A few kilometres east of Narlıkuyu, and about halfway between Silifke and Mersin, KIZKALESİ (“Maiden’s Castle”) is the longest established resort along this stretch of coastline. It has scores of hotels, pansiyons and restaurants, and the fine sandy beach slopes gently into the sea, making it ideal for kids (camels provide an alternative to donkey rides). The more active can parasail and jet-ski from the pier.
Known as Corycus in ancient times, Kızkalesi changed hands frequently until the arrival of the Romans in 72 BC, after which it prospered, becoming one of the most important ports along the coast. Roman-period relics still survive in the area, notably a series of mysterious rock reliefs north of town and the carvings at the chasm at Kanlıdivane to the east. Kızkalesi continued to thrive during the Byzantine era despite occasional Arab attacks – against which the town’s defences were strengthened with two castles constructed during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries – before falling to the Ottomans in 1482.
The town’s most compelling feature is the thirteenth-century sea castle, the Kızkalesi or Maiden’s Castle, on an island lying about 300m offshore. The story (examples of which are found all over Turkey) goes that one of the Armenian kings who ruled the region in medieval times had a beautiful daughter. After it was prophesied that she would die as the result of a poisonous snakebite, the king had the castle built and moved the girl out to it, imagining that she would be safe there. One day one of the king’s advisers sent a basket of fruit out to the island for her, out of which slid a snake that killed the girl. According to local stories, the snake still lives on the island, and the only people who venture out to it are tourists, for whose benefit boat services operate (7.5TL return trip) from the western end of the beachfront. The unadorned walls and sturdy towers still stand, but apart from masonry fragments and weeds there’s little to see within.
Opposite the sea castle, the overgrown ruins of the mighty land castle (Korkyos Kalesi) at the eastern end of the beach are easily explored and its battlements make a good venue for some sunset-watching. The main gate, constructed from ancient stones, bears various Greek inscriptions. The western gate was originally a Roman structure, built during the third century AD and later incorporated into the castle.
Immediately northeast of the town, across the main road from the land castle, is a necropolis, dating from the fourth century AD and containing hundreds of tombs and sarcophagi, some of them beautifully carved. Many of the epitaphs give the jobs of the occupants – weavers, cobblers, goldsmiths, vintners, olive-oil manufacturers, shipowners and midwives, who all had their last resting places here. Also scattered around this area are the remains of a number of Byzantine churches and cisterns. Explore these out of town areas at your own risk, as they are scattered throughout overgrown fields and farmers’ plots.Read More