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Subterranean (Underground) Cities and Churches in Cappadocia

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Keystone in Cappadocia

In buildings, there are interesting techniques of the entry and exit ports, and traps in many corridors.

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This product which is 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.

 

Derinkuyu Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Derinkuyu Underground City, which is one of the deepest, widest and most amazing underground cities of Cappadocia, is located in Derinkuyu District of Nevşehir Province.

This underground city was first discovered in 1963 and was partially opened to visitors in 1967. It is thought that it was made against the Arab-Sassanid raids and used for military purposes during the Seljuk and Ottoman periods.

Derinkuyu Underground City is named after the drinking water wells that reach the depth of 60-70 meters. In Turkish “Derinkuyu” means “deep water well”. These water wells also function as ventilation chimneys. Moreover, during the sieges in the region, some of these wells were not connected to the earth to prevent the enemy from mixing poison with water.

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8 floors of this underground city with a depth of 50 meters are open to visitors. It is estimated that the total number of floors of the city can reach 12-13 and its depth can reach 85 meters. It is thought that approximately 50,000 people can live in this Underground City at the same time.

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The touristic area of ​​the city which is open to tourism is 2500 square meters.

This city consists of eight floors. The structures on these floors are listed below.

1st Floor: On the first floor of Derinkuyu, there is a winery, baptistery, barn and missionary school. In this section, which consists of several rooms, there are cavities where animals can eat and drink water. There are living rooms on the right and left of the corridor that goes down from the first floor to the second floor.

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2nd Floor: On this floor, there is a living room, kitchen, kitchen-related units, rations warehouses, mustard and grape crushing place.

3rd Floor: There is a ventilation space going down to all floors of the underground city, and storage tanks.

4th Floor: This floor also has storage rooms and living and sleeping rooms.

5th Floor: The fifth floor, which is reached by a narrow and long gallery starting from the third floor, is considered as the connecting center of the city. There is a ventilation shaft that connects with the earth. On the 5th floor, at the end of the gallery coming from the third floor, there are shelves, ventilation chimney, and rooms connected to each other in the continuation of the ventilation chimney.

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6th Floor: This floor consists of a tunnel connecting the fifth floor and the seventh floor. On both sides of the tunnel are the rooms used for daily living. There are two-door rooms on the tunnel. There are also places on the tunnel that are thought to be a tunnel control point.

7th Floor: The seventh floor supported by three columns is the largest area of Derinkuyu. There are a water well and a burial chamber on this floor where a cross-planned church is located. At the center of this floor, there is a room that is supposed to be used as a meeting room.

8th Floor:
It consists of a small chamber with only one ventilation shaft inside.

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Derinkuyu Underground City Entrance Fee

The entrance fee to the underground city is 35 TL. Museum card holders have free admission.

Derinkuyu Underground City Visiting Hours

Summertime is available from 15 April to 2 October. Summertime opening 08:00 and closing 19:00.

Wintertime is applied between 3 October / 14 April. Wintertime opening 08:00 and closing 17:00.

Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

The Underground City of Kaymaklı, which has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List since 1984, is one of the largest underground cities in Cappadocia. This underground city is thought to be one of the most populous underground settlements and accommodates 5,000 people at the same time.

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Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Although this city is claimed to be connected to the Derinkuyu Underground City, the hidden tunnels at a distance of 10 km between the two cities have not yet been discovered.

This city is located in Kaymakli Town, which gives its name to the underground city, 20 kilometers away from Nevsehir city center.

4 floors of Kaymaklı Underground City, which is estimated to be 8 floors, is open to visitors. The deepest point of the open floors is 20 meters below the ground.

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Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

The underground city of Kaymakli is located around a main ventilation shaft and has an effective ventilation system. In fact, even on the fourth floor, there is no ventilation problem.

As in other underground cities, the first floor of this underground city was used as a barn. The reason for this is that the floor closest to the earth is this floor and that animals can easily enter and exit. As it is difficult to bring down the animals to the lower floors, the first floors of the underground cities were generally used as animal shelters. There are also corridors that provide access to the church and other living areas.

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Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

On the second floor, there is a church with 2 apses and a single nave. There is a cemetery around the church, which seems to have buried important people.

The third floor is where the storage tanks are located. There is also a wine shop and kitchen on this floor. The most interesting part of this floor is the copper workshop.

On the 4th floor, there are food warehouses, mustard, and kitchen. The corridor, which must be crossed to reach the 4th floor, is so low that a person cannot pass without bending. This shows that this floor was designed for defense purposes. Enemies that encircle the underground city, even if they come up to the 4th floor will have to lean on this floor. This will provide a serious defense advantage for the city people.

