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Visiting the Cities

Going underground presents some uncomfortable conditions. Although passageways are well lit and even the lowest levels are ventilated, a few of the access ramps are long and narrow, requiring visitors to ascend or descend in single file, and in some cases, hunched over. On a busy day, problems can arise for those at the lower levels, as visitors might be stuck waiting for the last of an endless group of arrivals to clear the passageway before exiting. The visit can also be strenuous: At 204 steps, the corridor from the lowest level of Derinkuyu to the surface will cause even the most physically fit visitor to catch his or her breath and may require you to hunch over for a good part of the way.

Arrows mark the direction of the visit (red for in, blue for out). As long as you stick to the route, you should be okay, but don't wander off with a flashlight, because this labyrinth was designed to confuse intruders just like you. It's fine to veer off track in the presence of a guide -- incidentally, a great and terrifying way to see how dark absolute darkness can be.

Try to avoid peak visitation hours by getting there early; tours clog the narrow one-way tunnels and cause small galleries to become loud and stuffy. Curious about the possibility of a power outage, I was told that in the event that the lights go out, a backup generator would kick in after 10 seconds.

Those with claustrophobic tendencies have mixed reactions to visiting these sites: Some find going underground to be a walk in the park, while others don't fare as well. It's really up to the individual to decide his or her own level of tolerance. For those concerned with claustrophobia or physical limitations, a good alternative to the Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities is the more modest Maziköy Underground City and Roman Graves (5YTL/$4.35/£2 daily 8am-6:30pm; if the ticket window is closed during open hours, go find a local to track down the ticket taker). The underground complex is actually built up into the rock formation; the entrance is at ground level. More adventurous explorers should check this one out as well; access to the upper levels will require some rudimentary rock-climbing skills, a dusty experience described by friends as "epic."

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.