Who Built This City? Underground Derinkuyu, and the Rock Churches of Göreme

Who Built This City? Underground Derinkuyu, and the Rock Churches of Göreme

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Could the underground cities in Cappadocia, Turkey date back to 12,800 years ago? In 1963, so the story goes, a man living in Cappadocia excavated some large stones from his basement while renovating his house. Behind them he found an ancient tunnel that led to more tunnels, and then more tunnels, and more after that. When he reported his find and the experts descended, what they discovered was a complex underground city that once was home to some 20,000 people, their livestock, wine and oil presses, storage cellars, and chapels. A large 180-foot (54 meters) ventilation shaft insured fresh air.

Derinkuyu underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey ( ninelutsk/Adobe Stock )

There is evidence that suggests the city, long after its construction, might have later been used by Christians who built a religious school and a church. They named the complex after the city that had been built over it on the surface, Derinkuyu. After more exploration it was discovered that Derinkuyu is only one of several more such underground cities, spread out over Cappadocia in Turkey. Who built them? And why? And when?

Interior of underground city in Cappadocia, Turkey ( byheaven/ Adobe Stock )

Subterranean Civilizations

It seems as though Cappadocia, in central Turkey, was home to an entire underground civilization. A few years ago, the Hurriyet Daily News announced the “biggest archeological finding of 2014” when another ancient city near Kayseri was discovered beneath the Nevşehir fortress, expanding out into the surrounding countryside. At least 3.5 miles (seven kilometers) of tunnels and chambers hide churches, escape galleries, and dwelling places that were constructed at least 5,000 years ago and perhaps much longer.

Nevşehir province was already famous as the home of Derinkuyu. Now it appears that the whole area may have been home to a thriving underground community, much of which is still to be discovered. Archaeologists are calling it the largest underground civilization in the world. To think that it was first built at least during the time of the traditional dates given for construction of the Giza pyramids , and possibly much earlier, is almost mind boggling. How did they ever do it? More than 200 underground villages contain secret passages, rooms, ancient temples, and storage facilities. There were full-blown kitchens and wineries, along with presses for producing lamp oil for lighting.

Derinkuyu, Turkey

Derinkuyu building is connected with a great number of insoluble enigmas. On the main version, this city was built by Christians that were looking for a housing, escaping from persecution of Roman Empire. For provisional assessments the city was built in 2-1 century BC, for instance, it was found only in 1963. One of the main peculiarities of Cappadocia is a soft volcanic tuff. It is an ideal material for building underground cities.

The population of the city was approximately 20 000 people. Thereby they kept cattle and a lot of products in the tunnels. The deepest tunnels have located 60 meters under the ground. During the researching, there were found a lot of outstanding artefacts. The ancient tools that were used for olive oil expression and wine concoction, equipped granaries and wine cellars, old chapels and schools. This underground city can be named one of the most interesting in the whole world. Next - Burlington

Light in the Tunnel

In 2013, construction workers demolishing low-income homes ringing the castle discovered entrances to a network of rooms and tunnels. The city halted the housing project, called in archaeologists and geophysicists, and began investigating.

A 300-year-old paper trail between the local government and Ottoman officials suggested where to begin. “We found documents stating that there were close to 30 major water tunnels in this region,” says Nevşehir mayor Hasan Ünver.

In 2014, those tunnels led scientists to discover a multilevel settlement of living spaces, kitchens, wineries, chapels, staircases, and bezirhane—linseed presses for producing lamp oil to light the underground city. Artifacts including grindstones, stone crosses, and ceramics indicate the city was in use from the Byzantine era through the Ottoman conquest.

Like Derinkuyu, the site appears to have been a large, self-sustaining complex with air shafts and water channels. When danger loomed, Cappadocians retreated underground, blocked the access tunnels with round stone doors, and sealed themselves in with livestock and supplies until the threat passed.

Cappadocia’s early adoption of Christianity—the apostle Paul arrived in the first century, and by the fourth its bishops were power players in the newly Christian Byzantine Empire—made it a safe haven during centuries of war for control of Anatolia. Muslim invaders arrived in the late eighth century, and centuries later came the Seljuk Turks. Eventually Ottoman emperors ruled the entirety of Anatolia.

Who Built This City? Underground Derinkuyu, and the Rock Churches of Göreme - History

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After billions of years of steady erosion, the region of Cappadocia looks more like a magical realm out of a fairy tale than central Turkey. Here, rocky hills and stone spires called "fairy chimneys" rise up out of the dusty plains of the Anatolian peninsula, while serpentine tunnels meander below. Most of those tunnels are natural — however, some are manmade.

