Derinkuyu Underground City

Welcome to the mysterious world of Derinkuyu Underground City, an ancient marvel nestled near the modern town of Derinkuyu in Nevşehir Province, Turkey. This remarkable subterranean complex extends to a depth of approximately 85 meters (280 feet) and stands as a testament to human ingenuity and resilience. In this 3000-word exploration, we will uncover the secrets of Derinkuyu, from its incredible features to its rich historical tapestry.

Beneath the Earth’s Surface: Derinkuyu’s Magnificent Features

The Ingenious Stone Doors

The Ingenious Stone Doors in Derinkuyu Underground City
Image Source: TobyJ, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the heart of Derinkuyu’s design are its massive rolling stone doors. These doors could be closed from the inside, sealing off each floor separately. This architectural marvel provided both security and privacy to the city’s inhabitants.

The Enigmatic Barrel-Vaulted Room

The Enigmatic Barrel-Vaulted Room in Derinkuyu Underground City
Image Source: © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located on the second floor of Derinkuyu, a unique room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling awaits exploration. It is believed that this space served as a religious school, with adjacent rooms used for scholarly pursuits. This room offers a glimpse into the city’s cultural and educational life.

A Vertical Journey to Faith

Image Source: © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Between the third and fourth levels, a series of vertical staircases wind their way down, leading to a cruciform church on the lowest (fifth) level. This sacred space served as a sanctuary for the city’s Christian inhabitants, illustrating the deep religious significance of Derinkuyu.

Life-Sustaining Ventilation

Life-Sustaining Ventilation in Derinkuyu
Image Source: Facebook

One of the most critical features of Derinkuyu is its massive 55-meter (180-foot) ventilation shaft, which also appears to have served as a well. This ingenious system not only provided essential ventilation but also supplied water to the city’s residents and livestock during times of isolation.

Unraveling the Historical Threads

Derinkuyu Underground City
Ventilation well in Derinkuyu Underground City in Cappadocia, Turkey. | Image Source: © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Phrygian Origins

Derinkuyu Underground City Stairs
Image Source: © Nevit Dilmen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Derinkuyu’s story begins in the 8th–7th centuries BC when the Phrygians first carved caves into the soft volcanic rock of Cappadocia. These initial structures laid the foundation for what would later become a sprawling underground city.

The Byzantine Fortress

During the Byzantine era, Derinkuyu gained prominence as a fortress, providing refuge from Arab Muslim invasions during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780–1180 AD). The city was intricately connected to another underground city, Kaymakli, through a network of tunnels that stretched over 8–9 kilometers.

A Haven from Mongolian Incursions

Derinkuyu Underground City Cave
Image Source: Patrick Barry from san francisco, ca, usa, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The resilience of Derinkuyu continued into the 14th century when it provided sanctuary to Christian natives during the Mongolian incursions led by Timur. Its significance as a refuge remained unchanged throughout the centuries.

Ottoman Rule and Refuge

As the Ottoman Empire expanded its dominion, the underground cities became havens for the local population, protecting them from Turkish Muslim rulers. Even in the 20th century, Cappadocian Greeks and Armenians sought shelter within these underground chambers during times of persecution.

Rediscovery and Preservation

In 1923, the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled from Turkey, and the tunnels were left abandoned. It wasn’t until 1963 that a local resident stumbled upon a hidden room during renovations, revealing access to the underground network. In 1969, the site was opened to visitors, with approximately half of the underground city accessible as of 2016.


Derinkuyu Underground City stands as a testament to human resilience, innovation, and adaptability throughout the ages. From its ingenious stone doors to its deep-rooted historical significance, it continues to captivate and inspire visitors from around the world. As you explore its labyrinthine passages and chambers, you can’t help but marvel at the remarkable feats of ancient engineering and the enduring spirit of those who sought shelter beneath the earth’s surface.

Frequently Asked Questions

How deep does Derinkuyu Underground City extend?

Derinkuyu extends to a depth of approximately 85 meters (280 feet), making it one of the deepest underground cities in the world.

What is the significance of the barrel-vaulted room in Derinkuyu?

The barrel-vaulted room is believed to have been a religious school, highlighting the cultural and educational aspects of the city.

Why were the vertical staircases important in Derinkuyu?

The vertical staircases provided access to a cruciform church on the lowest level, serving as a place of worship for the city’s Christian inhabitants.

When was Derinkuyu extensively used as a fortress?

Derinkuyu gained prominence as a fortress during the Byzantine era, primarily during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780–1180 AD).

Why did people seek refuge in Derinkuyu in the 20th century?

Cappadocian Greeks and Armenians sought refuge in Derinkuyu to escape periodic persecutions, even in the 20th century, due to its secure underground chambers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *