Derinkuyu Underground City

Derinkuyu Underground City, Nevsehir, Turkey

Derinkuyu Underground City is an ancient underground city located in Cappadocia, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Turkey.

It is especially an important place for history and architecture lovers because the history of the underground city dates back to 7-8th century BCE, and the architecture in the underground city is magnificent when you consider the conditions of the age. 

There are 12 floors in this large underground city, and the deepest point is 177 feet (54 meters) underground. In Derinkuyu underground city, there were churches, stables, living rooms, wine cellars, and missionary schools. This fabulous underground city was absolutely a place that people could fulfill their daily needs. Moreover, it was also a perfect place to hide from the enemy attacks. According to historians, more than 20.000 people could live in this underground city.

Derinkuyu underground city was discovered in 1963 and has been open to visitors since 1967.  Today, 8 floors of the underground city are open to the public. When the cleaning works of the remaining floors are completed, all 12 floors will be opened in the future.  

Visiting Derinkuyu Underground City

Cappadocia is a big area and there are lots of tourist attractions to visit. Most people choose Göreme when they visit Cappadocia, but it is a bit far from Derinkuyu underground city. However, there are different ways that you can choose to visit Derinkuyu.

How do you get to Derinkuyu Underground City?

Derinkuyu and Cappadocia are located in Nevşehir. If you come from Istanbul, you may like to read my article about getting to the Cappadocia region from Istanbul.

Getting around the region is easy. If you have your own car, you can go from Göreme to Derinkuyu underground city easily. Derinkuyu Underground city is 21 miles (35 km) away from Göreme center and a trip by car will most probably take about 35-40 minutes.

If you do not have your own car, you can also rent a car in Göreme and go to Derinkuyu underground city. However, you can also prefer the means of public transportation, taxis, or guided tours to get to Derinkuyu Underground City.

Buses from the Cappadocia Airport

Reaching from Nevsehir Bus Terminal to Derinkuyu Underground City is really easy. There are some domestic bus companies that offer bus services between the terminal and Derinkuyu.  The first bus generally departs at 06:30 from the airport and you can take a bus every 30 minutes until 19:00 in the season. The prices are about 2-3 US Dollars (15-20 Turkish Liras.) 

Buses From Göreme Bus Terminal

There are also bus lines between Göreme and Derinkuyu. However, this line is not very active and you should always check availability if you want to get Derinkuyu Underground City from Göreme directly. 

Taxi

You can also prefer taxis to reach Derinkuyu Underground City from Göreme. However, you should know that it is much more expensive than buses.  The trip will take about 35 minutes and probably costs about 15 US Dollars (109 Turkish Liras).

Guided Tours

Another way of visiting Derinkuyu underground city is through guided tours. You can attend guided tours and explore all attractions of Cappadocia as well as Derinkuyu Underground City. Prices of tours vary according to the content of tours.

Some of the tours take you from Istanbul to Cappadocia and they are the most expensive ones as you can guess. However, there are also tours that you can attend if you stay in Göreme or other places which are near to Derinkuyu Underground City.  Getting Derinkuyu Underground City by guided tours could be a good choice for you especially if you like exploring new places with an experienced guide. The prices vary between 40 US Dollars and 150 US Dollars generally.

Hours

Derinkuyu Underground city is a museum today. Therefore, there are exact hours that you can visit this magnificent underground city. Visiting hours change according to season.

In the summer, you can visit the Derinkuyu underground city between 08:00-19:00. The ticket office will be closed at 18:15 during the summer season.

Visiting hours for the Winter season is between 10:00-16:00 and the ticket office will be closed at 15:15.

Entrance fee 

The current entrance fee for the Derinkuyu Underground City Museum is 50 Turkish Liras (6,77 US Dollars, as of January 2020).

Best time to visit

I can say that the best time to visit Cappadocia is Spring and Autumn rather than Winter and Summer.

The first reason for that is the climate as you can guess. Nevşehir is located in Central Anatolia and the climate of the region is a classical continental climate. Summers could be really hot and Winters could be really cold. However, in Autumn and in Spring the weather is moderate and you can easily walk in Derinkuyu Underground City feeling hot or cold. 

Derinkuyu Underground City, Nevsehir, Turkey

Another reason to visit Cappadocia in Spring or Autumn rather than Summer or Winter is the population density in the region.  In the summers, the number of tourists who visit Cappadocia and Derinkuyu Underground city could be really high, and it would be difficult to explore this fabulous underground city as you wish because of crowded tourist groups. 

Another disadvantage of visiting Cappadocia in the summers is the prices of accommodation, tours or other activities. In summers, tourist groups from Southern countries visit Cappadocia and it is the peak season of the region. Thus, it would be difficult to find accommodation and the prices would be really high when compared with other seasons. 

