The Story Behind the Sunken City of Kekova

EGCraggy cove, Kekova, near Kas, Lycia, Antalya Province, Mediterranean Coast, Southwest Turkey, Turkey, Asia
EGCraggy cove, Kekova, near Kas, Lycia, Antalya Province, Mediterranean Coast, Southwest Turkey, Turkey, Asia | © Stuart Black / Alamy Stock Photo
Feride Yalav-Heckeroth

Kekova is not only known for its gorgeous turquoise sea but also its ancient and mysterious sunken city. Every summer, visitors arrive on Gulet tours to look out over the water to see the remains of a once flourishing city now completely underwater with only a few remnants on land to speak of its existence.

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Kekova is a large region on Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline that includes the island of the same name as well as the Kaleköy and Üçağız villages. Since its inclusion in the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forest’s specially protected areas beginning in 1990, the region has become quite popular with visitors due to its stunning natural and cultural beauty. In fact, in the early 20th century, even the Italians were aware of Kekova’s worth when they fought for it; they eventually lost it to the Turks after the 1932 Convention between Italy and Turkey.

On the northern side of the island of Kekova, you’ll come across the underwater ruins of Dolchiste, an ancient Lycian settlement, which was partly overtaken by the sea due to an earthquake that occurred during the 2nd century. Even though Dolchiste was rebuilt and regained new life during the Byzantine era, the threat of Arabs in the region caused its inhabitants to abandon their town.

© Hercules Milas / Alamy Stock Photo

Only accessible by water, Gulet tours arrive here on a regular basis from Kaş, another very popular seaside town where nature still reigns unspoiled. Even though swimming is forbidden around the sunken ruins, gazing upon them and shooting some photos are quite the experience.

However, in Tersane Bay, visitors can swim and take a closer look at the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church, while Akvaryum Bay is also another perfect spot to take a dip in the clear waters. If you don’t want to reach Kekova by a boat tour from Kaş, you can also fly to Dalaman (the nearest airport) and stay in a modest pension in the Kaleköy or Üçağız villages. From there, the mysterious sunken town is accessible by renting a small boat or, the other more highly recommended option, renting canoes and really taking in the sights at your own pace.

Apart from the beautiful sunken city in the iridescent turquoise waters, Kekova is also famous for its countless coves and bays as well as the Kaleköy village with its historic fortress. The waterfront restaurants adorned with flowers, the small houses with terracotta roofs, and 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.

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