Every hiker who decides to walk the Lycian way from Fethiye must pass through Kayaköy; however, most of its visitants are whether tourists (unsurprisingly few this year – 2016) or local youth who is looking for a fun place to spend their Saturday evening. Most of the time the village is truly abandoned, more so in the light of the dropping tourism numbers following the Syrian conflict.
Abandoned village of Kayaköy
About 500 houses, empty and crumbled, attract the eyes of a passer-by to the hill side where they stand. How should I talk about the tragedies that caused the fall of this place while there is so much written hatred already?
For many centuries, the village was thriving. Its 10.000 inhabitants being both Orthodox Christian Greeks and Muslim Turks, it was varied when it came to religion, but at the same time peaceful. While the Greek people were living mostly on the hillside, working as artisans, the Muslim population inhabited the flat valley just as today, farming in the fields. Tragically, that was about to change; after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the remaining locals were evicted and many of them died during the cruel displacing of more than 6000 Christians that followed the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1923. This was called a population exchange and the village´s name, Levissi, has changed to Kayaköy (“rock valley”) from this moment onwards. Its spirit has changed along.
Read more about how to prepare for the Lycian way.
Today, Kayaköy is a silent place. The remainder of life at the hillside was finished with an earthquake in 1957 – fortunately enough, the village is nowadays protected from being devoured by new construction, being a historical monument and a museum.
Exploring Kayaköy today
Arriving to the village by a medieval merchant´s path, we walk the empty dirt road that leads in between of stone houses, greenhouses and fields. We meet the “local fool” (as our host describes him later) who shows us the way; a man in dusty rubber boots, green hoodie and with a stick in his hand.
From the downtown of the living part of the village, it is just a few minutes to the ruins. The afternoon sun spills gold and autumn nostalgia reins in the old walls. As the shadows are getting longer, I feel an inappropriately exhilarating rush in my chest. I hastily climb from one house to the other, slipping on the muddy path, entering empty chapels and looking up round chimneys.
Soon I arrive to one of the most valuable buildings that are being preserved here; a church with a mosaic entrance, doors and windows missing. My heart throbs while I roll over the wall surrounding it and venture inside.
While the entrance is prohibited, the floor is full of footsteps. Surprisingly, there are no writings on the wall, no graffiti and no trash, proving that trespassers are overall respectful to this heritage.
I spend perhaps three days wandering between the houses, watching the shadows move from a chapel on top of the hill and, of course, photographing.
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The dead village is silent and I meet few other people, usually tourists. The catastrophy which occured in between of these stones seems to have been buried – the life goes on in the village downhill, people buy bread and men play backgammon in the tea garden. The ruins remain here as a cemetery – a reminder of a different past, marked by happiness and tragedies that perhaps do not matter to anyone anymore.
How to get to Kayaköy
It is very easy to hitchhike from Fethiye to Kayaköy and back – take the street that goes from the downtown towards the sarcophagus and the Lycian graves, leave the town, raise your thumb and you´re good to go.You can walk the same (and partly parallel) way following the red and white waymarks of the Lycian way which will lead you around a small cemetery in the forest all the way to the village of Kayaköy.
In this article, you can find more information about walking the Lycian way from Fethiye .
There are small dolmus buses marked “Kayaköy” leaving from Fethiye as well and these will stop right in front of the entrance to the ruins. (You can obviously enter from whichever side you wish as there is no fence.) Since I have never taken a bus in Turkey, I don´t know their exact route, but they will stop for you wherever you wave at them, so no worries. Fethiye is small and you are unlikely to miss them.
There is also a taxi service, obviously, but due to the ethos of this blog, it feels almost inappropriate to mention it. 😉
Is there an entrance fee to the ghost village?
The ruins of Kayaköy are formally a museum. During the season, there will probably be someone collecting a small fee – the entrance costs 5 liras as far as I know – however, in November the booth is empty and nobody stops me when I hang around freely for days.
If you are walking backwards and arriving from Ölüdeniz, you will also run right into the area and I guess you can easily enter freely from that side even in the season as I haven´t seen a booth there.
Not that I suggest you to sneak in. Just sayin´.
Kayaköy: The Ruins of a Peaceful Past
Kayaköy is a peculiar place; side by side, here stand two villages divided only by a narrow road – one dead and one alive. The ruins have a tragic origin, but are strangely peaceful today. When the light of the sunset trickles down the crumbling walls, the empty chapels seem holy again. With darkness approaching, a voice from the mosque calls for prayer; in this place, it is almost easy to forget that the Muslim and Christian god is one and the same.
Have you visited Kayaköy? How did you feel wandering in its empty streets? Do you know other ghost villages? Let me know in the comments section!