St Nicholas known as Father Christmas and Santa Claus spent some time in a town not too far from Fethiye and his church still stands today making it an ideal festive day trip for visitors and residents alike.

The true story of Father Christmas begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara near Kalkan, Turkey.

Greeks inhabited that part of south west Turkey at that time and Nicholas was brought up to be a devout Christian by his wealthy parents.

When he was only a young man he was made the Bishop of Myra an ancient city near to the modern day town of Demre.

A fresco

As Bishop he became known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

However, Roman Emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians and Nicholas was imprisoned for many years.

However, when he was eventually released he traveled to Nicaea, now Iznik, where he attended the first Ecumenical Council.

Nicholas died on December 6th (19th in the Gregorian calendar we use today) AD343 in Myra and was buried in the church of which the ruins still stand today.

A trip to the ruins of the church and the nearby ancient city of Myra is a nice day out made more so because of the link with the festive period.

The church still retains some original fresco’s in excellent condition.

The site is very popular with Russian tourists as St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russian sailors. Their visits peak during December to mark the month when Nicholas died.

The map below shows the location of Demre and the Church of St Nicholas.

It is around 3 hours drive from Fethiye following the spectacular coast road via Kalkan, Kas and then Demre so you’ll need to set off early to pack everything in with the limited December daylight hours.

Once in Demre follow signs for Myra and the Church.

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Entrance to the Church and the ruined city of Myra attract separate entry charges.

The ancient city of Myra – Burial Graves carved into the rock above the city

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