We’ve put together the essential information about the enigmatic Derinkuyu Underground City, one of Anatolia’s oldest settlements!
Cappadocia, renowned for its natural and historical wonders, earned a spot on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List back in 1985. It’s become one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations, not just for its fairy chimneys, valleys, museums, and castles but also for its enigmatic underground cities. The largest among these 36 subterranean marvels is the Derinkuyu Underground City. Let’s embark on a journey to Derinkuyu and delve into its deep history.
Table of Contents
1. How long does the history of Derinkuyu Underground City date back to?
While the exact dating remains uncertain, Derinkuyu Underground City’s history is believed to reach as far back as 3000 years ago, possibly to around 1000 B.C. Some researchers suggest that it might have connections to the Hittite period, although no definitive evidence supports this claim. Over the centuries, Derinkuyu has been inhabited by various civilizations, including the Cappadocia Kingdom and the Byzantine Empire. The Turkish presence in the region dates back to 1071 after the Battle of Manzikert.
2. Who Built Derinkuyu Underground City and Why?
Derinkuyu’s history is traced back to its earliest inhabitants, believed to be associated with Assyrian colonies. It was constructed by the early Christians as a secure place of worship during a time when the Roman Empire had not yet officially embraced Christianity. The city was designed with a defense system that featured stone doors, which could only be operated from the inside, safeguarding the hidden passages. This system provided protection against Roman and Arab threats, allowing Christians in the region to use it as a long-term refuge, isolated from the external world.
The ingenious strategy employed the region’s natural characteristics to their advantage. Utilizing the easily workable soft tuff, they expanded the underground city by constructing storage areas, ventilation chimneys, storage rooms, churches, schools, water wells, meeting chambers, and burial sites, among other facilities.
3. When Was Derinkuyu Underground City Discovered?
Derinkuyu got its name from the 52 water wells that reach depths of 60-70 meters. Interestingly, there were no settlements above ground in the area until the 1830s. The city was accidentally discovered in 1963 and was officially opened to visitors in 1967. Since then, it has consistently captivated the curiosity of those who explore its underground depths.
4. Derinkuyu Underground City Sections
Today, only about 10 percent of Derinkuyu Underground City is accessible to visitors. This remarkable underground complex, which extends approximately 85 meters deep, is a network of hundreds of rooms interconnected by a maze of tunnels. The portion open to tourists consists of eight floors, reaching a depth of 50 meters.
Typically, in underground cities, the ground floors are the oldest and serve as stables, kitchens, wineries, and storage areas. Derinkuyu follows this pattern as well. This layout is practical, as it would have been challenging to transport animals to lower floors and easier to move harvested grapes to the wineries.
The third floor of Derinkuyu is distinct, featuring living spaces, a conference hall, and a missionary school, setting it apart from other underground cities. Additionally, a hidden tunnel on this floor connects Derinkuyu to the nearby Kaymaklı Underground City, facilitating access between different settlements and the outside world.
On the fourth floor, you’ll find shelters and ingeniously designed ventilation chimneys that also double as water wells. The fifth floor is considered the “heart of the city” and serves as a central hub. It leads to a tunnel that connects to the sixth floor, which features narrow tunnels and five rooms. Some sources suggest that two of these rooms are entrances, while the remaining three serve as control rooms overseeing the tunnel entrances.
The seventh floor of Derinkuyu Underground City is the most spacious. It encompasses a meeting room, a cemetery, a unique water well designed to prevent contamination by potential raiders, and a church. The exploration culminates on the eighth floor, which contains a small room.
It’s believed that Derinkuyu may have as many as 12 to 14 floors in total. The portion accessible to visitors is just a fraction of the entire underground complex. When the remaining sections are uncovered, the discoveries could potentially unveil new insights into history, opening an entirely new chapter!
5. Derinkuyu Underground City Museum Information
Located at the entrance of Derinkuyu Underground City, Üzümlü Church, also known as
St. Theodoros Trion Church, is one of the historical buildings that can be seen when you come here.
Opening Time: 08.00
Closing Time: 19.00
Address: Bayramlı Mah. Şemşili Yolu St. No:15 Derinkuyu/Nevşehir
Phone: (0384) 381 31 94
Entrance Fee: Current ticket information
6. Legend of Derinkuyu Underground City
Derinkuyu remains a baffling marvel, especially when considering its uncharted portions and the era in which it was constructed. Its enigmatic past has given rise to legends. According to a tale passed down through generations, angels descended from the heavens and were captivated by the region’s beauty, choosing to make it their home. However, their peaceful existence was disrupted when unwelcome celestial guests arrived. These uninvited guests were malevolent demons determined to harm the benevolent angels. After a prolonged struggle, the angels, unable to defeat the evil demons, sought refuge by constructing hidden underground cities. Legend has it that the angels continue to reside in Derinkuyu, one of these cities, and on certain nights, they ascend into the sky, radiating light.