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Underground Cities Of Cappadocia: For Trogs And Hobbits


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Wendi Frey



Welcome to the magical world of Cappadocia, where ancient history and breathtaking landscapes collide. Nestled in the heart of Turkey, this region is renowned for its unique geological formations, known as “fairy chimneys,” and its fascinating underground cities. These underground cities are not mere figments of imagination; they are actual subterranean complexes that were once inhabited by ancient civilizations.


Cappadocia’s underground cities are a testament to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the people who built them. Dating back thousands of years, these cities were created as a means of protection, serving as hideouts and fortresses during times of invasion and turmoil. Today, they stand as remarkable examples of human engineering and endurance.


The underground cities of Cappadocia are an absolute marvel to explore, offering visitors a glimpse into the past and a chance to experience a truly unique adventure. From narrow tunnels to sprawling rooms, these cities hold countless secrets waiting to be discovered.


But why were these cities built underground? The answer lies in the region’s tumultuous history. Over the centuries, Cappadocia experienced numerous invasions and conflicts. To protect themselves from marauding armies, the inhabitants of the region took to carving out elaborate underground complexes, providing shelter and safety to their communities.


These underground cities were not just simple caves; they were meticulously planned and constructed with various levels, intricate tunnels, ventilation shafts, and even well systems to provide fresh water. Some of the cities could accommodate thousands of people, with entire sections reserved for storage, living quarters, and even places of worship.


The underground cities of Cappadocia are not limited to a single location; they can be found scattered throughout the region. Each city has its own unique characteristics, revealing the diverse architectural skills and cultural influences of the ancient communities that once inhabited them. Among the most famous underground cities are Derinkuyu, Kaymakli, and Özkonak.


Join us on an extraordinary journey as we delve deep into the underground cities of Cappadocia. Discover the secrets that lie beneath the surface and immerse yourself in an adventure that will transport you to a bygone era.


History of Cappadocia

The history of Cappadocia is a tapestry woven with threads of ancient civilizations, invasions, and cultural exchange. The region’s story dates back thousands of years and is rich with fascinating events and influences.


Cappadocia’s history can be traced all the way back to the Hittites, a powerful ancient Anatolian civilization that flourished around 1600 BCE. The Hittites left their mark on the region with their distinctive rock reliefs and inscriptions carved into the fairy chimney formations.


Throughout the centuries, Cappadocia saw the rise and fall of various empires, including the Persians, Alexander the Great’s Macedonian Empire, and the Roman Empire. The Romans played a significant role in the region, leaving behind impressive Roman cities, such as Caesarea Mazaca (now the modern city of Kayseri).


In the early Christian era, Cappadocia became a refuge for those seeking to escape persecution. Christian communities thrived in the region, with many churches and monasteries carved directly into the soft volcanic rock. These rock-cut churches are adorned with intricate frescoes that depict biblical scenes.


During the Byzantine Empire, from the 4th to the 13th century, Cappadocia continued to flourish as an important religious and cultural center. It became a hub for monastic communities, who lived in the rock-cut dwellings and practiced a contemplative way of life.


In the 11th century, the region faced a new threat. Arab raids and the Seljuk Turks’ invasion resulted in the construction of the underground cities we marvel at today. These cities served as safe havens for the local populations, protecting them from external threats.


In the 13th century, the region fell under the rule of the Seljuk Turks and later the Ottoman Empire, bringing new architectural influences and cultural exchanges. Over time, the significance of Cappadocia faded, and the unique underground cities were largely forgotten.


It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Cappadocia’s underground cities began to capture the attention of archaeologists and travelers from around the world. Today, this captivating region continues to enchant visitors with its mesmerizing landscapes and historical wonders.


As you navigate the underground cities of Cappadocia, remember that you are walking in the footsteps of ancient civilizations, experiencing a living history that echoes through the tunnels and chambers. Prepare yourself for an unforgettable journey into the heart of Cappadocia’s past.


Formation of Underground Cities

The fascinating underground cities of Cappadocia were not simply natural caves or formations; they were carefully carved out of the soft volcanic rock over centuries of human ingenuity. The unique geological processes that shaped the region played a crucial role in the formation of these underground complexes.


Cappadocia’s surreal landscapes are the result of volcanic activity that occurred millions of years ago. Multiple volcanic eruptions blanketed the area with layers of tuff, a consolidated form of volcanic ash and debris. Over time, the tuff solidified into a relatively soft and easily workable rock.


The erosion caused by wind and water gradually sculpted the tuff into the characteristic fairy chimney formations, with their conical shapes and mushroom-like caps. These formations dot the landscape of Cappadocia and created an ideal canvas for the construction of underground cities.


The unique properties of the tuff made it an ideal material for excavation. The early inhabitants of Cappadocia capitalized on this resource, gradually carving out intricate networks of tunnels and chambers beneath the surface.


The construction of the underground cities was a painstaking process that required careful planning and engineering. The ancient communities utilized rudimentary tools such as chisels, hammers, and picks, combined with sheer determination and hard work, to create their underground sanctuaries.


Trenches were initially dug into the tuff as the starting point for the underground cities. From these trenches, complex networks of tunnels and rooms were meticulously carved out, often spanning multiple levels underground.


Ventilation shafts played a crucial role in underground city construction, providing fresh air circulation and preventing the buildup of harmful gases. These shafts were strategically placed to allow for maximum airflow throughout the entire complex.


Another remarkable feature of the underground cities are the well systems. In order to sustain a large population underground, water sources were vital. Deep wells were drilled, reaching the underground water tables, ensuring a reliable supply of fresh water for the inhabitants.


The underground cities of Cappadocia were designed with security in mind. Massive circular stone doors, weighing several hundred kilograms, were installed at the entrances to the cities. These doors could be rolled into place, effectively sealing off the entire complex from intruders.


Today, visitors can witness the remarkable craftsmanship of Cappadocia’s ancient architects as they explore these underground cities. The intricate tunnels, the soaring chambers, and the ingenious engineering of these hidden marvels testify to the resourcefulness and skill of the people who built them.


As you venture into the depths of Cappadocia’s underground cities, marvel at the extraordinary fusion of nature and human endeavor that has shaped this remarkable landscape.


Characteristics of Underground Cities

The underground cities of Cappadocia boast a range of unique characteristics that set them apart from any other archaeological site in the world. These subterranean complexes were ingeniously constructed to provide shelter, security, and a self-sufficient living environment for their inhabitants.


One of the most remarkable aspects of the underground cities is their sheer size and complexity. These underground metropolises, excavated from the soft volcanic rock, could extend multiple levels beneath the surface. Some of the cities are estimated to have reached depths of up to 60 meters, accommodating thousands of people.


A distinguishing feature of the underground cities is their intricate network of connecting tunnels and passageways. These tunnels often branch out in a labyrinthine fashion, leading to various chambers, storage areas, and even places of worship. It is said that some of the tunnels were designed in a way that allowed the inhabitants to easily confuse and trap potential invaders.


Ventilation was a crucial consideration in the design of the underground cities. These complexes feature a system of ventilation shafts strategically positioned to ensure a constant flow of fresh air. The shafts also helped regulate the temperature within the cities, making them habitable year-round despite extreme weather conditions above ground.


Another remarkable characteristic are the ingenious water management systems. The inhabitants of the underground cities needed a reliable water supply, so they constructed wells that reached the underground water tables. These wells provided a steady source of fresh water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene purposes. Some wells even had mechanisms for drawing water up to multiple levels.


The underground cities were built with a focus on security. Massive stone doors were placed at entrances, weighing several hundred kilograms and capable of being rolled into position to block intruders. Narrow corridors and low ceilings were intentionally designed to make it difficult for invaders to navigate, while small holes in the walls allowed defenders to fend off attackers.


Living spaces within the underground cities were also carefully planned. They often included separate rooms for sleeping, cooking, and storage. Some cities even had more specialized areas, such as wine cellars, communal kitchens, and communal religious spaces.


Rock-cut churches can also be found within the underground cities, exemplifying the rich religious history of the region. These churches are adorned with intricate frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible, providing a glimpse into the spiritual lives of the ancient inhabitants.


Exploring the underground cities allows visitors to witness firsthand the incredible architectural prowess of the ancient civilizations that once thrived in Cappadocia. From the intricate tunnel systems to the ingenious ventilation and water management systems, these cities stand as a testament to the resourcefulness and intelligence of their builders.


The underground cities of Cappadocia continue to captivate travelers from around the world, offering a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the ingenuity of ancient civilizations.


