Excursion Demre – Mira – Kekova is one of the most interesting in Turkey. During the trip, travelers will see the intersection of four ancient cultures – Roman, Lycian, Byzantine, Hellenic.
The contemplation of the creations of human hands will be accompanied by rocky shores, warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, small authentic Turkish villages, in which it seems that time has stopped long ago. Participants will be fully immersed in antiquity.
Demre-Myra-Kekova: description, history
Mira is the ancient capital of Lycia, the province of Rome. It is 2.5 km away from Demre and 5 km from the sea. Today it is just the ruins of a Greco-Roman amphitheater, an acropolis, tombs carved into the rocks, the destroyed walls of a city built in the 5th century BC. Believers make pilgrimages here.
One of the interpretations of the origin of the name of the city connects it with the name of the resin for the manufacture of incense “myrrh”. Another version tells that the name is of Etruscan origin and is associated with the word “Maura” – “the place of the Mother Goddess.”
In the III-II centuries BC, the city, being one of the largest in Lycia, received the right to minting coins.
In the 7th century, it gradually fell into decay after the destructive raids of the Arabs and the mud flooding by the Miros River.
The city of Dolihiste is absent on the map of modern Turkey, because its history ended with a strong earthquake several centuries ago. The advanced civilization founded by the Lycians perished.
Returning to the history of Dolihiste, it is worth mentioning that the construction of the city was carried out on several floors, fresh water was collected for storage, and a sewerage system was arranged.
It has been established that Dolihiste was a fortified port, in which only male warriors originally lived. But over time, the fortress turned into an ordinary city. They began to erect beautiful buildings in it, decorating them with mosaics.
The city itself was located on a hill, and this partially saved it from flooding. The upper part still rises above the surface of the waters. Streets descend in steps into the depths of the sea, and clear waters reveal amazing artifacts.
Ruins of the Ancient City of Peace
As already mentioned, the ancient city was called Mira, the ruins of which are located not far from modern Demre.
The Lycian rock tombs are its main attraction. On the top of the cliff, closer to the gods and to facilitate the ascent of the soul to heaven after death – this is how the rich Lycians arranged their burials. They expertly carved tombs, similar to temples and houses, right in the rock.
The Lycian amphitheater of Myra is very well preserved. It looks majestic and large-scale. Festivals are sometimes held here today, and many centuries ago it was the venue for theatrical performances and sports competitions.
Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker
Another center of attraction, where pilgrims and those simply interested in history flock, is the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Saint Nicholas the Pleasant (Wonderworker) was the bishop of Myra from 300 to 343. Patron of innocent convicts, conciliator of enemies, protector of children and sailors, he became the prototype of Santa Claus, because he brought children gifts for Christmas.
When he died, his remains were placed in a sarcophagus in a specially rebuilt basilica. Unfortunately, the relics of the saint in 1087 were stolen and taken by Italian merchants to the city of Bari, where they are kept to this day.
Time gradually plunged the temple into the ground to a depth of more than 4 meters, where it rested for several centuries. It was discovered by accident.
Today the church is open for visiting, and everyone can honor the memory of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, and at the same time admire the frescoes that have come down to us through the centuries.
The Lycian tombs are ancient burials carved into the rocks. They date back to the 6th – 4th centuries BC. The popularity of tombs as a historical site is based on the interest in the custom of the peoples of Lycia to bury the dead on the heights.
The Lycians believed that in this way souls could quickly and easily get to heaven, because after death they turned into winged creatures. And carving a tomb in tuff was easier than building it out of heavy stone.
They always began to bury from top to bottom. The outer framing of the necropolises was made to look like temples or rich houses. And it is no coincidence. After all, they were the family crypts of kings or wealthy residents. The less noble and rich the buried person was, the lower was his tomb.
The good preservation of historical heritage sites is explained by the fact that it was very difficult to get to them. The interior decoration and artifacts have long been removed, and the tombs themselves are under protection.
Side by side with the Lycian tombs is the ancient amphitheater, erected during the Greek rule in the 2nd century AD. Later, the masters of the Roman Empire had a hand in his appearance. Up to 15 thousand people could be located on its territory. Placement took place on the lower and upper rows. And the diameter of the structure is approximately 110 meters.
The building was used not only for entertainment, but also for the administration of justice and executions.
There is a theory that gladiatorial battles were held here, but the Romans for such purposes laid sideways in the buildings being reconstructed, so this is not yet confirmed data.
It is worth mentioning one of the features of its construction – the absolute absence of an adhesive solution.
Throughout its history, it was destroyed by earthquakes several times and rebuilt again. The 12th century was the century when the amphitheater was buried under a layer of mud brought by the Miros River as a result of a powerful flood. It was discovered only at the end of the last century and is currently being restored.
- Demre-Ancient city of the World: detailed description, photos, how to get there
Attractions of the island of Kekova
The ruins of the ancient city
In the northern part of the island is the ancient city of Dolicheste, which was destroyed by an earthquake in the 2nd century AD. Some of the ruins went under water, some remained on land. By the name of the city in ancient times, the island itself was called – Dolyhiste. After the bottom sank several meters under the water, the island of Kekova appeared.
