Visiting a pirate’s nest near Fethiye: Kalabantia
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The Lycian coast in Turkey is a hot destination for a wide variety of people. You’ll find small-scale back-to-nature places like Kabak, charming villages such as Kalkan or Kaş, long beaches when going to Patara or Iztuzu beach, beautiful islands like Saint-Nicholas Island or Kekova, and fully grown tourist-resorts Ölüdeniz and Fethiye, only to name a few. And not to mention the many ancient sites, including the Unesco World Heritage sites of Letoon and Xanthos. But things weren’t always all kittens and rainbows. In fact, in the early days, pirates ruled the Lycian coast. The numerous paradise coves along the coastline were perfect hiding places for sea robbers and freebooters. One of those hideouts was Kalabantia, situated at approximately 3,5km south of Kabak. And of course, we had to go and check it out!
Kalabantia: 2 idyllic bays and fascinating ruins
After the pirates had left, Kalabantia became the port of Sidyma, one of the influential members of the Lycian League. The remainders of that period are what makes Kalabantia a fascinating place to visit if you like walking around ruins while enjoying the stunning scenery. Kalabantia is also called Kalabatia or Sancaklı Limanı in Turkish, but in all honesty, it probably doesn’t matter what we call it, as this is without a doubt an off-beat spot to visit. Apart from some signs on the Lycian Way, Kalabantia is hardly ever mentioned in any tourist guides. Does this mean it isn’t worth visiting?
On the contrary! It makes it all the more intriguing! Sancaklı Limanı is one hell of a spot for swimming, hiking, and exploring the old harbor’ ruins.
The hidden church at Kalabantia
Even those who know Kalabantia, may not know there is a church among the ruins. Most of it collapsed, but the apse is fully preserved. You can still see the contours of nine saints that were depicted and some parts of the colorful frescoes and medallions of saints are also still visible. The two-aisled church is situated more towards the south-east part of the site and is quite challenging to find and to access. The reward is huge though, at least if you watch where you’re going and don’t end up in the cistern just in front of the arch. We can’t help being fascinated by how this coastline is literally full of the most extraordinary ruins waiting to be discovered. And every time we ask ourselves the same question: how did they manage to build this massive construction on such a remote spot?
How to get to Kalabantia?
You have to make a bit of an effort to get to Kalabantia. As previously mentioned, one option is to make it a stop on your hike along the Lycian Way. You can reach it by following the Lycian Way from Kabak, or as an extension to your visit to Sidyma. Head into the direction of Boğaziçi and keep right after the village. Check out this detailed hiking itinerary below.
If hiking isn’t your thing or temperatures are too high, you can always treat yourself to a boat trip. There are no organized boat trips to Kalabantia, which is undoubtedly the reason it is still so pristine, but you can negotiate a price for a private trip with one of the many captains in Ölüdeniz or Gemiler. Along the way, expect scenic views from Saint-Nicholas Island and Karacaören Island, Babadağ, Butterfly Valley and Kabak, before arriving at the port of Kalabantia. If you plan on exploring the ruins, make sure to wear good shoes and bring plenty of water and some food. Depending on your level of fitness, you might even consider using a walking stick.
For more practical information about traveling to Turkey, visit our Turkey travel resources page. If you want to include Kalabantia in your Turkey itinerary, go to our Turkey travel map to check out what’s worth visiting in the area.