Off the Beaten Path: Simena Castle is a Hidden Gem on Turkey's Mediterranean Coast
Exploring Turkey's Turquoise Coast with Arkadaslik Yachting
Updated: June 1, 2019
All About Simena
Every village, town and city in Turkey seems to have more than one name, and the hillside village of Simena is no different. Also known as Kaleköy (which is Turkish for "Castle Village"), this remote community is situated in a 260 KM2 environmentally protected area of the Kekova region. The village is accessible only by foot or by boat.
What makes the tiny village so special?
Most would agree that it's the ruins of the Byzantine castle built into the top of the hill during the Middle Ages, and the surrounding Lycian necropolis. Many of the castle's crenelated walls are still standing, and the small theatre carved into the rocks (reported to be the smallest theatre in the Lycian region) is in remarkably good condition. Ancient tombs (sarcophagi) dating back to the 4th century BC dot the landscape around the village, including an oft-photographed, partly submerged sarcophagus in the village's natural harbour.
Like castles from fairy tale classics, Simena has links to pirates and knights. (It is believed that the castle was built by the Knights of Rhodes to protect the area from piracy.)
Copied from a sign outside the Castle walls
Simena, (present day Kaleköy) was a small, Lycian city. Since 4th century BC has been inhabited. Thus it remains strategically important. The ruin which reflects the importance of Simena is the well preserved castle. It is possible to observe the magnificent panorama of Kekova and its environments from the castle. The remains of the ancient harbour, which stretch underwater, are not only of great interest, but make an unusually pleasant transition from the slopes of Simena to the sea.
Although the name was first mentioned by Plinius (1st century AD) some Lycians inscriptions and coins which found on Aperlai, show that the first settlement can go back at least to the 4th century BC. Simena was a member of the city group headed by Aperlai who represented her in the Lycians federation. It is understood that after the region joined Roman Empire, Simena went on living as a free city.
After approaching the coast, the first construction which strikes the eye is the ruins of the Roman bath complex. The construction as it is pointed out from its inscriptions was dedicated to Emperor Titus in AD 79 by the city of Aperlae.
While climbing up the hill from the coast through a steep path and partly through ancient steps, two tombs arouse the attention. One has a little exedra and the other has the inscription which clarifies that it was dedicated to Mentor, the son of Idagrus. After getting to the castle, the first ruin striking the attention is a small theatre of 300 seats. The theatre has 7 seating rows which shaped by carving the natural rock. Cisterns, rock-cut tombs and traces of the religious construction used first as a temple and later as a church and mosque are the other ruins of the castle.
The views of Kekova island and environment from the castle gives the most striking and unforgettable panorama of Lycia. On the coast in and under water, the Lycian type sarcophagi, breakwater and construction ruins are easily visible in any kind of weather conditions. On the way down to the landing-stage, a path to the left leads to the necropolis of Simena. This has several ogival sarcophagi and some rock-cut tombs, one of which bears an inscription in Lycian."
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.
Simena in Pictures
Additional Information about Simena
Have you had the chance to visit the ancient settlement of Simena? We'd love to hear about your experience and see your photos.