Remains of ancient structures can be seen under water and on the shore. Some of them are perfectly preserved.
Villages Kalekey (Simena), Uchayz, Aperlay
On the mainland, opposite the island of Kekova, there are the villages of Kalekey and Uchayz. The cripple dates back to the 5th century BC. It was then that people first settled here. What remains of the Lycia city of Simena is located right on the territory of the modern village. This:
- a Byzantine fortress with a preserved amphitheater;
- the ruins of an ancient temple;
- on the eastern side there is a necropolis with Lycian tombs in the rocks.
There are also many ancient ruins on the coast that descend into the sea. Local residents often have fragments of various structures and houses of the ancient era on the sites.
The Uchayz village is located next to the picturesque Uchagyz Koyu bay. They strive here to look at the partially sunken tombs of the Lycians. And the village itself can be safely called an open-air museum.
Here, the tombs are adjacent to the modern dwellings of the Turks, and the houses themselves are built on ruins. Fragments of antique columns, remains of cisterns made of stone for storing fresh water, ancient stone slabs can be seen in the courtyards. Some water tanks are still used for the needs of the village.
There are only a few streets in Uchayz. One of them ends with a Roman stone arch. It was erected many centuries ago. Now a passage leads through it to the wasteland.
Not far from Kekova there is the Sydzhak peninsula, on which the ancient Lycian city of Aperlae (Aperla, Aperli) is located. Archaeologists have discovered parts of dishes, coins, according to which it was determined that it existed already in the 4th century AD. There was always a brisk trade, crafts flourished, including one of the rare – the extraction of dye from sea snails.
Every citizen in Aperlai considered it his duty to build himself a stone tomb in the form of a sarcophagus during his lifetime. The building looked the more magnificent, the richer and more notable its owner was.
Coins were minted in the city, and the inscription APR was put on them. The ruins of ancient buildings have been preserved in the city, among them:
- parts of the city wall;
- next to the shore – the building of the city council;
- in the north of the city – a watchtower and a Christian church;
- on the coastal part there are tanks for storing fresh water.
As a result of several major earthquakes, part of the city was submerged.
Underwater (sunken city)
Four ancient cities are buried under the water column of Kekova Island:
Yachts and boats that bring tourists here are equipped with a transparent bottom. Through it, you can calmly view sunken buildings and houses, interiors, columns, arches, stairs, fragments of statues, remains of cobbled streets. Clear local waters also contribute to this.
And there is something to see! The entire coastline of the island is dotted with ancient artifacts that survived the earthquakes. At the bottom, you can see pieces of broken amphorae and jugs in which olive oil and wine were kept. Carved Christian crosses are visible on the walls of the houses.
- The sunken city of the island of Kekova: a detailed description of how to get there
- Artemis, the goddess of hunting, fertility and all living things, was considered the patroness of the city of Peace. Therefore, her images were minted on the coins.
- Mira is considered the birthplace of the Christmas and New Year tradition of bringing gifts.
- Demre previously had the name Kale and at different times was under the rule of the Romans, pirates, Persians.
- There is a monument to Santa Claus near the Basilica of St. Nicholas.
- It is believed that the sarcophagus, where the relics of St. Nicholas were previously kept, brings healing of ailments, and unmarried girls get a quick marriage.
- The island of Kekova is uninhabited due to the lack of drinking sources.
- In Simena, on the top of the island, there is a small ancient theater with 300 seats.
What’s interesting for kids?
The whole excursion is an immersion in antiquity, touching the ancient culture and customs of the peoples who lived here. Therefore, it will be interesting for teenage children, especially for those who are fond of ancient monuments, ruins, not indifferent to the history of ancient states.
Children are incredibly interested in sailing on a boat and looking through the transparent bottom of the evidence of a long bygone era. And if the excursion is supplemented with an interesting and exciting story about what he saw, then it is easy to kindle a genuine interest in the study of history in a young soul.
The trip will tire very young children. There is no suitable entertainment for them during this excursion, and viewing the ancient ruins and sunken cities is not of interest to them.
What to pack and other helpful tips
In order for the excursion to remain in your memory only as pleasant memories, you need to take care of some things in advance and take them with you. You will definitely need:
- money at the rate of $ 100 per person for additional services and the purchase of souvenirs;
- headdress from the scorching sun;
- sunscreens for the skin;
- swimsuit and towel;
- photo camera and video camera;
- snack in the absence of food included in the excursion.
When going on an excursion, you need to make sure that you have comfortable shoes on your feet, and your body is as close as possible to the sun, since most of the time is spent by tourists in the open air.
Demre – Myra – Kekova – a rich excursion, a day long. During this day, it is easy to immerse yourself in the ancient era – to see ancient ruins under the water column, in the rocks – carved tombs that look like temples or houses, visit the amphitheater, touch the burial place of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker.