Kayakoy, also known as Karmylassos, is a unique and hauntingly beautiful village located in southwestern Turkey. Once a thriving community inhabited by Greek and Turkish families, Kayakoy is now a ghost town that has been abandoned since the early 20th century.
The village was deserted when the Greek and Turkish populations were exchanged after the Greco-Turkish War, leaving the houses, churches, and buildings to fall into disrepair. Despite its tragic history, Kayakoy has become a popular tourist attraction for its eerie beauty and rich cultural heritage. With its stunning architecture and fascinating history, Kayakoy is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Turkey.
The History of Kayakoy
Located near Fethiye, Turkey, Kayaköy (once called Livissi in Greek) is an abandoned village with a storied past. This settlement has its roots in the ancient Lycian civilization, and later in the 18th century, Greeks constructed a new town on the ancient ruins.
For centuries, the Greek-speaking Christian community and their Muslim Ottoman rulers, who spoke Turkish, coexisted peacefully in Kayakoy. This harmony persisted from the end of the Ottoman conquest in the 14th century until the early 20th century.
However, during World War I (1914-1918), the killings of Greeks and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire resulted in the near complete depopulation of 6,500 Greek residents living in Kayakoy by 1918.
In May 1919, the Allied forces who emerged victorious from World War I permitted Greece to occupy Smyrna, despite the presence of Greek residents in the area. This decision sparked the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, which ultimately led to Greece’s defeat and the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.
Under the terms of the treaty, a protocol known as the population exchange between Greece and Turkey was established, which permanently barred prior Greek Orthodox refugees from returning to their homes in Turkey. Also, any remaining Orthodox Christian citizens in Turkey were required to relocate to Greece, except for the Greeks living in Istanbul.
Kayakoy becoming a ghost town is an aftermath of the Greco-Turkish Wars, which led to a population exchange between Christians and Muslims in 1923. In the effort to achieve religious and ethnographic homogeneity, Greek Orthodox Christians living in Kayakoy were sent back to Greece. Meanwhile, Muslims living in Greece were brought back to Turkey, with the government’s intending for them to occupy Kayakoy.
However, the repatriated Muslims refused to reside in Kayakoy, because they heard rumors of ghosts of the Greeks who perished there.
Years after its abandonment, Kayakoy has been preserved and is now maintained as a museum village. It’s comprised of hundreds of rundown but still-standing Greek-style houses and churches, and serves as a popular tourist destination for those visiting Fethiye and nearby Ölüdeniz.
There are plenty of things to see and do that will make your stay memorable in Kayakoy.
Visitors can wander through the empty stone houses and streets, and imagine what life was like for the people who once lived here.
Another must-see attraction in Kayakoy is the Afkule Monastery, which was built in the 17th century. This stunning monastery is located on a hilltop and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can explore the various buildings that make up the monastery and learn about its fascinating history.
Other tourist attractions worth seeing in Kayakoy are:
The Ruins of Old Houses: Kayakoy is home to over 500 abandoned houses that were once inhabited by Greeks and Turks. These ruins date back to the 18th century and offer a hauntingly beautiful view of the town.
The Church of St. Nicholas: Located in the center of Kayakoy, the Church of St. Nicholas is a well-preserved example of Byzantine architecture. This church was built in the 6th century and offers a glimpse into the town’s past.
The Chapel of the Virgin Mary: This chapel is located on the outskirts of Kayakoy and is known for its stunning frescoes. The chapel was built in the 13th century and offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere.
The Kayakoy Museum: The Kayakoy Museum is located in the heart of the town and offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area. The museum features artifacts and exhibits that showcase the town’s rich cultural heritage.
The Lycian Way: The Lycian Way is a 540-kilometer hiking trail that passes through Kayakoy. This trail offers breathtaking views of the town and the surrounding countryside and is a must-visit for any outdoor enthusiast.
The surrounding hills and forests are perfect for hiking and trekking, while the nearby beaches offer opportunities for swimming and. Some of the structures in Kayakoy have been repurposed and now serve as shops and small restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy delicious local cuisine and relax with a cup of Turkish tea.
Getting to Kayakoy
There are a few different transportation options for getting to Kayakoy, depending on where you are coming from.
If you are starting in Istanbul, the easiest way to get to Kayakoy is by taking a flight to Dalaman Airport, which is about an hour’s drive from Kayakoy. Alternatively, you could take an overnight bus from Istanbul to Fethiye, which takes about 12 hours, and then take a short taxi or bus ride to Kayakoy. The distance between Istanbul and Kayakoy is approximately 800 kilometers.
If you are starting in Antalya, you can take a bus or drive to Fethiye, which takes about 3-4 hours depending on traffic. From Fethiye, it’s just a short taxi or bus ride to Kayakoy. The distance between Antalya and Kayakoy is approximately 200 kilometers.
Tips when visiting Kayakoy
If you’re planning to explore the ruins in Kayakoy, there are a few practical tips that can help ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip.
First, it’s important to dress appropriately. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty or dusty. Also, keep in mind that the ruins are exposed to the sun, so wearing a hat and using sunscreen is highly recommended.
When it comes to what to bring, make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks, especially if you plan to spend a few hours exploring the ruins. A camera is also a great item to have on hand to capture some of the incredible views and architecture.
In terms of safety, it’s always a good idea to explore the ruins with a friend or in a group. Stick to designated paths and avoid climbing on any unstable structures or walls. If you’re exploring in the summer months, be aware of the risk of wildfires and take any necessary precautions.
The abandoned town of Kayakoy in Turkey is a fascinating and haunting place to visit. It offers a glimpse into the past and allows us to reflect on the consequences of war and ethnic conflict. The town’s ruined buildings, narrow streets, and beautiful surroundings create a unique and eerie atmosphere that is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.
Whether you are a history buff, an adventurer, or simply looking for a one-of-a-kind travel experience, Kayakoy is definitely worth a visit.