In 1963, a Turkish man took out a wall in his basement while renovating his house in Cappadocia and was surprised to find a whole other room behind it. Further digging revealed a labyrinthic network of rooms several hundred feet below the Earth.

This was the underground city of Derinkuyu, carved into the same rock that grows in such mesmerizing shapes above ground.

This was not the first such discovery in the region nor was it the last. The area is known for its underground cities, of which Derinkuyu is the largest. The city extends 200 feet into the ground and encompasses 11 floors, which is enough to shelter 20,000 people.

While only 2,000 square feet of Derinkuyu has been discovered so far, the Cappadocia tourism website says that it might extend to as much as 7,000 square feet. During invasions or times of religious persecution, Cappadocians, who were a part of the Christian minority, fled into the tunnels for safety.

The Christians of Cappadocia did not build these tunnels, however. Historians believe that they were built by the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, sometime between the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. Others suspect it was the Persians or Anatolian Hittites. The Cappadocians, however, expanded the tunnel system and built chapels and churches as well.

Below the Earth's surface, Cappadocians lived lives as fulfilling as those they'd led above. Derinkuyu was fitted with wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels. They even reportedly had religious schools and studies for students. On the bottommost level was a cruciform church carved directly into the rock. All the while, a 180-foot ventilation shaft provided both oxygen and water to those living below.

When attacked, the Cappadocians retreated into these underground cities for protection, blocking the entrance behind them and setting up boobytraps along the way. Byzantine-era Christians were one such group, using Derinkuyu as a sanctuary from Persians, Arabs, and Seljuq Turks.

The Christians of Cappadocia faced persecution even in the 20th century, by which time the Ottoman Empire had control of the region. In 1909, the massacre of 30,000 Christian Armenians in the city of Adana drove the Cappadocian Greeks underground yet again. In 1923, most of the Cappadocian Greeks were expelled from the region in a population exchange between Greece and Turkey, an attempt to purge both countries of their respective religious minorities.

Afterward, Derinkuyu sat undisturbed until 1963, when the astounding underground city of central Turkey was rediscovered and finally brought into the light.

After this look at Derinkuyu, see the otherworldly beauty of Cappadocia and Socotra. Then, have a look at Nevada's most astounding geyser.


Christians fled the enemies and hid in this underground cities. / Photo by Nevit Dilmen, Wikimedia Commons

The Derinkuyu underground city is an ancient multi-level underground city in the Derinkuyu district in Nevşehir Province, Turkey. Extending to a depth of approximately 60 m (200 feet), it is large enough to have sheltered as many as 20,000 people together with their livestock and food stores. It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey and is one of several underground complexes found across Cappadocia.

It was opened to visitors in 1969 and about half of the underground city is currently accessible to tourists.


A “school” / Photo by Martijn Munneke

The underground city at Derinkuyu could be closed from the inside with large stone doors. Each floor could be closed off separately.

The city could accommodate as many as 20,000 people and had all the usual amenities found in other underground complexes across Cappadocia, such as wine and oil presses, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, and chapels. Unique to the Derinkuyu complex and located on the second floor is a spacious room with a barrel vaulted ceiling. It has been reported that this room was used as a religious school and the rooms to the left were studies. [7]

Between the third and fourth levels is a vertical staircase. This passageway leads to a cruciform church on the lowest (fifth) level.

The large 55 m (180 foot) ventilation shaft appears to have been used as a well. The shaft also provided water to both the villagers above and, if the outside world was not accessible, to those in hiding.


Caves may have been built initially in the soft volcanic rock of the Cappadocia region by the Phrygians, an Indo-European people, in the 8th–7th centuries BCE, according to the Turkish Department of Culture. [8] When the Phrygian language died out in Roman times, replaced with its close relative, the Greek language, the inhabitants, now Christian, expanded their underground caverns adding the chapels and Greek inscriptions.

The city at Derinkuyu was fully formed in the Byzantine era, when it was heavily used as protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab–Byzantine wars (780-1180). [9] It was at this time that most of the chapels and Greek inscriptions were added. The city was connected with other underground cities through miles of tunnels. Some artifacts discovered in these underground settlements belong to the Middle Byzantine Period, between the 5th and the 10th centuries AD.

These cities continued to be used by the Christian natives as protection from the Mongolian incursions of Timur in the 14th century. [10]

After the region fell to the Ottomans, the cities were used as refuges from the Turkish Muslim rulers. [11] As late as the 20th century the locals, called Cappadocian Greeks, were still using the underground cities to escape periodic waves of Ottoman persecution. [12] R. M. Dawkins, a Cambridge linguist who conducted research on the Cappodocian Greek natives in the area from 1909-1911, recorded that in 1909, “when the news came of the recent massacres at Adana, a great part of the population at Axo took refuge in these underground chambers, and for some nights did not venture to sleep above ground.”

