5 fascinating underground cities hiding beneath our feet

If you’ve traveled around a bit, you may have grown bored with beaches, and traditional holidays that only indulge in your consumerism. Thankfully, the world is vast and there’s so much more to explore if you have a knack for it. That’s why I want to show you the most surprising underground cities anyone should explore at least once in their life.

The destinations I’m about to mention here are all around the world, and each of them offers something unique in terms of construction, history, and discoveries. Some are majestic tributes to a bygone era and people, while others will pander to our attraction for the macabre.

Derinkuyu Underground City Turkey
Derinkuyu Underground City Turkey. Photo via depositphotos.com

Derinkuyu Underground City, Turkey

Rediscovered in 1963, Derinkuyu is a multi-level construction under the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia that fascinates historians. It apparently was the home of over 20,000 people during the seventh century BC. People were able to live sealed from the outside world with dry food storage, schools, cattle, and 600 entrances leading to private homes.

Derinkuyu is an architectural marvel, especially given the time it was built. It goes deep with four levels, and a ventilation shaft, making it a revolutionary construction that time has forgotten. The builders of this underground city were able to dig this deep, thanks to the volcanic soil of the area, which is softer than the regular ground. The volcanic area also allowed for rooms that could be cool during the summer and keep the heat during winter, which allowed the people to live inside.

If they were invaded, the inhabitants of Derinkuyu could seal the city completely and hold the invaders off. It was a necessity back then because the region was under constant attack. Unstable empires succeeded each other until the Byzantine Empire was formed. So, the Derinkuyu underground city was a refuge likely for Phrygians, which were Catholics, given the structure has a church.

Coober Pedy Opal Mine Australia
Hotel inside Coober Pedy Opal Mine Australia. Underground city photo via depositphotos.com

Coober Pedy, Australia

Coober Pedy is often referred to as the Opal capital of the world because over 150 million years ago the region was under the sea. It led to the creation of precious minerals all over the caves thanks to the silica of the seabed. It’s now reputed for its incredibly colorful gems and caves you can explore.

This underground network used to be a mine, but it’s now open to the public, and it offers a unique experience. It’s located in Southern Australia, near Adelaide with a desert climate for those looking for an adventure in the outback. The town built around it offers various activities. So, after visiting the tunnels and seeing the fossils and gorgeous opals, you’ll be able to ride bikes or eat around the area for an authentic Australian experience.

This town still relies on its mining production, but tourism has also become a large part of the revenues generated by it. If you’re a cinema buff, you’ll be tempted to visit this site. It was used to shoot movies like Pitch Black, Mad Max, and the latest Mortal Kombat movie adaptation.

paris catacombs underground city france
Paris Catacombs – an underground city in France

Paris Catacombs, France

Paris Catacombs are the largest ossuaries in the world, with over six million people’s remains in the tunnel network spanning over 350 km with only a fraction of the tunnels being open to the public. At the end of the 1960s, the catacombs became a place where people lived, and students used to dodge police patrols during the protests of May 1968.

However, these catacombs have a somber history you can trace back to the creation of the tunnels. At the end of the 18th century, France had issues with hygiene with their cemeteries located on the outskirts of town. So it was decided to move the bodies underground. The authorities had to reuse and consolidate old mines that caused 300 meters of ground to collapse in the city in 1774.

A couple of years after their creation, the Paris Catacombs were opened to the public. There was a ledger recording visitors to the underground city, and it has been the source of many urban legends ever since. Moreover, during the Black Plague, cemeteries were saturated, so it was a way to keep the city as clean as possible.

el dorado underground city colombia
The El Dorado underground city is said to be in the Colombian Andes. Photo via depositphotos.com

El Dorado, Colombia?

Alright, so we’re not even sure if this one is an actual place or a person since it varies on who tells the legend. Still, El Dorado has been the source of many expeditions by the Conquistadors. Most notable is Gonzalo Pizarro, whose story inspired the creation of many films and the gonzos quest slot online game.

After the first expeditions leading to the discovery of the Americas during the 15th and 16th centuries, the prospect of finding gold was one of the main motivations for those funding these expensive and dangerous trips. Rapidly, the legend of a city made of gold started to spread among the conquistadors. Many, like Pizarro, led expeditions to try to find the place known as El Dorado.

However, to this day, no one has found it, but it’s likely located in the Colombian Andes on a plateau near Lake Guatavita. It’s where a native tribe used to pray to a god reportedly living underwater and threw gold in the water to appease him. Nowadays, some people are still trying to find it. So, if you’re looking for an adventure, this land of many legends could be perfect for your next exploration with its unique landscapes.

petra underground city jordan
Petra underground city in Jordan

Petra, Jordan

300 years BC, the Nabateans a nomadic people of the Arabic desert decided to settle in Petra and build this incredible place, which is still fascinating to this day. Petra was literally built inside a mountain in the middle of the desert, which is already impressive given when it was built.

However, Petra has a lot more remarkable innovations with the Nabateans creating an artificial oasis with an evolved system of dams, water conduits, and cisterns. This created one of the biggest cities in the region and the center for the Nabatean trade. The city was only accessible through naturally carved canyons, which prevented attacks from the outside. The entrance is magnificent with columns, and ornaments on a threshold carved directly into the mountain.

Petra was a big city for the time, it had a theatre, gladiator fights were organized, and there was a gigantic temple inside the mountain. The place is still remarkably preserved with many tombs of historic figures like Aaron, son of Moses, still intact. Its Hellenistic architecture is a marvel. Moreover, it’s one of the few places in the world to conjugate Greek, Muslim, and Jewish culture.

Unlock the secrets of the past as you visit underground cities

Underground cities offer a different way to discover the world. These unique places often allow us to witness our history with artifacts that are better conserved. These sites are cornerstones of our civilizations, past, and present. Visiting them is always an impressive journey when you learn about the innovations our ancestors were able to come up with to live in such extreme conditions.

So, if you’re looking for an adventure and want more than going to the beach or skiing for your next holiday, consider these incredible underground cities for a pleasant change of scenery. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones or Lara Croft!

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe. Creator of unique free travel guides and local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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