The Underground City at Derinkuyu

Tunnel in the Underground City at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

Tunnel in the Underground City at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

Because of the soft nature of much of the rock that covers Cappadocia, not only are there Underground Churches but also several complete Underground Cities. One of the most interesting and best preserved is at Derinkuyu in the south-west of Cappadocia, located between the cities of Nevsehir and Nigde.

The early part of the Underground City at Derinkuyu pre-dates the Christian era, parts of it belonging to the 8th and 7th centuries BC.  It was used by Christians seeking to hide from Roman persecution during the first three centuries AD and then extended and used once more between the 5th and 10th centuries AD during the middle Byzantine period. Christians hid in this and other Underground Cities like it, to escape attacks from Arab Islamists which occurred from the 7th century AD onwards.

Carved out storage facilities at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

Carved out storage facilities at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

Door in the form of a millstone in the Underground City © Ricky Yates

Door in the form of a millstone in the Underground City © Ricky Yates

The Underground City at Derinkuyu has 11 different levels and descends to a depth of c85 metres. Within it there are rooms for food storage, kitchens, churches, stables, wine or oil presses, and shafts for ventilation. These ventilation shafts go down to the aquifer and also served as wells to provide fresh water. Large circular stones similar to millstones, could be rolled across each entrance, to prevent unwanted visitors. Such is the size of the complex, it was possible for many thousands of people to live underground within it for several months at a time.

Although first opened to the public in 1969, it is still only possible to visit 10% of the total complex. Those parts open to the public are reasonably well lit but in numerous places there is a very serious lack of headroom! It is certainly not a place to visit if you suffer in any way from claustrophobia!

The Underground City at Derinkuyu is another place I had visited during my 1975 trip and which I revisited with Sybille on Friday 16th October 2009. During my recent visit, I was very much struck as to how nothing had really changed from how I remembered it looking on my previous visit. Inevitably, it is not that easy to photograph though I hope these accompanying images will help to give some picture of this amazing construction.

Just for Karen, who seems to be the only person regularly commenting on my blog at present, (even though I know many others read it but don’t comment), here is a picture of me sitting within the Underground City complex at Derinkuyu, taken during my 1975 visit, showing me with vastly more hair and dressed to look like a good Australian (which I’m not!), in my shorts and long white socks!

Myself in 1975 inside the Underground City at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

Myself in 1975 inside the Underground City at Derinkuyu © Ricky Yates

9 comments to The Underground City at Derinkuyu

  • I’m fascinated by places that have old underground tunnels like that. It reminds me of Indiana Jones, I get that sense of adventure. These kinds of places also have so much history which makes them even more fascinating.

  • Wow!!! this is absolutely spectacular!! an underground city that has 11 different levels? cant believe that something so elaborately and painstakingly made could exist.

    mustve taken them 100s of years to carve this out!

  • Amazing pictures and I am surprised at just how high the quality of these photos actually are considering it was a 1975 trip. Must have been quite an experience.:D
    .-= Kettles and Toasters´s last blog ..Kenwood Toasters =-.

  • Underground cities are incredible, they always have fascinated me. Those tunnel look amazing and the picture of you a great memory.

    Seems karen did not join in the comments.

  • This place looks incredible. There’s always something intriguing about exploring underground, especially when you’re in another country a long way from home. Great photos by the way.

  • Nice Picture ! I have a guidebook for Turkey that mentions “many-storied underground cities” in Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. It does not include pictures, however.
    .-= oriental rug´s last blog ..Shaggy Rugs – For Comfort and Luxury in Your Home =-.

  • I admit, I laughed at the pic lol! My son would love places like this, he loves darkness and tunnels (yes, I’m a bit worried) but he’s only a little boy so I guess it’s his curious nature. It’s a shame only 10% of the total complex is available though.

  • I’ve often thought about the need for a modern day underground city in case of world catastrophe. I think that was the same kind of idea for the builders of Derinkuyu.

    This city is impressive and a great stop for tourists. I wonder how they would defend the city give a siege? The invaders would simply need to plug the air holes.


    Hi, my wife and I visited Derinkuyu in 1976 on our way back from Petra, in a Morris 1000. It seemed to be lit by a string of 40 watt bulbs and we were not equipped with a decent torch so exploration was limited! I was always puzzled by where the people who excavated the tunnels dumped what must have been a considerable amount of rock as there seemed to be no evidence of spoil heaps etc. I understand some of the caverns were natural but they must still have had some stuff to dispose of (maybe they buried it !!!) Thanks for your post it – brought back a flood of memories.