General İnformation About Subterranean (Underground) Cities
Fairy Chimneys are most widely-known natural beauty of Cappadocia. In addition to the Fairy Chimneys, the underground cities in the Cappadocia Region are among the must-see historical and natural beauties. Underground cities are complex structures consisting of many floors. For example, 8 floors of Derinkuyu Underground City, which was found in 1963 and opened to visitors in 1967, were identified. While the depth of the 8 floors opened to the visit is 50 meters, the depth of all floors is expected to reach 85 meters and the number of floors is expected to reach 12-13.
Although only 36 of them have been studied (the widest of them is Kaymakli Underground City and the deepest is the Derinkuyu Underground City), it is estimated that there are around 200 underground cities in Cappadocia. Unfortunately, not all underground cities are open to visitors. Famous buildings such as Kaymaklı underground city and Özkonak underground city are open to visitors.
It is known that underground cities, which are suitable for housing approximately 30 thousand people, existed since the 8th century BC. There are shelter areas (houses), stables and even cemeteries in underground cities. These cities are equipped with a complex ventilation and communication system. These buildings were protected by doors that could not be opened from the outside and were locked with stone bolts from the inside. In buildings, there are traps in many corridors.
Why are Underground Cities in Cappadocia Built?
In his book Anabasis, which is the first written source about the Cappadocia Underground Cities, Xenophon wrote that the Sparta army accommodated in the underground cities of Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu in the campaign against the Persian king Artakserkses. The rock reliefs of the Hittite civilization on the walls of the underground cities and the underground tunnels made by the Hittites for defense proves how old the history of these cities goes.
But, although it is known that the first settlement in the area goes back to prehistorical ages and the history of the underground cities in the region dates back to the 8th century BC, these underground cities were mainly built by the early Christians who escaped from the Roman Empire oppression.
Christians who had left Jerusalem in the 2nd century AD passed through Antakya and Kayseri to arrive in Central Anatolia and settled in the vicinity of Derinkuyu. But they were facing the oppression of the Roman Emperors. These early Christians found refuge in the subterranean cities of the region against attacks and repression. After that, Cappadocia has become a refuge for the early Christians escaping Roman persecution.
As a result, many Christians flooded here for the search of a safe haven.
The soft rock in this region allowed the excavation. So, they started to build water wineries, wells and cisterns, dwellings, food stores, places of worship, rock-cut monasteries, churches and even underground cities in the area.
These cities are equipped with a complex ventilation and communication system. These cities had perfect ventilation systems, air movement tunnels, and garbage collection mechanisms. These buildings had safety and security systems and were protected by doors that could not be opened from the outside and were locked with stone bolts from the inside. In the underground cities of Cappadocia, it is understood that the corridors of the underground cities are protected by gigantic keystones or in other words a bolt stone. In the face of enemy danger, the keystone was pushed towards the door, closing the entrance. The keystone can only be opened from the inside. These stones, which have tons of weight, are called Tığraz Stone in the region.
In buildings, there are interesting techniques of the entry and exit ports, and traps in many corridors.
This product which made by perfect technique amazes visitors even today. The construction, architectural details, artistic arrangements, and decorations are awe-inspiring.
Important warning In the underground cities of Cappadocia, the paths are marked with arrows to prevent visitors from losing their way. We have to follow the red arrows on the way down and the blue arrows on the way up. Some of the tunnels used for passage are so high that only one person can pass by slightly bending. If you enter a flowing tunnel contrary to what you want to go, you may encounter other people in the middle of the tunnel and you may be in a difficult situation.
Best-Known Subterranean (Underground) Cities in Cappadocia
The most famous underground cities of Cappadocia are Derinkuyu Subterranean City, Kaymaklı Subterranean City, Özkonak Subterranean City, Tatlarin Subterranean City, Mazı Subterranean City, Özlüce Yeraltı Şehri, Gökçetoprak. You can see them on the map below.