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Simena Castle (Kaleköy)

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We want to tell you the story of our Simena Kaleköy experience in this post…

About that happy, gleeful feeling that takes over your body when you’ve found a little corner of perfection.

Simena castle atop a hill in front of blue skies. There are red rooftops underneath leading down to the sea.
Who wouldn’t want to visit Simena?

Have you ever looked at postcards, online photos or official tourist board posters and been faced with a vision of what looks like paradise and thought, “I need to be there.”

After much anticipation, the day comes where you finally get to see that vision in person.

And then that sense of deflation melts through your body as you look at what’s there before you, your brain demanding to know from you, “Is this it? Is this what we’ve waited to see, all this time?”

That’s what we feared when we finally realised we were going to set eyes on Simena (modern day Kaleköy) for ourselves.

Ancient Simena (Kaleköy) – Pocket-Sized Perfection

Situated in the famous Kekova region along Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, Simena is exactly one of those places.

One of those places that for years, I’ve looked at in photos and known that I just had to see this place for myself.

Rocky Simena overlooking the bay with citadel at the top. A gület is anchored in the bay.
Turkish gülets are regular visitors to the bay at Simena

The turquoise waters of the southwestern region of Turkey are famous for gület cruises and it was on one such cruise that we came to visit this special place.

Our captain had expertly steered our gület over the sunken city of Kekova and now we were heading to the opposite side of the bay towards that oh-so-pretty hunk of rock, jutting out of the sea.

Houses, pensions, restaurants, Lycian sarcophagi clinging to the steep, natural rock face.

And all magnificently crowned with the mediaeval Simena castle. (Kaleköy means Castle Village.)

The epitome of picture-postcard-pretty.

But would it be like that once we were up close and personal?

Was Simena going to be everything we wanted it to be?

Well, the camera was in overdrive.

The closer our gület edged to the ancient city of Simena, the more the anticipation continued to build.

Looking towards Kaleköy under blue skies. Tall trees are on the skyline.
Anchoring the gulet at Simena seemed to take an age

Apart from by foot, boat is the only way to arrive at Simena – no noisy vehicles or roads here.

It really is an idyll!

Nothing but cactus-lined dust tracks and steep, rocky paths leading the visitor along the coastline and, inevitably, uphill towards the crowning glory – Simena Castle.

And we made that our first mission once we were on dry land.

We wanted to reach the top of the castle ruins!

A Turkish flag is in front of cloudy skies as we climb towards Simena Castle.
First mission was to climb the hill to Simena Castle

In Turkish, the word for ‘castle’ is ‘kale,’ hence the modern name of the village, Kaleköy (Castle Village), or Kale for short.

The ancient castle was built as a fortress by the Knights of St. John (Knights of Rhodes) to defend against the pirates around the area – no doubt the same pirates who had a penchant for pillaging the harbours of Phaselis.

Beautiful views from on high. There are hills in the background in front of a clear blue sea.
We were pretty out of breath by the time we got to the top

And can’t you just see why they chose this spot to build a fortress?

According to inscriptions found by archaeologists researching the history of the city, ancient Simena, meanwhile has a history dating back as far as the 4th Century BC.

These days, the path to the castle of Simena is an ancient, stone path of huge steps lined with villagers selling various goods to those out-of-breath tourists who choose to take on the short, steep climb.

Heaving their bodies to the top in the hope of being rewarded with extra special views over this area of Lycian Turkey.

We paid our fee at the entrance booth and, from there onwards, climbed the new, wooden steps towards the top.

Not without making numerous stops to take in the view and also take numerous photographs, too.

A Cannon peeps through the ancient walls towards the sea from Simena Castle.
The boats below look like easy pickings for this cannon

Climbing to the top of the castle at Simena was well worth the effort.

The rocky hillsides to our left were littered with a mix of ancient olive trees, carob trees and Lycian rock tombs.

An ancient necropolis, the Lycian tombs are just everywhere – a beautiful sight.

From the fortress walls, a cannon still rests, eyeing the gulets below.

Any pirate ships that sailed into these waters must have been easy pickings for the knights.

View of Üçağız with hazy skies in the background. Rocky outcrops are in the foreground.
Simena Castle is a perfect place for getting your bearings

As we wandered around on the roof of Simena, we came to the opposite side of the castle.

Below us is the village of Simena with daily life going on there, opposite are the sunken ruins of Kekova island, to our left is rocky land scattered with Lycian rock tombs.

And, now, here, to our right, is a couple of houses, the odd rock tomb and incredible views across to the harbour and village of Üçağız.

