Complete Derinkuyu Travel Guide: The Lost Underground City


Published on 28 February 2024

Derinkuyu is an ancient underground city hand-carved into the soft volcanic rock, understood to be inhabited from the Bronze Age. It was rediscovered in 1963 by a Cappadocia homeowner who was doing house renovations and stumbled upon a room and tunnels. Can you imagine that?! 

How astonishing that a city was hand-chiselled from the rock below ground way way back before any modern technologies?! Like, incomprehensible in my book.

Anyway, evidently, I was excited to explore Derinkuyu: officially the largest underground city in Turkey. And, yes, that does mean that there is more than one! It is understood that there are 200 underground ‘cities’ in Turkey, many of which link together through miles of tunnels.

In this Derinkuyu travel guide, we will answer all the questions that we had before visiting, in the hope that it will help you all out too!

derinkuyu travel guide

Where is Derinkuyu?

Derinkuyu is located in Cappadocia in the centre of Turkey, about a thirty minute bus ride from Goreme or Nevsehir. Find out about more things to do in Cappadocia here. And if you fancy hiking through otherworldly landscapes and abandoned cave churches, take a look at our hiking route with pins through Red Valley and Rose Valley.

cappadocia, derinkuyu travel guide

How to visit Derinkuyu from Goreme

Goreme to Derinkuyu

You’ll need to take two buses to get there, but it’s pretty quick and easy. Go to the bus station in the centre of Goreme to get to the bus to Nevsehir. It leaves every thirty minutes. When you get on the bus, tell the driver that you want to go to Derinkuyu.

When the bus reaches the city centre, the driver will point to where you need to go for the next bus: you’ll basically cross the road to get a bus going in the opoosite direction.

The minibus will have Derinkuyu written on it, so you can’t really miss it. If you’re not sure, ask the guy who runs the kebab shop at the bus stop. He was helping everyone with the buses, and even managed to hunt down ‘the captain’ as he worded it (meaning the bus driver) for us.

The bus to Derinkuyu takes about 25 minutes. It will drop you at Derinkuyu bus station which is a two minute walk away from the underground city entrance.

Derinkuyu to Goreme

The buses back to Nevsehir leave Derinkuyu every thirty minutes, so wander back to the bus station and catch the bus to Nevsehir city centre.

When you get out at Nevsehir, stay on the same side of the road this time and wait for the next shuttle bus to stop.

Before getting on double check if it will stop at Goreme by asking the driver. The bus that we got back wasn’t meant to stop at Goreme, but it made a stop there for us anyway.

The buses for each leg are really regular and the drivers are really flexible with where they can stop. Everyone is also really helpful in directing to the correct bus, so don’t be hesitant to ask.

It was a really straight forward journey both ways and we only had to wait 5/10 minutes in between buses.

All buses only accept cash payment on board.

Tickets for Derinkuyu

Tickets cost 300 TL as of 2024. There is next to no signage or information inside, so if you want more explanation, it would be best to arrange a guide. We didn’t have a guide, but had done a load of research beforehand so we had a better idea of what to expect. Derinkuyu entrance is included in the Turkey Museums Pass.

Is there a marked route through the city?

Yes! It’s not easy to get lost in Derinkuyu. There are red arrows which show you the route through the city, and there are blue arrows that show you the quickest way to the exit. However, I would recommend that you don’t just stick to following the red arrows. There are plenty of nooks and crannies for you to explore that are not indicated with the red arrows. Even venturing off to these, you’ll end up coming back to the main route to go any further. My point being, even if you stray from the red arrows, you won’t get lost.

Is it claustrophobic?

I thought that the majority of it was quite spacious and open. Yes, there are some passageways that are particularly narrow with very low ceilings. I (at 5’6’’) had to fold myself in half to get through some of them and Chris (at 6’1’’ and ¾) struggled.

As a self-proclaimed catastrophiser, I had to really compose myself to venture underground. In my head, this entire city could collapse at any time and no one would ever find me because it’s all undergound!

