The cave towns of Crimea are a series of naturally formed limestone caves that were expanded and strengthened for use as dwellings and fortresses during the Middle Ages by various tribal groups. Located in the southwest corner of Crimea, these cave cities are a fascinating example of the local population creatively repurposing what nature supplies into something unique and useful.
Eski-Kermen is one of the earliest inhabited of the various cave towns that are scattered throughout the area. Sitting atop one side of a double mesa separated by a 500-foot-wide valley, Eski-Kermen began life as a Byzantine boundary fortress in the 6th century, manned by the Goths. They built extensive fortifications, including a town gate carved right into the bedrock, a siege wall, tunnels, hidden staircases, grain storage pits, and an underground gallery where water was gathered from a natural spring.
During this time, Eski-Kermen held a dominant position in the economic life of nearby settlements, serving as a trade hub. At its peak, more than 350 caves were used for habitation, livestock housing, craft workshops, and other storage. Some of them had wooden or tiled flooring or balconies and wooden piping for water.
Eski-Kermen was then held by the Khazars from the 8th century up to the 13th century. For reasons unknown, they demolished much of the defensive infrastructure from the 10th century onward. After the Mongols ravaged Crimea in the 14th century, the cave town system collapsed and they were rarely inhabited again.
The great thing about visiting here now is you can see it all and walk right through the whole complex. It takes a bit of effort as the paths ascend steeply from the valley floor, but with some sweat and strain, you are soon rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding mesas, valleys, and canyons. Watch your step and take your time to explore the fascinating archaeological oddity of Eski-Kermen.
Know Before You Go
Eski-Kermen is located about 9 miles (14km) south of Bakhchisaray in Crimea. Other cave towns in the area include Chufut-Kale, Tepe-Kermen, and Kyz-Kule.