Sightseeing

Sightseeing

About Demre

48km (30 miles) east of Kas; 225km (140 miles) southwest of Antalya; 25km (16 miles) west of Finike

Taking a look around Demre...
situated on a fertile coastal plain 5km (3 miles) inland from the Mediterranean Sea
it is hard to imagine a flabby, local 4th century bishop making his rounds in 105°F (41°C) weather bundled up in a big red suit. After all, there were some lovely beaches nearby and not a mammal with antlers in sight. But somewhere during the 1,650 years that followed, several national folklores got mixed up, and legends merged that would elevate old St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, to the jolly international hero he is today.

The ancient city of Myra lies just on the outskirts of what is now the modern town of Demre, in a region known as Kale. (The names are sometimes used interchangeably, so this can get a bit confusing.) St. Nicholas served as bishop of Myra and earned himself a reputation of benevolence and good deeds by saving poor village girls from the fate of prostitution by dropping their dowries down the chimney. According to legend, he also rescued several village boys from the clutches of a serial killer disposed to pickling his victims in brine but that shocking piece of history ruins the feel-good vibe altogether. The legends accumulate. Tour groups flock here for its kitsch value, whilst the Church of St. Nicholas continues to be a stopping-off point for religious pilgrims.

Unexpected is the necropolis of Myra, located above the ancient site and hewn into the rock like a high-rise apartment complex for dead people. This collection of rock-cut Lycian tombs is one of the best-preserved and finest examples of its kind, as pale shades of fading pigment can still be made out against the fine details of the bas-reliefs.

Because the modern town of Demre is located inland, not many visitors stay here for longer than it takes to tour the necropolis and church. Hoping to change this trend, the local municipality has been investing in local development and preservation schemes. For now, it earns points for prettiness and charm, but still not enough to hold your interest for more than a few hours, including the area sites.