When the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled in 1923 in the population exchange between Greece and Turkey the tunnels were abandoned.

The tunnels were rediscovered in 1963, after a resident of the area found a mysterious room behind a wall in his home. Further digging revealed access to the tunnel network.

Goreme National Park

Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia have some of the most mysterious and extraordinary natural landscapes in the world. This site contains superlative phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.

Goreme National Park

Goreme National Park is located within the borders of Nevsehir province in the Central Anatolia region of Turkey. Goreme and its surroundings have been declared as a national park in 1986. The total area is 9614 hectares.

The most significant feature of Goreme National Park is the existence of a plenty of fairy chimneys formed by the wind and the rain water. The columbariums on the high slopes of Soganli, Zelve and Uzengi Valleys, and the monk cells carved in the depths of the valleys add value to the site.

The region was covered with the tuff when many volcanoes including Erciyes, Hasan and Gollu Mountains erupted. Cappadocia, which was sculpted out of this tuff through millions of years by sand and water erosion, has always become a settlement area with its unique geological structure since the Paleolithic Era and a witness to the cultural history of Anatolia.

Outstanding Universal Values

Cultural Values: The caravanserais, tombs, madrasahs which are the finest examples of Seljuk stone workmanship and the structures from the Ottoman Period arouse the attention of visitors to Cappadocia. Hundreds of churches sculpted in the rocks at Goreme and its surrounding in particular and hundreds of underground cities such as Derinkuyu and Kaymakli built for security purposes at extraordinary times still remain a mystery. Apart from all these qualities, civil architectural features in Urgup, Mustafapasa, Avanos, Goreme and Uchisar are the cultural values of Cappadocia region worth seeing.

Spectacular Landscape: In a spectacular landscape, entirely sculpted by erosion, the Goreme Valley and its surroundings contain rock hewn sanctuaries that provide unique evidence of Byzantine art in the post iconoclastic period. Dwellings, troglodyte villages, underground cities and the remains of a traditional human habitat dating back to the 4th century can also be seen there.

UNESCO World Heritage

Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985 as seven parts Goreme National Park, Derinkuyu Underground City, Kaymakli Underground City, Karlik Church, Theodore Church, Karain Columbarium and Soganli Archaeological Site.

  • Official Name: Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
  • Date of Inscription: 1985
  • Category: Cultural/Natural
  • Reference: 357
  • Location: Nevsehir, Turkey
Wishing Tree, Goreme, Cappadocia

An inside look: Derinkuyu, underground city

For some reasons, the inhabitants of Cappadocia decided to build their cities down the earth. There are not exact dates of the creation of these underground citadels. Some believe that they came from the Hittites and certainly, Xenophon, the Greek historian, refers to them in his “Anabasis”, five centuries before the birth of Christ. Over time, they have been discovering many of these settlements, and in fact, it is believed that in most cases they are interconnected, but for now those are just assumptions.

In one of these cities, Derinkuyu, buried up to 85 feet deep, -as far as I have understood, the biggest of all-, I ended up almost inadvertently, accompanying a group of tourist friends. The Cappadocia region never ceases to amaze me. You think you’ve seen it all, the valley, the churches, the fairy chimneys, the amazing landscape, and soon you find a whole underground city, with rooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, warehouses, stores, chapels, graves and really great air vent system.

Logic tells us that the inhabitants of the region created these cities to be protected against severe weather and enemy attacks. From the surface no one could imagine there was so many people down there. No doubts about it, it was an excellent hiding place. “The houses were built underground, and the entrances were like wells that widened below. They had tunnels dug for the animals, while people descend by stairs. Among the houses were goats, sheep, cattle and poultry, together with their young … “wrote Xenophon.

Derinkuyu, meaning “Deep Well” features eight levels, connected by stairs and 53 air ducts. The original vent system still works perfectly and it is estimated that the city could accommodate about 20 thousand people.

As a particular case, Derinkuyu, in his first two floors beneath the surface hosted a missionary school, with two long tables made of rock, baptismal font, kitchens, homes, warehouses and even stables. In the third and fourth floors remained the hideouts and the armory and in the deeper floors there were wells, hidden corridors, a small church, tombs and a confessional. As a measure of maximum security, from the inside of the city they could blocked all the multiple entries with large stones, independently on each level.

Due to its complexity and to adapt to changing conditions, the underground cities were perfected and extended over time. Appears that while there was no danger people were living on the surface, but before any abnormal situation they went down to their perfect retreat thus, most of the houses above were connected also to the underground city.

