Demre is a small city about two hours (150 km) east of Antalya, between Kaş and Finike districts, along the Mediterranean coastline. Known to be one of the major exporters for agricultural goods and greenhouses, but in recent years, Demre is trying to shift towards tourism. Although the city center lacks charm appeal, its rich history and antiquities have attracted travelers from all over the map.
We spent a few days in Demre visiting our friend’s parents, who live in Demre. Here are some exciting places to visit, and I suggest that instead of staying inside the city, book a hotel or Airbnb along the coastline.
CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS
Within the city is the Church of St. Nicholas, named after the Saint, who was born in Patara in 243 AD and known to the rest of the world as Santa Claus. The people loved St. Nicholas for his philanthropy and generosity to all, which became well known in the Orthodox Christian world.
St. Nicholas became the bishop of Myra and later died and was buried in Demre. The Church of St. Nicholas was built in honor of him. The bones of St. Nicholas were excreted from the sarcophagus (tomb) and moved to Bari around 1087. It is said the partial remains of his tomb are still within the church. The story of his generosity is known around the world as Santa Claus, the man bearing gifts of kindness.
St. Nicholas Church is known today as St. Nicholas Museum. Within the church is the burial chamber, with over 20 different Christian scenes depicted of the life of St. Nicholas on the walls. Every year, Christians commemorate him on December 6th, the day he died.
- Visiting hours of St. Nicholas Museum are summer (April 1st – October 31st) 08.30-19.00, winter period (October 31st – April 1st) 08.30-17.30. Ticket sales and check-in close half an hour before closing. It’s open to visitors 7 days a week. The entrance fee for St. Nicholas Museum is 50TL. Museum Card valid.
ANCIENT CITY OF MYRA
The ancient city of Myra is one of Demre’s gems, having been one of the important cities of the Lycian Union. The name “Myra” means The Place of the Great Mother Goddess and is referred to in the earlier text as Myrrh. Originally located on the mountain slope, it prospered due to the sea trade from the Demre River.
Due to damage caused by earthquakes, floods, and the Arab raid, slowly, the city became deserted. Many of the ancient ruins are buried due to the flooding that accord in the 13th century.
Most of the ruins you will see today are rock tombs along the mountainside. You can walk about the Amphitheatre designed in Greco-Roman architecture style. You will find pieces of stone with impressive carvings of women’s faces and other remarkable designs.
- Visiting hours: Summer(April 1st – October 31st) 08.30-19.00, winter (October 31st – April 1st) 08.30-17.30. It’s open to visitors 7 days a week. The entrance fee to Myra Ancient City is 45TL. Museum Card valid.
ANDRIAKE MUSEUM of LYCIAN CIVILIZATION
Located in Demre Çayağzı is the ancient city of Andriake, serving as a port city of the historical city of Myra. It is located on the south of the inner port near Myros River, which reaches the sea. Over time, it became an international trade center.
Andriake was a vital part of the success of the ancient city of Myra. Due to the accumulation of algae in the water, the port became challenging to manage and was soon deserted. With government officials and archeologists’ help, the unearthed city of Andriake has come back to life for all to see.
The Andriake Open Air Museum is a well-landscaped museum with excellent walking paths that lead to The Museum of Lycian Civilizations. You will see public buildings, agora, bathhouses, churches, and the port along the walking pathway.
The Museum of Lycian Civilizations houses many artifacts from the Lycian civilization. The exhibition has coins, pottery, crafting tools, statues, and so much more for you to see and explore.
- Visiting hours of the Museum of Lycian Civilizations are summer (April 1st – October 31st) 08.30-19.00, winter period (October 31st – April 1st) 08.30-17.30. It’s open to visitors 7 days a week. Lycian Civilizations Museum entrance fee is 10TL. Museum Card valid. Andriake Ruins can also be visited with the same ticket.
Burguç Water (Demre Kükürtlu Su) is located on the side of the main road, 3.5 km from the center of Demre towards Çayağzı. It’s a natural spring resource, a mixture of sodium chloride and magnesium, flowing like ice in summer and winter. Do not be disturbed by the smell of sulfur, which smells like rotten eggs.
The waters from this spring have been used to help treat many ailments since the Lycian period. Some believed that it is suitable for those with rheumatic, arthritis, and skin diseases. We dipped our arms in the water and washed our faces as it left our skin feeling soft and smooth.
The temperature of mineral water is 16.5 degrees. The water is icy cold, so it is extremely popular with the locals to enjoy in the summer months.
Leech Beach is a popular beach in Demre and the breeding ground for the Caretta turtles. The beach is approximately 900 meters long, with soft sand, clean, calm water, and a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy your day.
Due to the beach’s location, the water is a bit cooler than the other beaches and may seem like the water is dirty, but it is because of the sand. There are several facilities on the beach to buy something to eat or rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
Çayağzi is not far from Burguç Water, where you will find boat cruises as well as a dry dock with many boats under construction or being repaired. If you are interested in a day cruise to Kekova (The Sunken City), you can book a trip from this marina. You will find approximately 50 boats docked at the port. Day boat trips leave at 10.20 am, return around 5.30 pm.
You can rent a private boat from Çayağzı and go to Kekova. Private boat tours depart at any time and spend an average of 7 hours at sea.
There are a few cafes in the area. Çayağzı beach is located next to Çayağzı and also called Andriake Beach. The beach is sandy, and the first 15 meters are shallow, then it deepens. There are no changing rooms and toilets in the beach area, but you can use the restaurants’ restroom facilities.
OTHER SIDE TRIPS
KEKOVA is a boat ride away to see The Sunken City. It is a great way to spend the day out on the water, swim in the clear blue water, and explore ancient ruins underwater.
Visit Simena Castle, which is near Kekova, located high up on a hill. Hike and enjoy the spectacular view below of “The Sunken City.”
West of Demre is a small city called Finike, which has a beautiful harbor and home to the ancient city of Limyra.
PLACES TO EAT
If you want to taste some excellent seafood, visit Mavi Yengeç Kaya Restaurant, where you can enjoy blue crab. Parked along the water, this restaurant makes for a great place to spend your evening enjoying a delicious meal with a great view.
Demre is a hidden paradise with its untouched bays, clean beaches, healing waters, ancient cities, and vast nature. This beautiful area of ancient Lycia should be on your list of a Mediterranean city to visit.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.