The Sunken City of Kekova, Turkey

Coordinates: 36°10'60.0"N, 29°52'28.5"E

Kekova Island lies just off the Turkish coast near the small town of Demre (Antalya). The island is uninhabited, except for a few goats who scramble over ruins on the island's north side. These ruins are all that remain of an ancient Greek settlement called Dolchiste, a tiny city that toppled into the sea.


Sailing over the ruins of the Sunken City is a featured part of our cruises to the Kekova region.

This page was updated on Apr 20, 2021 12:50 PM

How the Sunken City of Kekova Came to Be

Kekova's Sunken City is the perfect place to engage your imagination! What was life like on the island hundreds of years ago?

Dolchiste

While never a major city, Dolchiste was a relatively busy harbour community - with houses, public buildings, churches, and ship-building facilities. (The island was also a major producer of "fish sauce". Don't believe me? There are scholarly research articles to support this! ) But, in the 2nd century, a massive earthquake felled the small town, and most of it slid into the sea! The town was rebuilt after the earthquake, but Arab invasions eventually forced the citizens of Dolchiste to flee and the settlement was left to ruin.

The remains, most of which are now underwater, are referred to as "The Sunken City of Kekova". (Sadly, over the ages, looters have removed or destroyed many relics from the area, so what we see today is just a taste of what once was.)

The Sunken City

The Sunken City (and the entire Kekova region) is protected by the Turkish government so swimming and diving along the coast is prohibited, and visitors are not allowed to access the island. But boats are permitted in the area, allowing us to get a glimpse at the remains of the city - both above and below the water.

Stone block walls, with gaps for doors and windows, and stairways are the easiest to spot when cruising by. Smooth walls carved into the rock of the island show evidence of floor and ceiling beams. And just beneath the water along the shore, several building foundations are readily apparent. On a calm day, it's even possible to see remnants of amphora (ceramic pottery) sitting at the bottom of the sea!

In addition to houses and workshops, archaeologists have discovered water collection systems, storage tanks, churches and chapels, watch towers, and a harbour complex in the ruins. And, just off the island, they've discovered several sunken ships that once transported goods along the coast.

Tersane (Shipyard) Bay

There are isolated ruins scattered about other areas on the island too, some of which are more accessible to tourists. The most notable is the Byzantine-era church built in Tersane Bay on the northwest end of the island. This part of Kekova Island is no longer in the protected zone, so is a popular anchorage for daily tour boats in the region and visitors are permitted to explore the ruins of the old church.

How to Get to the Sunken City of Kekova

As you can probably imagine, the Sunken City of Kekova is not a destination you'd plan an entire vacation around. But it's definitely an interesting sight to visit if you're in the area.

Fortunately, there are plenty of options to get there. Most gulet cruises between Fethiye / Göcek and Demre / Olympos include a visit to the Sunken City on their itinerary. And there are scores of daily boat trips to the Kekova region originating in Kaş, Demre, and Uçağiz. You can even hire a kayak (or join a guided tour) in Uçağiz and paddle over the sunken ruins.

And once you're done your tour over the Sunken City (it only takes about 15 minutes if you're in a boat), be sure to head across the channel to visit the castle village of Simena. For many, it's even more impressive than the ancient city that slid into the sea.