Statue of St Nicholas in
the main square of Demre.
Demre (Myra), 50 km (31 miles east of Kaş and 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Çıralı (map), is the
town where Santa Claus (Noel Baba in Turkish) first
Actually, it was St Nicholas, a 4th-century Bishop of Myra, who
lived and worked here, and who was
later transmuted into the jolly Christmas
elf called Sinterklaas in Holland (and similar names in other European countries), and later Santa Claus in North America.
An 11th-century church in
Demre, now the Santa Claus Museum (Noel Baba Müzesi), once held his earthly remains,
but in 1087 most of his bones were taken by force to Bari in Italy, and the remainder taken to Venice in 1100. (Churches were built in both cities to preserve the purloined relics. In 2009 the Turkish government demanded the return of the relics to Demre.)
Nicholas was born in nearby Patara,
became a priest, rose to the rank of bishop,
and did much of his good work here
in the Roman town
then called Myra, a name derived
Legend has it that he'd drop small
bags of gold coins down the
chimneys of houses with poor girls
who were old enough to marry, but had
no dowry. Another story says he'd leave gold coins in the shoes of the poor who put them out for him. Sanctified
for his good works, he became the patron
saint of virgins, sailors, children,
pawnbrokers and Holy Russia.
Today the Santa Claus Museum (Noel Baba Müzesi) is
Demre's most visited site, but there
are other things to see in this small
coastal Mediterranean town.
About 2 km (1.2 miles) inland are the
ruins of Roman Myra, with a well-preserved theater and
impressive rock-hewn tombs.
Lycian tombs at Demre,
similar to those at nearby Dalyan, Fethiye and Kaş.
The person inspecting the tomb in the white circle gives you a sense of scale.
Demre (also sometimes called Kale) has several suitable hotels...including the Grand Hotel Kekova right in the town center, walking distance to the Church of St Nicholas; and the Beymelek Taş Evler, a traditional Mediterranean stone-and-timber house completely renovated into a wonderful boutique hotel, 6 km (3.7 miles) from the town center on the Lycian Way hiking trail. More...
You may also choose to see Demre's sights on
your way to Kaş or Çıralı, Olimpos, Kemer and Antalya.
Çayağzı, 5 km (3 miles)
west of Demre just off the coastal highway, was called Andriake in
Roman times, and has some ruins to show for it,
a decent, small beach, and several
Here in 2009, archeologists from Akdeniz
University discovered the ruins of
a 1500-year-old Roman
a hill overlooking the harbor. A marble
tablet inscribed with a menorah, shofar
and bugle, palm tree and lemon tree helped to identify the building.
Distances & Travel Times
km (90 miles) NE, 3 hours
km (93 miles) W, 3 hours
km (28 miles) W, 1 hour
km (68 miles) NE, 2.25 hours
km (199 miles) NW, 5.5 hours
km (44 miles) NE, 1.75 hours
km (56 miles) W, 2 hours
km (19 miles) SW, 45 minutes
Above, a historic photo (1982) of
of St Nicholas.
Below, the church as it appears today,
with a huge shelter built above it.
A huge shelter now covers the ancient church, but it's still a favorite place for newlyweds—especially Russians. (Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia.)
Above, the ancient harbor of Andriake (Çayağzı).