The ancient city of Simena, sunk into the sea off Kekova.
You will be intrigued by the ruins of the ancient city submerged in the sea, just off the coast of the island of Kekova. You can see its undersea walls and ruins on the land with ancient stair steps.
Kekova is an island on the Lycian coast, in the province of Antalya.
It is famous for its 2,400-year-old town of Simena, which sank into the sea after an earthquake, and for the restaurants in Kaleköy, a tiny settlement with only 18 residents.
The trips to Kekova and Kaleköy start from the small port of Ücagiz.
Ücagiz is a small Turkish village. There are only a few old houses, a mosque and the harbour. The entire settlement still exists, mainly from the excursion buses that arrive every day.
In Ücagiz, you can already spot a few tell-tale remains of ancient Simena. To the east of the harbour, old Lycian stone sarcophagi are placed on a hill. They once belonged to the Simena necropolis.
The urban area of Simenas was located between Ücagiz, Kaleköy and the north coast of Kekova.
Arrival by ship to Simena and Kekova
The rear side of the castle above the village of Kaleköy can be seen from the far-off port in Ücagiz. The boats leave the harbour in this direction. On the way, you will pass a 20 by 10 meter island. It used to be an elevated area in the urban area of Simena. Today, it is one of the few city points that still protrudes from the water.
The fateful earthquake took place in the 10th century. The island must have been one of the highest points in the city before the earthquake struck, causing Simena to disappear up to 60 meters below the surface of the water. For me, it symbolises of the strength of the quake at that time.
After you pass the small island, it will take another five minutes to get to the port of Kaleköy. The small village is built on a peninsula that used to be part of Simena.
From the harbour, you can see parts of the city walls which is now underwater. Just left of the harbour is a stone sarcophagus which is also in the water. It is one of the most popular postcard motifs from the Kekova/Simena region.
Kaleköy is only inhabited because of tourism. There are more guest beds than residential homes in the small village. And to be honest, they are pretty expensive for Turkey. An overnight stay without food costs more than 90 euros in Kaleköy. The restaurants are not cheap either. A normal lunch here is more expensive than you’ll find in UK.
Stay on the island of Kekova or in Simena?
Where should you sleep? Well, it all depends on which tour you have booked. Typically, excursions to Kekova / Simena are organised in combination with the ruins of Myra usually with no stopover for dinner in Kaleköy.
That’s why ships usually stop only briefly in the harbour so you can catch a glimpse of the small village from a distance.
From Kaleköy, you’ll drive another kilometre to the north side of Kekova. The boats come pretty close to the coast. They are usually only five to ten meters away from Kekova.
On the coast, you can see stairs and walls that have been carved into the stone. Some of them have also been bricked up standing on land, in the water or visible from under the surface of the water.
Diving, snorkelling and swimming is not allowed on Kekova’s coast. To be honest, that annoys me every time. The small bays along the island look too tempting. Still, I can understand the ban. In the past, divers often took items with them from the ocean floor.
The diving ban also has other reasons. The island and the surrounding marine area (an area of 260km² ) has been under environmental protection for several years.
So that you can still see what else lies on the sea floor, the excursion boats have a transparent glass plate on the underside of the ship’s hull. Through them, you can see what is happening below the ship. This is only possible when it stops. The water bubbles that form while driving obstruct the view through the glass.
On the coast of Kekova, the ships stopped a few times to give passengers the opportunity of looking straight down into the water. Unfortunately, I was unable to take any good photographs.
You will see remains of vases, plates, remains of walls and various other objects scattered along the seabed.
The ships stop for a brief swim a little ways away from Kekova. In the crystal clear water, you can see some interesting things underwater. Sometimes you even come across a sea turtle. Under no circumstances should you take items with you from the ocean floor. There are strict laws with lengthy prison sentences for taking cultural objects from Turkey!
Your trip to the island
Excursions to Kekova may be booked from all tourist locations on the south coast. They are mostly combined with a visit to the ruins of Myra and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre of Saint Nicholas of Myra.
An excursion can be booked with your tour guide in the hotel, one of the local tour operators or you can order a tour online with Get your guide.