How Do You Navigate The Underground Cities Of Derinkuyu & Kaymakli?

Imagine stepping back in time and discovering a hidden world beneath the surface of modern-day Turkey. The underground cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are awe-inspiring marvels, inviting you to explore their mysterious tunnels, secret passages, and intricate architecture. But how do you navigate this subterranean maze? Don’t worry, this article will guide you through the fascinating history and provide tips on how to uncover the wonders lurking beneath the ground. So grab a flashlight and embark on an unforgettable journey into the depths of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli.

What are the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu & Kaymakli?

The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are fascinating and unique historical sites located in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. These underground cities are among the most impressive and extensive underground complexes in the world. Carved out of the soft volcanic rock, they served as underground shelters and cities for thousands of people throughout history. Derinkuyu and Kaymakli date back to the Hittite era, around the 8th century BCE, and have since been expanded and developed by various civilizations. Today, they are popular tourist destinations offering a glimpse into the past and showcasing the remarkable engineering and architectural marvels of ancient civilizations.

History of the Underground Cities

Origins and Purpose

The origins of the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli can be traced back to the Hittite era. These complex underground structures were initially carved out as underground shelters, providing a safe refuge from enemy attacks and natural disasters. The strategic location of Cappadocia and the soft volcanic rock made it an ideal region for the construction of such underground cities. Over time, these cities were expanded and developed by subsequent civilizations, including the Phrygians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines.

Expansions and Developments

Throughout history, the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underwent extensive expansions and developments. As new civilizations settled in the region, they added additional levels, rooms, and architectural features to these cities. The underground cities were not only used as shelters, but they also served as fully functioning cities, complete with living spaces, storage areas, wineries, religious spaces, and even ventilation systems. The architectural designs and structures found within these cities reflect the cultural influences and unique characteristics of the different civilizations that inhabited them.

Abandonment and Rediscovery

The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli were eventually abandoned as the need for underground shelters diminished. With the advent of more modern and secure living conditions, the cities were gradually abandoned and forgotten. It was not until the 1960s that these underground complexes were rediscovered by a local man who discovered a hidden room behind a wall in his home. This discovery led to the exploration and excavation of the entire underground cities, revealing their outstanding historical and architectural significance.

Features of the Underground Cities

Architecture and Layout

The architecture and layout of the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are truly awe-inspiring. The cities are organized in a multi-level structure, descending several stories deep into the ground. The intricate network of tunnels, corridors, rooms, and staircases showcases the advanced engineering skills of ancient civilizations. The walls and ceilings were carefully carved and strengthened, ensuring the stability and longevity of the structures. The unique architectural design of the underground cities reflects the ability of the inhabitants to adapt to their surroundings while creating functional and livable spaces.

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Ventilation and Air Circulation

One of the most remarkable features of the Underground Cities is their advanced ventilation and air circulation systems. Despite being located underground, these cities have well-designed ventilation shafts and air ducts that allow fresh air to flow through the entire complex. The ventilation systems were ingeniously constructed to prevent the accumulation of smoke, dust, and stale air. This innovative engineering feat ensured the comfort and livability of the underground cities, even during extended periods of occupation.

Water Wells and Cisterns

Access to water was crucial for the inhabitants of the underground cities. To meet this need, the cities were equipped with wells and cisterns that provided a reliable water supply. The underground wells collected rainwater, which was then stored in cisterns to ensure a steady and sufficient water source during times of siege or isolation. The careful management of water resources demonstrates the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the ancient civilizations that inhabited these cities.

Storage Rooms and Stables

The underground cities also had designated storage rooms and stables to accommodate the needs of the inhabitants. These storage areas were used to store food supplies, belongings, and other essential items. The stables, with their carved-out spaces and mangers, housed animals, such as horses and livestock, which were essential for transportation and sustenance. These storage rooms and stables were essential components of the underground cities, providing the necessary resources for the survival and well-being of the inhabitants.

Wine and Oil Production Areas

In addition to providing resources for survival, the underground cities were also centers of production. Some sections of the cities were dedicated to the production of wine and oil, showcasing the historical importance of these commodities. These production areas contained carefully carved spaces for pressing grapes and olives, as well as storage containers for the finished products. The presence of these production areas highlights the economic and cultural significance of wine and oil in the ancient civilizations that thrived in this region.

Religious Spaces

Religion played a significant role in the lives of the inhabitants of the underground cities. As a result, religious spaces were an essential part of these complexes. Chapels and churches were carved out of the soft rock, adorned with religious symbols and intricate carvings. These religious spaces provided a place for worship and spiritual solace for the inhabitants. The presence of these sacred spaces within the underground cities highlights the cultural and religious diversity of the civilizations that called these cities home.

