Photo by Başak Ekinci.

Photo by Başak Ekinci. cc

From LA to Hong Kong, big cities appeal to travelers around the world. Skyscrapers tower over tourists, impressing upon them man’s incredible efforts to create edifices both amazing and productive. Cities large and small speak in many ways about the people who build and live in them; however, not all incredible cities are visible above the horizon. Some of the most striking cities keep their tales far beneath the earth’s surface, waiting for adventurers to discover them. Here’s a look at five captivating underground cities the world has uncovered.

Seattle Underground―Seattle, Washington

In 1889, about 25 blocks in the heart of Seattle were destroyed in what is known as the Great Seattle Fire. A new city was built on top of the ruins. Years later, city officials, building owners, and the tour’s founder, Bill Speidel, restored Pioneer Square and much of the once devastated area restored into a three-block underground tour for the public. The tour, which began in 1954, starts in Doc Maynard’s Public House saloon, and from there takes visitors through Pioneer Square and three sections of underground, ending in the gift shop called Rogues Gallery. Walking through Seattle Underground brings the somewhat scandalous memory of Seattle’s Wild West days back to life.

Matmata, Tunisia

Star Wars devotees might recognize the white cave-like dwellings found in Matmata, Tunisia, as the home of Luke Skywalker in Episode IV. These unique homes were not built for the movie—or built at all for that matter. They were entirely dug out of the ground by their inhabitants, creating secluded underground homes for village dwellers. What might excite George Lucas supporters is that a section of these structures is now open to the public for lodging as the Hotel Sidi Driss in Matmata. The hotel caves offer simple accommodations, but the experience is rich and rare for the adventurous.

Derinkuyu Underground City―Anatolia, Turkey

Cappadocia, Turkey, is home to 36 underground cities, the deepest one being the city of Derinkuyu. Roughly 85 meters deep, Derinkuyu has close to 600 doors leading into the whole structure, as well as 100-foot-deep ventilation ducts, churches, wineries, stables, a missionary school, family dwellings, and even a makeshift graveyeard. Some believe it was built specifically for refuge during Phyrgian attacks on the Hittites. Today, roughly ten percent of Derinkuyu is open to the public for tours through this elaborate structure.

Lion City―Zhejiang, China

In 208 AD, the grand Lion City was established as a booming part of Zhejiang province. Now, between 85 and 131 feet beneath the surface of Qiandao Lake, the majestic Lion City lies waiting for divers to explore in awe. But how did this grand city fall to the bottom of a lake?

In 1959, the Chinese government needed a hydroelectric power station, and Lion City’s location was chosen as the place for the dam. The rising waters of the constructed dam created Qiandao Lake and the grand polis from view . Amazingly, however, the water-buried city has been rediscovered and preserved, and much of its ancient grandeur can still be seen 26–40 meters under the lake’s surface. For those who love underwater adventures, this is the place to go.

Coober Pedy, Australia

With over 70 opal fields, Coober Pedy is nicknamed the Opal Capital of the world. In addition to its opals, Coober Pedy is also known for its underground homes that today house over 1,600 residents. Civilians built underground homes, as well as an entire city, in response to the threat of dingoes and heat. Shops, pubs, a graveyard, and a church are all included in the below-ground town of Coober Pedy.

—Natalie Browning

Home page photo by Jimmy Carter via Creative Commons.