Demre, was known as Myra in ancient Lycian times, is on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, in the province of Antalya. The town was important enough by the 4th century to have its own bishop and was the home of Saint Nicholas of Myra, the original Santa Claus. Before the tourist boom began in the early 1980’s Demre was and still, the party is dependent on agriculture, with pomegranate, citrus fruits and vegetables being grown year-round in greenhouses. Local handicrafts, including rug making and the annual camel wrestling festival, also increase income for the town.
Myra was a member of the Lycian alliance from 168 BC to 43 AD and has a long history as a religious, commercial and administrative town. Arab raids in the 7th century led to the silting of the harbour, which then caused the rapid decline of the area.
SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Myra has some of the most impressive and well-preserved ruins in all of Turkey. The site is located only 2 kilometres outside Demre city centre. The ruins are mostly covered by alluvial silts. There are two necropolises of Lycian rock tombs, carved into the cliff faces. They are known as the river-necropolis and ocean-necropolis. Many of the tombs inside the necropolis have log cabin features carved into the rock, representing the architecture of the period they were created. Several also have inscriptions in the Lycian language.
There is also a well preserved Greco-Roman theatre, which like many other Roman theatres, was later turned into an arena for gladiator and animal shows. Like the rock tombs, inscriptions are still visible inside the theatre. There are also cavernous tunnels, access ways, intact seating and a partly collapsed stage. More Info...
CHURCH OF ST NICHOLAS
Located just outside the main square in Demre is the Church of St Nicholas. St Nicholas was born in Patara, another major Lycian city, and elected to be the bishop of Demre in the 4th century. It is from St Nicholas that the myth of Santa Claus began. There are several different stories regarding the origin of the myth, the most common regards a poor Myran man, whose daughters could not get married since they were too poor to afford a dowry for them. St Nicholas went into the man’s house at night and left a bag of gold for each girl. This tale earned him the reputation of secretly delivering gifts in the night.
By the 10th century, St Nicholas had become the most popular folk saint in the Byzantine times. His tomb in Myra became a place of pilgrimage and annual festivities promoted people to visit every year for the saint’s feast in December.
The original church was built in the 3rd century and held his remains after he died. In the 10th century, it was restored and turned into a Byzantine basilica, after Arab raids. In 1087 Italian merchants broke into the church and St Nicholas’s tomb, stealing his bones. The church then fell into disarray and was only again restored in 1862 by Tsar Alexander I of Russia.
Cayagzi, meaning stream mouth is located about 5 kilometres outside of the centre of Demre. Previously known as Andriake, it was a major harbour in Roman times for transport between the eastern Mediterranean and Rome. The ruins of Cayagzi are were mostly destroyed by silting, however, they cover a large area and there is a granary, built by Hadrian. The beach is also an interesting place to visit and watch the local boat makers in action.
Located behind Demre are the Taurus Mountains. These mountains are thickly forested and made up of rich soil, from the Mountain Rivers. The system of mountains extends along a curve and divides the Mediterranean region of Southern Turkey and the Central Anatolian plateau. It has many peaks, with some reaching heights of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. The Cilician Gates is a pass that crosses the north of the Taurus mountains and was the birthplace of Apostle Paul. Turkey's first long-distance hiking trail, the Lycian Way, passes through Demre before continuing through the rugged mountains to the port town, Finike, about 30 kilometres along the coast. More Info...
Erosion from limestone has formed waterfalls, underground rivers and the largest caves of Asia. Blue Cruises allow you to explore this captivating region. More Info...