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The Kekova region was declared a specially protected area in 1990 to protect the natural, cultural and geographic richness of the Kekova Islands. Kekova is a spot that is like heaven on earth.

The Kekova area is 260 sq km and is managed by the Turkish Ministry of Environment. Simena is a popular Lycian site, situated upon one of the most attractive spots of the Turkish coast.

The name Kekova is Turkish for "plain of thyme" and describes the region encompassing the island of Kekova, the villages of Kalekoy and Ucagiz and the three ancient towns of Simena, Teimussa and Tersane (meaning "dockyard", as its bay was the site of an ancient dockyard, with mostly Byzantine ruins).

Both Simena and Teimussa have a large necropolis. Teimussa is now the village of Ucagiz where boats set off for cruises of the area. Simena is an enjoyable place to visit for its great beauty and charm. For this reason, it is popular with Blue Cruises along Lycia's Turquoise Coast.

One first encounters the Sicak Peninsula at the end of which are two islands: Toprakada and Karaada. Kekova island stretches out from here and it is because of this island that the whole area is called Kekova. Passing among the islands and arriving at Kekova, the safest anchorage is Üçagiz, which is a good, all-round harbor. Other places may be used for short periods during visits. At Kekova, history and nature have merged and become inseparable. Such ancient cities are Aperlai, Kekova, Simena, and Theimussa are to be found in the vicinity.

Aperlai is located on the Sicak Peninsula, near the Sicak jetty. A Lycian city, Aperlai's history is known from coins bearing its name that have been discovered and go back to the 4th or 5th centuries BC. Aperlai was the head of the Lycian Confederacy, of which Simena and Apollonia were also members. The city walls begin at the seashore and are fortified with towers at intervals. These walls, with their rectangular and polygonal construction, are from Roman times: Other remains at Aperlai are all from the Byzantine and later periods. The western reaches of the wall are of rectangular construction. There are three gates in this wall, two of which have a plain and the third a blind archway. The southern reaches of the walls are of polygonal construction and in a bad state of repair. This side is reinforced with two towers and it is here that the main gate was located. Outside the walls are typical Lycian sarcophagi from Roman times.

From inscriptions that have been found, it is known that the history of the ancient city of Simena goes back to the 4th century BC If you go ashore via the jetty next to the sarcophagus on the seashore and climb the hill behind the houses, you will reach the castle of Simena. This castle was used during the Middle Ages. In the medieval walls of the inner keep are a few blocks of all that remains of an ancient temple. Inside the castle is a small natural theater carved into the rock. This is the smallest of the theaters among the cities of Lycia. West of the theater there are rock tombs here and there. Above the rock tombs is a Roman wall built of dressed stone and located on the wall are late period embrasures thus giving one a glimpse of three eras simultaneously. On the shore are the ruins of public baths whose inscription is still legible and reads "A gift to the emperor Titus made by the people and council of Aperlai as well as by the other cities of the confederation." Looking from the castle towards Üçagiz it becomes clear how beautiful and safe a natural harbor this really is.

Simena, or Kaleköy, its present day name, is only a temporary shelter however. The actual shelter for yachts is Theimussa (Üçagiz), a landlocked bay surrounded by green hills. There is a road overland that leads here. The ruins of the ancient city of Theimussa are located here. Very little is known about the history of the city however. One inscription indicates that its history goes back to the 4'th century BC One sees mostly the ruins of a necropolis here and no city walls or other major structures have been encountered. The oldest sarcophagus is from the 4th century BC and is shaped like a house. Over it is the nude portrait of a young man. The inscription tells us that it belongs to "KIuwanimiye". The work is Roman and a later addition to the sarcophagus.

One may reach Kekova overland from Demre Çayagzi as well as in boats that you can rent at Kas. After leaving Kekova you pass Kiseli Island and Asirli Island and come to Gökkaya Harbor. Gökkaya is a beautiful bay and a fine harbor. On the way is a big sea cave that was used at one time by pirates. From here one comes to Çayagzi, also called Kokar Bay, alongside of which are the ruins of Andraki. There are restaurants and souvenir shops and from here one may take a car to Myra, the city of St. Nicholas, which is quite close. This is also a place from which one may visit other Lycian cities such as Isinda at Belenli, Apollonia at Kilinçli, Istlada at Kapakli, Kyaenai at Yavu, and Trysa and Sura at Gölbasi. The area is also filled with thousands of Lycian sarcophagi lying everywhere.

Partial excerpt from Burak Sansal's All About Turkey

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