All About Simena (Kaleköy)
A visit to the castle village of Simena is usually a highlight of our Kekova cruises. Located on Turkey's Mediterranean coast between Kaş and Demre in the Antalya region, and overlooking the Sunken City of Kekova, the village's ancient stone citadel is centred in the the environmentally protected Kekova region – and was once an important watch tower in the battle against pirates in the region.
While Simena has never been a major city like nearby Myra, archaeologists have determined that this stretch of coastline has been inhabited since the 4th century BC – based on the discovery of Lycian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman artifacts. The settlement's main role has been that of a fishing village and harbour.
What Makes A Visit to Simena So Special?
Most would agree that it's the ruins of the castle built into the top of the hill during the Middle Ages, and the surrounding Lycian necropolis. The castle we see today is built in the Byzantine style, but stands on the foundations of an earlier structure built in Lycian times. It was built by the Knights of St. John for monitoring and protecting the coastline from invasion.
Many of the castle's crenelated walls are still standing, and the small theatre carved into the rocks – with a capacity for 300 people, it is reported to be the smallest theatre in the Lycian region – is in remarkably good condition.
The village surrounding the castle also harkens back to ancient times. The village's residents live in small stone houses built onto the hillside, connected by steep, narrow and winding paths and staircases. (During tourist season, they hawk their wares to tourists making the steep climb to the castle.) There are a few bars and restaurants – all of which seem to serve homemade ice cream! – and a few pansiyons for accommodating visitors.
Ancient tombs (sarcophagi) dot the landscape around the village, including an oft-photographed, partly submerged sarcophagus in the village's natural harbour. Just to the east of the castle walls, several impressive free-standing Lycian tombs are still in evidence today. Although they've been damaged by time, weather, and war, the inscriptions are still visible, providing historians with invaluable about the area's earliest residents.
Although there is electricity and running water in Simena, there are few modern conveniences in the community. There is no post office, bank, medical clinic or pharmacy. There are no roads – and therefore no cars. The only way to access the village is on foot (from nearby Uçağiz) or by boat. A visit to Simena is truly an escape from modern-day life.
Highlights of Visiting The Castle Village of Simena
The ruins at Simena are part of Turkey's national museum system, so a nominal fee is charged for entry into the castle walls. (The Muze Kart can also be used for entry.) We recommend that all able-bodied guests visit the site at least once – the views of the Kekova region from the top of the castle are incredible! (Unfortunately, Simena is not a good site for anyone with mobility challenges.)
The majority of visitors to Simena arrive by boat. We make a point of stopping by every time we're in the Kekova region – and, weather permitting, try to anchor overnight in the Kekova channel directly in front of the castle. This gives our guests plenty of opportunity to visit the castle ruins and explore the village at their leisure. Waking up to the sight of the morning sun shining on the castle walls is unforgettable!
The channel running between Simena and the Sunken City at Kekova Island tends to be busy with tour boats during the middle of the day, but is quiet in the early morning, late afternoon, and evening, making it a lovely spot for a swim or paddle. The water is clear and clean, and we've spotted plenty of Sea Turtles and a few dolphins in the area.
The Final Word on Simena
Our Blue Cruise holidays along the Lycian Coast to the Kekova region often include an overnight stop at Simena, allowing guests to appreciate the beauty of the castle by day and night! Guests can explore the village and surrounding area, visit the castle ruins (a nominal admission required), or enjoy some of the best home-made ice cream on the Turquoise coast while visiting Castle Village. We highly recommend it!
Kekova's Simena Castle and The Surrounding Village: A Photo Gallery
Updated September 26, 2021
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