Derinkuyu Underground City - History and Facts | History Hit

Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu, Central Anatolia Region, Turkey

Derinkuyu Underground City is the most famous of the Cappadocia subterranean cities built by early Christians and protected by UNESCO.

Peta Stamper

01 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City is the largest and most popular of the Cappadocia underground cities in Nevsehir, Turkey.

As with the other underground cities in this region, Derinkuyu was built by early Christians to escape religious persecution. The result is an astounding network of subterranean houses and communal facilities, including food and drink preparation areas, mass storage rooms, stables, wine presses and a church all spread over 8 levels.

Part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Derinkuyu Underground City is incredibly well preserved and offers an in-depth insight into the lives of these troglodyte or ‘cave dwelling’ people. For those who are not too claustrophobic or frail, this is one of the most interesting sites in Turkey.

Derinkuyu Underground City history

The Cappodia region’s caves were likely built into the soft volcanic rock by the Phrygians in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. However, it was during the Roman period that the Derinkuyu Underground City was established by Greek-speaking Christians, who expanded the caverns into deep multi-level dwellings with chapels.

By the Byzantine era, the city was fully formed and was used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine Wars between 780 and 1180 AD. Derinkuyu was connected with other underground cities such as Kaymakli through the miles of tunnels, which continued to provide a sanctuary for Christians during the Mongolian invasions led by Timur in the 14th century.

Again, under the Ottoman Turkish Muslims, the caves were used as refuges by the natives and as late as the 20th century, the Cappadocian Greek locals were still using the caves to flee persecution. When Turkey expelled its Christian population to Greece in 1923, the caves were abandoned. It was therefore not until 1969 that around half of Derinkuyu Underground City was opened up to the public.

Derinkuyu Underground City today

At a depth of 250 feet with a capacity to hold 20,000 people, the multi-level Derinkuyu Underground City remains a fascinating site for visitors to Turkey, with over a millennia of history to see. Inside, you will see ventilation shafts, water wells, a large meeting hall, stables, kitchens, living area and a prisoner holding area.

A visit to Derinkuyu takes around 90 minutes. Be aware there is little signage so reading up on the site history beforehand is advised and you will have to go through small areas that need you to hunch down (never crawl). This is also not an ideal location for the claustrophobic.

Getting to Derinkuyu Underground City

Travelling by car is the easiest way to reach the Derinkuyu Underground City. From Kayseri, take the D805 to Gülbayir and head west towards Derinkuyu. The drive should take you around an hour and a half, and the city is only a 10 minute drive from Kaymakli.