Navigating the Underground Cities

Entrance and Ticketing

To explore the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, visitors can enter through designated entrances. These entrances are well-marked and easily accessible, allowing visitors to embark on a journey through history. The ticketing process ensures that visitors have an organized and enjoyable experience, while also contributing to the preservation and maintenance of these historical sites.

Preparation and Safety Measures

Before venturing into the underground cities, it is essential to be prepared and take necessary safety measures. Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended, as the underground cities can involve walking on uneven surfaces and through narrow passageways. Carrying a light source, such as a flashlight or headlamp, is crucial to navigate the dimly lit areas. Additionally, it is advisable to carry a small backpack with water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized during the exploration.

Guided Tours

Guided tours of the underground cities are available for visitors who prefer a structured and informative experience. These guided tours are led by knowledgeable guides who provide valuable insights into the history, architecture, and cultural significance of the underground cities. Following a guide ensures that visitors can make the most of their visit, as they explore the hidden corners and learn fascinating facts about these ancient complexes.

Exploring Independently

For those who prefer a more independent exploration, it is possible to explore the underground cities at one’s own pace. Visitors can freely navigate through the network of tunnels and chambers, immersing themselves in the rich history and architectural wonders. However, it is essential to follow the designated paths and adhere to safety instructions to ensure a safe and respectful visit to these historical sites.

Points of Interest in Derinkuyu Underground City

Central Hall

The Central Hall is the heart of the Derinkuyu Underground City. This vast space served as a communal area for the inhabitants, offering a gathering place for socializing and conducting daily activities. The Central Hall is an impressive example of the architectural and engineering prowess of ancient civilizations, with its tall ceilings, carved pillars, and carefully designed lighting features.

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Air Shafts and Ventilation Systems

The air shafts and ventilation systems in Derinkuyu Underground City are a testament to the advanced technology employed by ancient civilizations. These systems ensured the circulation of fresh air throughout the underground complex, crucial for maintaining a healthy living environment. Visitors can marvel at the ingenuity of these ventilation systems, which allowed the underground cities to thrive and sustain their inhabitants.

Schools and Living Spaces

Derinkuyu Underground City was not just a shelter but also a fully functioning city complete with schools and living spaces. These areas provided an educational environment for children and spaces for families to live and grow. The carefully carved rooms and passages showcase the daily lives of the inhabitants, providing a glimpse into the past and the challenges they faced in this unique underground environment.

Chapels and Churches

Religion held great importance for the inhabitants of Derinkuyu Underground City, which is evident in the presence of beautifully carved chapels and churches. These religious spaces were places of worship and reflection, adorned with intricate carvings and religious symbols. Exploring these chapels and churches allows visitors to appreciate the spiritual aspects of life underground and the diverse religious practices of the inhabitants.

Storage Areas for Food and Supplies

The storage areas in Derinkuyu Underground City were vital for the survival of the inhabitants. These rooms and chambers were used to store food supplies and other essential items necessary for sustenance. Visitors can see the well-preserved storage areas and gain insight into the resource management strategies employed by ancient civilizations. The organized and well-maintained storage spaces are a testament to the ingenuity and foresight of the underground city’s inhabitants.

Points of Interest in Kaymakli Underground City

Multi-level Chessboard Layout

Kaymakli Underground City is known for its multi-level chessboard layout. The city consists of interconnected tunnels and chambers, resembling a labyrinthine chessboard. Navigating through this layout offers a unique and immersive experience, allowing visitors to imagine what life was like in this underground world.

Living Quarters and Family Rooms

Within Kaymakli Underground City, visitors can explore the living quarters and family rooms that once housed the inhabitants. The rooms are carved out of the rock, showcasing the family units and the daily lives of the people who called this city home. The intimate spaces provide a sense of the close-knit community that existed in the depths of the earth.

Churches and Chapels

Like Derinkuyu, Kaymakli Underground City also features religious spaces in the form of churches and chapels. These sacred spaces were essential for spiritual and communal gatherings. The churches and chapels in Kaymakli Underground City exhibit unique architectural details, offering a fascinating insight into the religious practices and beliefs of the inhabitants.

Meeting Halls and Assembly Rooms

Kaymakli Underground City had designated meeting halls and assembly rooms where communal gatherings and important discussions took place. These spaces were used for various purposes, such as trade negotiations, community meetings, and social events. Exploring these meeting halls provides a glimpse into the social and civic aspects of life in an underground city.

Winery and Storage Areas

Owing to the suitable geological conditions, Kaymakli Underground City also had areas dedicated to the production and storage of wine. These wineries, complete with carved-out spaces for wine production and storage, highlight the cultural and economic importance of viticulture in the region. Visitors can observe the remains of these wineries and gain a deeper understanding of the role of wine-making in ancient society.

Tips for Exploring the Underground Cities

Wear Comfortable Shoes and Clothing

Exploring the underground cities can involve walking on uneven surfaces and through narrow passageways. It is essential to wear comfortable shoes and clothing that allow for ease of movement. Sneakers or closed-toe shoes are recommended, as they provide proper support and protection. Layered clothing is advisable, as the temperature inside the underground cities may vary.