In fact, thanks to these connections, the city was found and rescued in 1963, when a resident of the area, bringing down one of the walls of his house, excavated in the rock as is customary in the region, discovered a mysterious unknown room, which led to another and then to another … he had rediscovered Derinkuyu, the largest of the underground cities of Cappadocia.

Although for me it was amazing, I would not recommend this tour to claustrophobics. Such labyrinthine shelters were built precisely for closure, for the fact of being buried away from danger and enemy invasions. There took over, for example, the early Christians persecuted by the Romans, and lived there for some time, so they were gradually accommodating site conditions to their needs.

Traveling through different levels of Derinkuyu, I could not think of anything else than hundreds of Cappadocian digging their tunnels, just with a ray of light, working to exhaustion to create a safer life underground.


I’m Jackson, an Australian adventure traveler who has been on the road for eight years now. After graduating with a journalism degree, I set off to explore the world while creating adventure travel guides featuring hikes, waterfalls, beaches & adrenaline activities. I hope my travels give you the motivation to set off on an epic adventure of your own. It’s been a wild ride. This is my Journey Era.


Besides Erciyas, another volcano which contributed to the formation of the Cappadocia region is Hasandag. It is 30 km / 19 miles to the south of Aksaray. On a clear day it is even possible to see it from Cappadocia.The height of Hasandag is 3,268 m / 10,720 ft. It was formed in the same period as Erciyas however, Hasandag looks younger.


The range of mountains between Erciyas and Hasandag are the Melendiz Mountains and they are comparatively lower. The height is 2,898 m / 9,505 ft.


It is located to the south of Kayseri. On a clear day it is possible to see it from Cappadocia to the northeast. Erciyas is the highest mountain with a height of 3,917 m / 12,850 ft in Central Anatolia, and is one of the volcanoes that contributed to the formation of the Cappadocia region.

On some ancient coins it was shown as a bursting volcano. As it was always snow-covered the Hittites called it “The White Mountain”. According to the ancient geographer Strabo, one could see the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea from the top of Erciyas.

Cappadocia (Kapadokya in Turkish) is the ancient and modern name of a remarkable region in Central Anatolia. It is a geological wonderland which is sometimes considered to have covered a triangular area between Kayseri, Nigde and Kirsehir, or more specifically, a smaller triangular area from Urgup to Avanos and to Nevsehir.Its harsh climate limits agricultural pursuits to growing grain and fruit. Its vast grassland was ideal for raising horses, sheep and other small stock. Silver, copper and salt have been mined.

Cappadocia can be viewed from three different aspects, natural, historical and religious.

The Natural Aspect

The strange but beautiful formation of Cappadocia has had this appearance for millions of years. When the volcanoes in the region were active, the lava which poured out covered all previously formed hills and valleys forming a high plateau. This newly formed plateau consists mainly of tufa and some rare layers of basalt. This is the constructive stage of Cappadocia’s formation. The destruction of the tufa and the basalt layers by erosion (heavy rains and melting snow in spring) and sharp temperature changes has continued for thousands of years and is still in process today. Wind in general has a circling effect while rivers have horizontal and rain vertical effects on the landscape.

The basalt is less affected by erosion when compared to the tufa and has served as a protective cover. This juxtaposition of different materials has produced capped columns, pyramids and conical formations with dark-colored caps known as peribacalari, fairy chimneys. A block of hard rock which resists erosion is left standing alone as the tufa around it is worn away, until it stands at the top of a large cone. A fairy chimney exists until the neck of the cone is eroded and the cap falls off.

History of Cappadocia
During the 19C BC, Old Assyrian traders were established among the numerous native city-states of Cappadocia. Between c.1750-1200 BC, Cappadocia formed the “Lower Land” of the Hittite Kingdom.

The Persians made Cappadocia a satrapy (province), through which passed the famous Persian Royal Road from Sardis to Susa.

Cappadocia avoided submitting to Alexander the Great. After 190 BC Cappadocia was ruled by a native dynasty and the rulers became friendly to Rome. In 17 AD Cappadocia became a Roman province and was joined with the provinces of Galatia under Vespasian in 72 AD. Soon after, under Trajan, it was united with Pontus. The Roman period of Cappadocia continued from the 1C through the 4C AD followed by the Byzantine, Seljuk and Turkish periods.

The monasteries of Cappadocia were abandoned after the arrival of the Turks and later occupied by the local people. Some of the Christian population continued to live here until the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey in 1923.

