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.
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 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.
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 city was partially opened to tourism in 2018.
The site, located around the Nevşehir hill fort near the city of Kayseri, appears to dwarf all other finds to date.
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