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Kayaköy is a "ghost town" near Fethiye in Lycia, Turkey.

Understand[edit]

Abandoned houses of Kayaköy

Kayaköy, or Levissi as it was known to its former inhabitants, was a Greek-inhabited town until 1923, when, after the multinational Ottoman Empire drew to close, the governments of Greece and Turkey concluded on a population exchange to become nation states as much ethnically homogenous as possible on the basis of the Treaty of Lausanne. According to that treaty, all Greek Orthodox inhabitants of Turkey were to be exiled to Greece, while all Muslim inhabitants of Greece were to be exiled to Turkey in return. When the Greeks of Kayaköy left for Greece, Muslims from Greek Macedonia were settled in their place. However, the Macedonians who were used to large and fertile fields in their former land found this hilly and rocky area with little arable land unfit to live, and abandoned the place in favour of other regions. Decades of neglect in addition to the big earthquake of 1957 that shook the region hard has left Kayaköy what it is today.

In its heyday, Kayaköy was populated enough to support a local newspaper and several schools and stores, but today there is only a handful of natives living there, mostly in the neighbourhoods of 1 Keçiler and 2 Kınalı, on the flat ground respectively about 1.5 km north and 2 km west of the ghost town.

Get in[edit]

Kayaköy and its surroundings

Fethiye is the major hub of the region, and as such, is the point of entry for practically all travellers to Kayaköy. See Fethiye: Get in for options when approaching from out of the region.

  • There are fairly frequent minibuses (dolmuş) from Fethiye. They depart from the stops at the side of a mosque on the main street downtown. As well the bus can be caught next to the Carrefour SA store by the bus station. Minibuses run every hour starting at 7:00 and every 30 minutes from 9:00. There are also dolmuşes from Ölüdeniz, at least during the season.
  • A tarmac, albeit winding and somewhat narrow road links Kayaköy with Fethiye. Follow the brown "Kayaköy" signs from the town centre. Another, better maintained road connects the town with Hisarönü, which is on the highway between Fethiye and Ölüdeniz. Renting a motor-powered scooter and riding from Fethiye is a cheap and fun option on a sunny day — a short and beautiful trip over into the valley.
  • Hiking from Fethiye is also an option, thanks to a 8-km long cobbled, medieval path through the forest. It takes around three hours to walk this easy-ish track; see the "Fethiye-Kayaköy" section of the Lycian Way article for more details.

Get around[edit]

You'll mostly walk around. Disabled access may be impossible into the depths of the ghost town, due to rough surfaces and stairs.

See[edit]

The Upper Church

The ghost town of Kayaköy itself, including the partially ruined shells of hundreds of abandoned houses, is the main sight. Those not to be missed include the 1 old fountain which dates back to 1888 by the tarmac road, two abandoned churches (aptly dubbed 2 Yukarı Kilise and 3 Aşağı Kilise, respectively the upper and lower churches, dictated by their relative positioning), and the 4 hilltop chapel (about 20-min uphill walk from the lower church; follow the red dot marks on the ground), which provides a stunning view of the valley and the sea below, invisible from the town itself due to the ridge inbetween.

The lower church and the streets (or stairs to be more precisely) in its vicinity has been declared a museum by the Turkish Ministry of Culture with a ticket office in the entrance which require anyone passing through — whether they have the intention to check out the church or not — to buy a ticket which costs 20 TL (2022). You may freely pass during the early and late hours of the day when the office is unmanned without a ticket, though.

Afkule and Gemile[edit]

Gemile

8 km southwest of Kayaköy, the beach at 5 Gemile is accessible by a gravel road good enough for most conventional cars from Kınalı, about 2 km west of the ghost town, although there is no public transport heading there. There is also a hiking path which somewhat shortcuts the gravel road. The trail begins out of Kınalı, at where the road starts its winding descent towards the coast. Just off shore is 6 St Nicholas Island (Gemiler Adası in Turkish) with the ruins of a Byzantine chapel which dates back to the 4th century, likely where St Nicholas was originally interred (his relics were later moved to Myra, where he preached for most of his life, and later still to Bari in Italy).

Perhaps an even more rewarding site in the same direction is the monastery at 7 Afkule (also spelled Af Kule), clinging to the high cliffs over the sea, and affording really impressive views over the Gulf of Fethiye, as far away as Rhodes if the air is clear. This Greek Orthodox monastery is almost as sturdy as it was when abandoned in the 1920s, except its roof which collapsed in the meantime. To get there, you will need a short (about 3 km) but pretty demanding hike up and down along a trail, part of which, fortunately, is through a shaded pine forest. Expect to cover the distance in around an hour on foot. West of Kayaköy, leave the gravel road to Gemile at where the trail (a dirt track) to Afkule branches off, helpfully marked by yellow signs. At about midway through the trail (about 1 km away from where you started), you'll notice a branching track to the right: this is the wrong path, keep to the trail to the left instead. The trail ends in an open space; this serves as the carpark for those bringing along their cars. From here, take the wide track to the right, which is waymarked with the yellow&red markers common in the area. This will slowly ascent to the top of the cliff, about 1 km away from the carpark. Then the trail will descend down to the monastery, but be extremely careful in this section covered in loose gravel — stumbling has never been easier. Once you are in the monastery, you can further explore the lower stories of the complex (the church and the monk residences), but perhaps this is not for the fainthearted: this will require a very steep climb down with the full view of the high cliffs dropping all the way to the coast (a whopping 400 m just below your feet), so those with afraid of heights, do beware.