The Religious Aspect

Christianity came early to Cappadocia. St. Paul passed through Caesarea (today Kayseri) on the way to Ankyra (Ankara). In the 4C AD Cappadocia produced three saints from the area. These are St. Basil the Great from Caesarea, his younger brother St. Gregory of Nysa and St. Gregory Nazianzus. St. Basil the Great was the son of devout parents and received his higher education in Constantinople and Athens but renounced a promising career to become a monk. Impressed by the ascetic life, he settled as a hermit in Cappadocia where he was joined by Gregory of Nazianzus. Basil ably defended the Christian faith among the churches of Anatolia, which had suffered from divisions caused by the Arian controversy. In 370 he succeeded Eusebius as bishop. As a leader who had brilliant organizational skills, Basil established hospitals, fostered monasticism, and reformed the liturgy. His Rule, a code for monastic life, became the basis of eastern monasticism, and the liturgy of St. Basil, probably compiled by him though later revised, is still used on certain Sundays in Orthodox churches.

Anchorites of the Early Church, who sought refuge from the distractions of the world in wild and remote places, chose Cappadocia which led monasticism to develop in the area. They devoted their lives to prayer, penance and fasting, often living in man-made or natural caves. Martyrdom was the ultimate aim of a devout Christian.

After Christianity was accepted as the official religion by Constantine the Great in 330 AD, the days of martyrdom went and a peaceful and secure life did not satisfy these people. The geography of Cappadocia was suitable for people who preferred ascetic lifestyles.

In the 7 and 8C AD when the Arabs began to raid Anatolia, monastic communities had to hide themselves and, where it was geographically easy, dug their underground shelters. In time these shelters developed into large underground cities.

Churches of Cappadocia

It is estimated that there are more than 600 rock-cut churches in Cappadocia. These churches that people carved were similar in plan to the ones in the capital. Walls were covered with beautiful frescoes and they were also influenced by the Iconoclast period in the 8C and 9C. Most of the frescoes date from the 11C and 12C.

Two different techniques were employed for the frescoes, they were either painted directly on the rock or on a very thin coat of plaster. In churches where it was not plastered over, the painting became extensive. The predominant color of this style was red ocher.

In many pictures it is noted that eyes or faces of people are obliterated as it was believed that this action killed the painted subject in the Islamic period. In addition to this there are also many scratches of vandals’ initials which is strictly forbidden today. The visitor should be reminded that the use of flash with cameras inside the churches is not allowed.

The simplest church had a rectangular vaulted nave with an apse covered by a projecting arch. There are many variations of the churches, some with triple apse and a dome, cross-planned and so on. Because the churches were carved into the rock, they did not need to be supported by columns. Therefore columns and vaults are only structural symbols. Names of the churches are based on their archeological style or decoration, for instance the Buckle or Sandal Church. The apses of the churches face different directions as they are carved in accordance with the natural formations and availability of suitable rock pieces.

In most churches there are many grave pits which are thought to have probably belonged to donors or the church dignitaries as this was the tradition.

Size 62nd largest city in Turkey
Altitude 1260 m / 4133 ft
Industry Textiles, flour, wine and fruit juice factories, carpet weaving, pottery
Agriculture Grain (80%), sugar beet, potatoes, chickpeas, apples, grapes
Animal husbandry Sheep
History Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman, Turkish Republic

It was called Muskara and the Grand Vizier of the Tulip Period in the Ottoman Empire, Damat Ibrahim Pasa was from this city. He donated to his hometown many hans, kitchens, hamams, medreses and suchlike giving the town a new vision. Since then the town was called Nevsehir which means “new town”. “Nev” in Persian means new. At the top of the hill there is a Byzantine castle which was restored many times during Seljuk and Ottoman periods.

Uchisar is the name of a town and the fortress in the town. The name of the town probably derives from the name of the fortress. Uc is “tip”, hisar is “fortress” and Uchisar is the “fortress at the tip (of the vicinity)” in Turkish.This 60-meter-high (200 ft) fortress was not built but carved out of a natural hill dominating the area with a breathtaking view of all the surrounding Cappadocian formations. In the village directly below the fortress are dozens of tufa cones inside of which are hollowed out rooms. Many of these are still in use.

Goreme museum consists of steep cliffs and many hidden churches dating from the second half of the 9C and afterwards. Two beautiful churches, Elmali Kilise (The Church of the Apple) is not open to visitors due to deteriorating condition.

Kizlar Manastiri (Convent)

The convent to the left of the entrance of the museum is only a ruin today. However, in its heyday, it was a huge complex of more than five floors. The first two floors were used for the kitchen, refectory, nuns’ parlor and storehouses. There was a chapel on the third floor. Large round stones at the gates on the fourth and fifth floors were used for security in times of danger.

The Church of St. Barbara
It is an 11C cruciform church with two columns, three apses and a side entrance. According to some sources this church was believed to have come from the Iconoclast period. However considering its plan which is similar to 11C and 12C buildings, it can easily be concluded that this cannot be right. Its name derives from a legendary saint, Barbara. According to legend, Barbara, after becoming a Christian, was shut up and eventually killed by her father. Her father was later punished by being struck by lightning. Barbara was remembered as the patron saint of architects, stonemasons and artillery men. Her attribute is generally a tower with three windows representing the Holy Trinity. St. Barbara is depicted on the north wall.

