Are these the world’s best underground tours?
Written by: Julia Hammond
Subterranean attractions have a certain allure when it comes to tourism. Making your way underground gives the visitor a sense of venturing into the unknown and that’s always an attractive prospect. Here at Mundana we’ve been compiling a list of our favourites. What do you think: are these the world’s best underground tours?
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, Seattle
Seattle was built on luck and lumber, an often lawless settlement sitting on tidal mudflats. When it rained, as it often did, sewage washed in on the tide and the potholed streets became a quagmire. The city’s luck ran out in 1889 when a devastating fire that began in a glue pot reduced the place to smoking embers. But there was money to be made and a desire to rebuild. The authorities restricted new development to brick and stone. In Pioneer Square, buildings were constructed above the old walls so that what was once ground level became underground basements, forgotten with the passing of time. In the mid 1950s, Bill and Shirley Speidel set about opening this space up to the general public. Today, the Underground Tour is one of the city’s most fascinating and most popular visitor attractions.
Hidden stations of the London Underground
The London Underground, affectionately known to Londoners as the Tube, is the world’s oldest subterranean railway, begun in 1863. In the intervening years, some stations have become obsolete, hidden save for the odd flash of light glimpsed by the most observant of commuters or travellers as their train passes through a long abandoned station. Fortunately for the curious, the London Transport Museum runs frequent Hidden London tours. Participants descend to areas now off limits to the public and in the company of knowledgeable and passionate guides, learn a little of the history of those disused tracks and platforms. From Churchill’s secret refuge at Down Street to vintage advertising posters in Euston’s lost tunnels, there’s a huge amount to explore. We think such a long history makes this a contender for the world’s best underground tours.
Derinkuyu and Kaymakli underground cities, Cappadocia
The subterranean world of Cappadocia’s underground cities is as captivating as the surreal landscapes above ground. Beneath a landscape of fairy chimneys, trickling streams and apricot trees lies proof of an ancient civilisation. The area’s troglodyte inhabitants sought refuge in their caves as marauding armies marched across Anatolia hell bent on kidnap and plunder. An astonishing 36 underground cities exist. Most visited are Derinkuyu, the deepest, and Kaymakli, the widest. The courtyards of surface dwellings in Derinkuyu conceal something like 600 doors. Below ground, you’ll find stables, cellars, churches, wineries and even a missionary school. They served as temporary dwellings, built to withstand attack and ride out a crisis. Four of Kaymakli’s eight levels are open to tourists. Similarly, they house wine cellars, stables, storage areas, living quarters and a church.
The Cu Chi tunnels, Vietnam
Take the Cu Chi tunnel tour in the south of Vietnam. Probably the most memorable part of your day will be how you squeezed into the almost impossibly small gap that forms the entrance to the tunnels. During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong dug thousands of miles of tunnels. Soldiers (and their supplies) hid from first the French and later US and South Vietnamese forces. Of course, such guerrilla tactics proved highly effective for the Communists. As you crawl through the tiny tunnel, it’s incredible to think that these open sections have actually been widened and reinforced with concrete. Nevertheless, tourists can get an insight into what life might have been like underground. Discover the command centres, booby traps and food eaten by soldiers underground. This is surely one of the most hands-on of the world’s best underground tours.
Coober Pedy, Australia
The remote Outback town of Coober Pedy, population 3500, exists for one reason alone: opals. This iridescent semi-precious stone has been mined in these parts since 1915. It’s still the main employer in the town today. Above ground, bold signs advise visitors to beware of the many open mine shafts which litter the place. Below ground, there are plenty of troglodyte homes to visit. As well, tours to abandoned mines explain how opals are retrieved. It’s a harsh life out here in the desert, where settlers need to contend with huge temperature varations and vast distances.
Are you keen to head underground? Why not call Mundana today?