Written for Fethiye Times and with photos by Mike Vickers
Feature photo above: Panorama of a verdant springtime Kaya valley taken from the Fethiye road.
Jan and I had the great pleasure of living in the Kaya valley for some of 2019 and found it a beautiful and fascinating place. The valley is actually closer to the centre of Fethiye than the further reaches of Çalış or Karaçulha and yet, because of the intervening hills, feels like another world, the pace of life notably slower and more peaceful when compared with the bustle of Fethiye. Best accessed by the road rising up behind the Crusader castle, a very pleasant fifteen minute drive through the forests will bring you down into the valley, although I’m the first to admit the journey is enlivened by a respectable number of proper full-on hairpin bends. It’s not often you’re required to turn the steering wheel to full lock in order to get around a bend, especially on the descent!
Kaya still remains essentially pastoral, despite the inevitable pockets of new development. The valley is dominated by the abandoned village of Karmylassos, or Levissi, the ruins of which are the magnet that draws so many visitors. Much has been written about the repatriation of the Greek population in 1923 so I won’t dwell on it suffice to say that after the village was abandoned, the natural forces of erosion and decay have left the many hundreds of buildings as we see them today; empty, ghostly and atmospheric, yet quietly serene.
But there is much more to see in the valley than just these haunting ruins. We lived in Keçiler and spent many happy hours exploring the meandering back roads and hidden pathways that snake between the fields, many still enclosed by traditional stone walls. The valley floor is notable for its rich red soil and for being flat, which makes for perfect walking, but it can flood in winter as there is no natural water outlet, some of the accumulated rain slowly draining down through the rocks to emerge at Coldwater Bay just around the coast from Ölüdeniz.
Kayaköy, the charming main village of the valley, can be really busy in summer, especially during the Kaya Festival, but is a lovely place to stop at any time for refreshments in the local tea house. Also well worth a visit is the abandoned monastery of Af Kule, accessed by a path leading up through the forest a kilometre or so beyond the tiny hamlet of Kınalı at the far end of the valley. Perched in a dramatic cliff top position overlooking the sea, the lonely ruins offer fine views out over Fethiye Gulf.
Surrounded by forested hills, possessed of much history, still traditionally rural and exceptionally picturesque, the Kaya valley offers so much more than just the ruins of Karmylassos and is always worth a visit whatever the season.
Please note that all of these photos were taken prior to the arrival of Covid.
The Kaya valley in spring as seen from above Keçiler The valley floor is remarkably flat and completely surrounded by forested hills. You can actually see our house from here – it’s over there by the tree. No, not that tree, the other bushy green one beside the big shady rock where those goats are playing Okey.
There are many sinuous paths running through the ruins of Karmylassos. This one passes around the Aşağı Kilise, or Lower Church.
Almost all of the ruined houses were positioned so as not to obscure the view or block sunlight from one another. Although peaceful and empty now, at one time the village was a thriving community of around 6500 people.
Springtime, and the wisterias are spectacular, the scent heavenly. We came across this beauty on one of our many exploratory ambles around the valley. An amble, by the way, is a walk that lacks energy, and a walk is a march that lacks ambition. I’m proud to report we perfected the art of the amble while living in the valley.
“Come on then if you think you’re hard enough!” Living as we did in a rural location, we frequently found ourselves sharing the house with some pretty exotic characters. We found this fearsome yellow-eyed mantis in the bedroom. The size of my palm, he wasn’t scared of anything. We also hosted several sweet little geckos, one in the bathroom and the other in the wardrobe. We always caught him frozen with surprise whenever we opened the door.
The Greek flag proudly unfurled beside the Turkish flag at the 2019 Kaya Festival as an acknowledgement of the shared history of the valley. Good to see – these two should be flying together more often, don’t you think.
This lovely lady was mixing up a fresh batch of Çiğ köfte on a street food stall at the last festival. No wonder she’s got her gloves on – the raw meat is ‘cooked’ by the addition of some fairly punchy spices! That’s Jan’s arm, by the way, pointing at those jars of something unknown but almost certainly hot enough to strip the enamel from your teeth.
This peaceful and deserted cobbled road descends through the forest to Fethiye and is one of several old Greek roads that still exist in and around the valley. Interestingly, the current road has some pretty nasty hairpin bends to cope with the terrain whereas the gradient on this impressively well-engineered road is constant and gradual. Earlier on our walk, we had to brave a long line of very active beehives parked on the roadside. Jan got stung. On the bum!
I always get the distinct impression this ruined house is glaring at me each time I walk past. Can you see the frowning face? Spooky.
A field full of really lovely poppies, one of many fabulous flower meadows found all over the valley. By high summer, this had become a barren desiccated patch of dusty brown soil.
Nothing demonstrates love more than carving the name of your sweetheart into a cactus. I saw this alongside one of the paths in the ruins of Karmylassos. Did Nicola appreciate Ciaran’s gesture or was theirs a prickly relationship? We’ll never know.
Autumn Turkish daffodils brightening a shady corner after a very long and hot summer. These were seen after the first rains at the base of a Turkish oak on one of our regular walks.
Af Kule Monastery, remote and ruined, but with a spectacular view.
Elevated water tank near Keçiler. Why pay for a tower when you can stick it up a handy tree. I’m gutted – when I was a kid all I had was a common or garden treehouse. I could have installed a Jacuzzi up there had I shown more ingenuity.
Eat my chickpeas, end your days on a pole! A timely warning to passing livestock not to mess with this farmer’s crop.
Taking in the afternoon’s rush hour at the Kaya tea house. This old stone well is one of many dotted about all over the valley floor. The bucket still works and is used to fill the adjacent stone trough to provide water for any dogs that happen to be passing.
The sun emerging after an evening storm down the valley from Keçiler.
One of the famous moving stones of Kaya. Always wise to check around the car before driving off. The valley echoes to the amorous clack of shells in spring. It’s sort of like a mix of rhythmic castanets with a bit of horny rock-bashing thrown in, coupled with surprisingly loud grunting for such a small creature. There’s no escape from the racket – or did they just pick our garden out of a sense of mischief.