the incredible ghost town of kayaköy


Just a few kilometers from the town of Fethiye, a small tourist town that has become overrun by British tourists [full English Breakfasts abound] lies the small town of Kayaköy.  Located in the southwestern region of Anatolia, this small town boasts what is probably the most fascinating ghost town I have seen or heard of.  Like Varosia in Northern Cyprus, this town was abandoned and remains as it was at that time.  However, unlike Varosia, this is a much larger area and it was abandoned for very different reasons.

A few thousand Greek Christians once inhabited this town, and the city flourished until the early 1920s.  At that time, as a result of a repatriation deal brokered by Greece and Turkey as a result of the Greek war for independence, both countries exchanged huge populations – placing Greeks in Greece and Turks in Turkey.  A portion of these Greeks were living in Kayaköy.  As a result, a town that had existed in one form or another for six or seven centuries was abandoned, and remains so today.  An earthquake in 1957 further damaged the crumbling structures, now part of a UNESCO World Friendship and Peace Village and protected by the Turkish government.

Highlights include a seventeenth-century church, and a small cellar that was used to house the bones of the dead in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  A small placard there reads:

The Greeks who have lived in Kayaköy in the 18th and 19th centuries, due to inadequacy of place used to bury the dead in the pre-occupied graves, after taking the bones of the dead out of the graves and wash out the bones with wine and keep them in this cellar.

You can spend your time winding in and out of the old footpaths and streets that once bustled with the everyday business of this once living town, and hike to the highest point in the town to get a bird’s-eye view of the sheer volume of abandoned structures, which number in the hundreds.

From any perspective, this quite a unique place, and one that will leave a lasting impression on any traveler.  In the case of Kayaköy the mass displacement of people is well-documented.  Thusly we can, without speculation, imagine this particular ghost town at its height and at the final moments of its life as a town, when modern politics once again decimated a centuries-old settlement.