In the apse Christ, pantocrator is shown enthroned with his right hand in the gesture of blessing. On the wall opposite the entrance are painted two soldier saints on the horseback, St. George and St. Theodore. These two equestrian figures battling against a dragon symbolize the fight between the divine heroes and the forces of evil. St. Theodore was a recruit in the Roman army who was burned to death for setting fire to the Temple of Cybele in Amasya.

The dark colored bird-like creature was believed to represent the evil.

The predominant color in the frescoes of the church is red which was obtained from ocher. The two pits to the left after entering are interpreted as being either baptismal or for wine production.

Yilanli Kilise (The Church of the Serpent)
This 11C church has a single nave covered by a barrel vault and a small apse on the left after entering. An interesting feature in this church is that the frescoes are framed like icons. The name of the church derives from the serpent in one of the frescoes on the left above the apse. Here, like in the Church of St. Barbara, two soldier saints St. George and St. Theodore are fighting against evil forces in the appearance of a serpent. Next to them is St. Onesimus.

On the right above the apse is another picture showing Constantine the Great and his mother Helena. They are holding the true cross. Constantine is very important in the name of Christianity as he is the emperor who declared Christianity the official religion in 330 AD. Helena was the mother of Constantine. After her conversion to Christianity, she used her position to promote the cause of the faith. She is the subject of many legends and is said to have found the cross of Christ during a trip to the Holy Land after receiving a vision at the age of 80. In art her emblem is the cross.

On the wall opposite the entrance is Jesus Christ. The small figure next to him is probably either the donor of the church or the artist of the painting as found in Italian art.

Opposite the apse are shown three saints, St. Onophrius, St. Thomas and St. Basil the Great. St. Onophrius, with raised hands in a dismissive gesture, was a hermit who spent a life of solitude in the desert in Egypt. He used desert leaves for a loincloth and became the patron saint of weavers. Because of his breasts and the way he is dressed he became a subject of some apocryphal stories according to one of which he was originally a beautiful, lecherous girl who repented of her sins and prayed God to help her. Her prayer was accepted and she woke up one day as an ugly old man.

In addition to churches, suitably to the monastic lifestyle, there was also a refectory, a dining complex, consisting of three rooms in line, a storehouse, a kitchen and a dining hall with a long table cut from the rock for about 30 people and an apsidal place for the father abbot at the top of the table.

Carikli Kilise (The Church of the Sandal)

This is a church with a cruciform nave, two columns, three apses and four domes (one central dome and three cupolas). Its frescos date from the 13C. The name of the church derives from a footprint below the Ascension fresco. The entrance to the church is from the north and the apse is directed to the east.

Three donors are mentioned by their names in frescoes. The way they are dressed in the picture gives the impression that they were not from the upper class but they were probably rich peasants. The fact that there were many donors shows that financing a church was beyond the limits of a single person.

Tokali Kilise (The Church of the Buckle)
Tokali Kilise, which for convenience is called the “New Church” is the most spectacular of all the rock-cut churches in Cappadocia. The 10C church is different in plan to others in the vicinity, having a transverse nave (Mesopotamian type) with three apses and a narthex hewn out of an earlier church, known as the “Old Church“. On the left of the transept is a small chapel and below the floor is a crypt. The most striking feature after entering the church is the dominant bright blue color used in the background of the frescoes. Because it was difficult to obtain, the color blue was very rare in Cappadocia. It was probably taken there from somewhere else which implies its cost. From this it is understood that the church was special among others. In the New Church, the niches in the walls of the nave serve to give a sense of depth and substance to the paintings.

It is a small town famous for its pottery and carpets. It is built along the banks of the Kizilirmak (Halys River), the longest river originating and ending within the borders of Turkey 1,355 km / 842 miles. Halys means “salty river”. It originates from the northeast of Central Anatolia (Kizildag 3,025 m / 9,920 ft.) after making a curve, flows into the Black Sea at Bafra Cape. Its water is colored by Cappadocia’s rich deposits of clay, hence Kizilirmak, the Red River.

Zelve was the name of a village which was inhabited until the 1950s in the Zelve Valley. The population of this settlement was moved further away to Yeni Zelve, and Zelve itself was made an open air museum because of the danger of collapse. The museum of Zelve consists of three canyons intersecting at the entrance of the museum. The first canyon on the right is entered through a pathway between the first two canyons passing by the Geyikli Kilise (the Church of the Deer) with paintings of a cross, fish and deer. Figures of fish are frequently used in churches of Cappadocia symbolizing the faithful who were called pisciculi and who became members of the church by being baptized in the piscina (fishpond in L). The acrostic of the Greek word for fish formed the phrase, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. A cross in a circle with fish on both sides symbolized the faithful people who believed in Jesus Christ.