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Kaymakli Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Kaymaklı Underground City Entrance Fee and Visiting Hours

Kaymaklı Underground City is open to visitors every day of the week between 08.00-19.00 in summer (15 April-2 October) and 08.00-17.00 in winter (3 October-14 April). It is closed until 13.00 on the 1st day of religious holidays only. The entrance fee is 35 TL and the museum card is valid.

Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Where is the Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City

Discovered in 1975 and opened to visitors in 1991, Tatlarin Underground City is located in Tatlarin Town, 10 kilometers north of Acıgöl District of Nevşehir Province.

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Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

General İnformation About Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City

Only a small part of this underground city, which is spread over a large area, could be cleaned. Only the first two floors are open to visitors.

In this underground city, which has two discovered churches, the number of supply depots is high. The interior areas are quite wide. All these considerations suggest that this city may not be a civilian settlement, but a military garrison or a monastic complex.

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Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

The main entrance of the underground city, which has 3 entrances, was destroyed. The underground city is accessed through a 15-meter tunnel leading into a very large hall. Hall exit of the tunnel is secured with a keystone. There are toilets and kitchens around the hall. The most important feature of Tatlarin Underground City that distinguishes it from the other underground cities of Cappadocia is that there are toilets inside.

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Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

At the second entrance of the underground city, there are stables supported by large columns. There are 5 warehouses on the floor and a barrel in the barn section with ventilation holes on the ceiling.

Tatlarin Underground City Churches

There are 2 churches which are thought to be from the 13th century, in Tatlarin Underground City. However, it is estimated that there are many more churches in the area, which are not yet fully explored.

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Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

The frescoes on the walls of the small church, which has two apses, two naves and covered with barrel vaults, depict scenes from the Bible. The scenes in the frescoes are separated by bands. In the frescoes on the walls of the church whose narthex has been demolished, Christian saints Constantine and Helena, angel Michael and angel Gabriel, Virgin Mary, Jesus’ life and cross scenes are depicted.

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Tatlarin (Acıgöl) Underground (Subterranean) City, Cappadocia, Turkey

The other big church attracts attention with its high ceiling.

Tatlarin Underground City Entrance Fee

The entrance to the Underground City of Tatlar is free of charge.

Visiting Seasons

April-October (Summer hours): 08:00 – 19:00

November-March (Winter hours): 08:00 – 17:00

The museums and historical sites in Turkey are closed until 13:00 on the first day of religious holidays.

Özkonak Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

This underground city is located within the borders of Özkonak Town, 14 km from Avanos District of Nevşehir Province.

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Özkonak Underground City
Note: If you visit Avanos district, you should visit Zelve Valley, Monks Valley, Çavuşin Church, Baptist Yahya Church, Güvercinlik Church built in the name of Byzantine Emperor, Crusader Church, Sarıhan Caravanserai, Dereyamanlı Church, Güllüdere Church, and Belha Monastery.

You can use the map below to find and to reach the location of Ozkonak underground city. The distance of Özkonak Town to Nevşehir City Center is thirty-five kilometers and the distance to Avanos City Center is seventeen kilometers. You can easily reach Özkonak by using Nevşehir-Avanos-Özkonak direction.

Özkonak Underground City was built on the northern slope of Mount Idiş, where the tuff layer is the highest.

History of Özkonak Underground City

It is estimated that this city was built in the 4th century BC and developed over time. After the Hittites, the region was dominated by Persians and later by the Roman Empire. The first Christians who escaped from the oppression of the Roman Empire settled in this region and developed previously existing underground structures and established a large underground city.

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Özkonak Underground City

Özkonak Underground City Structure

This underground city is smaller than Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı Underground cities. Moreover, unlike other underground cities, there are very few parts opened to visitors. Most of the city, which is estimated to have 4 floors, has not been opened to visit yet. The corridors of this underground city are narrower and flatter than others.

Important note: It is not recommended for pregnant, cardiac and blood pressure patients to visit because the corridors of this underground city are narrow and flat.
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Özkonak Underground City

Özkonak Underground City, which was opened to visitors in 1972, has two important differences from other underground cities. Firstly, the channels providing communication and ventilation between the floors are quite small (5-8 cm) compared to other underground cities. Secondly, the keystones (tığraz of stones) placed in the corridors to ensure the safety of the living areas have holes drilled to provide hot oil to the enemy.

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Özkonak Underground City

Like the others, the first floor of this underground city was used as a barn. The other floors are accessed through corridors from the first floor. The second and third floors are designed as living rooms, cellars, wine halls and kitchens. The fourth floor, which is used as a prison, is designed to allow only one person to enter. 

