Sunken City Kekova, Simena and Myra/Demre

Sunken City of Kekova and Simena & Myra/Demre

Kekova & Simena

Simena is a popular Lycian site, situated in one of the most attractive spots on the Turkish coast. The name "Kekova" is Turkish for "plain of thyme" and describes the region encompassing the island of Kekova, the villages of Kaleköy and Üçağiz and the three ancient towns of Simena, Teimussa and Tersane (meaning "shipyard", as its bay was the site of an ancient shipyard, with mostly Byzantine ruins).  Both Simena and Teimussa have a large necropolis. Teimussa is now the village of Üçağiz, where boats set off for tours of the area.

The Kekova region, which covers an area of 260km² was declared a Specially Protected Area in 1990 to protect the natural, cultural and geographic richness of Kekova Island and surrounding coast. 

The ancient Lycian sunken city of Simena is often referred to as Kekova-Simena. The city is a mix of ancient, medieval and modern and in ancient times Simena was a small fishing village, later an outpost of the Knights of Rhodes (formerly of St. John). 

The ancient city of Simena was split into two parts. On the mainland, the charming fishing village of Kaleköy ("castle village") stands today.  The top of the village is dominated by a well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes partially upon ancient Lycian foundations. Inside the castle is the smallest amphitheatre in Lycia. At the eastern end of the village is a Lycian necropolis with a cluster of some very nice sarcophagi overlooking the sea and surrounded by ancient olive trees.  Near the harbour of Kaleköy is another sarcophagus, popping up from the water.  

Across the bay, are the half-submerged ruins of the residential part of Simena, caused by the downward shift of land after a terrible earthquake in the 2nd century AD. Half of the houses are submerged and staircases descend into the water.  Foundations of buildings and the ancient harbour are also seen below the sea.

Myra / Demre

Demre is the modern-day town of the Lycian Myra. Myra was once one of the largest and most important cities of the Lycian Union, although there was no written evidence before the 1st century BC, to be of such a high ranking it must have been a major town for some time. It was however mentioned in the New Testament because St. Paul changes boats in the harbour on his way to his trial in Rome around 60AD. During the 4th century, Myra had an unprecedented impact on the life of the entire region, and in the 5th century, it was made the capital of the Lycia region. The religious significance of the city helped it a lot, the ancient city of Myra was considered as one of the centres of Christianity as well as the role of one of its citizens, Nicholas from Patara known in the Orthodox tradition as Saint Nicholas. 

The Myra ruins lie less than 2 km north of the centre of Demre. In addition to what was once the largest theatre in Lycia, and some of the best examples of the Lycian rock tombs, most of the ancient city of Myra still lies buried under about 18 feet of silt. The main necropolis is located west of the theatre and a second group of rock tombs called "River cemetery" lies on the slope of the mountain range on the right, the Lycians believed that the deceased should feel at home in their final resting place, so these tombs often represent the houses that they lived in.

The Church of St. Nicholas is the main attraction of the city. It is believed that the church was built in the 4th century AD as a basilica in the form of a cross but numerous Arab raids had almost completely destroyed the first temple so in 1043 the church was surrounded by a fortified wall thereby turning it into a monastery. In 1862 the church was renovated and despite the fact that the relics of the saint were taken by the Italians to Bari, the marble sarcophagus of Saint Nicholas was well preserved as well as the bishop's throne - the only one in the region. In 1963 the significant excavation and restoration of the small side domes was carried out and the remains of coloured mosaics and frescoes were discovered, and you can visit the church today.

By the 11th century, the town had been ravished by plagues, flooding and earthquakes and was mostly abandoned.