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Demre is a town in Lycia on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with a population of 27,700 in 2022. It stands over the ruins of ancient Myra, where Saint Nicholas was bishop in the 4th century AD. His legendary generosity gave rise to the tradition of Santa Claus.



The city of Myra stood in a valley on the Lycian coast, well established by the 4th century BC and remaining important through Roman and Byzantine times. The Hellenistic people of this coast were early adopters of Christianity: St Nicholas was born in nearby Patara in 270 AD and was bishop of Myra until his death in 343. In later years the valley silted up, so the harbour was lost, and Myra sank into obscurity and river mud.

Eastern Christendom attached legends to St Nicholas, many describing his generosity, but he was little known in the west until 1078. Then a gang stole most of his bones from Myra and took them home to Bari, where they remain. Bari was a stop-off for Crusaders going to and from the Levant, and so his fame spread, and another gang from Venice stole smaller bones that the Bari raiders hadn’t bothered with.

17th century Europe had a tradition of giving gifts on 6 Dec, feast-day of St Nicholas, but the Lutherans shifted this to Christmas. In Holland his name was garbled as Sinterklaas, and Dutch settlers took him to the United States. There he was anglicised as Santa Claus, acquired his reindeer and sleigh, put on weight, and was said to live at the North Pole. He often wore green until the 20th century decked him in red. Thus began a new era of pilgrimage, with crowds flocking to the shrines of retail in the weeks before Christmas, and cheap aviation launched package tours to several places in the far north where he and his helpers and reindeer might live.

In 2005 the township of Demre was created by merging two villages, and the mayor had the bright idea of replacing the statue of St Nicholas with that of Santa. More recognisable, he said. There were howls of protest and in 2008 Santa was ejected, but it was enough to put Demre on the tour bus circuit. Many parents think it well worth the trip to see the ashen looks on their children’s faces, and stifling of expectations of presents, when shown Santa’s tomb.

Get in


Demre lies on highway D400, which follows the coast from Fethiye in the west to Antalya and away east.

Long-distance buses (eg from Istanbul or Izmir) don't call here. Change in Fethiye for dolmuşes heading along D400 to Kalkan, Kaş, Demre and Finike.

Demre Otogarı the bus station is central in town, 200 m south of St Nicholas and 300 m north of the D400 intersection.

Get around


Ancient Myra is walking distance from the bus station. Take a dolmuş or taxi for Andriake and Çayağzı Beach, for boats to Kekova.


  • 1 St Nicholas Church (Aziz Nikolaos Müzesi, Noel Baba Kilisesi), Andrey Karlov Cd, +90 242 871 6820. Daily 08:30-20:30. St Nicholas was bishop of an early church on this site, rebuilt in 520 AD. He died in 343 and lay for 300 years in a chapel on Gemile Island, then his relics were brought here. The church was again rebuilt in the 8th century and in the 11th added a monastery, but the monks were unable to stop the relics being stolen away to Bari in 1087. Under Seljuk Turkish rule the church was disused and filled with mud, until restored and modified in 1862 under the aegis of Tsar Alexander II. It then served the town's Orthodox Greeks until they were deported in the 1923 population exchanges. Adult 600 TL. St. Nicholas Church, Demre (Q3671440) on Wikidata St. Nicholas Church, Demre on Wikipedia
  • Demre Merkez Cami the central mosque is a boxy concrete building of 1969. It's 100 m east of St Nicholas Church.
  • 2 Myra. Daily 08:00-17:00. This is the main group of ruins of ancient Myra, with an amphitheatre, an eastern and western necropolis of rock tombs, a bathhouse and Byzantine chapel. The acropolis is only worth hiking up to for the view. Adult 600 TL. Myra (Q652024) on Wikidata Myra on Wikipedia
  • 3 Nymphaeum was a holy fountain and shrine. Many ruins around Demre can be called "scrappy" but this one along D400 is next to a car scrapyard and general dump.
  • 4 Andriake, Büyükkum. Daily 08:30-17:30. This was the port for Myra: St Paul and his fellow captives changed ship here in 59 / 60 AD on their way to trial in Rome. There's the foundations of a couple of baths and churches, a synagogue, cistern and granary. Other structures lie here and there outside the ticketed area around the wetland that was once an inlet of the sea. Adult 90 TL.
  • 5 Soura is the remains of an oracle of 4th century BC by the highway west of town. The site is free to access and overgrown, wear stout shoes
  • 6 Yukari Beymelek Kalesi is the stump of a fortress from 2nd century BC.
  • 7 Kekova is an uninhabited island sometimes visited by boat trips. On its north coast are the sunken ruins of ancient Dolikisthe, destroyed by the earthquake of 141/2 AD. Boats can't anchor and no swimming or snorkeling is permitted. They allow kayaks but you don't see much.
  • Simena was an ancient port on the mainland opposite Kekova, likewise destroyed and partly submerged by the earthquake. The village of Kaleköy has covered most of it, but there's a Lycian necropolis and a Byzantine castle on the hill. Kaleköy can be reached on foot from the roadhead 1 km northeast, but is usually visited on boat trips to Kekova.
  • 8 Teimiussa was a similar port. A collection of Lycian sarcophagi stand on rough ground along the coast east of the village of Üçağız. The road through the village continues east to end near Kaleköy.
  • See Kaş for sights further west, such as Cyaneae, Oninda and Aperlai.


