Kayaköy is a ghost-town located just outside of the hustle and bustle of Oludeniz and Hisaronu; situated in the Fethiye region of Turkey. Hundreds of stone houses slowly give into dilapidation in the hot sun, while a story of abandonment awaits to be discovered. The Kayaköy ghost town is not merely a collection of several abandoned buildings, but several hundred. And today, the town remains a haunting reminder of tragic events that transpired throughout the country a century ago.
The name of ghost-town comes from the Greek word “Karmilassos.” Although the settlement in this location has its roots in the 14th century, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the area truly began to flourish. Originally built in the 1700s, the town called Karmylassos in Greek was home Greek Orthodox residents by the early twentieth century.
By 1900, the city had reached a peak number of residents: 10,000 people. Both those of the Muslim faith and Greek Orthodox Christians lived and worked in a harmonious community. But this harmony could not last as the First World War loomed. That global conflict saw the persecution of all Ottoman Greeks, and Kayokoy was not immune. From 1914 to 1918, many of the Greeks who had called Kayakoy their home were sent into exile.
the collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to the land grabs of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). The resounding loss of the Greeks in this war ended with violence and retribution, which was often aimed at the remaining Greek Orthodox community within the new Turkish borders, and in turn, against the Muslim Turks in Greece. The residents of Kayakoy, who had thus far lived peacefully with their Turkish neighbors, abandoned the town and went to Greece.
By 1957, a large earthquake also took its toll on the beautiful yet abandoned town, causing major damage to the buildings. In Kayakoy, approximately 350 homes now sit empty and mostly roofless, along with two Greek Orthodox churches and the fountains and cisterns that watered the city.
The site is now under the protection of the Turkish government. The Turkish Ministry of Culture has awarded the city museum status, and Kayakoy is also included in the list of historical monuments. UNESCO accepted this abandoned city as a World Friendship and Peace Village. National Geographic also recognized it as one of the ten best ghost towns in the world.
Harsh winters and strong winds have stripped the buildings down to ruins, making the town look ancient. In 2014, the Turkish Travel Agencies Association, the Turkish-Greek Friendship Association, and the Turkish Chamber of Architects developed a project to rebuild Kayakoy. Former residential buildings, schools, libraries, shops, and other facilities are part of this project.
It is intended that the ruined city should become a symbol of the peace and friendship that once existed between Turkey and Greece. Today, the most important factor in the city’s economy is tourism. Visitors might be interested to know that the city can be reached by plane, the nearest airport being Dalaman Airport, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north-west. Nearby cities offer a selection of regular tours to this ghost town, and from the resort town of Fethiye, you can get to Kayakoy by bus in ten minutes.