In winters, Derinkuyu or Cappadocia is not very crowded, but the weather is really cold and it could be especially difficult to walk underground.  However, if you do not mind cold weather, visiting Derinkuyu Underground City and Cappadocia would be an interesting experience for you. This place looks amazing in winter. 

In short, I can say that between March and May, and between September and November would be the best time to visit Derinkuyu.

I have already written an article about the best time to visit the Cappadocia region. You can click here to read that article.

How long to spend

It would probably take about 45 minutes to explore the 8 floors of Derinkuyu Underground City. However, if you have a special interest in historical sites, you can stay for about 90 minutes and explore the floors in detail.

You can examine paintings on the floors, remnants of churches, monasteries, stables, etc. I need to state that, you should not visit Derinkuyu City if you have claustrophobia. 

How old is Derinkuyu Underground City?

Derinkuyu Underground City is approximately 2700 years old, according to historians and archeologists. The foundation of this underground city dates back to the 7th century BCE and this makes it one of the oldest underground cities in the world.

It was home to different civilizations in different periods of history and it is possible to see their influences today.

The city was founded by the Phrygians first. When the Roman Empire was Pagan, Christians in the country used this underground city to protect from the Roman persecutions. In the time of the Byzantine era, the purpose of the underground city was the same. Inhabitants of the region used the city as a shelter in the war between the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Arabs.

I also need to state that there are also theories that say that the city was built by Hittites for the first time. If these theories are correct, the foundation of the city could date back to the 15th century BCE. However, there is no certain evidence that supports these theories. 

Who built Derinkuyu Underground City?

Although it is possible to give a simple answer to this question if you think in a detailed way, there is no exact answer. Let me explain this, as I said above, the first builders of the city is a group of Indo-European people called Phrygians according to information we have today.

However, founding the city is not the same thing as building a city if you examine the question from a historical perspective. Yes, Phrygians built the city for the first time. However, every civilization that used this underground city added their touches to it.

Derinkuyu Underground City, Nevsehir, Turkey

In Roman times, the main function of the underground city was sheltering. Christians built chapels, stables, dwells in the underground city in the Roman Era. In the Byzantine era, the underground city lived its most shining era. The connections with other underground cities in the Cappadocia region was built in the Byzantine era. At that time, the city took its final shape. 

After the Ottoman conquest, the city was used as shelter by Cappadocian Greeks again. 

As you can see, different civilisations played their role in shaping the city. Although the first builders of the city are Phrygians, various civilisations played their role in different periods of history. 

Why was Derinkuyu Underground City built?

Of course, Derinkuyu Underground City and other underground cities in the region or other places in the world are fascinating buildings. However, many people ask the question ‘’why did people build this underground city while it was really hard to do it because of the lack of technology ?’’. Let’s find the answer together. 

As I said before, according to historical sources the foundation of this underground city dates back to the 7th century BCE. Inhabitants of the city used Derinkuyu underground city as a shelter at that time. Christians who escaped from the Roman persecutions come to the Cappadocia region and build underground cities to be able to worship and live as they wish. 

The city continued to be a good hiding place in different periods of history. In the Byzantine Period, native people of the region lived in this underground city while Arab-Byzantine War took place.  At that time, up to 20.000 people lived in Derinkuyu Underground City according to estimations. 

As you can guess, before the advancements in building technology took place, it was really hard to build a shelter that can protect you from enemy attacks. However, because of the unique structure of the rock formations in Cappadocia, people could build this underground city despite the technological inadequacy.  The need for shelter was one of the most significant necessities of the ancient periods, and Derinkuyu Underground City was a great solution for that need. That’s why it is built. 

How is Derinkuyu Underground City built?

Nature and human ability played their own roles in building Derinkuyu underground city.

First of all, it was relatively easy to build this an underground city when compared with many places in the world.

Cappadocia was a volcanic region million years ago. When volcanoes erupted, layers of ash lay over the region. In time, they turned into unique rock formations that could be carved easily.

Derinkuyu Underground City, Nevsehir, Turkey

When the inhabitants of Cappadocia realized that they could carve these rock formations, they also realized that they could build an underground city by carving these rock formations, and it would be a good shelter for them. Then, they start to carve the rocks. After a long time, this magnificent natural rock formation turned into an underground city which had chapels, stables, dwellings, monasteries,  graveyards in it. 

Discovery of Derinkuyu Underground City

The discovery of Derinkuyu Underground City is a really interesting story. It was all a coincidence but also shows why ancient people chose this place as a shelter. It managed to hide itself until 1963!

An inhabitant of Nevşehir was renovating his house in 1963. He went to the basement and started to demolish the walls of the basement to renovate it. However, when he demolished the wall, he saw a large, fabulous hall. After this incident, archaeologists examined the place and it was found that this place is Derinkuyu Underground City.  Excavation works started immediately and after four years of cleaning, the magnificent city was opened to visitors in 1967.

