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KIZKALESİ

Maiden's Castle                         Population: 2,000

kizkal1Kızkalesi is a small beach resort on the Eastern Mediterranean coast between Silifke and Mersin. Although the resort is new and without architectural distinction it sits on a fine stretch of sand that was always a bit too well-kept a secret. Now it's all systems go in summer, with music blaring from assorted discos and bars, lasers scything through the night sky and the pretty off-shore castle lit up in ever-changing colours. Some (probably young) people will love it. Others will be horrified.

Still, the fact remains that the two castles to be seen here are impressive. One floats serenely offshore; another faces it from the shore. 

Across the road from the onshore castle an ancient necropolis is clearly visible. Look out for a fine carving of a warrior amongst the more mundane holes.

Out of season Kızkalesi is much nicer, the castle left to sink into nocturnal darkness, the music muted. Prices sink too, making an off-season visit a particularly good idea. 

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Backstory

This is a part of the coast that has had a particularly turbulent history in which it changed hands over and over again.

From 1360 to 1448 Corycus was governed from Cyprus under the Lusignans. In 1375 it was seized by the Mamluks, then in 1448 by the Karamanoğulları. In 1471 it was the turn of the Venetians to grab both the castles before they were finally captured by the Ottomans in 1482. 

Nothing is then heard of Corycus until the castes crop up in Karamania published by the British explorer Francis Beaufort in 1818. At that time they were surrounded only be vegetation and ancient ruins in sharp contrast with the current situation.

The castles

Both Kızkalesi's castles probably date back to antiquity but they were completely rebuilt in the late 11th century by the Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081-1118) as a bulwark against the Crusaders. Originally they were linked together by a causeway remains of which are still visible beneath the sea.

In the 13th century they were occupied by the Armenians of the independent Kingdom of Cilica. Their capital lay to the east at Sis (modern Kozan).

Of the two castles, the one on the mainland has double walls while that on the island, protected by the sea, only required one set. Both contain the remains of chapels and cisterns. Unfortunately although the mainland castle is open to the public no attempt has been made to clear the rubble to make the inner structures so most people will probably feel that they have seen enough from the outside. 

The offshore castle is now accessible by boat if you are not a strong enough swimmer to make it out there under your own steam.

Needless to say, the same dubious story about a princess imprisoned for her own safety in the castle, yet still poisoned by a snake delivered in a basket of fruit, is told here about Kızkalesi as it is down the road at Kızkales, Yumurtalık, and at Kızkulesi in İstanbul.

kizkal4Sea castle from mainland castle

The old road to Ayaş

If you head out of Kızkalesi for Ayaş you will see the remains of several large Byzantine churches looming on the horizon on the inland side of the road. To teach them look for a track heading inland just before you reach the Luk Oil petrol station.

The track eventually merges into the remains of the old flagstoned road which was lined with huge Byzantine sarcophagi, many of them still in situ and almost all of them marked with a cross. Of the churches two are absolutely enormous, more like cathedrals than churches. 

Closer to Ayaş you can also climb up the inland side of the road to visit a Greco-Roman necropolis with some standing tombs like those near Uzuncaburç and other rock-cut graves. 

Eating

There's not much in the way of fine dining in Kızkalesi but if you walk west along the beach promenade past the Albatros disco you will eventually come to some pleasant cafe-bars. The Orange Cafe is particularly inviting with a hammock, comfy seating and glowing lights.

Sleeping

Or rather not sleeping in summer unfortunately.

It's hard to know what to advise. Hotels along the main road suffer from traffic noise, those along the beach from late-night amplified music, and those in between from the general noise of passers-by.

If you want to sleep don't pick a hotel near the Albatros disco, the Turkish Turtles bar or the Club Barbarossa which hosts noisy wedding parties in its garden. Actually, if quiet is important to you visit out of season or move speedily on.

Hotel Eylül

Nisan Hill Hotel

Transport info

Minibuses from Mersin to Silifke plough up and down the coast road passing through Kızkalesi. 

Day trip destinations

Adamkayalar

Cennet Cehennem

Narlıkuyu

Kanlıdivane

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