In the first canyon on the left there is a mosque which was converted from a church. Towards the end of the canyon, two rock faces are honeycombed with caves of dwellings, dovecotes, a monastery, storage rooms, chapels and tunnels leading to the second canyon. It is recommended that visitors not climb up these caves or pass through the tunnels.

A dwelling room with storage bins and stone wheels used for grinding grain and the Uzumlu Kilise (the Church of the Grapes) can be found in the third canyon. Grape juice here represents the blood of Christ.

No one knows when the underground cities of Cappadocia were built, perhaps in Hittite times or as late as the 6C AD. There were certainly underground cities as early as the 5C BC. They are referred to by a 5 and 4C BC Athenian historian Xenophon in his Anabasis. So far 36 underground cities have been discovered some of them being very recent. It is also estimated that most of them are connected to each other. But it is difficult to identify these connections.The ground consists of the same volcanic tufa. Cappadocians created vast cities which cannot be noticed from the ground level. They carved airshafts as deep as 85 m / 300 ft into the rock and then made holes laterally at different levels in all directions. They hewed an elaborate system of staircases and tunnels to connect all layers to the surface. They dug dwellings, bathrooms, kitchens, dining halls, storage rooms, wine cellars, chapels, graves and suchlike. In times of danger they provided security by rolling big round hard stones across strategic tunnels. Entrances at the surface were also camouflaged.

Today even from some of the modern houses there are man-made holes leading to underground passages most of which are used as cellars.

Kaymakli Yeralti Kenti (Underground City of Kaymakli)

It is one of the largest underground cities in Cappadocia with eight stories. It covers an area of approximately 4 km² / 1.5 sq mi. Visitors can see only about 10% of the city by going down a maximum of five floors. It probably is connected to nearby Derinkuyu. It was opened to visitors in 1964. The population of Kaymakli is thought to have been about 3,000.

Derinkuyu Yeralti Kenti (Underground City of Derinkuyu)

The underground city of Derinkuyu which means “deep well”, like Kaymakli, is one of the largest. It was opened in 1965. It is 70-85 m / 230-300 ft deep with 53 airshafts. The original ventilation system still functions remarkably well. It is not recommended that visitors having problems of claustrophobia or restricted movement go inside since there are many passageways where one has to squat.

The first two floors under the surface housed a missionary school with two long rock-cut tables, baptismal place, kitchens, storehouses, living quarters, wine cellars and stables. Third and fourth floors were for the tunnels, places to hide and armories. The last floors had water wells, hidden passageways, a church, graves and a confession place.

Ihlara Canyon is a deep, narrow river gorge cut through the tufa by the Melendiz River. The river running through the Ihlara Canyon at its lowest level is still contributing to the erosion of it. The canyon runs for 20 km / 12 miles offering one of the most enjoyable trekking routes to those people who can spare the minimum of half a day.The canyon is approximately 150 m / 500 ft below the ticket office and reached by more than 300 steps. It has to be noted that the way back is not an easy climb. In the canyon there are about 60 churches, monasteries and cells of anchorites. There are a few major churches which are easier to reach.

Agacalti Kilisesi (The Church under the Tree)
It is a cruciform church with two small aisles and an apse. Due to a few collapses the entrance to the church is from the altar section. In the dome there is a fresco of Christ in a mandorla being carried up to heaven by four angels. It is in primitive style, the faces orange and white with eyes unfocused and empty.South Annunciation, Visitation, Joseph, Nativity, Presentation. North Flight into Egypt, Baptism, Dormition of Mary. West Daniel in the lions’ den.

Yilanli Kilise (The Church of the Serpent)

It is a cruciform church with a horseshoe-shaped apse. It has a burial chamber in the north side. There is not enough light inside the church so the visitor might need a flashlight.

West wall Christ, the judge, flanked by angels, is seated in a mandorla. Below him are the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in oriental robes and the Twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse. Below the west wall again, on the left, Day of Reckoning by weighing the Souls, a monster with three heads, and the body of a serpent devouring some of the damned representing the torments of hell. The name of the church derives from this painting. Next to it, on the right, naked women are being assaulted by snakes. One of them is in the coils of eight snakes probably because of her adultery. Another one’s breasts are being gnawed by snakes because she left her children. Others guilty of disobedience and calumny are attacked on the ear and mouth.

To the right of the door of the burial chamber is Entry into Jerusalem. To the left is St. Onesimus.