Lycian rock tombs at Myra
  • Sülüklü Beach southwest corner of town is long and sandy, but has no facilities such as rest rooms. The name means "leech" but you won't be infested.
  • Çayağzı Beach is 500 m west of Andriake ruins. It's silty sand and you may encounter turtles. Boat trips for Kekova start from the small marina.
  • Lycian Way is a long-distance hiking trail from Fethiye to the hills above Antalya. Eastbound the local section approaches from Kaş via Apollonia and Aperlae. From there it follows the coastal hills to Üçağız and Demre, the last accommodation until you reach Finike 30 km away, so you need a tent or sleeping bag for two nights.


  • Five small supermarkets are in the block around the bus station.


  • A dozen eating places cluster between the bus station and St Nicholas, including Pizza Bella, Ekrem Çoşkun Döner, Komagene Çiğköfte, Kismet, Gaziantep, Şişci Hacı and Ipek.
  • Ipek, Kolcular Sk (just north of bus station.), +90 242 871 5448. Daily 08:00-23:00. Good traditional food.


  • Cafes serve alcohol.


Sarcophagi at Teimiussa
  • Camping: a dozen sites are strung along the highway and coast. Good reviews are earned by Myra Park Beach 5 km east, Andriake Camping 3 km west and Arif’in Yeri Demre Camping 3 km north.
  • 1 Winecity Hotel, Cumhuriyet Cd 1. Central but basic place, noisy from the highway. B&B double 2500 TL, cash only.
  • Kıyak Hotel, Finike Cd (across highway from Winecity), +90 242 871 2092. Basic but comfortable. B&B double 1500 TL.
  • Bayraktar Konağı, Topkaya Cd 19 (100 m northeast of church), +90 530 600 0432. Friendly family-run apartment hotel. B&B double 1500 TL.
  • 2 Grand Hotel Kekova, Mustafa Masatlı Cd 35, +90 242 871 4515. Basic but usually clean. B&B double 1500 TL.



As of June 2024, Demre and the coast road have 4G from all Turkish carriers. 5G has not rolled out in Turkey.

Go next

  • Kınık west has the ruins of Xanthos and Letoon.
  • Patara on the coast below Kınık is another ancient city, the birthplace of St Nicholas. Turtles nest on its long sandy beach.
  • Finike to the east is a harbour resort with more Lycian ruins.

Routes through Demre
MarmarisKaş  W  E  FinikeAntalya
FethiyeKaş ← Üçağız (Kekova) ←  W  E  → Goncatepe → FinikeAntalya

This city travel guide to Demre is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.