The Underground City of Derinkuyu

The underground city of Derinkuyu is one of the most remarkable and well-preserved examples of Cappadocia’s underground cities. Located in the Derinkuyu district of Nevşehir Province, this vast subterranean complex stretches over eight levels and reaches a depth of approximately 85 meters.


Derinkuyu is estimated to have been inhabited as early as the 8th century BCE, but the majority of its construction took place during the Byzantine era. It is believed that the city served as a refuge for communities seeking protection from various invasions and conflicts that plagued the region throughout its history.


One of the most astonishing aspects of Derinkuyu is its size. With numerous chambers, corridors, and tunnels, it could accommodate an estimated population of up to 20,000 people. The city includes living quarters, communal spaces, storage rooms, a church, a school, and even a winery, showcasing the self-sufficiency and advanced planning of its ancient inhabitants.


As visitors descend into the depths of Derinkuyu, they are met with a fascinating array of architectural features. The city showcases an intricate system of ventilation shafts that allowed for fresh air circulation throughout the underground complex. These shafts also ensured proper ventilation for various levels, preventing the buildup of noxious gases.


Derinkuyu also boasts an impressive array of wells, some reaching a depth of over 60 meters, providing the city’s inhabitants with a reliable water supply. The presence of multiple wells suggests that the underground city was highly organized and prepared for long-term habitation.


An intriguing feature of Derinkuyu is the existence of intricately carved stone doors that could be closed from the inside to seal off specific sections of the city. This ingenious defensive mechanism would have allowed the inhabitants to defend themselves against potential threats.


The city’s architecture exhibits a remarkable level of engineering and craftsmanship. Meticulously carved stone staircases connect the various levels, leading visitors to marvel at the skill and dedication required to create such elaborate passageways deep within the earth.


Exploring Derinkuyu offers a compelling glimpse into the past, as visitors traverse the labyrinthine pathways, admire the rock-cut rooms, and envision the daily lives of the ancient inhabitants. The city’s well-preserved walls and the presence of intact doorways transport visitors back in time, providing a tangible connection to the region’s rich historical heritage.


The underground city of Derinkuyu is a testament to the perseverance and ingenuity of the people of Cappadocia. It stands as a remarkable testament to human resilience and serves as a compelling reminder of the remarkable achievements of ancient civilizations.


The Underground City of Kaymakli

The underground city of Kaymakli is another remarkable example of Cappadocia’s subterranean wonders. Situated in the Kaymakli district of Nevşehir Province, this underground city is believed to date back to the Hittite period, making it over 3,000 years old.


Kaymakli is a testament to the endurance and creative engineering of the inhabitants who carved this vast underground complex. Although it is smaller in size compared to Derinkuyu, Kaymakli offers an equally fascinating glimpse into the lives of the ancient civilizations that once thrived in Cappadocia.


Constructed across several levels, Kaymakli reaches a depth of approximately 20 meters and encompasses numerous interconnected tunnels, corridors, rooms, and chambers. It is estimated that the city could have accommodated around 3,500 people, making it a sizable underground community.


One of the distinguishing features of Kaymakli is its well-preserved architectural elements. As visitors explore the city, they are treated to a maze of narrow passages and low-ceilinged rooms. Some of the rooms are interconnected, providing intriguing glimpses into the daily lives of the inhabitants. The city layout includes living quarters, kitchens, storage rooms, and even areas designated for winemaking.


Kaymakli also showcases the resourcefulness of its builders when it comes to ventilation. The city boasts a complex system of ventilation shafts and chimneys that allowed for air circulation, ensuring a breathable environment even deep underground. These shafts played a crucial role in maintaining a comfortable living space for the inhabitants.


As visitors descend into the underground city, they will come across communal spaces, such as assembly halls and places of worship. Kaymakli even features a small church, adorned with frescoes depicting religious scenes, providing insight into the spiritual lives of the ancient community.


Another notable feature of Kaymakli is the presence of rolling stone doors, similar to those found in Derinkuyu. These doors could be securely closed, sealing off sections of the city and providing defense against potential threats or intruders.


Exploring the underground city of Kaymakli offers a captivating journey into the past, immersing visitors in the intricate web of ancient tunnels and chambers. As you walk in the footsteps of those who once called this underground complex home, you can’t help but admire the skill and dedication it took to create such a remarkable living space.


The underground city of Kaymakli serves as a tangible reminder of the resilience and adaptability of the ancient civilizations that flourished in Cappadocia. It stands as a testament to their ability to create thriving communities underground, showcasing their extraordinary craftsmanship and innovative architectural techniques.