As well as photos of the village of Simena from the water, I’d also seen (and no doubt you have, too, if you know Turkey) photos of a lonely Lycian sarcophagus, partly submerged in calm, Mediterranean waters.

I wanted to see that single sarcophagus for myself and we’d spied its whereabouts from the top of the castle.

The hillside that Simena is built on is very steep but the village is so tiny that we were back down to sea level within minutes.

We followed a narrow, dusty path through huge cactus leaves and eventually reached the sight we wanted to see.

Just the ultimate tranquil spot!

The only other people around were a young couple just sitting on a rock, taking in the view and no doubt feeling the history and tranquillity all around them, just as we were.

Maybe, in the height of the summer season, tranquillity is a tad more difficult to come across around Simena with kayaks, day trip boats, gulets and private boats all offloading their human cargo to explore the village as we were doing.

But we were here in October – life had slowed down a little.

A sarcophagus in sunk into the water near to a small fishing boat.
Finally; face to face with the sunken Lycian rock tomb

Complete serenity.

A sunken tomb, peeping out above sea level – a result of earthquakes in ancient times – flat calm waters and a rowing boat.

And then, as we ambled back towards the harbourside restaurants, we were greeted with a touch of daily village life in Simena.

Carob molasses simmering away in two large black cauldrons.
What on earth was bubbling away in these cauldrons?

Two cauldrons by the side of the path were bubbling away with red hot liquid over an open fire.

On the opposite side of the path sat two old ladies, watching over their potions.

I took a photo, and then asked teyze what she was making.

She gave us a big grin and told us she was making pekmez with keçiboynuzu.

“It’s not ready yet, though,” she said. “Come back in the morning and I’ll give you some.”

Pekmez is fruit that is boiled until it makes a syrup.

We later found out that the hillsides of Kaleköy are abundant in carob trees.

And we also found out that ‘Keçiboynuzu’ is another Turkish word for carob. Previously, we’d only known the word, ‘harnup.’

Ohhh, how we wished we were staying over and could return in the morning for the carob pekmez and more faltering chatter with this sweet lady.

However, a harbourside restaurant (and a cold beer) was calling our name so we thanked the lady and took ourselves off to quench our castle-climbing thirst.

A cushioned area at a harbourside restaurant. New guests are walking towards us on a jetty in the middle of the photo.
A cold beer and a Simena jetty view – lovely

And again, Simena didn’t disappoint.

Just us and another family in there enjoying drinks in leafy shade from the afternoon sunshine.

We sipped our ice cold beers and sighed with happy satisfaction that Simena Kaleköy had not just lived up to expectation, but burst way beyond that.

And we know we’ll definitely be back one day, preferably for an overnight stay.

Simena – Kaleköy: Useful Information

  • We visited Simena (Kaleköy) as part of our week-long Turkish gulet cruise along the Lycian coast. Multi day cruises to the area can be booked from places like Fethiye, Kaş and Kemer.
  • Entrance to the castle is 90 TL per person (February 2024). For the latest price, check for updates on the Turkish Museums website.
  • Simena is accessible by boat or on foot. Daily boat trips to Kekova sunken city and Simena are available from nearby Çayağzı (Demre’s ancient Andriake harbour and home of St. Nicholas), the village of Üçağız and also further along the coast, from Kaş.
  • Sea kayaking is also a popular way to visit Simena and Kekova.
  • If you want to have a night or two in Simena, there are a few small places with air-conditiıned rooms and private bathrooms where you can stay.
  • The nearest airport to Simena Kaleköy is Antalya International Airport, 175 kilometres east. Alternatively, Dalaman Airport is 179 kilometres to the west.

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Ellison Stewart

Friday 17th of June 2016

Just arrived here and reading your blog entry again after having seen it on Facebook . Just amazing . We are off to explore in the evening light . Lucky enough to be sailing so we are staying over more exploring tomorrow.

Turkey's For Life

Wednesday 22nd of June 2016

Hi Ellison

Thanks a lot for your comment and great that you visited Simena. We are trying not to be a little bit jealous that you got to stay overnight. ;) How was it? We hope to get back to that area again soon.

budget jan

Monday 15th of February 2016

We've been to Simena and really enjoyed it too. And we climbed to the top of the fortress - that timber decking looks new since we were there. The views are gorgeous from the top and it is a very special part of Turkey.

Turkey's For Life

Monday 15th of February 2016

Yeah Simena is definitely special. Guess the new wooden steps on Simena Castle are to protect the stone and protect people from the more dangerous crumbling aread. The views are amazing, aren't they. :)

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