For hundreds of years, when invaders came to the Cappadocia region of what is now Turkey, inhabitants would retreat to a vast underground city, taking with them their belongings — including large livestock — seal up the entry with large stones, and live there until the threat passed.

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Life in an underground city

Derinkuyu could house up to 20,000 people

The underground city of Derinkuyu is believed to date to the 8th century BC and could accommodate up to 20,000 people and their animals.

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Derinkuyu Underground City is an ancient multi-level underground city in the Derinkuyu district in Nevsehir Province, Turkey.

Discovery

Discovered in the late 1960s, this unusual site is open to visitors who can explore nearly half of all of its vast underground passages. It was discovered by a local man who stumbled upon the city when he knocked down a wall in his basement. The 13-story city includes kitchens, stables, churches, and tombs, all carved into the soft volcanic rock that covers much of the Nevşehir region of Turkey

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Derinkuyu ancient underground city
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Main ventilation shaft and well. Source: Wikimedia, Nevit Dilmen 2014.
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Heavy disk-shaped door provided security during raids. Flickr, Dan Merino
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
The winery. © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Derinkuyu underground city
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Derinkuyu underground city

Population exchange

Derinkuyu was most recently inhabited by Christians until 1923 when they were expelled during a population exchange with Greece.

Derinkuyu has since laid uninhabited and draws visitors from around the world.

Other underground cities

The Cappadocia region, once a Roman province, is fertile ground for underground cities because of its soft volcanic rock which is easy to carve and Derinkuyu is not the only underground city in this area of Turkey.

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Cappadocia’s characteristic volcanic rock landscape lends itself to underground cities

Nevşehir

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
Researchers discovered these ruins from an underground city in Turkey’s Central Anatolian region – Photo by Murat Kaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A series of ruins that contain buildings, hidden churches, and water channels were found in the Turkish town of Nevşehir, which is known for its ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations.

Construction workers clearing for a real estate development discovered the even more ancient underground city in 2015. The city is estimated to be up to 5,000 years-old.

The site, located around the Nevşehir hill fort near the city of Kayseri, appears to dwarf all other finds to date.

Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
The underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings began – Photograph by Anadolu Agency
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir – Photo by Murat Kaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Derinkuyu - the ancient underground city in Turkey
A view of the underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir – Photo by Murat Kaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

If you’re planning a visit to Cappadocia make sure you don’t miss a visit to an underground city.

Sources: Travel and Leisure/The Independent/National Geographic 

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