One of the highlights of a stay in this area is a visit to the eerie ghost town of Kayaköy, literally ‘stone village’. Once the Greek town of Karmylassos, it was abandoned in the 1920’s. It has recently been the subject of renewed interest as it features as the setting for Louis de Bernières novel, ‘Birds without Wings’ which provides a fascinating insight into life here and the period of dramatic social change which took place in the time leading up to the foundation of the Republic of Turkey. There are around 400 houses here together with churches and other public buildings. It can be visited by dolmush on foot from Hisarönü or even on horse-back.
Founded during the 15th century under the Ottoman Empire, the village was at one time called Levissi and was populated by Greeks from nearby islands. In 1923 the village was abandoned by the 3,500 strong Greek population under the Turkish/Greek Population Exchange Treaty that followed the Turkish War of Independence, and has never been re-populated. This was because most of the Macedonian Muslims who were destined to occupy the houses in the village simple refused to do so believing that the departing Greeks had put a curse by on the village.
In 1957 a large earthquake in the Fethiye region caused major damage to the deserted village destroying many of the roofs, but most of the walls and all of the pathways either survived or have been restored so that getting around is fairly easy. Particularly striking is the Panayia Piryiotissa basilica that can be found at the top of the main footpath from the road. Visitors can still see most of the original mosaic floor, the altar and some murals depicting Christ and the apostles.
Today the remains of KayaKöyü cling to the hillside, with its ghosts largely undisturbed by tourists. As they stare at the derelict churches, the roofless houses and the ancient water cisterns smothered by morning glory, some will no doubt wonder exactly what happened here, unaware that down in the valley are living people whose parents knew the answer and the ghosts very well.