Travel

Following traces of a sunken city: On the isle of Antalya’s Kekova

Written by The Frontier Post

Özge Şengelen

ISTANBUL: Kekova Island is a route where you can enjoy the sea to the fullest before the end of September and dive into the depths of history at the same time, one where you can follow the footsteps of Lycians famous for the Sunken City buried underwater by earthquakes

Kekova Island, an island connected to the Demre district of Antalya and a historical and touristic region, has become a favorite of tourists from outside Türkiye, especially in recent years, conquering hearts with its unique coves and clear azure waters.

At the end of our boat holiday in Kekova last summer, which I detailed in my last piece, this region already had a place on our list to visit again.

Kekova Island offers travelers unique accommodation options. In addition to daily boat tours, you can also stay on a boat instead of in a hotel.

The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

You can take boat tours on different routes from many different places in this region.

The most popular of these is the Kekova Island tour. Last summer, we chose the Kekova Island tour, where we could see the famous sunken city and experience swimming in different ancient city landscapes, in the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. In order to join this wonderful boat tour, you need to go to Kekova’s Üçağız or Kaş Harbor in Kaş.

Those who want to join a daily tour can by signing up at any agency located here during the day, but if you want to join a boat tour with accommodation, it is better to book in advance to ensure a reservation.

To book a spot, you can reach out to the agencies or individual boat tour captains via the internet or Instagram and make reservations in advance. We arranged the tour we would join in July back in June, but since the summer season ends in September, you can find places easier in the fall. Try your luck before the end of September or October and definitely experience this wonderful experience.

Likewise, you have boat rental options according to the number of people. For example, if you rent a boat with a group of friends you love, to be more economical, your vacation will be cheaper and more special. Different-sized boats can serve this purpose, depending on the number of people.

The sunrise near the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The sunrise near the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Last summer and during the pandemic, those who hesitated to use common areas in hotels preferred these tours. In fact, there are very nice hotel alternatives in Kaş, which is close to Kekova, but due to the rocky landscape of Kaş, there are not many natural beaches. For this reason, you can see the wonderful bays that can be reached more easily by sea by taking a boat tour and swimming there. At the same time, you will be able to see ancient ruins thanks to these tours in Kekova, which is on the historic Lycian Way.

Kekova Island, which has the clearest and most turquoise waters in Türkiye, is a great starting point for those who want to do a blue cruise. The island was separated from Üçağız and Kaleköy with big earthquakes that occurred in the past.

As a result, wonderful bays were formed in this region.

Kekova Island is also a region where you can travel back in time through history in addition to its wonderful bays.

Sunken City

It is known that the Lycian civilization established a city and lived in the place where the ruins are now located off the coast of Kekova Island. As a result of devastating earthquakes in the second century, the settlements were flooded.

The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Kekova Port, one of the important trade centers of Lycia, was also flooded after the great earthquakes. Today, it is called the Sunken City because of these ancient ruins.

Boats can approach these ancient underwater ruins up to a certain distance. Since they are under protection, you can only visit these ruins from a distance. However, the water is so clear that it is possible to see the remains easily with the naked eye.

Apart from the underwater ruins, you will also see some ancient ruins from the city on the island. Stairs above and below the water, royal tombs, boathouses and remnants of walls take you deep into history.

The region, where empires such as Rome and Byzantium blossomed after the Lycian civilization, bears traces of history.

After the Sunken City, the first stop is Tersane Bay, where there are ruins of a Byzantine church.

Tersane Bay

The second stop of our blue voyage, which we started at 10 a.m., was Tersane Bay.

This place attracts a lot of attention as it is the only place near the Sunken City where boats are allowed to moor. Especially here, I recommend swimming with sea shoes because after swimming in the bay, you may want to go ashore and see the church ruins here. The underwater ruins you will see while gliding in the depths of the water are really interesting.

The Hamidiye Bay, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Hamidiye Bay, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

For this reason, you should definitely go diving or snorkeling in this turquoise-colored bay, which was a shipbuilding area during the Lycian period. Many parts of Kekova Island are protected from diving activities due to its historical value. You should definitely dive into the historical atmosphere in this cove, where there are underwater ruins so close to the Sunken City.

Hamidiye Bay

Taking its name from a ship belonging to the Ottoman Navy, Hamidiye Bay is another where you can swim in the depths of history.

The Hamidiye Ship of the Ottoman Navy was hidden in this bay for two days during the Balkan Wars.

The Turkish flag drawn on a large rock in the bay is eye-catching. This flag, drawn and painted by soldiers in the past, remains as a reminder of the area’s deep history.

The Gökkaya Bay, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Gökkaya Bay, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Gökkaya Bay

Gökkaya Bay, which is very close to the open sea Lycian ruins and Üçağız Beach, is a bay where boats stop for lunch during the day and for accommodation at night.

At the same time, since it is the largest bay on Kekova Island and one in which boats can take shelter in all weather, boats usually prefer to stay here for the night.

We stayed here overnight on the boat. This bay, which has very clear and clean water for swimming during the day, was quite calm and peaceful for staying overnight.

The Kaleköy settlement, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Kaleköy settlement, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Kaleköy or Simena

You will witness the traces of history in this village, which was known as Simena in ancient times and as Kaleköy today. As an extra step to preserve the site, it is closed to vehicle traffic and under protection. The castle at the top of the village and the kings’ tombs at different points are some of the most important historical treasures of Kaleköy.

Though wandering up to the castle and witnessing the wonderful view is a great experience, the view of Kaleköy from the boat is also worth soaking in.

The Pirate Cave, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)
The Pirate Cave, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

When you arrive by boat, a picturesque landscape view that you will never forget greets you, set down from the hill, intertwined with history, reminiscent of an oil painting.

Apart from that, in Kekova, which is famous for its Sunken City, Üçağız, Kaleköy and its numerous bays, I recommend you go to see and swim at Burç Bay, Aquarium Bay, Çamlık Bay and Pirate Cave.

To fully experience Kekova, you must spend at least three to five days here.

If you are not looking for an active, crowded and noisy holiday, you should definitely visit Kekova to take a three to five-day break from life in the mystery of a sunken city, in the footsteps of history, in the lap of the deep azure sea and under the vibrant blue sky.

Courtesy: Dailysabah

About the author

The Frontier Post