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Myra - Exploring the Ancient Ruins and Beyond

Demre's Hidden Gems

Welcome to Myra / Demre, a treasure trove of wonders awaiting your discovery on the sun-drenched shores of Türkiye .

Home of St Nicholas (Santa)

Myra is famously associated with St. Nicholas, the historical figure who inspired the modern-day Santa Claus.

Saint Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop of Greek descent who served as the Bishop of Myra in the 4th century.

His acts of generosity and kindness, particularly his habit of secret gift-giving, led to the development of the legendary figure of Santa Claus. The Church of St. Nicholas in Demre, near Myra, is believed to house his tomb and is a significant pilgrimage site. 

Where to stay in Myra

A bit more about where to stay in Demre, later in the article.

Who was St Nicholas

The original Santa Clause

St. Nicholas, also known as Nicholas of Myra or Nicholas the Wonderworker, was a Christian bishop who lived during the 4th century in the city of Myra, located in present-day Demre, Türkiye . He is one of the most revered saints in Christianity and is particularly known for his acts of generosity and kindness.

One of the most famous stories about St. Nicholas involves a poor man who could not afford dowries for his three daughters. In order to save them from a life of destitution, St. Nicholas is said to have secretly thrown bags of gold through the window of their home, providing the necessary dowries. This act of anonymous charity contributed to the association of St. Nicholas with gift-giving, a tradition that evolved into the modern-day Santa Claus.

St Nicolas Church Demre Italy Home of the original Santa Clause tradition of gift giving during Christmas

St. Nicholas became the patron saint of sailors, merchants, and children, and his feast day is celebrated on December 6th in many Christian traditions. The Church of St. Nicholas in Demre is believed to house his sarcophagus, making it a destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. The church features well-preserved frescoes depicting scenes from the life of St. Nicholas.

Visiting Myra (Demre) and the Church of St. Nicholas allows you to explore the historical and cultural legacy of this revered figure, offering a unique perspective on the origins of the beloved holiday traditions associated with St. Nicholas.

When planning your trip:

Myra or Demre? (What is Myra Called Now?)

The ancient city of Myra, located in present-day Türkiye , is now known as Demre. Demre is a town in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast, and it encompasses the archaeological site of the ancient city of Myra. The change in the name is part of the evolution of place names over time, reflecting the region’s historical and cultural transformations. When planning your visit, you’ll likely refer to the area as Demre rather than Myra.

Demre/Antalya, Türkiye

When booking a ready-made trip or excursion, you’re most likely to see the heading:

Demre, Myra and Kekova Sunken City

  • Kekova, also named Caravola (Greek: Dolichiste), is a beautiful,  small Turkish island near Demre.
  • The Sunken City:  Many people come to the Kekova region, especially to see the ancient Sunken City across from Kaleköy. Thousands of visitors arrive every year to explore this mysterious underwater site. The city used to be a lively community until an earthquake sadly changed everything 2,000 years ago. Now, the only clear sign that the city once existed is a stone staircase that goes into the water.
  • Is it really a city underwater?  When the weather is right, you can see the remains of this old city just below the clear surface of the water. The best way to enjoy it is on a glass-bottomed boat or even by using a sea kayak. Although only a few things are left to tell us about its past, being surrounded by the beautiful turquoise sea, romantic bays, and charming villages nearby, the Sunken City makes Kekova Island a must-visit for your travel wishlist.
Kekova island near Myra Demre
Sunken City of Kekova near Myra

The ancient ruins of Myra - UNESCO Site

Myra ruins
The ancient ruins of Myra
Ancient ruins of Myra

These ruins date back to the 5th century BC and offer a captivating glimpse into the past. While Demre itself is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lycian Rock Tombs in Myra are part of the “Rock Tombs of Lycia” UNESCO site.

