Demre is a Turkish Mediterranean town in Lycia. The town is among those claiming to be the hometown of Santa Claus yet there are no reindeers around and it hardly ever snows, but indeed as ancient Myra it was the residence of Saint Nicholas, an early bishop known for his generosity, and usually thought to be the historical inspiration for Santa.
Myra was already a major Lycian city in the centuries preeceding the birth of Jesus. Indeed it was one of the few which had three votes in the Lycian League, an assembly of ancient city states dotting these shores.
St Nicholas served as its bishop in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.
In 1987, the officials in Ankara decided that the area had a population large enough to be declared a district. For its seat, they merged two nearby villages: Eynihal, from Aya Nikola, the Turkified form of the original Greek name for St Nicholas, centred around his church, and a couple kilometres north of it, Demre, likely deriving its name from the adjacent Lycian ruins. Perhaps in an effort to remain on neutral ground between either name, they decided to christen the new district rather bland Kale, "citadel". Since Turkey has lots of those, postage — even official — kept getting forwarded to the wrong "citadels", so in 2005, they finally renamed the town to Demre; apparently that name somehow has stuck better than Eynihal, which lives on in the name of a major thoroughfare and various businesses in the town.
Demre lies on highway D400, which connects Fethiye in the west with Antalya in the east along the Lycian coast. Many buses running between towns along this highway connect Demre with Kalkan, Kaş, Finike, and Olympos among others.
A bus from the Olympos junction will cost you 15 TL (March 2016).
The Lycian Way, a way-marked hiking trail connecting Fethiye with Antalya, also passes through Myra, just north of Demre.
The sights of Demre are in easy walking distance of each other.
- 1 St Nicholas Church (Aziz Nikolaos Müzesi, Noel Baba Kilisesi). The main attraction of the town is the church of St Nicholas. Born in nearby Patara, he preached for most of his life in Myra. He had a reputation for protecting the poor, and giving away presents secretly, which is perhaps why the Santa Claus legend is based on him. After initial entombment in a chapel on Gemile Island near Fethiye to the west for three centuries, his relics were later brought to his episcopal church. In an episode of denominational friction, Italian sailors took them to Bari in the 11th century, despite the objections of the Greek Orthodox monks present. His desecrated sarcophagus is still within the church. 150 TL (€10).
- 2 Myra. The Lycian ruins are just outside the modern town. However, most artefacts are stagged around the site and thus the whole thing is kind of incomplete. It requires much more archaeological work. Also, the St. Nicholas Church in the city is not included in the ticket. Thus, it is probably not worth the trip or entrance, except for maybe the hill of tombs. Check the pictures before deciding to go. 75 TL (€5).
Climb up to the castle. The track is not marked well and is harder to follow on the way down. If you go up for the sunset, make your way down quickly afterwards.
There is a Carrefour supermarket beside the bus station.
- Ipek, Gökyazı, ilkokul 3. Sokak 4. Good menu of tasty local traditional food.
Kent Pansion is 1.4 km (0.87 mi) from the bus station and 500 m from Myra. Basic rooms. Price for a single person including breakfast is 50 TL (March 2016).
- Hotel Kekova, Gökyazı. Single room 250l (May 2022).
The town's telephone code is (+90) 242, which it shares with the rest of Antalya Province (i.e., eastern Lycia, and Pamphylia).
|Routes through Demre|
|Marmaris ← Kaş ←||W E||→ Finike → Antalya|
|Fethiye ← Kaş ← Üçağız (Kekova) ←||W E||→ Goncatepe → Finike → Antalya|