One of the best and most unusual ways to explore the calm, undiscovered coastline of ancient Lycia is by sea kayak. So, roll up your sleeves and get paddling!
First days: Poseidon's beard
Our journey began in Kas, known as Habesos to the Lycians and Antiphellos to the Greeks. We spent our first day brushing up our paddling skills around the peninsulas and islands of the Kas Archipelago. We also visited the ruins of a small Byzantine chapel inside a cave. We spent our first night at a campsite on the shore of Bayındır Bay near the necropolis of the ancient town of Sebeda.
After a good night's sleep, we headed off early in the morning towards İnönü Cove. As the breeze picked up in the afternoon, we put up our sails. After setting up camp in İnonu Cove, we spent the afternoon snorkelling, walking along the Lycian Way, swimming or just relaxing. If you are lucky, you might see one of some estimated 200 remaining Mediterranean monk seals or a sea turtle. Sailors used to compare the jagged coastline to the curls in Poseidon's beard.
The next day, we set off for the unexcavated ancient city of Aperlae. This 2400-year-old settlement housed 1000 people from the 4th to the 6th century BC. Some of the ruins aresubmerged, most probably due to an earthquake some 2000 years ago. Aperlae is home to one of two underwater churches in Turkey. Its marble columns and paved floor are still intact. This church is thought to have served as a stopover for pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land in the 4th to 7th centuries AD. Many baths were built in the town during the Roman period. As you wander through the ruins, you will see piles of the shells of murex (a kind of mollusc) that were used to make Tyrian or Royal purple dye.
Watching the past under water
After a quick breakfast the next morning, we made our way via the Sicak Peninsula narrows to Kekova Sound. After a break at the Tersane Cove to the west of Kekova Island, we passed by Dolikhiste, another submerged town and contemporary of Aperlae. This route brings you to Ücagiz, or the ancient town of Teimiussa. As you row past Teimiousa, make sure to look at the underwater ruins. Once a sleepy fishing village, Ucagiz is now teeming with tourists. Ucagız (three mouths) is set amidst two bays and channel which give it its name.
From Ucagız, we headed east to Simena (Kalekoy), the most beautiful Lycian city, and checked into our pension. The nearby castle was used as a base by the Knights of Saint John (Malta) in the Middle Ages and later by the Ottomans. Even today, Simena can only be reached on foot or by sea.
The last day: St Paul's ship
On the morning of our last day, we continued our voyage westwards. We passed through Hamidiye Bay, named after a WWI battleship. Our first stops were the islands of Kisneli and Asırlı, home to a large sea cave once inhabited by pirates. Next, we stopped for a break at the beautiful Gokkaya Bay. Here, you can wander around the nearby ruins of the ancient settlement of Istlada.
Our final destination was Andriake (Çayagzi), which served as the port of the town of Myra (Demre). The strong current of the river prevented the port from silting up until the Byzantine era. Myra is most famous as the home of St Nicholas, more commonly known as Santa Claus or Father Christmas. St Nicholas served as a bishop here in the 4th century and was known as the protector of children and sailors. In 61 AD, the ship that brought the Apostle Paul to Rome for his last visit anchored here to wait for better winds.
Located between Finike and Kas, Myra was one of the most important cities among the other six Lycian cities. It was settled in the 5th century BC and was abandoned in the 9th century AD after the Arab invasion. Demre is now an inland city. After returning to the shore at the Kokar Harbour, we visited the ruins of Myra and the St Nicholas Church. At the end of four tiring days, we made our way to our hotel in Kas.
By The Gate Magazine
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Kayaking in ancient waters
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