Is There An Underground City Under Your Feet?
Belief in a subterranean world has been handed over down the generations through tale, myth and rumor. Socrates talked of vast caverns beneath the earth where rivers flowed and man lived in huge hollows. Earl Dorr, a miner, started a legend of a River of Gold that still lures men to seek the fabled wealth below Kokoweef, a limestone peak in California.
Haven’t we all read fantasy related to the inner surface of our Earth – home to gigantic creatures that live there eating the fruit from gigantic plants? How about Alice in Wonderland, where Alice’s fall down a rabbit hole led her to a magical wonderland?
Whether there exists such a world is anyone’s guess, but if there is a magical wonderland that can lift us to the fifth dimension; it has to be the underground cities of our world.
The narrow passageways of the underground city of Derinkuyu make one wonder about the early Christians that lived in this amazing subterranean world in Cappadocia, Turkey. The eight levels of the city were home to thousands of people between AD 5 and AD 10. They served as a refuge for the first Christians escaping from the Roman Empire and later, the raiding Arab armies.
What will surprise you is that Derinkuyu is not the only underground city in the Cappadocia region, there are more than 200 such underground wonderlands discovered in the region, with Derinkuyu being the deepest and the largest. Most of them are said to be connected by subterranean roads, but for visitors, the deceiving new entrance does not reveal the secrets and the vastness it conceals behind it.
Derinkuyu is said to have the capacity to accommodate up to 50,000 people.
Crawling through the maze of narrow passageways opens up to food storage chambers, kitchens, wine and olive presses, animal shelters etc. There is also a cross-shaped church. People who visit the place have seen millstones that were earlier used to seal passageways and keep out intruders, as well as huge ventilator shafts that acted as the lungs of this beautiful old metropolis.
It is easy to get utterly lost and perplexed, passing through down sloping tunnels and weird chambers; although there are colored arrows pointing toward different directions.
The story goes that these underground cities were carved out of native rock because of lack of trees for building material. Greek mercenary Xenophon’s work, Anabasis, he describes Cappadocia – “The houses were built underground. The entrances were like wells, but they broadened out lower down. There were tunnels dug in the ground for the animals, while the men went down by ladder.” Historians are of the opinion that this wonderful civilization came to an end after ruling for almost 800 years.
Visitors are allowed to see only 10% of this city with full exploration rights being granted to archeologists and such people. Filmmakers could easily run riot down there!
Hidden Monuments of Lalibela, Ethiopia
Hidden in the bowels of the earth, these amazing monuments epitomize man’s love for God. Ethiopia’s strife, starvation, bloodshed and famine coexist with a glorious past, where handsome kings and beautiful queens of impeccable lineage strode majestically across the land, leaving behind exquisite legacies in carved in stone.
What on the surface looks like just an ordinary village with circular stone huts, hosts over 200 rock-hewn churches rising from the depths of the Earth. There are many churches hewn out of volcanic russet rock. While some are totally hidden from view, some rise almost seven stories high from deep trenches, and some others stand in open quarried caves.
Lalibela was a king who constructed underground shrines to keep them hidden from the enemy. This living antiquity in the midst of the almost featureless town is amazing to say the least.
The first glimpse of Petra in Jordan can be deceiving, as a visitor only sees the cliffs flaming over desert land, much like a Hollywood movie set. But venturing further reveals a spectacular sight – the hidden ruins of a city hewn into the sandstone cliff.
The sight of the most imposing ruins, the ‘Al Khazneh” (treasury), is mind blowing. This ancient city traces its origins back to the Egyptian, biblical and Greco-Roman times and was the capital city around 6 BC.
The city was hidden for more than 2000 years, until Johann Burckhardt, a Swiss traveler and orientalist, on one of his exploratory trips, discovered hundreds of structures that stretched for miles on end, along narrow canyons. The city even has an amphitheatre, temples, burial grounds, obelisks and monastery.
Even after all these years, archaeologists are still in awe of the people that carved these structures into solid rocks in the middle of a desert. It has recently been voted as one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World.
Coober Pedy, South Australia
This seemingly inconsequential mining town is so bizarre that it has come to be known as the meanest town south of the equator. With huge mean-looking men covered with tattoos calling it their home, it can easily be the American Wild West.
