The town of Derinkuyu (about 40 km south from Nevşehir) is notable for its large multi-level underground city, which is a major tourist attraction. The historical region of Cappadocia contains numerous historical underground cities, which were largely used by early Christians as hiding places. They are not generally occupied nowadays, but a number of them are open to visitors.
The largest of the underground cities in Cappadocia is the multi-storey (18 storeys, 85 m deep) Derinkuyu (meaning ‘deep well’), with fresh flowing water, ventilation shafts and individually separated living quarters or 'apartments', shops, communal rooms, wells, tombs, arsenals and escape routes. The underground city at Derinkuyu could be closed from the inside with large stone doors, resembling mill-stones. Each floor could be closed off separately.
The city could accommodate up to 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 Derinkuyu is a spacious room with a barrel vaulted ceiling, located on the second floor. It has been reported that this room was used as a religious school and the rooms to the left were for studies. Between the third and fourth levels is a vertical staircase. This passage-way leads to a cruciform church on the lowest level.
The complex had ventilation throughout it, with 52 air shafts discovered so far, one of which is 55 m deep. Some wells were not connected with the surface, presumably in order to protect the dwellers from poisoning during raids. The large 55 m ventilation shaft appears to have also 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.
Derinkuyu underground city was opened to visitors in 1965, but so far only 10% can be visited. Entry is through tunnels that make one sometimes almost crawl. The purpose of such narrow tunnels in the ancient times was to force invaders into a single file. One tunnel on the third level of Derinkuyu is believed to connect to the nearby underground city of Kaymakli (9 km away).
Open daily 8 am to 5 pm in winter, 7 pm in summer. Entrance costs 15 TL.