As I said at the beginning of the article, the underground city is not completely revealed. According to estimations, there are at least 4 more floors in the city and after the excavation and cleaning works are completed, all of the underground city will be open to visits. 

History of Derinkuyu Underground City

The history of Derinkuyu Underground City is a controversial issue in the fields of archaeology and history. Different scholars have different ideas on the history of this fascinating underground city.

The widely accepted theory on the history of Derinkuyu Underground City tells that the builders of this city were Phrygians and they built the city between the 8th Century – 7th Century BCE. However, some of the experts believe that the foundation of this city dates back to the Hittites era, in the 15th Century BCE. Although there are controversies on the origin of the Derinkuyu underground city, at least we know that it was built in ancient times, and was beyond its age in every aspect. 

Derinkuyu Underground City, Nevsehir, Turkey

Although the inhabitants of the city varied over the centuries, the main function of the city was almost the same. When it was built by the Phrygians according to dominant theory in the 7th century BCE, the main purpose of this underground city was to hide from enemies. After the fall of the Phrygians, Christian subjects of the Roman Empire used this place as a shelter and place of worship. As you know, the ancient Roman civilization was a Pagan society once. Before Christianity was widely accepted in the country, there were persecutions against Christians. Many Christian killed by the soldiers of Pagan rulers. Therefore, Christian people needed a place to worship and maintain their lives. They escaped to the region called Cappadocia and carved the rock formations in the regions. Derinkuyu is not the only underground city in the region.  There are 36 underground cities in Cappadocia, people need to build them to protect themselves from their enemies.  

Derinkuyu Underground City was also home to lots of prayer halls. Because Christians were not able to worship their God in public, they built chapels, missionary schools, monasteries in Derinkuyu Underground city. Today, it is possible to see the remnants of Christian places of worship on the walls. Moreover, a part of the underground city was used as a Christian graveyard. 

It is also possible to see some traces from the daily in the Derinkuyu Underground City in ancient times. As well as being a shelter and place of worship, it was also home for its inhabitants. The city was home to 20.000 people once. So, there were wineries, kitchens, living areas, storehouses in the underground city. People could fulfill all their needs in this underground city. 

In the Byzantine Period, the formation of the city is completed according to the results of excavations. The Byzantine-Arab wars took place between the 8th Century-12th centuries CE.  According to many Byzantine historians, Derinkuyu Underground City had a very strategic role in the wars. Byzantine people used this place as a shelter. Thus, The Byzantine Empire always tried to develop this underground city. As time went by, advancements in the city took place. New features were added to the city to make it a stronger shelter. 

After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, Derinkuyu Underground city was eventually subjugated by the Ottoman Empire. In the Ottoman era, there were still Greeks in the Cappadocia region and they also used this place as a shelter and place of worship. When the documents from the Ottoman Empire are examined it could be seen that the Greeks continued to live there until the very last days of the Empire. However, after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, a population exchange between Greek and Turkey took place, and the inhabitants of the region went to Greece. After that, the city was forgotten.  It was discovered by a coincidence as I stated above. 

Legend of Derinkuyu

I believe I gave you enough information about the history of this fabulous underground city based on the sources. However, urban legends are also important stories culturally. Of course, a magical place like Derinkuyu has its own urban legend. Let’s look at it together.

According to the legend, Derinkuyu Underground city was the place of angels. Angels looked to the Cappadocia region from the Sky and admired it. They decided to live in this place. However, the arch-enemy of angels, demons also visited this place and they wanted to destroy all angels living in Derinkuyu. After a long period of wars, angels could not beat the demons and had to escape. To protect themselves from the demons, they built Derinkuyu and other underground cities in Cappadocia.  It is believed that Derinkuyu or other underground cities in the region are the cities of angels.

Derinkuyu In Popular Culture

For the players of the famous video game series Assassin’s Creed, Derinkuyu would be a marvelous trip because this underground city took place in the Assassin’s Creed Revelations. Do not forget to compare the city with the representation in the game!

Other Underground Cities in Cappadocia

Although Derinkuyu Underground City is the most famous one, there are other underground cities in Cappadocia. I also advise you to visit them, especially if you are interested in historic places. Like Derinkuyu Underground City, there are chapels, graveyards, and stables like in other underground cities in Cappadocia. The ones I advise you to visit are;

  • Kaymaklı Underground City
  • Mazı Underground City
  • Özkonak Underground City
  • Özlüce Underground City
  • Sivasa Gökçetoprak Underground City
  • Tatlarin Underground City

As you can see, Cappadocia is a must-see place for people who like discovering new cultures, people who like exploring the lives of the people in ancient times. Cappadocia is a really magical place where you can see the collaboration between nature and human ability. When you visit Derinkuyu or other underground cities, you can feel the atmosphere of ancient times.  

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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