In addition to the most famous underground cities of Cappadocia, that is Derinkuyu, Kaymaklı, and Özkonak, this region hides many more such underground settlements. Their exact number remains a mystery, as they are continually being discovered. Not long ago, in 2014, another huge one was accidentally found in the capital city of the Nevşehir Province. Gaziemir belongs to the category of less frequently visited underground cities. It is located near the route connecting the Ihlara Valley with Göreme, situated in the heart of Cappadocia.
Gaziemir is different from other underground cities of Cappadocia. First of all, it is located just below the ground, so there is no need to descend into the cavernous depths to visit it. Moreover, it is very spacious, with almost none of the narrow and low corridors, well-known to the travelers who visited Derinkuyu or Kaymaklı. For these reasons, Gaziemir seems to be the perfect underground city for people who want to visit such a place but have claustrophobia or suffer from restricted mobility.
The unusual layout of Gaziemir is also the reason for some researchers to doubt its real function. There are suspicions that it was not a typical underground city, but rather a monastery, which was later converted into a caravanserai. This theory has been put forward by a traveler and writer, Pat Yale, who knows Turkey as her pocket and lives in Cappadocia. Also the authors of the guidebook Cappadocia. A travel guide through the land of fairy chimneys and rock castles, Susanne and Michael Oberheu Wadenpohl, mention the caravanserai of Gaziemir rather than an underground city.
Since there are no written sources mentioning Gaziemir, any information we have relating to its history are the result of archaeological research, observation, and comparison with other similar structures but also speculation and conjecture.
The history of Gaziemir underground structure dates back at least to the Hittite period, i.e. the second millennium BCE. of evidenced by the analysis of the remains of grains, found in amphorae. Their age was established on the basis of radiocarbon dating. Moreover, in Gaziemir there is a tunnel constructed using the technology characteristic for the Hittite architecture. A very similar tunnel can be seen in the Hittite capital - Hattusa. There is an underground passage known as Yerkapı, made at the beginning of the fourteenth century BCE. It is based on the corbelled vault as the Hittites could not build true arches. Instead they applied the method that uses the architectural technique of corbeling to span a space in a structure. The tunnel in Gaziemir, made in the same technique, is 10 meters long.
During the works that were conducted in Gaziemir to open it to visitors, many traces indicating its use in the Byzantine period were found. This is evidenced by two underground churches, a wall with carved crosses, and a tub in the floor that could be accessed by the stairs. The information plate identifies it as a reservoir for wine production, but its appearance suggests rather a baptistery.
In later times, after the conquest of Asia Minor by the Turkish tribes, Gaziemir served as a caravanserai i.e. an inn for travelers. The caravanserai had food stores, a Turkish bath, ovens for meal preparation, and lots of bedrooms. Many of the passages are so wide that even camels could pass them freely. Their presence in Gaziemir has been evidenced by camels bones and stables where they could be tied to a wall.
Gaziemir is divided into two parts. The first one resembles a typical Cappadocian underground city, although with only two levels to visit. Across the road, there is a much more interesting structure. After passing through the tunnel mentioned above, visitors enter a central courtyard, surrounded by a variety of rooms. In this section, it is possible to visit the monastery of the Byzantine period, and the mysterious tank or the baptistery.
The only place where people who have claustrophobia may have difficulties, is a narrow and dark tunnel leading to a room described as a prison cell. It is a place completely cut off from the sunlight.
Gaziemir is open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. The admission costs 3 TL. The staff speak only Turkish.
Gaziemir can not be reached by public transport, so it is necessary to hire a car or buy a package tour from a travel agency.
By car: follow the main road from Ihlara to Derinkuyu. 19 km from Ihlara (or 33 km from Derinkuyu), there is a junction where you turn off the main road in the direction of Gaziemir village. The underground city is exactly 1 km away from this junction. The intersection is marked with a brown signpost.
With a travel agency:: we do not have any information if Gaziemir can be visited during a tour organised by travel agencies on the Turkish Riviera. Travel agencies operating in Cappadocia have in their offer a sightseeing tour with a stopover in Gaziemir. This tour is combined with trekking in the Ihlara Valley and sightseeing the Selime Monastery.