Last updated on September 3rd, 2023
Kayakoy ghost town near Fethiye is one of the most interesting ghost towns in Turkey that often stays in the shade as all attention is usually given to Fethiye and Ölüdeniz. I visited it twice and would surely return again.
Stopping by this expansive destination becomes nearly inevitable when you happen to be in the area – an enormous site that blankets the hill slopes with its historically significant yet partially demolished houses. It is definitely a must-see spot on anyone’s list of the best things to do in Fethiye.
But besides the abandoned part with ruins, Kayakoy also has a newer part (restored) with beautiful boutique hotels, delish restaurants, and rebuilt homes. Both of them are the reason why to visit Kayakoy be it on a day trip from Fethiye or Oludeniz, on a road trip from Antalya to Fethiye, or during any other time when you decide to head out to one of Turkey’s ghost towns.
Yet, there’s a slight pang of remorse that the poignant stories of thousands of people who were compelled to depart this region have been distilled into a mere tourist attraction.
But without veering into excessive sentimentality, I want to share the story of Kayakoy (or in Turkish language Kayaköy) with things to do there and tips on how to make the most of your visit.
Sad History of Kayaköy – Why It Became an Abandoned Village
Kayaköy has a very sad history due to the events that unfolded during the early 20th century there, which led to the displacement and abandonment of the village.
The town dates back to around 3000 BC when it was Karmylassos and was part of the Lycian Civilization. During the Ottoman Empire, it was renamed into Levissi and became home to both Greeks and Turks who inhabited the village and lived sometimes together, sometimes separately — Greeks in the village and Turks in the open fields.
Levissi grew from a village to a busy town, welcoming new people and building a close community. But around the 1880s, tensions and challenges began to emerge in Anatolia (part of the Ottoman Empire at that time) and set the stage for a series of conflicts, including the Greco-Turkish War.
This war ultimately led to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which marked a turning point in the history of Levissi and ordered a population exchange between Greece and Turkey.
The exchange itself involved the forced migration of Greek populations from Turkey to Greece, and Turkish populations from Greece to Turkey. It had a profound impact on Levissi by significantly reducing the village’s population and transforming its character.
Since all Greeks left (and there was a majority of them living in Levissi at that time), many of the houses and buildings that once teemed with life were abandoned and left empty, forever altering the landscape and atmosphere of the town.
As a result, Levissi which became already Kayaköy, appeared as a haunting ghost town, as a silent witness to the historical events and population shifts that shaped its destiny.
So today, we have Kayaköy near Fethiye, one of the biggest and most impressive ghost towns of Turkey. It’s a memory of the past, alive in every stone. Even though it’s quiet and absolutely abandoned now, Kayaköy’s stories still echo.
Why You Will Love Visiting Kayaköy Ruins
Kayaköy is more than just a ghost town. It is a place where stories of people’s lives and battles are woven into old stone walls.
As you walk through its narrow paths and explore its empty houses, you will discover an interesting history filled with stories of wars, romantic tales after fights, and a culture that has survived for a long time.
Entering abandoned Karakoy today feels like stepping into a town that remembers conflicts and friendships. The stone houses look ancient, like guards from a different time. You can almost hear the voices of couples who were in love, kids playing games like hide and seek, and young people fighting battles in a culture that’s now forgotten.
In this ghost town of Turkey, a special atmosphere reigns that can leave a sad feeling as the place is creepy and gloomy once you know the history and personally walk through the streets popping into the houses, churches, and even an old school.
Yet, with all its creepiness and sadness, visiting Kayaköy ghost town is a worthwhile experience since it provides an insight into a significant period of the region’s past. Additionally, its atmospheric beauty, set against a backdrop of natural surroundings, makes Kayakoy an attractive place for photography.
Should You Stay in Kayakoy Village?
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When you think of Kayakoy, most likely you envision its abandoned part with ruins only, not knowing that there is also a restored part where people live these days.
There are no accommodation options directly in the ghost village or anywhere by it facing the ruins. But I don’t think an average person would want to stay inside the ghost town at all due to the unsettling atmosphere.
However, the renovated part of Kayakoy town has some beautiful (I’ll say luxurious) accommodation options that are great alternatives to Oludeniz and Fethiye. Staying in some of them allows one to experience a blend of history and traditional way of life.
Here are the places where you can do just that:
- Fig Garden Cottages – holiday apartment with a pool, garden, and restaurant with Turkish food. Great choice for lower budgets.
- Pyramid Boutique Hotel – modern family-run hotel with a pool (where you can swim at night) and fantastic Turkish hospitality. Also great for low and mid budgets.
- ADA Dreams History – a luxurious (restored) stone house-villa (similar to stone hotels in Cappadocia) surrounded by nature for adults only.
