extends 279 feet below ground and was once able to accommodate up to 20,000 people. Kaymakli sheltered up to 6,000 people, and even though it ‘only’ extended 66 feet surface, it spread out wide.
Even though these cities were used to shelter people for various reasons over the years, particularly for Christians in the region hiding from Arab raids, the actual date of construction is unknown and not without controversy. The Turkish Department of Culture says it may have been constructed in the 8th century B.C. by the Phrygians, but as almost no dating has been able to be conducted, the actual date could be much earlier. Regardless the age, these world wonders are a beautiful reminder to the extremes mankind have taken to survive.
In the southern part of the Cappadocia region in Central Turkey, south of Nevsehir.
Original construction unknown, though believed to be in use as early as the 8th century B.C.
A shelter during raids during the later periods, though evidence suggest it was orginally for pemanent or seasonal living.
A small portion of these cities can be visited today. Four of the eight levels of Derinkuyu can be explored.
We took a bus from the center of Goreme to the village of Derinkuyu. Not much to be imagined at the village, beside the large concrete parking lot and touristic facilities - relatively recent additions to a once unknown town. But upon reaching the depths of the underground city, it felt as if we were transported to a different time period. We were expecting it to be musty and hard to breathe, but we found it surprisingly fresh even at the lowest level visitors are permited to go. It was enjoyable being able to explore all the nooks and crannies and envisioning what live may have looked like here thousands of years ago. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli both charge a 100 lira entrance fee as of 2023.