About Özkonak Underground City
Özkonak Underground City in Cappadocia is one of several ancient settlements which were carved out of solid rock in late antiquity to provide shelter and defence in times of trouble. As much a city carved into the hillside as a city dug underground, Özkonak is smaller but quieter than many of the other underground cities in the region.
History of Özkonak Underground City
Underground cities like that found at Özkonak were scattered all over Byzantine Cappadocia and formed an important aspect of defence for a civilisation that was prey to raids from nearby enemies. Although the cities were undoubtedly utilised by the people of Byzantium, there is great debate as to whether the sites actually originate further back into antiquity, with some suggestions dating the towns to as far back as the Bronze age. The extent of Byzantine excavation and expansion has made ascertaining the dates of the original structures difficult and certainly the Özkonak visited by tourists today can tell us more about the Byzantine culture than any other.
The city itself was built across many levels and these would have housed both families and livestock. Carved into the rock itself, the primary tunnels would have also been used to trap intruders. Moreover, thick millstones propped up from behind made accessing certain tunnels difficult and the city’s residents could direct enemies to their death by leading them down certain more treacherous routes. Indeed, one fascinating aspect of the remains at Özkonak are the narrow holes carved into the ceiling of certain chambers and passageways. These were used not only for ventilation and communication but could also have been utilised by the occupants on upper floors to attack and pour hot oil onto any attackers in the rooms below.
This particular site also boasts a well, a winery and a ventilation shaft – all essential features for a civilisation that could be forced to flee into the mountains for long periods.
Özkonak Underground City today
Ozkonak was only discovered in 1972, so many of the city’s ten floors are still undergoing cleaning and preservation but there is more than enough open for the eager tourist to explore. A good tip is to visit the website to take the virtual tour and see first-hand what exciting wonders await! You may well get the site to yourself on weekdays, which is an added bonus.
Getting to Özkonak Underground City
If you don’t have a car, you’ll need to hop on the dolmuş from Avanos (₺2, 30 minutes, hourly between 8am and 5pm on weekdays only) although this is relatively erratic. It’s worth checking precise timings with locals. Ask for the yeraltı şehri (underground city) and don’t be surprised when you get let off at the petrol station. The entrance to Özkonak is 500m walk up the road.