The Sunken City of Kekova

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A long time ago, I read an article about SCUBA diving in underwater, ancient ruins near Istanbul.  I thought that would be cool to do, so it has stayed with me for years.  Having said that, during my six week trip to the Middle East which included Oman, Israel, and Turkey, SCUBA Diving didn’t make the list.

Instead, I signed up for a two-week tour through the western half of Turkey with G-Adventures, a budget-minded National Geographic Company.  Having completed little research and being rather dependent on the tour company, I was surprised to learn that there were underwater ruins in Kekova, one of the destinations on our travels.

History of Demre

Kekova is an uninhabited island near Demre on the Mediterranean Coast.  It is best reached by boat from the Demre Harbor in Cayagzi.  Demre has an interesting history.  It is the Lycian Town of Myra, home to St. Nick (or Santa Claus).  Many Christian Greeks populated the area until the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923.

Now Demre attracts many tourists, though due to its distance from the Antalya airport, it is quieter than some of the other coastal cities.  Another popular town is Kas, and boat tours to Kekova also leave from there, though the journey is much longer.  While G Adventure made our reservations, a few boat tour companies advertise on Trip Advisor.

harbor of Demre

Island of Kekova

We visited Kekova during the off-season as well as at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, thus there were not any other visitors on our large boat that was in need of some TLC.  The boat, operated by a captain and mate, cruised toward the island where the ancient City of Dolchiste stood until it succumbed to an earthquake during the second century.  The city was rebuilt and flourished during the Byzantine Empire, but was ultimately abandoned due to Arab attacks.

ruins at kekova island

Regardless, I was simply fascinated by the ruins of which some remained on the edge of the island and the rest were underwater!  As I stared at the arches and staircases, I just couldn’t imagine living in a city and suddenly finding my house entirely submerged in the sea due to an earthquake. 

under water ruins at kekova

Boy, how I would have liked to SCUBA or snorkel there.  Not only was it too cold for my liking in March, the area was protected.  It did peak my interest enough, however, to want to return to the Turkish coast.

Simena Castle

The turquoise waters surrounded by hilly terrain were just magnificent.  Oh how incredible it would be to sail this area.  Not to mention, it is also possible to visit the nearby Simena Castle on the island of Kalekoy.  Being from the United States, its not often I visit a beach and see a castle! For a nice overview video click HERE.

simena castle

The medieval castle was built atop Lycian foundations by the Knights of Rhodes.  While most of the ruins date back to the Byzantine times some come from the 4th century.  The biggest draw, however, is the view.  Unfortunately for us, a storm was approaching, so we did not have enough time to safely visit, but we did find a cove to have a fresh fish lunch, cooked by the captain on a portable grill.

lunch view at Kekova
lunch view

Kekova and the surrounding area was quite beautiful and there are a variety of ways to explore it. Find which tour works best for you at Viator or Get Your Guide.  ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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