- Check other hotels in Kayakoy
Things to Know Before a Visit to Kayaköy Ghost Town
Ways to Get to Kayakoy
Reaching Kayakoy ghost village is quite easy as it is conveniently located on a big road between Oludeniz and Fethiye. Here are a few options for how to get there:
By Public Transportation or Walking
1.) If you need to reach Kayakoy from Fethiye, then the easiest way is to take a dolmus shared taxi, particularly the one that says ‘Kayaköy’ or ‘Kaya’. Dolmus mini buses depart from the main Fethiye bus station near the ERASTA Shopping Mall and they stop right at the entrance to the Kayakoy village.
2.) From Oludeniz, you can go to Kayaköy by minibusses as well. They depart from the Hisarönü neighborhood.
Another option is to take Oludeniz to Kayakoy walking trail (which is part of a Lycian Way trail) or an asphalt road that starts from the neighborhood of Hisaronu and is a 5 km long road that partially goes through the shade (as there is a coniferous forest) and part under the open sun.
The asphalt road is not busy at all and you’ll see only occasional cars driving on it. So overall, it is very pleasant to walk on it if you are there outside hot summer months or start very early.
By Rental Car or Moped
You can get to Kayakoy also on your own with a rented car or motorbike. It is very convenient to go by car as you can combine a visit to Kayakoy with the Butterfly Valley and one of the quieter seaside villages in this area.
Where to Rent a Car or Motorbike in Fethiye?
If you are in Fethiye or Oludeniz and need a car to be delivered directly to your place for a day or a few days to explore the area, then it is better to rent it from Localrent as they can deliver the vehicle to the door of your accommodation.
Otherwise, rent from Babadan or Oscar companies (both located in the Fethiye city center), they have the cheapest prices. For all other destinations, do not miss my guide to car rental in Turkey to get some extra tips.
If none of the above options is your thing, then another way to get to Kayakoy is by taxi.
You can order it directly at the hotel or catch it on the street. All taxis have meters and from Fethiye to Kayaköy it costs around $10 one way (250 TL based on the recent exchange rate).
Kayakoy Village Opening Hours
Opening hours of the Kayakoy abandoned village museum depend on the season:
- in the summer (from April 1 to October 31) it is open to the public from 8:30 to 19:30
- in winter (from October 31 to April 1) – from 8:30 to 17:30
The ticket office closes at 19:00 and 17:00 respectively but there is no gate to the village, so even if you enter at the last minute, you can stay as long as you wish.
Kayakoy Entrance Fee
As Kayaköy falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, it is possible to visit the ghost town with a museum pass. If you have it, you can present it at the entrance ticket counter to gain access and commence your visit to the village.
For those without a museum card, there is a nominal entrance fee of around $2.
What’s interesting, this fee doesn’t really change throughout the years in the equivalent to USD or EURO currencies. I remember when I visited Kayakoy back in 2021 and 2022, I paid 30 TL (which was around $2 back then) per person to enter. Just recently, in 2023, when the group of tourists I planned a trip for went, they paid 60 TL per person (which is still the same $2).
How Much Time to Spend in Kayakoy Village
You can easily spend the whole day in Kayaköy as there is much more to do there than just wander around abandoned streets.
But walking alone with photography stops (you’ll want to take a lot of photos as the village itself is an excellent destination for photography due to its unique atmosphere and historical elements) and a possible stop at one of the restaurants or cafes will take between 3-4 hours. This time excludes a visit to one of the beaches in the area.
But of course, you can technically do the same within 1-2 hours’ time if you are kind of a traveler who hops through places without getting into the nitty-gritty of each destination.
When I visited Kayakoy with my family, we spent almost 4 hours in the village as we came after 4 pm, popped into one of the local gozleme places, and then stayed for the sunset (which is very beautiful there). On another visit, I spent almost a day with friends as we went on exploring different bays of Kayakoy (talk more about them below).
Things to Do in Kayakoy
The sheer scale of the Kayakoy abandoned settlement is truly impressive and you can see it from the first minutes after entering the village.
First thing you need to do is just walk through the streets looking at the roofless, peeled-off houses where people once lived. The atmosphere is strange, feels creepy and intriguing at the same time.
Houses, by the way, serve as a good backdrop for photos and many of them are interesting to look at from a close distance. Some boast substantial basements and hidden underground cisterns, once ingenious solutions for collecting rainwater that flowed from the rooftops.
There are other buildings that you cannot miss and should see close. They are the Upper and Lower Churches, Af Kule Monastery ruins with unique landscape, and upper part of the village with an old school and revealing breathtaking panoramas of the surroundings.
From that point, you can see bays and cliffs of the Turkish Mediterranean coastline and Ölüdeniz.
The most photogenic point of the Kayakoy village is the Upper Church. And if you can, I strongly recommend you visit it at sunset as most beautiful shots come out in the sunset light.