The Underground City of Özkonak

The underground city of Özkonak is a hidden gem within the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Located in the Nevşehir Province, Özkonak offers a unique glimpse into the underground marvels of the ancient civilizations that once thrived in this breathtaking landscape.


Özkonak is believed to have been constructed during the Byzantine era, similar to other underground cities in the region. It is smaller in size compared to Derinkuyu or Kaymakli but is no less fascinating in its architectural design and historical significance.


As visitors venture into Özkonak, they will encounter a multi-level complex that extends approximately 14 meters below the surface. The city features interconnected tunnels, chambers, and rooms, providing insights into the daily lives of its ancient inhabitants.


One of the distinguishing features of Özkonak is its solid rock construction. The city was predominantly carved out of a single block of volcanic rock, giving it a distinct character and a sense of unity. This unique architectural element emphasizes the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the ancient builders.


Özkonak showcases a well-preserved system of ventilation shafts, ensuring a constant flow of fresh air throughout the underground city. These shafts not only served a practical purpose but also demonstrate the advanced understanding of architectural principles and the concern for creating habitable spaces deep within the earth.


Exploring Özkonak provides a fascinating journey through the interconnected passageways, revealing various chambers and rooms that were once utilized by the inhabitants. Storage rooms, living quarters, and communal spaces can be found within this underground complex, painting a vivid picture of the ancient community’s daily life.


While the exact population that Özkonak could have accommodated is not known, it is estimated that the city was large enough to house several hundred people comfortably. This suggests that it served as a significant refuge and a self-sufficient stronghold during times of adversity.


The defensive features of Özkonak are also worth noting. Similar to other underground cities in the area, Özkonak employed large round stone doors that could be rolled into place, strengthening the city’s security and impeding the progress of would-be invaders.


As visitors explore Özkonak, they will gain an appreciation for the intricate craftsmanship and careful planning that went into creating this underground marvel. The solid rock walls, the maze-like tunnels, and the functional design transport visitors back in time, providing a glimpse into the resilience and adaptability of ancient civilizations.


The underground city of Özkonak, often overshadowed by its larger counterparts, offers a unique and intimate experience. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of Cappadocia’s underground cities and an opportunity to immerse oneself in the rich history and unparalleled architectural wonders of the region.


Daily Life in the Underground Cities

Life within the underground cities of Cappadocia was nothing short of extraordinary. These subterranean complexes were not merely fortresses or hiding places; they were fully functional communities that provided a range of amenities for their inhabitants.


The ancient inhabitants of the underground cities had to adapt to a unique living environment, and their daily lives were shaped by the challenges and opportunities presented by their underground dwellings.


One of the key considerations for daily life in the underground cities was the need for sustenance. Food and water were vital for survival, and the inhabitants had to ensure a reliable supply. Storage rooms were used to stockpile food, preserving it for long periods. These rooms were strategically located to maintain consistent temperatures, prolonging the shelf life of food items.


Water was a precious resource underground, and the inhabitants of the cities had to find innovative ways to secure an adequate supply. Deep wells were carved into the rock, reaching underground water sources. The wells were meticulously designed to extract water efficiently, and wells on multiple levels ensured accessibility for all residents.


Lighting was another essential element in daily life. With limited access to natural light deep underground, the inhabitants utilized oil lamps and torches to illuminate their chambers and passageways. These light sources were carefully positioned to maximize visibility and minimize fire hazards.


Communal spaces played an important role in the underground cities, fostering a sense of community and providing opportunities for social interaction. Assembly halls were used for gatherings and communal activities, while places of worship served as spiritual centers for the inhabitants. These shared spaces allowed for cultural exchanges and the cultivation of a collective identity.


Education was also a part of daily life in the underground cities. As communities sought to perpetuate their knowledge and traditions, small schools were established where children were taught essential skills and educated about their history and culture. These schools served as beacons of learning and played a vital role in preserving the heritage of these underground communities.


The underground cities were not devoid of leisure activities. Despite the challenging living conditions, the inhabitants found ways to entertain themselves. They engaged in various forms of recreation, such as storytelling, playing traditional games, and even organizing small performances and celebrations. These activities provided much-needed respite from the realities of underground living.