Apse Last Supper, Crucifixion.

East wall At the top is a cross in a halo, on the inclined wall to the left is the Crucifixion (not well preserved) and Visitation. Top of the north face St. John the Baptist, right hand raised and left hand holding an amulet. Top of the wall, east of the altar Christ sitting on a rainbow, Christ dressed in red and holding a book surrounded by archangels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel.

South wall Michael and Gabriel on both sides. Below the window is the Dormition, near the cross is the fresco of Constantine and Helena.

Sumbullu Kilise (The Church of the Hyacinth)

The name comes from the abundant hyacinths around the church. Sumbullu Kilise has a domed single nave and was part of a two-storied monastery, the upper floor being living quarters. The arched doorways which are divided by pillars and linked with an architrave in the facade of the church carry the traces of Persian influence.

Central dome Christ pantocrator. North wall (next to the altar) St. George and St. Theodore. West wall (in the niche) Constantine and Helena. Altar section Gabriel and Michael. On the following wall Annunciation is depicted.


Location 120 km / 75 miles to the south of Ankara, on the way to Cappadocia
Depth 2th largest lake in Turkey 1,500 km² / 580 sq miles. In summer the surface area might go down to 1,000 km² / 386 sq miles
Width 48 km / 30 miles
Length 80 km / 50 miles
Depth 1-2 m / 3-6 ft. 2.5 million years ago the water level was 100 m / 328 ft higher. In times of serious drought, the surface is covered by salt blocks up to 20 cm / 8 inches thick
Altitude 905 m / 2970 ft
Formation Tectonic
Water Saltwater

Tuz Golu, also called Tatta in ancient times, is a closed lake with no way out, surrounded by plateaus on 4 sides. The sources feeding the lake are insufficient Melendiz River (Aksaray) and Pecenekozu River (Sereflikochisar). In summer, because of the evaporation the lake dries out and a 30 cm / 12 in layer of salt forms. Under this layer is mud. In winter, water is collected again but at its deepest level is not more than 2 m / 6.5 ft. Although it is the second largest lake, there is not much water because of its shallowness.

It is among the lakes of the world with its very high salinity of 33%. Due to this high rate of salt it is impossible to grow crops around the lake.

Tuz Golu is one of the richest salt beds in the world. The amount of salt which is obtained here is 300 thousand tons per year. This is 60% of the total salt production in Turkey.

Salt can only be taken from the lake from July through August. To ensure clean salt it is only collected from areas where the surface layer is more than 5-6 cm / inches thick. The salt is dug, the dirty layer is removed and the clean salt is gathered into mounds and loaded manually onto the wagons of mini trains.

Ihlara Valley & Derinkuyu Underground City Tour

Ihlara Valley & Derinkuyu Underground City Tour is taking you to the south of Cappadocia. Imagine yourself as a cavemen whilst entering into the Underground city, stroll along the refreshing river in the Ihlara Gorge, enjoy a day which will leave you with unforgettable memories…

Pax Price
1 – 2 Pax 160USD [Per Person]
3 – 4 Pax 150 USD [Per Person]
5 – 6 Pax 140 USD [Per Person]
7 – 12 Pax 130 USD [Per Person]
13 – 20 Pax 120 USD [Per Person]
21 – 30 Pax 110 USD [Per Person]
31 + Pax 100 USD [Per Person]

Ihlara Valley and Derinkuyu Underground City tour cannot fail to interest, impress and amaze you.

It is a beautifully constructed tour that ensures you see and experience all the significant sights aided by an expert guide.

Whatelse your interest or expertise this will delight you!

This tour opens with a spectacular view over Göreme from Esentepe. Unfolding before you , Göreme valley and Göreme village: fairy chimneys, rock formations and cave houses that will enchant you.

We continue driving to Derinkuyu Underground City, one of the best preserved and deepest Underground Cities in Cappadocia. Derinkuyu is excavated to a depth of approximately 85 m. It contains all the usual rooms found in an underground city (stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories, churches, wineries etc.), a large room on the second floor was a missionary school with study rooms.

From here we proceed to Ihlara Valley. This gorge is 16 km long and both sides are lined with rock carved churches, more than a hundred little churches and houses. You will walk about 4 km along the river in the valley exploring the hidden churches. At the end of your walk lunch will be served at Belisirma Village by the river.

After your substantial lunch we visit Selime Monastery,it was carved out of the rock by Christian monks in the 13th century. The scale of the church will astound you. We then make a brief stop at Yaprakhisar Panorama point for another view of this outstanding Monastery (this is also the spot wherethe movie “Star wars” was shot).

Watch the video: Göreme, valea porumbeilor. Dupa-amiaza. (May 2022).