This town of tunnels is home to 4,000 people that not only work in the underground mines but also live in underground houses or dugouts and pray in underground churches. Want another room? It just takes a boring machine to dig it out! The temperatures underground remain a pleasant 25 degrees even as the surface sizzles in the summer heat.
Coober Pedy has the world’s first and only underground four-star hotel, which is considered to be a pleasant retreat.
Visitors can go opal mining for just AUD 60 that allows them to stake out a claim and prospect for one year.
The zany charm of this desolate underground desert mining town attracts many visitors each year, including filmmakers who created movies like ‘Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,’ Until the End of the World,’ and ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
The Catacombs, Paris
These mazes that exist 300 feet beneath the City of Lights and are home to mysterious vagabonds and human bone filled chambers, are world-famous.
This underground is a vast realm of darkness, with limestone quarries that were mined in the 12th century for the construction of Notre Dame, the Louvre and other edifices.
These quarries started receiving bones from the overflowing cemeteries in Paris from the year 1785 until the 1880s, and just one section of the quarries is estimated to contain bones of around six million people.
Both the French resistance and the Germans are said to have occupied the passages during World War II, leaving behind a vast and varied history.
Visitors enter through a black door, go down a staircase and finally reach a chamber that has a sign that says, “Stop – this is the Empire of Death! Of course it is written in French.
Giza Plateau, Egypt
The 19th century Arab lore revealed the existence of secret chambers holding magical objects or treasures under the Sphinx. This was confirmed by Pliny, the Roman historian of the first-century, who in his writings said that deep down, below the Sphinx exists the tomb of a ruler named Harmakhis that hides deep treasure.
The existence of a large cavity was confirmed in a seismic survey in 1993 and this was also turned into a documentary named “The Mystery of the Sphinx” screened on NBC TV that year. In 1994, the “Mystery Tunnel in Sphinx” was revealed when workers repairing the Sphinx discovered an ancient passage leading deep into the Sphinx’s tail and outstretched paws.
While the world speculates over the hidden chambers under the paw of the Sphinx, reports of secrets hidden beneath the Giza Plateau have been making the rounds for the past many years. They began after the SIRA radar was deployed to map these subterranean features as early as 1978. Three decades of top secret excavations have taken place, and recently, the key scientist of the Giza project, Dr. Jim Hurtak, showed film footage of work in progress, which is expected to be released by the end of the century.
The film, “Chambers of the Deep” shows a 15,000-year-old vast megalithic metropolis going several levels deep below the Giza plateau. The film shows this “City of the Gods” consisting of a complex underground system with never-ending passageways, ancient and massive chambers, unbelievably enormous statues, natural caverns, hydraulic underground waterways and subterranean rivers. Researchers had to take huge risks to penetrate into the sealed chambers. They had to use rubber dinghies across subterranean rivers and huge lakes, and the progress they made is said to be astonishing.
The idea of secrets lurking under our feet can be intriguing and it is hard to believe that man could have created these underground wonders that transcend everything ordinary and define what the human race can achieve.
These are just a few of the more popular cities, but there are many more such interesting secret cities in the world. ‘Cities of the World,’ an American documentary television series will teach you more about these amazing underground cities.
Portland Shanghai Tunnels, USA
Also known as Portland Underground, this network of underground tunnels linked Portland’s ChinaTown with the city center. Also, many bars and hotels in the area had tunnels leading to Willamette River waterfront. It was said that these tunnels were used to replenish hotels and bar’s supplies directly from the river docks, avoiding obstacle on ground like traffic, rain and of course authorities. The legend also tells that the tunnels network was formed for Shanghaiing, a practice where kidnapped people were forced to serve as sailors.
The tunnel network is thought to have evolved in 1800s with heavy influx of Chinese immigrants and though most of the tunnels have been filled due to modern day development project, a few still remain. The siteis open for public tours and is truly a sight to see.
Dixia Cheng, China
The most modern underground city was built as recently as 1970 to be safe from ground attacks, including nuclear invasion. This is one of the most elaborate network of underground tunnels and halls with complete civic services like hospitals, schools and sleeping halls for citizens of Beijing. With 100 hidden entrances, this impressive subterranean structure was never used for its intended purpose, thankfully so.