Carry a Light Source

The underground cities can be dimly lit, making it necessary to carry a light source. A flashlight or headlamp will prove invaluable in illuminating the passageways and exploring the darker corners. It is advisable to bring an extra set of batteries or a backup light source to ensure an uninterrupted exploration experience.

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Stay Hydrated and Carry Snacks

The exploration of the underground cities can be physically demanding, requiring endurance and energy. It is essential to stay hydrated throughout the visit and carry a water bottle to replenish fluids regularly. Additionally, bringing snacks or energy bars can help maintain energy levels and provide sustenance during the exploration.

Follow Safety Instructions

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it is crucial to follow the safety instructions provided by the authorities and guides. These instructions may include staying on designated paths, refraining from touching or damaging the historical structures, and adhering to any guidelines regarding photography or filming. Respecting the safety instructions helps preserve the underground cities and ensures the well-being of all visitors.

Respect the Historical Site

The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are invaluable cultural and historical sites. It is essential to respect the historical significance and heritage of these sites by refraining from littering, defacing, or damaging the structures. Visitors should appreciate these sites as they are and refrain from removing or taking any artifacts or souvenirs.

The Significance of the Underground Cities

Protection and Defense

The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli were primarily constructed as underground shelters to provide protection and defense during times of conflict and crisis. These cities were ingeniously designed to withstand threats such as enemy attacks, invasions, and natural disasters. The strategic location and architectural features ensured the safety and survival of the inhabitants, making the underground cities an important element of defense strategies throughout history.

Religious and Cultural Importance

Religion played a significant role in the lives of the inhabitants of the underground cities. The presence of chapels, churches, and religious symbols highlights the cultural and religious importance of these sites. The underground cities served as centers of worship, spiritual solace, and communal gatherings, fostering a sense of unity and belonging among the inhabitants. The religious and cultural significance of these sites is a testament to the diverse and multi-faceted identities of the civilizations that thrived in this region.

Architectural and Engineering Marvel

The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are architectural and engineering marvels. The intricately carved chambers, ventilation systems, and water wells demonstrate the advanced technological skills and ingenuity of ancient civilizations. These cities were constructed using simple tools and techniques, showcasing the extraordinary capabilities of the people who carved them out of solid rock. The architectural and engineering achievements of the underground cities are a testament to human perseverance and adaptability.

Tourism and Economic Impact

The presence of the underground cities has had a significant impact on the local tourism industry and the regional economy. These historical sites attract visitors from around the world, contributing to the development of tourism infrastructure, accommodations, and other related industries. The revenue generated from tourism helps support the maintenance, preservation, and conservation efforts of the underground cities. Additionally, the increased cultural exchange and understanding fostered by tourism contribute to the preservation and sharing of cultural heritage.

Future Developments and Preservation Efforts

Conservation and Restoration Projects

To ensure the preservation and longevity of the Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, conservation and restoration projects are ongoing. These projects focus on stabilizing the structures, preventing further deterioration, and preserving the historical integrity of the sites. Specialist teams work tirelessly to repair and maintain the walls, ceilings, and other architectural features, ensuring that future generations can continue to appreciate these remarkable sites.

Improved Accessibility and Infrastructure

Efforts are being made to improve the accessibility and infrastructure around the underground cities. This includes the construction of visitor centers, enhanced pathways, and improved signage, providing visitors with a seamless and informative experience. Infrastructure developments also aim to protect the natural environment surrounding the underground cities and ensure sustainability for future generations.

Collaborations with Local Communities

Preservation efforts for the underground cities involve collaborations with local communities. Local residents play an active role in maintaining and protecting these historical sites, acting as custodians of their cultural heritage. These collaborations help foster a sense of pride and ownership among the local communities, ensuring the continued preservation of the underground cities.

Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

Sustainable tourism initiatives are being implemented to strike a balance between preserving the underground cities and managing visitor numbers. These initiatives focus on minimizing the impact on the environment, promoting local culture and traditions, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of tourism in the region. By adopting sustainable practices, both the underground cities and the surrounding communities can thrive, preserving their cultural heritage for future generations.


The Underground Cities of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli in Turkey offer a remarkable journey into the past, showcasing the ingenuity, resilience, and cultural richness of ancient civilizations. These unique underground complexes serve as living museums, providing a tangible link to history and allowing visitors to marvel at the architectural and engineering prowess of bygone eras. Through centuries of expansion, adaptation, and abandonment, these cities have emerged as testamentary to human perseverance and adaptability. Navigating the underground cities, appreciating their unique features, and understanding their historical and cultural significance is a journey that enriches the mind and soul. By preserving and sharing these cultural landmarks, we ensure that the legacy of past civilizations continues to inspire and educate future generations.