Mazı Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Mazı Underground City, which is one of the most recently discovered underground cities of Cappadocia Region, takes its name from the village (Mazı Village) where it’s located.

There are not only the underground city but also the tombs and churches of Roman and Byzantine periods carved into the rocks in Mazı Village, which was called Mazata in ancient times.

Mazı Underground City was built on a steep slope to the west of Mazı Village. In this valley, there are also many rock tombs and churches belonging to Roman and Byzantine periods.

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Mazı Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Mazı Underground City Location

Founded by a shepherd by chance in 1995, this underground city is located within the boundaries of Mazı Village in Ürgüp District of Nevşehir Province. Urgup city center is 18 km and Kaymakli Underground City is 10 km away. 

Mazı Underground City Structure

It is estimated that this underground city, which has entrances from 4 different places, has 8 floors and 6.000 people live at the same time. The entire city is not yet open to visitors.

As in all underground cities, the top floor is designed as a barn. However, the stables in this city are larger than the stables in other underground cities. There are also troughs for animals in the middle of the barn, different from those in other underground cities. It is estimated that this is due to the fact that this underground city hosts a developed society in animal husbandry.

Another feature of the city, which is not common in other underground cities, is that it has spaces used as bathrooms.

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Mazı Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

Another feature of this underground city is that its church is quite flashy. The church, which is accessed by short corridors opened from the stables and secured by the sliding stones, provides a perfect view with its platform, reliefs and attendant rooms. The apse of the church is designed vertically unlike in Kaymaklı Underground City. Opposite the apse, there is a secret chimney, which is used for escape in case of danger. Small step holes are carved into the chimney for easy climbing.

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Mazı Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

This underground city also has a 20-meter deep well, a mustard, a cellar, a kitchen, and other living spaces.

Visiting Hours

Summer Term (1 April – 1 October) Opening / Closing Time: 08: 00/19: 00

Winter Term (1 October – 1 April) Opening / Closing Time: 08: 00/17: 00

Box Office Opening/Closing Hours

Opening Time (Summer and Winter): 08.00

Closing Hours: Summer Term: 18:30; Winter Term: 16:30

Closed Days: Open every day

Entrance Fee: 12 TL

Özlüce Underground City, Cappadocia, Turkey

One of the impressive underground cities of Cappadocia is Özlüce Underground City.

Özlüce Underground City is located in Özlüce Town of Derinkuyu District of Nevşehir. It is named after the village in which it is located. This underground city is located 6 km west of the Kaymakli Town on the Nevsehir-Derinkuyu motorway.

Unlike other underground cities, Özlüce Underground City was built as a single storey on a large area. The entire city is not yet open to visitors.

One of the most important features of this city is that the tuff layer it carved contains different colors.

When you enter the city, the main space is the largest area of ​​the underground city and consists of two parts. On the right side of the space, there are storage tanks and on the left side, there are living rooms. There are cell-type rooms on the sides.

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Özlüce Underground City

Church of the Holy Apostles

There is also a Greek church built in 1849 during the Ottoman Empire in Özlüce Village. This church, which has a cross plan made of cut stones, is known as the Twelve Apostles Church because of the expressions in its inscription. It is seen in the Greek inscription on the entrance of the building that it is called ‘Church of the Holy Apostles’.

Text in the Church’s Inscription

This sacred and beautiful temple of the Holy Apostles was built during the reign of Sultan Mecid’s and the reign of Konya Metropolitan Neofitos, in order to praise Almighty Allah. Here, the brave donations and great struggles were made by the Christian Orthodox Christians. The Year of Jesus 1849, March 16 ”

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Church of the Holy Apostles

According to the text in the inscription of the church, which is used today as a mosque, the building was opened to service on 16 March 1849 during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdulmecid I.

Inside the church, there are ornaments showing rich wooden craftsmanship.

Scenes from the Torah are painted on the outer wall on both sides of the entrance door. In these scenes, which have survived to the present day, there is the scene of “burning three Jewish young people in the oven” on the left of the door, and the scene of “Abraham sacrificing his son” on the right. The scene of Prophet Abraham sacrificing his son to God is a very rare scene depicted in the churches of Cappadocia.

The church was converted into a mosque in 1935 by adding minarets and mihrabs after the Greeks left the region after the 1924 exchange.

Maşatlık Church

There is another church in Maşatlık locality in Özlüce Village, which is called Maşatlık Church. Since the inscription on the door is missing, the date of construction is unknown.

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Maşatlık Church

 

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