Overall, the daily lives of the inhabitants of the underground cities were shaped by resilience, adaptability, and a profound sense of community. These ancient civilizations developed systems and strategies to overcome the challenges of living underground and create thriving communities that could withstand external threats.


As you explore the underground cities of Cappadocia, take a moment to imagine the lives of those who once called these subterranean marvels home. Reflect on their resourcefulness and the enduring spirit that allowed them to carve out a vibrant existence deep within the earth.


Tourism in Cappadocia’s Underground Cities

The underground cities of Cappadocia have become a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the world. The unique combination of historical significance, architectural marvels, and the allure of exploring hidden underground passages has made these ancient cities a must-visit destination.


Tourism in the underground cities offers visitors the opportunity to step back in time and immerse themselves in the rich history of the region. Exploring the underground complexes is like embarking on a journey into a forgotten world, where ancient civilizations carved out remarkable living spaces deep within the earth.


The underground cities showcase incredible architectural feats and engineering marvels that are sure to awe visitors. Walking through the narrow corridors, ascending the stone staircases, and witnessing the intricate ventilation and water systems allows tourists to appreciate the ingenuity of the ancient builders.


Visitors can also gain insights into the daily lives of the inhabitants as they navigate the well-preserved chambers and rooms. From storage areas to communal spaces and even places of worship, the underground cities offer a comprehensive view of the activities and rituals that shaped life underground.


Exploring the underground cities of Cappadocia is an adventure unlike any other. Tunnels lead to hidden chambers, secret passages reveal surprising twists and turns, and the mysterious ambiance transports visitors to a bygone era. The sense of wonder and discovery is palpable as visitors uncover the well-preserved remnants of ancient life.


Guided tours are available to help visitors navigate the underground cities and fully appreciate their historical and cultural significance. Knowledgeable guides share fascinating stories and insights, shedding light on the lives of the ancient communities who sought refuge and made these underground cities their home.


While tourism has become a thriving industry around the underground cities of Cappadocia, efforts have been made to ensure their preservation and protection. Strict regulations are in place to prevent damage or vandalism, ensuring that future generations will be able to appreciate these remarkable sites.


Visiting the underground cities offers a unique opportunity to connect with the past and marvel at the ingenuity and resilience of the ancient civilizations. It is a chance to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history and heritage of the Cappadocia region.


As you traverse the underground cities, take a moment to soak in the atmosphere, imagining the lives of those who once dwelled within these extraordinary subterranean complexes. Celebrate the culmination of human creativity, perseverance, and architectural brilliance that created these hidden wonders.



The underground cities of Cappadocia stand as testament to the incredible ingenuity, resourcefulness, and endurance of the ancient civilizations that once inhabited the region. These subterranean marvels offer a unique and captivating experience for visitors, showcasing a fusion of natural wonders and human engineering.


From the massive underground city of Derinkuyu to the intimate and intricately carved Özkonak, each underground complex has its own story to tell. The carefully planned architecture, ventilation systems, and ingenious water management solutions highlight the advanced knowledge and skills of the ancient builders.


Exploring the underground cities is like stepping into a hidden world, where narrow tunnels lead to multi-level chambers, and stone doors whisper tales of long-forgotten civilizations. The ancient rock-cut churches and frescoes provide glimpses into the spiritual lives of the inhabitants, while communal spaces reflect their sense of community and collective identity.


Tourism in the underground cities offers a chance to delve into the rich historical tapestry of Cappadocia. Guided tours unveil secrets and stories from the past, ensuring that the legacy of these ancient civilizations is preserved and celebrated for future generations.


As visitors traverse the underground passageways, they are transported back in time, connecting with the resilience and adaptability of those who built and inhabited these remarkable underground cities. The experience is a reminder of the human capacity to overcome challenges and create thriving communities even in the most unlikely of places.


Whether it’s the sense of awe inspired by the grandeur of Derinkuyu, the intimate charm of Özkonak, or the mysterious allure of Kaymakli, each underground city offers a window into the past and a deep appreciation for the wonders of human accomplishment. The underground cities of Cappadocia invite us to embark on an unforgettable journey through time, unveiling the legacies left by the civilizations that once flourished beneath the surface.


Come and explore the underground cities of Cappadocia, and let yourself be transported to a world where history, nature, and human imagination intertwine. Reveal the secrets that lie beneath the surface and embrace the enchantment of this remarkable region in Turkey. The underground cities of Cappadocia await your discovery and promise an experience like no other.