Thanks to another traveler, I got to know about the existence of a ghost town perched in the mountains in Turkey, near the Lycian coast. I immediately added this promised land to my route, imagining myself cutting weeds with a machete before I could pass through.
Too fast too furious. The place has become already a tourist attraction, and you even have to pay an entrance fee to access to the ruins. But as you can check on the pictures below, definitely worth getting lost in what is left of Kayaköy, since it was finally abandoned more than ninety years ago.
The history behind is a fascinating drama, so 20th century: Once upon a time, it was a mainly Greek village in Western Anatolia called Livissi, living in peace with their Turkish neighbours, that called the same village Kayaköy. But following the Greco-Turkish War, it was decided to separate these communities forever to stop the bloodshed. After the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the remaining Greek inhabitants from the town that survived, were evacuated to Attica region, near Athens.
The Turkish population from Greece that were assigned to repopulate the area were farmers. They didn't like the houses in the hills without stables, that were designed for traders and craftsmen. So they decided to left the town, abandoned for a second time.
Livissi was built in the 18th century, by Greeks fleeing from the pirates that used to ravage the settlements in the coast.
Kayaköy is very close to the coastal town and pricey villas of Ölüdeniz, a popular tourist destination, where streets are filled with hotels and bars. The main attraction is a famous secluded sandy bay of alluring turquoise colors, known as the Blue Lagoon, that once was a sanctuary of hippies.
Kaya village is a small bunch of houses scattered at the foot of the ruins of Kayaköy, where you can find some homestays, campings, and bars, that have the flair to cater to independent travellers or backpackers. Also in high season, you can walk around the ruins not bumping into another tourist for a while.
The Blue Lagoon was lost to mass tourism long ago. However, the ambiance in Kaya village is completely different to its neighbours Fethiye or Ölüdeniz. Kaya village seems somehow the last bastion, like if the old hippie spirit had found refuge in the top of the hills, like the original Greeks escaping from pirates some centuries ago.
Today Kayaköy is also in the news. The Turkish government announced plans to develop the village into a tourist hub. The idea is to rent a third of the ruins to an investment group for 49 years.
Visit Kayaköy before is too late: This project has been criticised as this could spoil the genuine atmosphere of the place to make room to another fancy shop hotel.
In summer 2014, the two churches of the village were closed to visitors, waiting for restoration works.
Image by Arlen Tees
The ghost town has been protected since in 1988, when a campaign was launched by the Turkish-Greek Friendship Association and architects from Istanbul to register the place as archaeological conservation area.
The houses began to fall apart very quick when, after the attempts to inhabit the village with Turks deported from Greece failed, in the 1950s the government decided to make a profit, selling the tiles from the roofs.
The book Birds Without Wings from the British writer Louis de Bernières (famous for his novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin), inspired in the story of Kayaköy. Also the town for the 2015 movie The Water Diviner has been filmed here.
This is the superb view from the top of the mountains surrounding Kayaköy. The entrance to Ölüdeniz bay is at the top left, and a bit more far away, the Butterfly Valley.
Also you can follow a trail down to the beach near the small Gemile island. Just be careful with the modern pirates!
HOW TO GET TO KAYAKÖY:
By car if you have one :] Also the road is very good to rent a moped.
There are frequent and cheap minibuses from Fethiye, and also from Ölüdeniz at least during high season.
Also there's a section of the famous Lycian way that goes for 8-9km from Fethiye to Kayaköy. In the other direcction, from Kayaköy you can go down until the Blue Lagoon following the coast, or there's another trail heading the hills until Ovacık (Ölüdeniz).