Centuries before the Byzantines, Romans, or Ottomans ruled Turkey, a remote corner of the country was home to the world’s first democratic federation, the Lycians. The Lycians were a peaceful federation of city-states that dated back to around 2000 BCE and included the city of Simena, a bustling sea-trading hub. However, in the 2nd century CE, Simena was devastated by a series of violent earthquakes and eventually submerged beneath the Mediterranean.
Today, the ruins of Simena lie just a few meters beneath the clear waters of the sea and include a shipyard, the foundations of public buildings, houses, and a couple of amphorae. Along the shoreline, one can also spot the remains of houses, Lycian tombs with arched roofs, and an early church. A stone staircase that leads into the calm waters is still visible. Kekova Island, where the ruins are located, is uninhabited, and goats can sometimes be spotted grazing among the ruins. The Turkish government has declared Kekova Island and its surrounding region a Specially Protected Area, and UNESCO has listed it as a “tentative” candidate for World Heritage status.
While swimming, snorkeling, diving, and jet-skis are prohibited in the area around the sunken city, chartered boats are allowed to cruise above it at a slow pace, providing visitors with a good view of the ruins both above and below the waterline.
To visit the sunken city, one can take a two-hour tour on a crowded boat from nearby Ucagiz, or for a more comfortable experience, join a full-day cruise on a gulet from Kaş or Kalkan. Gulets can also be privately chartered for a few days or a week to explore the Lycian coast. Another option is to book a kayak trip from Kaş, which involves a bus ride to the seaside village where the kayaks are, followed by a paddle across the strait to Kekova, and a return to the mainland for lunch in another village. A support boat is available to assist kayakers who get tired or need a ride back to the bus.