Kekova is a Mediterranean dream. This large area on Turkey’s western coastline includes the island of the same name as well as the Kaleköy and Üçağız villages, and the four ancient towns of Simena, Aperlae, Dolchiste and Teimiousse.
The small uninhabited Turkish island near Demre in the region of Antalya is a popular destination for travellers looking for a combination of sunshine, swimming, and fascinating historic ruins.
Kekova is also a very popular anchorage for yachters who enjoy an assortment of expansive turquoise seas and meandering relics. Its flagship attraction is the Sunken City – an underwater gateway to the past only accessible by boat.
There are many other places of interest worth visiting in Kekova, such as Pirates Cave, Simena Castle and Gökkaya Bay.
Kekova – A Lycian Jewel
Along the edge of Kekova island lies the fascinating half-submerged remains of a Lycian Sunken City and some remains from Byzantine times. The Sunken City offers a window to ancient civilisations and evokes visions of the legendary Atlantis.
The remains of buildings, staircases, and amphoras can be seen through the calm, translucent waters that cover them. During the Lycian period, most of Kekova Island submerged due to earthquakes, resulting in the underwater ruins we see today that are only accessible by boat.
The Kekova region was declared a Specially Protected Area in 1990 to protect the natural, cultural, and geographic richness of Kekova Island and the surrounding coast. Even though swimming is forbidden around the underwater ruins, gazing upon them and shooting photos is quite the experience.
The area has also been on the tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2000.
Dive Back in Time
Aside from the charming Sunken City in the sparkling turquoise waters, Kekova is famous for its countless coves and bays that make stunning snorkelling locations to enjoy the local marine life.
Pirate Cave offers the perfect swimming spot, and many boat tours make a stop here. Another popular spot is Gökkaya Bay, close to the coastal village of Üçağız. It is the largest bay in the region and offers a beautiful passage to Kekova.
Also known as Kaleköy today, Simena is a small traditional village that is another favourite destination on the Turkish yachting scene. It features a historic fortress – Simena Castle – at the top of a steep hill that offers breathtaking sweeping views of the blue sea and patchwork of islands.
The waterfront restaurants adorned with flowers, the tiny houses with terracotta roofs, and the narrow streets are also standouts in this idyllic village by the water. As for the fortress, it sits on the remains of another Lycian structure built by the Knights of Rhodes.
It’s a steep, tough climb to reach the top, but the pathway up is lined with shops and cafes where you rest when needed – you must try the ice cream!
If you have time, named after its ‘three mouths’ (exits) to the open sea, the village of Üçağız is 1km from Kaleköy, north of a small bay by the same name. With the ruins of ancient Teimioussa to the east, history-lovers should add this unusual site to their list.
Getting to Kekova
Kekova’s highlights are only possible by boat – Kaleköy is the only Mediterranean village in Turkey that is inaccessible by road.
You can get to Kekova by renting a boat or going on a boat trip from Demre (25 mins), Kaş, (2 hours) or Üçağız village (15 minutes). Many boats run trips from Kas, but the journey is much shorter from Çayagzi, the harbour of Demre.
Hiring a car is another excellent option as there are so many sites to explore within the 260km2 region, and free parking is available at departure harbours.
Kekova Top Tips
- Start early and skip the crowds. Tour boats full of day-trippers are becoming more common, but you can avoid the masses by heading out on your adventure early in the day
- Canoeing around the Sunken City is highly recommended to maximise your time to explore
- It is impossible to stay in every part of Kekova – for example, the island is uninhabited and can only be viewed by boat – but rooms can be rented in the local villages of Kaleköy and Üçağız for a modest price
Explore More of the Lycian Way
- Marvel at the sights of an early world in Phaselis
- Trek the Lycian Way– Potentially the Best Trekking Trail in Turkey
- Connect with nature at the Köprülü Canyon national park
- Stay at Limak Limra Family Hotel & Resort in Kiriş