The historic, picturesque and secluded valley is a wonderful secret hideaway.
The Kaya valley is just a ten-minute drive from Ölü Deniz yet a million miles away in terms of ambience. The valley floor is surrounded by the peaks of the surrounding mountains which stretch to the very ends of the Fethiye Peninsula. Tracks and single-track roads wind along the valley floor through tiny hamlets, past fields full of wheat and tobacco and finally onto the region’s secluded beach at Gemiler.
Kayaköy is, of course, now famed for being the inspiration for Louis de Bernières novel Birds Without Wings. The Greek village of Kaya was abandoned following the forced exchange of populations agreed between Turkey and Greece in 1926. Until then it had been a thriving community for centuries. In the intervening years the town has been left to crumble into disrepair leaving in its wake an eerie and fascinating ‘Ghost Village’ set in a beautiful rural valley.
If you’re staying in Kayaköy there are a few simple rural-style restaurants to choose from, each serving traditional Turkish cuisine. The traditional Ottoman-style köşk (kushk) seating areas are perfect to relax and unwind on. The typical dish on offer is mangal – a selection of meats which you may barbecue yourself (kendine pisir), if you wish. Alternatively you can order the lamb known as tandir, which are large cuts of slow-cooked lamb tender enough to melt in the mouth. The restaurants also serve a selection of mezes (small dishes) and gözleme (Turkish savoury pancakes).
Fethiye is also well worth a visit and has a large variety of restaurants and lokantas (cafés) in the bustling town and harbour areas offering a host of diverse menus. In our opinion the highlight of all the alternatives is the remarkable experience of dining in the vibrant fish market - an absolute 'must-do'!
The former Greek village of Kayaköy is striking. Its narrow streets, stone houses and churches enjoy a spectacular setting, perched on a steep hillside, and separated from the sea by a low range of hills. Each house was purposely posi- tioned so that it did not cut off the sun or view from the other.
The earliest remains in Kayaköy belong to the Lycian city of Karymlassos, and Kayaköy was established on this ancient site in the eleventh century. The Greek name of the town was Levissi. Kayaköy was a prosperous place until 1912. The town had a popu- lation of 6,500 with churches, schools, pharmacies, a hospital, a post office, workshops and even a printing house producing the Karya newspaper (which had the widest circulation in the southern Aegean region).
Anatolian Greeks never wasted fertile land by building on it. Instead, they chose rocky sites for their homes, and Kayaköy is a typical example of this. The two churches (Panaghia Pyrgiotissa in the lower part of the village and Taksiyarhis in the upper part) are still standing, but around 500 stone houses have not stood the test of time so well. Nonetheless, the paved roads and squares give a clear impression of what the village must have been like a century ago, as do the interiors of the houses, with their stone hearths, unusual lavatories (reached by spiralling passages), cisterns and pebbled flooring.
It’s clear that each house had a cellar where household items and fodder were stored. Since there was no running water, every house possessed a cistern where rain water was collected and used for cleaning. There were also water wells on the plains of Kaya, but drinking water was supplied by the two fountains in the village. The houses had a column built in the middle of the building (the foundation column), which was then planked with wood. The wood was subsequently covered with soil comprising light, disintegrating stones which were watered and compressed with a stone roller.
The roof thus became waterproof and the rainwater flowing down was collected in cisterns by way of a pipe or a channel.
The Kaya Valley was very green and covered with vineyards. As it was surrounded by hills, the rainwater collected here. A small stream flowed down each winter from the neighbouring Ovacık village, watering the valley and forming a small lake at the foot of the Belen Village. The Turks grew tobacco, chick-peas, figs and plums, while the Greeks cultivated various fruits – primarily figs and grapes – and produced wine, jams and molasses from the yield of the vineyards. The long prickles of the hunted porcupines were used as needles for the women’s embroi- dery. The Greek women wove silk or other cloths at the looms in their houses. The dowry of the girls was mostly comprised of silk.
Until 1923, Greeks and Turks lived side by side in perfect har- mony under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Then, on 30 January 1923, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk agreed a population exchange with the Greek government. According to this agreement, the Greeks living in Turkey would be sent to Greece and the Turks in Greece would be sent to Turkey. Thus, the Greek people living in Kayaköy were evacuated to Greece.
Following a reportedly tearful emmigration from Fethiye, the Greek families were settled in November 1923 in a remote wild area close to Athens, named Simokeriza. Here, they had to till the land. They made this place prosperous and named it Neo Makri, in other words ‘New Fethiye’.
The intention was to settle 600 families who came from Greece in Kayaköy. However, the Greeks who had lived in Kayaköy were mostly small traders and craftsmen and their single-storey houses without stables were not particularly useful to the Turks whose source of income was agriculture. Because the area available for agriculture was limited, most of the 600 families moved elsewhere, leaving the village effectively abandoned.
After the Fethiye earthquake of 1957, state representatives again invited villagers whose homes had been destroyed to move into the Greek houses. They refused because again they earned their living from agriculture and would not leave their land. Having failed to move the villagers into these houses, the state took the tiles from their roofs and sold them. Open to the weather, the houses began to deteriorate rapidly.
Pioneered by the Chamber of Architects and the Turkish-Greek Friendship Association, a project was launched in 1988 to restore Kayaköy as a symbol of peace and friendship between Turkey and Greece. The project won the support of the Ministry of Public Works, and Kayaköy was declared a Grade III Urban and Archaeological Conservation Area.
Today the inhabitants of the area around Kayaköy grow fruit, vegetables, tobacco and grapes, and make wine. When you climb the narrow streets of Kayaköy to the chapel at the top of the village, there’s a wonderful view over the abandoned village. There’s now a population of 2,000 people living in the area, but the old houses above have remained abandoned with their doors and windows broken.
Local villagers claim that they have met many former Greek inhabitants who repeat over and over again with tears in their eyes, ‘If they give us permission, we’ll come back and live here’.
The Kaya valley is a fabulous location for trekking. Detailed information on the plentiful variety of walks and treks in the region is available prior to your departure in our informative Exclusive Escapes Guide.
A wonderful renovation of a 200-year-old ruin with inspiring views across the valley floor to Kayaköy and the surrounding mountains.
The most delightful and creative of rural retreats in the Kaya valley - simply oozing with character.
A wonderfully peaceful and elegant retreat with inspirational views. Probably the most beautiful cottage in the Kaya valley.
A spacious, attractive new property with the most scenic, private and peaceful of rural locations in the Kaya valley.
The brand new Sarniç Evi oozes exquisite taste inside and out, and possesses simply the best views in the entire Kaya Valley.
This page contains information related to The Gulf of Fethiye region. Return to view properties in The Gulf of Fethiye »
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