Visiting the ancient ruins of Myra allows you to step back in time and appreciate the architectural, cultural, and historical legacy of this once-thriving city on the Mediterranean coast. The combination of well-preserved structures and the natural beauty of the surroundings makes it a compelling destination for history enthusiasts and tourists alike.

  • One of the most well-preserved structures in Myra is its Roman theater, dating back to the 2nd century AD. This amphitheater could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators and provides insight into the city’s cultural and entertainment practices during the Roman period.
  • It’s a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking a fascinating journey through ancient civilizations.
  • Myra had an ancient harbor, and remnants of this maritime infrastructure can be observed. Additionally, the city’s necropolis, where the Lycian tombs are concentrated, provides a sense of the city’s burial practices and reverence for the deceased.  The elaborate Lycian rock-cut tombs, carved into the cliffs featuring intricate facades and architectural details, showcase the advanced craftsmanship of the Lycian people and add a sense of mystique to the site.

Language, Currency, Best time to go, Shopping and Food you should try:

Where to stay

Accommodation in Myra

Kekova Pansiyon

Set in Demre, 200 metres from Kekova Sunken City, Kekova Pansiyon offers accommodation with a garden, free private parking, a terrace and a restaurant. The property is around 20 km from Myra Rock Tombs, 20 km from Saint Nicholas Church and 47 km from Setur Finike Marine. The accommodation provides room service and a 24-hour front desk for guests.

You’ll find beautiful places to stay in Demre.

Marti Bungalow

Located in Demre, 2.5 km from Sülüklü Beach, MARTI BUNGALOW provides accommodation with a garden, free private parking, a terrace and a restaurant. 3.6 km from Saint Nicholas Church and 5 km from Myra Rock Tombs, the property features a private beach area, as well as a bar. The accommodation offers room service, a 24-hour front desk and currency exchange for guests.

Best places to stay in Demre

4 of the Best travel tips

  1. Explore Early:

    • Begin your day early to explore the ancient ruins of Myra, such as the Lycian Rock Tombs and the Roman theater, before the midday heat sets in. This not only provides a more comfortable experience but also allows you to appreciate the historical sites with fewer crowds.
  2. Visit the Church of St. Nicholas Strategically:

    • Plan your visit to the Church of St. Nicholas strategically to avoid peak times. Early mornings or late afternoons are ideal for a more serene experience at this significant religious site. Take time to appreciate the unique architecture and the historical connection to Saint Nicholas.
  3. Indulge in Local Cuisine:

    • Dive into the local culinary scene by trying traditional dishes such as Lahmacun, Hünkar Beğendi, and Manti. Seek out local eateries for an authentic taste of Demre’s flavors. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy fresh seafood and regional specialties for a true gastronomic adventure.
  4. Embrace the Turquoise Coast:

    • Take advantage of Demre’s proximity to the Turquoise Coast. Plan a day trip to the nearby beaches for relaxation and water activities. Whether it’s sunbathing on the sandy shores or exploring the vibrant marine life through snorkeling, embracing the beauty of the coast adds a refreshing dimension to your Demre vacation.

Map of Demre

Why you should go

Embarking on a vacation to Demre promises an immersive journey into the heart of ancient civilizations and a rich tapestry of cultural wonders. From the mesmerizing Lycian Rock Tombs that bear witness to centuries of craftsmanship to the Roman theater echoing with the whispers of bygone eras, Demre captivates history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.

The town’s association with Saint Nicholas adds a unique and enchanting layer, making a visit to the Church of St. Nicholas not just a historical exploration but a pilgrimage into the roots of holiday traditions.

Demre’s culinary scene invites you to savor the flavors of Turkish delights, from the aromatic Lahmacun to the indulgent Hünkar Beğendi, creating a fusion of tastes that linger in your memory.

Furthermore, the proximity to the Turquoise Coast offers a retreat into nature’s beauty, where crystal-clear waters and picturesque beaches invite relaxation and exploration.

Demre stands as a captivating destination worth every traveler’s exploration.