12 Incredible Cave Cities

Featured — By Rachel Greenberg on September 8, 2011 at 10:01 am
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There were two recurring themes that surprised us while researching cave dwelling cultures from around the world:

1. Mongols.

2. George Lucas.

Read on to see where we’re going with this.

1. Cappadocia, Turkey

Image: Curious Expeditions/Flickr

Image: sputnik 57/Flickr

The Cappadocia region of central Turkey has some of the strangest, most incredible geology anywhere on earth. And for 3,500 years, humans have managed to build 200 incredible cities in this rocky, mountainous terrain.  Lucky for modern day visitors, the cave cities in Cappadocia provide thousands of years of history and miles of caves to explore. And on top of that, all the artifacts found within the caves have been incredibly well maintained over the centuries. The dry, arid weather inside the caves has made for almost perfect conditions for preserving the artifacts, and there is still undoubtedly much more to be discovered.

Image: whl.travel/Flickr

Image: drreagan/Flickr

Along with constructing incredible cave complexes, the multiple groups that have called Cappadocia home also utilized the unique Fairy Chimney rock formations native to the area – turning them into homes. Found only in a few places on earth, the formation looks like a tall pyramid with a large rock balanced on top. Native cultures hollowed them out and used them as freestanding dwellings. Pretty cool huh?

Image: Vin60/Flickr

2. Vardzia – Southern Georgia

Image: en.wikipedia.org

We certainly don’t envy any 12th century monarch. With the Mongols terrorizing Europe, it must have felt like your chances for survival where slim. So when Queen Tamar of the Caucasus heard that the Mongol army was at her doorstep, she demanded the impossible: Build an impenetrable fortress on the side of the Erusheli mountain. Although it seems barely feasable by modern day standards, in 1185 construction began.

When the complex was completed it had 6,000 apartments on 13 levels, a throne room, a church, and an exterior of terraces for growing crops. Incredibly Vardzia also had an irrigation system and a secret entrance only accessible via a hidden tunnel.

Image: onbangladesh/Flickr

Image: zigurdszakis/Flickr

Luckily, it worked in protecting the queen from the Mongols. Unluckily, a hundred years later a massive earthquake in 1283 destroyed much of the complex, exposing the interior apartments that were originally hidden inside the mountain. Even after the damage, monks continued to live in what was left until being attacked by Persians in 1551.

It is now open to visitors, and a small group of monks maintain the incredible ruins.

3. Petra – Jordan

Image: paalia/Flickr

The Nabataeans established Petra around the 6th Century BCE as their capital city. An important stop on the Middle Eastern trade route, Petra’s iconic structures weren’t built until around zero AD. The most famous ruin, Al Kjazneh or “The Treasury”, has an incredibly detailed facade carved out of a sandstone rock face.

Image: To Uncertainty And Beyond/Flickr

Image: tympsy/Flickr

Many of the details of the Greek-influenced architecture has been lost over the years, but it still makes for an incredible site. Although it isn’t known what The Treasury was constructed for, it was deemed a World Heritage Site is 1985. But perhaps even more exciting than that, it was also in Indiana Jones an the Last Crusade.

Image: archer10(Dennis)/Flickr

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Tags: Afghanistan, Australia, cave dwellings, caves, China, Colorado, Georgia, Iran, italy, jordan, Mali, Petra, Tunisia, Turkey

    5 Comments

  • Christina says:

    I really loved Cappadocia. It was one of the most interesting places I’ve ever visited. Jordan and Tunisia are next on the list.

    • Kristina says:

      Tunisia and Jordan are two of the ones I have been to! I highly recommend both. Tunisia was absolutely brilliant since it’s off the beaten path for tourists.

  • Adam says:

    Nope, I have not been to any of them. I think I saw one of these on House Hunters International. I think I might need to add a few of these onto my must see list.

  • Andrea says:

    Petra is remarkabler. But I thought it has been determined the Treasury is a tomb for a family. There arte something like 700 structures. It takes days to see, and the entrance – the mile long Siq is the most dramatic gate to a city EVER.

  • Obiora Ugwuayi says:

    I love to receive mail on newly discovered places I can visit in adventure, I love adventure!

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