Once on the paved pathways, you’ll also see many fig trees around. It is allowed to eat figs when they are ripened.
But while enjoying them together with the village ghost town feel, try to remember with respect and compassion those who planted those fig trees there but had to leave without seeing their fruits.
Because Kayakoy is not only about 2 beautiful Greek churches, chapels, and 3,500 homes that have been abandoned. It is about thousands of human lives who once had to leave everything behind and move away.
Kayakoy Bays & Beaches
There are a few beaches and bays surrounding Kayakoy but the top ones that I could highlight are:
Soguk Su Koyu – is reachable both by car and on foot, but coming here on a walk directly from the Kayakoy abandoned village is a much more interesting activity. The trail (that starts by the ‘Antik restaurant’) goes through the forest, has markings, and is only 1.7 km (1 mile) long.
Soguk Su Koyu bay and the beach are absolutely beautiful and very clean. It is a wild area, not inhabited by people, and has no construction which is why nature seems to be untouched there.
Barlas Beach – a rocky beach near Kayakoy where you’d probably want to have swim shoes to have an easy entrance into the water. To get here you need to take the same trail as to Soguk Su Koyu beach but at some point turn in a different direction.
This trail is also marked and has yellow markings. But you can also use mapsme. app for easier navigation. On google maps you’ll find it here.
Gemili Beach – one of my least favorite beaches in the Kayakoy area but still a good option to go for a swim if you are visiting a ghost town on a hot day and have a car. The public beach here is 6 km (3.5 miles) long with some businesses like cafes that offer drinks, food, and sun loungers. You can also dive here if you wish.
Darbogaz Beach – this beach is a perfect spot where to go swimming and camping near Kayakoy ghost village away in total wilderness. The beach is accessible by walk only from the Gemili beach area or directly on a hike from Kayakoy ruins. It is famous for crystal clear azure water and untouched nature.
Kayakoy Ghost Town Restaurants
Kayaköy offers a wealth of options when it comes to restaurants and cafes. You can come to this town for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and refreshments.
So, while visiting this ghost town, here are a few recommendations for you to consider:
This is my favorite restaurant in Kayakoy village where to eat gozleme (Turkish crepe). Some say it is solely Turkish breakfast food but you can eat it at any time of the day).
The most delicious (in my opinion) gozleme types to try here are gozleme with Turkish cheese with herbs and potato and cheese gozleme. But if you are coming in the morning and want something sweet, they also have chocolate type of gozleme.
Overall, this restaurant has such a warm and welcoming atmosphere that you feel like visiting someone’s home. You’ll find them on the main road here.
Cin Bal 1975
Cin Bal is a kebab restaurant in the garden setting that has been serving kebabs in the area since 1975.
Their tandoori, kebab varieties, and distinctive offal selections have made them popular. But you’ll also find good desserts here such as Turkish semolina halva with ice cream and other traditional Turkish desserts.
This restaurant is located a bit off the main road in the northern part of Kayakoy, here.
One of the best restaurants in Kayakoy where you can dine in the shade of olive trees against the historical view of Kayaköy. The menu is extensive and the owner, Mr. Tolga, cooks all meals himself.
Must-try dishes here are grilled calamari, chicken with apricot sauce, and steak with shrimp and mustard sauce.
Izela business is not just a restaurant, there is also a hotel service here if you feel like staying overnight.
Final Word on Visiting Kayaköy
I feel that I said so much about the ghost town of Kayakoy that I have to finish this post by now. But the last thing I wanted to add is that embarking on a quick trip to Kayakoy should not be just a stroll through the abandoned streets of some town ruined by time.
Consider it as an opportunity to take a moment to reflect on the lives that once thrived there and let your visit be a tribute to the past and a reminder of the resilience of human experiences.
More Unique Places to Visit in Western & Southern Turkey
If you are not just staying in Fethiye but visiting the entire Turquoise coast of Turkey, consider adding the following places to your Turkey itinerary as they also have a huge significance to the traveler:
- Ancient Pergamon & Bergama – place where parchment was invented
- Visiting Küçükköy Village – unique village on the Aegean Sea with a strong Bosnian presence
- Cakirlar Village Near Antalya – go for a traditional Anatolian breakfast
- Sirince Near Izmir – the town of best Turkish fruit one that’s easy to visit from many locations
- Dalyan City Near Dalaman – famous for unique Caretta turtles and mud baths
- Kaklik Cave in Pamukkale – underground travertines just on a smaller scale
- Quiet Beach Towns & Villages – best for the beach vacation in Western Turkey away from crowds
- Fethiye to Pamukkale Drive – unique locations to visit along the way
- Best Cities in Turkey – with some unique cities that you didn’t think about
- Turkey Travel Blog – you’ll find here all my posts about travel around Turkey!