Do[edit]

  • Horseback riding is a popular activity in Kayaköy.
  • 1 Kayaköy Art Camp (Kayaköy Sanat Kampı), Kayaköy, +90-533-763-62-73 (mobile), . Offers two-week workshops on photography, pottery, painting, traditional carpet weaving, woodwork and the like in the ghost town setting; with the afternoons set aside for trips to nearby sites. Book in advance if you would like to stay in the guesthouse during the camp, otherwise you'll have to bring in your tent. €320/two weeks (if you bring your own tent), €390/two weeks (guesthouse rooms shared by two–three persons).

Hiking to Cold Water Bay[edit]

Not just for hiking but also for a dip in the sea, you can take the marked trail to 2 Cold Water Bay (Soğuksu Koyu), just south of the ghost town, but not as immediately noticeable due to the hills inbetween blocking the view. While it is not much more than a cove with a quite short stretch of pebble beach really, it is the nearest access to the sea from Kayaköy. If you've been in almost pork-free Turkey for a while, the restaurant with wild boar stew on the menu just behind the beach may also be worth the trip there.

The waymarks on this route are red dots. There are no signs but the dots are placed once every few metres, so it's impossible to get lost even if you wanted to.

The route starts from in front of the lower church and ascents towards the hilltop. To avoid the admission fee to access the area around the church, either start very early before the ticket office opens, or take a long detour around the part of the town that was declared museum (you can start by taking the path on the side of the old fountain). Take the small chapel on the very top hill as a bearing — you should be walking towards (but not straight to) it. Once you are clear off the house ruins, near the hilltop, there are two trails: One leading to the chapel, other descending towards the (now visible) sea. Both trails are signed with the same red dots so be careful. At this point, the trail begins descending on a volcanic-looking somewhat slippery surface between huge brown boulders. After passing a short level ground with some Mediterranean scrub, it again starts descending towards the sea, which the trail soon meets.

Buy[edit]

  • There is only one grocery store (market) in Kayaköy, on the side of the road past the church, and they don't accept credit cards. Don't expect to find an ATM in this place, either.

Eat[edit]

There are restaurants in and around the town, mainly between Keçiler and Kayaköy.

  • 1 Cinbal Restaurant, Kayaköy, +90 252 618-00-66, fax: +90 252 618-04-45, . An open air restaurant specialized in kebabs, in a large leafy garden — all under vine shade, which makes it at least a couple degrees cooler than the surroundings — with wooden gazebos at sides (which are best booked in advance). A kendin pişir kendin ye ("cook it yourself!")-type restaurant which serves fresh and good quality food, you are provided with a barbecue with some lit charcoals and grill your pirzola (lamb chops), which you order by weight (125-150 g/person is sufficient for most, if you have no idea how much to order or just let the friendly waiters help you) yourself, served in about 10 minutes after your order with green peppers and sliced onions. Those not willing to bother waiting for the barbecue should try tandır, slowly cooked lamb in an earthen oven. Vegetarians can try salads, various mezes, including cheese stuffed mushrooms, all of which should accompany tables of carnivores, too, anyway. Restaurant has a good selection of wines and raki. Sunsets are reported to be great, though remember to pack a mosquito repellent with you. Bookings may be necessary in weekends, when the place is highly popular among local families. Has a carpark. 30-50 TL pp.

Drink[edit]

You'll find a bar or two situated in the yards of the abandoned houses close to the church.

Sleep[edit]

There are guesthouses (pansiyon) in and out of the ghost town. There are also some bungalows which start from 20 TL a night.

Kayaköy can also be easily visited as a day trip while staying in the nearby towns of Fethiye or Hisarönü, both of which have a lot more options for accommodation.

Connect[edit]

The town is within the GSM coverage, despite its abandoned status.

Go next[edit]

Two marked hiking trails head out from Kayaköy (apart from the one that descends to Cold Water Bay): one descends from the upper church towards the shore and Ölüdeniz, while the other leads to Ovacık inland, north of Ölüdeniz, the trailhead of the Lycian Way.

Routes through Kayaköy
ENDFethiye  W Pictograms-nps-trailhead.svg E  Ovacık (Ölüdeniz)Antalya



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