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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Cappadocia: Cave House & Underground Cities

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

When researching Turkey, one of the places that stood out the most was Cappadocia, and it quickly became a bucket list destination. However, it was a difficult location to add into our driving itinerary as it involved 10 hours of driving to get from the west coast of Turkey to the interior parts. Plus, by driving it would have taken up a huge chunk of time out of the 3 weeks we had in country. At one point we had taken it completely out of our itinerary, but I couldn't help feeling some remorse in doing that. So, we decided to make it happen! We booked an inter-country flight to save on time but still see the spectacular sights of Cappadocia. We took one of the discount Turkish carriers from Izmir to Kayseri and left our rental car in the long-term parking at the Izmir airport. Upon arrival to Kayseri we rented another car (and brought along the car seats we had rented with our initial rental car) so we'd have some freedom to explore the area. Even though it was extra costs of the flight and basically paying for 2 rental cars at once, it was worth every penny!


Cave House

We arrived late last night around 10 p.m. to our cave house in Ortahisar, after the 1 hour drive from the Kayseri airport. Cave Hotels are very popular in Cappadocia Region, but they are expensive. However, there are several Turkish people who have renovated some of the older cave houses and now rent them out on Airbnb. This allowed us to get the cave experience, but not pay the price of an upscale Cave Hotel. The house is absolutely spectacular! It is built into an existing cave but still features elements of the cave inside, so it gives you a ‘cave feel.’ There is also an amazing balcony and view from the terrace outside. Clara particularly enjoys her ‘room’, which is a little cave insert of her own, which functions as her bed.


Today we spent most of our day exploring the two underground villages of Derinkuyu and Kaymakli. These two were a little bit of a drive from our Airbnb, but interesting to explore. We drove 40 minutes to Derinkuyu first.


Derinkuyu - Underground City

This underground city is one of 36 known underground cities in the region. These underground quarters were used by different groups throughout times when the people were being attacked by an enemy. They would often leave their homes on the upper levels and retreat down to these underground quarters until the threat passed. At some point there might be up to 5,000 people living in some of these underground cities. The Derinkuyu underground city had about 6-8 levels below ground. They would have everything from cooking, food storage facilities, burial chambers (bodies would be mummified), to living quarters, ventilation & communication systems, and we even saw a school at this one. The top level was often used as a stable for the animals as well.

We arrived around 10:45 and entered as a few other tourist groups were heading through. The quarters were a bit tight. There were some tunnels you had to make sure no one else was coming from the opposite direction because it was one-way. In these instances it was convenient to tag onto one of the tour groups. However, I can imagine it being quite crowded during peak times. The kids seemed to enjoy trekking through the caves. The caves seemed naturally built for them as they didn’t have to duck to get through any of the tunnels!


Kaymakli Underground City

After lunch we headed to Kaymakli Underground City, about 10 minutes up the road. This was the second most important underground city in the region and was used in the 6th to 9th centuries. At the first underground city, it was a bit hard to know what you were looking at. We heard a few things from other tour groups, but decided to hire a guide to take us through Kaymakli City. We definitely learned a lot more about the city on this tour with a guide. We paid 25 TL per adult for admission, and then the guide wanted about 140 TL. The ticket attendee told us that you could get a guide for around 60 TL. We tried to barter with the guide, and eventually landed on 80 TL, as we were a family group he said, instead of individuals.


He explained that the tunnels were originally created by the Hittites when they were being attacked by enemies. Then later they were discovered by the Christians and used when they were being attacked by the Arabs, Egyptians and others. They were the perfect defense, as the enemy didn’t even think to look underground. There were communal areas of the caves like the church, kitchen, stable, but on each of the levels there would be families living there as well. The first class families would have larger living quarters (actual rooms/sections) and taller ceilings and be closer to the top; as you descended down in class level (all the way down to immigrants) they would often be at the bottom levels and share a small little space with the whole family. The ventilation wouldn’t be as good for those at the bottom either. If there was a threat, they would use communication shafts to deliver the message down through the cave system. The class of the families would be determined by how much taxes they paid to the government.


It was also pretty interesting how they could construct the cave inside to make these different areas. For instance, flat raised surfaces for beds and even some of the living areas had little hooks carved out of the stone so they could hang baby cradles.

Our guide shared with us that during a threat families might stay in the caves for 6 months, which would b the longest amount of time they would live down there. I can’t imagine living 6 months in that space! He said it often corresponded with summer time. Enemies would attack when the weather was nicer and then when winter started to roll in, they would retreat and the village people could come back up to their houses above ground.


Cappadocia Specialty - Manti & Scenic Playground

For dinner we ate at a restaurant right in Goreme. They had a playground, which was fantastic so the kids could play while we waited for the food. They were definitely in need of some playground time! We even tried a Cappadocia specialty - Manti - a dumpling with a meat filling. The kids loved it - almost like a Turkish version of mac 'n cheese for them! ;-) Unfortunately, it was devoured so quickly that we didn't get a photo, so I included a link to a recipe and photo above.


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