There are many fascinating historical sites to visit around Kalkan. Immerse yourself in an area full of rich culture and history.
Saklikent (Hidden City) Gorge is the second largest in Europe. At 20km long, and the deepest in Turkey, this gorge is located about an hours drive away from Kalkan. The nature is spectacular with sheer walls towering high above you. The best time to visit is in summer, when the canyon offers cool and shade from the summer sun and the water levels are at their lowest, sometimes only ankle deep.
There are several small restaurants set up in and around the gorge, and it is a great experience to relax on one of the Turkish rugs provided with a nice, cool beer and watch the rushing waters pass below. The gorge is open from the beginning of April to the end of September. It is advisable to wear shoes that you don’t mind getting wet as your feet may get a bit of a soaking, but there are shoes to hire before you enter the gorge. There are guides available to assist you, but please be aware that they will want payment for their knowledge!
One of the oldest and largest settlements in Lycia, and located 4km northwest from Saklikent, Tlos was one of the few Lycian cities to continue its existence through the 19th century, and was once one of the six main Lycian cities. The city was home to a magnificent stadium which has a seating capacity for 2500 people. There are also two bath houses, gymnasium and market hall. For history enthusiasts, you can find several Lycian sarcophagi and rock tombs here, including the Tomb of Bellerophon. This tomb features the Greek mythological hero Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus.
Kekova and the sunken city of Simena
Kekova Island and the town of Kaleköy make a fascinating day trip for anyone looking for culture as well as sun and relaxation. The ancient sunken city of Simena originally formed two areas – an island and a coastal section of the mainland. On the mainland you will find the quaint fishing village of Kaleköy (‘castle village’), where homes sit among ancient, medieval buildings. Kaleköy is presided over by the well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes. You can see the smallest amphitheatre in Lycia in here, and although it is a bit of a trek to reach the top, the views you are rewarded with are well worth the effort.
Across the bay, you will see the partly submerged ruins of the residential part of Simena, destroyed by the catastrophic earthquakes in the 2nd century AD. The sight of houses and staircases descending into the sea are both eerie and silently beautiful. The best way to reach this amazing place is to drive to the village of Üçagiz, where you can pick up the glass-bottom boat tour. This will take you initially to Kaleköy and then on to the sunken city of Simena.
Myra and the Church of St Nicholas
Myra makes up one of the main cities within the Lycian Union and is believed to date as far back as 5BC. The remains of this ancient site lie approximately 1.5km north of Demre, on the Kaş-Finike Road. In Roman times, Myra was situated on the sea and its port saw St Paul change ships on his way to Rome in around 60AD. By the turn of the 11th century, Myra was mostly abandoned, due to flooding, earthquakes and Arab raids. Although this ancient city is predominantly buried underground today, it is still well known for its impressive mphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the rock tombs which sit in the cliff above the theatre.
The Church of St Nicholas is a must-see for anyone who loves Santa Claus! Famous for his ‘miracles’ and kindness, legend has it that St Nicholas threw bags of gold down a chimney for three sisters who were facing a life of destitution. This legend led to the ‘birth’ of Santa Claus. Located just a short distance from Myra, the Church of St Nicholas is home to some beautiful marble mosaic floor tiling, and there are also some remains of wall paintings. More recently archaeologists believe they have discovered the tomb of St Nicholas himself under the remains of the church.
The town of Pinara (formerly known as Pinale) dates its origins back to the 5th century. Its population grew as inhabitants of Xanthos settled here, having fled their own city when it became overpopulated. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great conquered Pinara, Xanthos and Patara and evidence of tombs from this time can still be seen today. Along with the theatre, which dates back to the 2nd century BC, this city remains wonderfully untouched. Surrounded by fragrant pine forests, ancient olive groves and situated in a beautiful mountain setting, this wonderful town offers stunning views over Xanthos valley. You can reach Pinara from the main highway (D400) between Kalkan and Fethiye
Xanthos was the capital city of the Lycian Federation, and was regarded its greatest city for the majority of Lycian history. Steeped in history, this fascinating place is full of interesting features including an outstanding amphitheatre, the ruins of a temple thought to be dedicated to Artemis, the Harpy Tomb, the Pillar tomb and a recently excavated Roman-Byzantine street. Enjoying independence up until 545 BC, Xanthos was besieged by the Persian army, whereupon the townsfolk decided to either take their own lives, or fight to the death, which they did. It was attacked again in 42 BC by Brutus, who left only 150 surviving inhabitants.
British explorer Charles Fellows visited Xanthos during the 19th century and took the majority of his finds back to England, where they can still be seen today in the British Museum. Although widely acknowledged as dating back to the 8th century BC, there are reasons to believe the settlement could in fact date back to the Bronze Age, or the first centuries of the Iron Age. Located near the village of Kınık, a trip to Xanthos is easily combined with visits to Letoon and Patara. Easily found by car, this beautiful site lies off the main highway and is well signposted.
Patara beach is a beautiful, long sandy stretch of coastline. In fact, it is the longest beach in the Mediterranean! Children of all ages can happily spend hours here, playing in the shallows, or soaking up the sunshine on the vast expanse of beach. It is possible to wade out quite far and still only be up to your knees in the water. A great place for the whole family voted one of the top beaches in the World. Whilst there, don’t miss the Patara ruins, which are steeped in history. Patara was not only the birthplace of St Nicholas (born circa 260-280 AD), bishop of Myra and the infamous ‘Santa Claus’, it was also the major naval and trading port of Lycia. Situated at the mouth of the Xanthos River, it was plagued by piracy and looted from the Arabian fleets. Patara’s population was sporadic, as these raids devastated the Lycian people. Reduced to the size of a village, Patara established itself as a naval base for the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century. Its port is thought to have been used at least until the 15th century, as the Sultan Cem signed a treaty here in 1478/9. Poverty was always present however, and with not enough manpower to maintain the harbour, the sand eventually buried much of this thriving settlement.
Today, a large part of Patara remains buried in the shifting sand dunes. One such building is the famous Temple of Apollo, but recent excavations have led to many exciting finds, including the discovery of the parliament building used by the elected representatives of the Lycian League. Semi-circular rows of stone seating and stone-vaulted entrances were freed from the tonnes of sand that had buried it. A throne-like seat was also unearthed, thought to be where the Lyciarch (President of the League) sat. Another fascinating find has been the remains of what is thought to be the oldest lighthouse in the world, nearly 2000 years old.
Bezirgan is an authentic working Turkish village and a whole world away from the experience of Kalkan. Life in this high mountain valley (yayla) has not changed much in the past 100 years, and its inhabitants live off the land, many following the same pattern as their ancestors.
There is plenty to see in Bezirgan and you can’t help feel relaxed as you are greeted by its friendly people who are full of Turkish hospitality. The village houses are full of charm and depending on the time of year you visit, you may get to see their animals being shorn, wool being processed, or planting for the next harvest taking place. The rich soil found there provides fertile land for the villagers and lush grazing for their livestock.
You are free to walk around the village and observe their daily routine, and you may even find yourself envying their simplistic, slower pace of life! There is much to be said for enjoying the simple pleasures, and as you sit outside one of the tea houses, and watch the local men play backgammon or dominoes as you sip your tea, you will be drawn into this charming, simple world.
Mountain trout farm – Islamlar
Located around 15/20 minutes from Kalkan, in the mountain village of Islamlar, you will find several restaurants offering fresh trout reared in pools of clean mountain water. The trout is delicious and the mountain setting offers a welcome respite from the summer heat.