Following traces of a sunken city: On the isle of Antalya’s Kekova

Kekova Island, an island connected to Demre District in Antalya and a historical and touristic region, has become a favorite for tourists outside of Türkiye especially in recent years, with its unique bays and clear azure sea Water wins hearts.

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At the end of our boating holiday in Kekova last summer, which I described in detail in my last article, this region was already back on our list.

Kekova Island offers travelers unique accommodation options. In addition to daily boat tours, you can choose to stay overnight on a boat instead of a hotel.

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The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

From many different places in this region you can take boat tours on different routes.

The most popular of these is the Kekova Island Tour. Last summer we decided to do the Kekova Island Tour where we could see the famous sunken city and experience swimming in different ancient cityscapes in the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. To join this wonderful boat tour, you need to go to Kekova’s Üçağız port or Kaş in Kaş.

Those who want to join a daily tour can sign up with any agency based here during the day, but if you want to join a boat tour with accommodation, it’s better to book in advance to ensure a reservation.

To book a place, you can contact the agencies or individual captains of the boat tour via the web or Instagram and reserve in advance. We already arranged the tour we would be joining in July in June, but as the summer season ends in September you can find places easier in the fall. Try your luck before the end of September or October and be sure to live this wonderful experience.

Depending on the number of people, you also have boat rental options. For example, renting a boat with a group of friends you love for cheaper will make your vacation cheaper and more special. Depending on the number of people, boats of different sizes can be used for this purpose.

The sunrise near the coast of Kekova island, in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The sunrise near the coast of Kekova island, in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Last summer and during the pandemic, those reluctant to use common areas in hotels preferred these tours. In fact, there are very nice hotel alternatives in Kaş, which is near Kekova, but due to the rocky landscape of Kaş, there are not many natural beaches. For this reason, you can take a boat tour and swim in the wonderful bays that are easier to reach by sea. At the same time, thanks to these tours, you can see ancient ruins in Kekova, which is located on the historical Lycian Way.

Kekova Island, which has the clearest and most turquoise waters in Türkiye, is a great starting point for those who want to take a blue cruise. The island was separated from Üçağız and Kaleköy by large earthquakes in the past.

This created beautiful bays in this region.

Besides its beautiful bays, the island of Kekova is also a region where you can travel back in time through history.

Sunken City

It is known that the Lycian civilization founded a city and lived in the place where the ruins are today located off the coast of the island of Kekova. As a result of devastating earthquakes in the second century, the settlements were flooded.

The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Sunken City off the coast of Kekova Island in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Also the port of Kekova, one of the most important trading centers of Lycia, was flooded after the big earthquakes. Today it is called the sunken city because of these ancient ruins.

Boats can approach these ancient underwater ruins up to a certain distance. As they are a protected area, you can only view these ruins from afar. However, the water is so clear that the remains can easily be seen with the naked eye.

Apart from the underwater ruins, you will also see some ancient ruins of the city on the island. Stairs above and below the water, royal tombs, boathouses and remains of walls take you deep into history.

The region, where empires such as Rome and Byzantium flourished after the Lycian civilization, bears traces of history.

After the sunken city, the first stop is Tersane Bay, where the ruins of a Byzantine church are located.

Tersane Bay

The second stop of our blue cruise, which we started at 10am, was Tersane Bay.

This place draws a lot of attention as it is the only place near the sunken city where boats are allowed to dock. Especially here I recommend swimming with sea shoes because after swimming in the bay you might want to go ashore and see the church ruins here. The underwater ruins that you will see as you slide into the depths of the water are really interesting.

The Hamidiye Bay in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Hamidiye Bay in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

For this reason, you should definitely go diving or snorkeling in this turquoise bay, which was a shipbuilding area in Lycian times. Many parts of Kekova Island are protected from diving activities due to its historical value. You should definitely immerse yourself in the historical atmosphere of this bay, where there are underwater ruins so close to the sunken city.

Hamidiye Bay

Hamidiye Bay takes its name from an Ottoman Navy ship and is another place where you can swim in the depths of history.

The Ottoman Navy’s Hamidiye ship was hidden in this bay for two days during the Balkan Wars.

The Turkish flag drawn on a large rock in the bay is striking. Drawn and painted by soldiers in the past, this flag still serves as a reminder of the area’s deep history.

The Gokkaya Bay in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Gokkaya Bay in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Gokkaya Bay

Gokkaya Bay, which is very close to the Lycian ruins in the open sea and Üçağız Beach, is a bay where boats stop for lunch during the day and for accommodation at night.

At the same time, since it is the largest bay on the island of Kekova and boats can find shelter in any weather, boats prefer to stay here overnight.

We stayed here on the boat. This bay, which has very clear and clean water for swimming during the day, was fairly calm and peaceful for overnight stay.

The Kaleköy settlement in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Kaleköy settlement in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Kalekoy or Simena

You will witness the traces of history in this village, known in ancient times as Simena and today as Kaleköy. As an additional step in preserving the site, it will be closed to vehicular traffic and placed under protection. The castle at the top of the village and the royal tombs in various places are some of Kaleköy’s most important historical treasures.

Although it is a great experience to hike up to the castle and experience the wonderful view, it is also worth enjoying the view of Kaleköy from the boat.

The Pirate Cave in Antalya, Türkiye.  (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

The Pirate Cave in Antalya, Türkiye. (Photo by Özge Şengelen)

Arriving by boat, a scenic landscape view you will never forget greets you, lowered from the hill, interwoven with history, reminiscent of an oil painting.

Apart from that, in Kekova, which is famous for its sunken city, Üçağız, Kaleköy and numerous bays, I recommend you to visit and swim at Burç Bay, Aquarium Bay, Çamlık Bay and Pirate Cave.

To fully experience Kekova, you need to spend at least three to five days here.

If you are not looking for an active, crowded and noisy vacation, be sure to visit Kekova for a three-five-day break from living in the mystery of a sunken city, on the trail of history, in the lap of the deep azure sea and under the luminous blue sky.

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