Crazy, I know. But, in all seriousness, I felt fine. There are plenty of ventilation shafts, so it doesn’t get too stuffy. There are signs pointing you to the route through the city, but also to the exit. So, should you need to step out, you know where to go. As long as you visit at a relatively quiet time, it should be fine.

Quietest times to visit

We visited in November and it was relatively quiet. We also made sure that we got there for about midday. From what I had read about the organised tours of Cappadocia, they visit Derinkuyu in the morning or afternoon, and stop for lunch. So we went during the time that any tours would be on their way to lunch/eating lunch. 

Funny Story

Before we scanned our tickets to go in, I asked the guy manning the barrier if there were ‘lots’ of people down there at the moment.

He looked at me confused and told me not to worry, there are no ‘lost’ people down there. Lots and lost, very similar sounding.

My question was a very normal question, the question he thought I asked made me sound like I was unhinged!

And how did I respond?

I said, ‘Thank you very much’, which just confirmed to him that I had in fact asked the question that he thought I had (even though I hadn’t).

Tell me you’re an awkward Brit without telling me you’re an awkward Brit!

How long does it take to explore the underground city?

We spent about an hour, exploring every narrow path we could find. Off the main path, you’ll likely need to switch on the torch on your phone to be able to see. I’m sure you would get through it all a lot quicker if you only followed the red arrow route. Only 10% of the city is open to the public.

How large is Turkey’s largest underground city?

Derinkuyu was large enough to house 20,000 people plus livestock, so pretty big! The city had eighteen levels and was 85 metres deep in to the ground.

History of Derinkuyu

In use since the Bronze Age, Derinkuyu was expanded by Greek-speaking Christians during Roman times into a city with multiple levels. The city was used to house and protect the persecuted Christians in the Arab-Byzantine wars, Mongolian invasions, from the Ottoman rulers, and continued to be used to shelter the Greek Cappadocians into the 20th century. In 1923, Turkey deported the Christian population to Greece, leaving the underground city abandoned and unknown. In 1963, Derinkuyu was rediscovered, and opened to the public in 1969.

How did the population remain undetected and protected in the city?

The city housed up to 20,000 people. Mind-blowing, right?! There were dwellings, schools, churches, wine and oil presses, areas for livestock, ventilation shafts and wells. They would only cook once per month at night so as not to give away their whereabouts to the enemy with smoke from the fires. Water was gathered from the deep wells cut into the rock, which is what gave the city its name: Derinkuyu means ‘deep well’ in Turkish. The underground city was equipped with everything required to sustain life underground.

Heavy circular stone doors were used in case of enemy penetration into the city. The doors could close off entire levels of the city to keep people safe on the other levels. The narrow entryways and corridors meant that intruders could only enter in single file and so could be killed one by one. The city has many concealed exits so that people could flee if the city was discovered.

Derinkuyu or Kaymakli?

This is the question. We only visited Derinkuyu, however, I researched before to help make the decision.

  • Derinkuyu is the largest underground city, while Kaymakli is the widest.
  • Derinkuyu has wider passageways, while Kaymakli is more adventurous with smaller passageways.
  • Derinkuyu is visited as part of the popular organised ‘green tour’, but Kaymakli sees the most visitors.
  • Derinkuyu only has one passage to the bottom level, meaning that you have to wait for others to come down before you can go up. Kaymakli has several.
  • Entrance fees are the same for both.
  • Derinkuyu is a little further away, but for both, you catch the bus from the same location in Nevsehir city centre as mentioned above for Derinkuyu. One bus will say Derinkuyu on the side, the other will say Kaymakli. The buses that go to Derinkuyu, drive past Kaymakli, but do not stop there.

For me, the deciding factors were Derinkuyu being the largest, having wider passageways, and receiving less visitors. I was uncertain about how claustrophobic it would be, so less people and less narrow were the winning factors for me.

Have you been to Derinkuyu? Or are you planning a trip this way?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations and questions!

Thanks for reading.

Like it? Save it!

krusevo p

Follow us on Instagram and Pinterest


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.