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Kaya Village

KAYA VILLAGE…Levissi…can the village be called a destination?
Yes it can….
Over the centuries the settlement has been known by three different names….Karmylessos….Levissi….and finally ‘Kaya’, Colloquially you will see it advertised as a trip to the ‘ghost village’.
If staying in Oludeniz one can paraglide over it, walk up to it , or take public transport to get there. I would recommend transport up then walk down towards the lagoon taking in views of the sea and as one descends to Oludeniz. The path down is marked and starts above the higher church.


.Kaya lies just 10 km from Oludeniz. It was built on the site of the ancient Lycian city of Karmylassos and later inhabited by Byzantine Christians  and known as Levissi until 1923.

After the Turkish War of Independence, the Turkish and Greek governments agreed on a population exchange. Greek Orthodox believers moved to mainland Greece, and Moslem families of western Thrace moved to the villages the Christians had left  The village’s name is now changed to KAYA….translating as ‘rock’…which describes the site…set on a limestone escarpment overlooking a fertile plain.

The houses, churches and chapels are still partly intact, ranging panoramically round the slopes of three hills overlooking the plain. The site is now preserved as a ‘museum village’. The local Turks farm the land, produce apricots and almonds and provide visitors with local foods. Accommodation can be found in superior villas, stone cottages, apartments, and even tents. Barbecues, local wines and herb pancakes are all specialities of Kaya Village.

Some of the stone houses have been turned into workshops and ateliers which offer courses in painting, photography and pottery.

Camels and ponies are available for riding around the village.

Kaya longs for its past; narrow cobbled lanes wind up through  tiers of blank stone houses and on the plain below ancient maple trees  verge  onto the village  teahouse. As  I sit there looking up at the houses I muse. ……

I can see the flat roofs shaded by vines trellised up the side of each dwelling’s water-cistern. Lanes travel up like the vines, house to house, only diverting sideways from their straight ascent to give way to the roots of an old maple or a gnarled olive. From level to level, from house to house the cobbles ascend with an occasional step on their climb upward and south towards the sea. I look west, terrace upon terrace, these houses rise to the brow of adjacent hills, and to the east more dwellings, all similar, all climbing up to the skyline of a further hill which is crowned by a little white-washed building..maybe a chapel.

At first in the gloom all the houses seem of equal size, two-storied rectangles with shuttered and paired windows. Slowly my eyes seek out some smaller buildings, their arched roofs rising above the flat ones. One appears through the haze much larger with mather-painted walls, a gabled roof and bell tower. From here a wide passageway leads down to a similar building on the edge of the plain. I see lights appear through cracks in the shuttered windows, hear women talking  and smell cooking; olive-oil fried  vegetables maybe. 

Suddenly from the tower a bell sounds out, echoed by another further off. The donkey brays again.  

I rub my eyes, affected by the smoke maybe?… There are no longer lights in the houses, and the shutters are not closed. In fact the houses do not even have windows and the hearths are empty. I crush a twig of oregano between my fingers. The braying donkey becomes the horn of the dolmus announcing departure for Oludeniz. I stumble down the steep path to the road and hail the minibus. I had intended to walk down from Kaya village to the Lagoon. That was until….. the past became present and I was in Levisii. I wondered what had happened after the bells tolled. Did the  donkey’s owner go to fetch him?

In Lycian times Telmessos (Fethiye) was a major port with theatre necropolis and public buildings. Due to the amount of marshland bordering  the inner bay  Karmelyssos (Kaya) was the best suburb to live in. Just 7 km up the hill  with    cool  summer breezes  and good agricultural land.  The area evolved into a Christian settlement as early as the third century. By the 12th century pastoral  Turks  notably the ‘Karakeciler’ moved to the area.

With the coming of the Ottoman era the  Greek-speaking Christian subjects, and their Turkish-speaking Moslem neighbours lived in relative harmony until the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922. After the subsequent Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, the Orthodox  population of the area had to leave their homeland and move to Thrace in an exchange with  Turkish refugees who  had been used to flat agricultural plains of Thrace and were definitely not impressed  by this rocky landscape!

Very few settled in hill-side houses.

Today one can wander freely through the site noting the many chapels, some with the blurred frescoes still in evidence. There are two larger churches built in the 19th  century  by masons from Rhodes.

The Lower Church (Panaghia Pyrgiotissa or Kato Panagia) contained an ossuary and bell tower  while the 19th Century Upper Church (Taksiyarhis) was larger.Both are at present closed to the public.

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