The underground cities of Cappadocia, Turkey

Goreme in Cappadoica, was one of my favourite places in Turkey. It was just, so different, and so beautiful, and I knew it was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the rest of Turkey had to offer. Istanbul was a nice city, but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it. Fethiye and Oludeniz was pretty, but it was super touristy and tailored for the holidaymaker.

Pamukkale was out of this World stunning, but I did wish I planned it better and did a self drive there, when there were less tour buses going, and I would have gone earlier in the morning.

After you’ve gone on your hot air balloon ride, and watched the sun rising over the moonscape structures, you can tour around the town of Goreme – there is tons of stuff to do.

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The sun setting in Goreme, Cappadocia

When you’re done there, head out of the town to see one of many underground cities.

A city underground – like a mine?

No.

Does anyone actually live there?

No.

In the early 1900’s, underground cities were discovered. Extending approximately 60 m deep, it is thought that the area could have accommodated up to 20,000 people, together with their livestock and food stores. According to the Turkish department of culture, the caves were built in and around the 8th or 9th centuries. The caves opened to visitors in 1969, and you can either take a tour there, or go independently.

I took the independent route. Here’s how:

Where are the underground cities in Cappadocia?

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There are a number of underground cities in Nevshir region of Cappadocia. Two that are closest to Goreme are Derinkuyu and Kaymakli, (which are actually connected via an 8km tunnel, but I don’t think this is accessible to tourists) with the latter being the closest.

How do get there

To get there, you first get a bus to Nevshir (this runs every half hour from the main bus station in Goreme). This will cost 2.5 Lira, get off there and wait for the bus; buses are usually every 30 minutes, but timings can be unpredictable. The bus will then take you to one of the two underground cities (you’ll pass Kaymakli on the way to Derinkuyu). These buses will cost 5 Lira (single journey).

You’ll then arrive at Derinkuyu bus station.

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You’ll be directed across the road (straight in front of you, as you leave the bus station). Walk through there and turn to your right slightly. You’ll come to a little market area, where there are a number of taxi drivers, ready to pounce on you to take you on their guided tours, as well as those selling books on the history of the underground cities, and the usual souvenirs.

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One you are through there, walk straight, and you’ll see where you need to be (often the tour buses on the other side, give it away).

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Cost

A ticket down to the underground city of Derinkuyu will cost you 20 Lira. You can also choose to go with a guide. Unofficial guides also wait down inside the tunnels of the underground city, and will start to give you a history of the place in detail, then say “do you want a tour”. You say no, but they keep talking; in the hope that you’ll feel bad, you are getting free info, and pay them.

I said no thanks and tried to walk away as quickly as possible.

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Exploring the city underground of Derinkuyu, Cappadocia

The ‘city’ is a cool wee place, with various tunnels running off main areas. It is clearly labelled what the different areas used to be. Anything from a school to a kitchen or sleeping area. To navigate your way around, follow the red arrows. Then to exit – the blue arrows.

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My photos aren’t incredible to be honest, as my camera is shocking in poorly lit areas, but I hope its given you some idea.

I spent about 30 minutes down there, exploring, which was a good enough time. At one point I walked down a small tunnel, and got a bit freaked out, as there were no lights. If you’ve got claustrophobia, this is probably not the best place for you!

Tips for visiting

  • Watch your head – I am tall, and so was on my hands and knees a fair bit in some places.
  • Travel there yourself, and not with a tour guide
  • Aim to be there about 11am onwards. For most on the typical tour, this is their first stop, and they usually get there by 10am. It wasn’t so crowded when I arrived at 12pm. A few small groups, but not as many as I was expecting.

 

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