Underground Cities of Cappadocia
Underground City in Cappadocia © Helen Cook
Cappadocia was overlooked by most as a dusty and barren landscape, making it a perfect refuge for the Christians who established the first communities here. They carved chambers, vaults and labyrinthine tunnels into the soft volcanic rock for use as churches, stables and homes. Of the 40 underground settlements, Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are the biggest and most interesting, inhabited by Christians fleeing persecution in the 7th century from Arab invasions.
These cities were well-hidden complexes, a safe and self-sufficient environment that could accommodate up to 30,000 people. The most thoroughly excavated is Derinkuyu, consisting of eight floors with stables, a school room and dining hall, churches, kitchens, living quarters, wine cellars, store rooms and a dungeon. Original airshafts still function and the maze of tunnels and rooms are well lit. Kaymakli is similar but smaller with only five of its levels having been excavated so far.
Transport: The best way to see the cities is on a day tour or by renting a car, but dolmuses (minibuses) go from Goreme to Nevsehir, and from there to the cities.