Though it was opened for public visitation and tourists in 2000, in 2008, it was closed down for renovations. A quick search on Google will reveal that this structure was not as shady and dungeon-like as others on our list, it was actually lit and was provided with electricity and other amenities.
The Sleepy City of Moose Jaw, Canada
Legend has it, in the early 1900s, Canada imposed heavy taxation on immigrants, especially from China, making life harder for the illegal occupants. So, they moved underground, and lived there with their families until 1920; that’s when the underground tunnels became a smuggling route of booze to the USA.
The Secret English City of Burlington
The story goes something like Dixia Cheng, but the location this time around is countryside England. This underground network predates Dixia Cheng and was built in the 1950s as a shelter from nuclear war. It also doesn’t share the noble intentions of its Chinese counterpart, as the 1 sq km vast tunnel network was designed to safeguard 4,000 government officials, yup no civilians allowed.
What’s even more fascinating about this structure is the fact that it actually contained all the amenities –sorry no schools, but underground roads, hospitals, a pub, water treatment facility, a lake, and even a BBC Studio to allow the supreme leader address to his remaining citizens on the ground. Clearly, the government had their preferences sorted out for this one, not including room for civilians, however, developing pubs and a lake underground was just mean!
We have updated the list of our amazing underground cities which can be found in different parts of the world.
Pilsen (Plzen) historical underground, Czech Republic:
Underneath the city of Pilsen in the western part of the Czech Republic, the mysterious and historical Pilsen underground lies. This one in our underground cities list is actually a 12.5-mile long labyrinth which is a network of passageways, wells, and cellars built in the 14th century just below the city streets. These cellars used to serve as a storage space for food and barrels of wine. Plus, they can also work as an escape route in case of an attack by the enemies. According to a legend, there is treasure buried within these cellar walls.
One of the best ways of exploring this amazingly concealed labyrinth is by taking a guided tour. Some of the things worth seeing are the; the ice cellar, the water tower, the exhibit on medieval bookbinding.
Wieliczka Salt Mines, Krakow:
This salt mine is located in the town of Wieliczka which lies within the Krakow area. It is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Poland. This salt mine was built in the 17th century and has been producing table salt till 2007. This salt mine has evolved into a small salt city, which makes it a part of underground cities because it consists of more than 185 miles of galleries, 3000 chambers and a total of nine floors all built underground in the salt mine. Only the first three floors are open to the public.
You can enter the mine after going down the 378 steps of the wooden staircase. After descending the stairs you will enter the main gallery where there are many guided tour options from which you can choose according to your taste. This is, in fact, one of the most amazing cities in our underground cities list. If you love history then you should opt for the miner’s tour in which you will get to know about the history of the mine as well as the difficulties of being a miner. And if you are more into religion then you should join the pilgrimage tour of the mines.
RÉSO Montreal is an underground network of Montreal’s cornerstones. It gets its name from the French word reseau which means network. This huge network of underground tunnels was started in 1962 in order to ease the traffic and transportation during the harsh winter season.
This giant maze runs under the downtown of Montreal and has a variety of shops, restaurants, hotels, galleries, cinemas, a library, and seven metro stops. It also has apartment buildings inside it. The Montreal reso is one of the most modern underground cities which is like a whole new underground city underneath the original city. The Montreal reso consists of 20 miles of tunnels which have more than 120 exterior access points. The best way to explore this underground Montreal is by booking a guided tour and exploring it by foot.
Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain:
It is a pueblo i.e. small town in the Cadiz province of Spain. It isn’t technically an underground city like the other places on our underground cities list but it is a city which is built below the hanging rocks. It is located along the steep and narrow gorge of Rio Trejo River. It is an incredible place worth visiting. The people have constructed houses within and under the rocks of the gorge itself. People settled here in order to keep out the heat in the summers and the cold of the winters. They just built the front of the houses the back is in the rock walls of the gorge, shielded naturally from harsh conditions.
This town may be small in size but it is full of places that are a must-see. Like you should visit the tapas bars which are tucked underneath the gorge and have a great variety of local wines as well as other delicious items like; chorizo, olive oil, honey, jams and Andalusian wine. And if you love nature then you should definitely take a walk over the El Escape de Rio Trejo.