Located in an idyllic village that (supposedly) can only be accessed by boat or by foot, Simena Castle is one of Antalya’s treasures. Awe-inspiring panoramic views, hospitable Turkish villagers, a heart-pumping work-out, and Byzantine era ruins create an authentically Antalya experience.
History of Simena Castle
Inscriptions dating back to 4th century BC have been found in this ancient city, but the castle itself only dates back to the Byzantine era. Supposedly it was built to fend off pirates from raiding Kekova during the Middle Ages.
The 300-seat capacity theatre carved into the side of the slope signifies that it was used as a small city during Roman times. There are also carvings in the public baths that can be found on the shore of Kaleköy with dedications to Roman Emperor Titus (69-79 AD).
We were lucky enough to dock in the Kaleköy (“castle village”) for two hours during our day-long blue cruise from Kaş. Even before anchoring in the small harbor, we were exuberant with anticipation because it just looked so enchanting from afar.
There is a sign at the bottom that warns you of the steep incline and hundreds of stairs you will climb to reach the castle. For about a minute we weighed our options and decided to brave the hike up-hill. Wow, were we thankful we did! Any energy we exerted was definitely worth the reward at the top. And, honestly, the climb was not that bad. It goes by quickly because the majority of the way up there are shops selling souvenirs and cafes touting ice cream (more on that later).
Once we arrived at the top, we were greeted by a small Lycian theater and more stairs to reach the top of the castle. There are lots of rocks to climb over and on for kids, and a plethora of amazing spots to take pictures of the sparkling harbor and sea beyond. It really was quite breath-taking!
From the top you can look out and see scores of rock-cut tombs scattered all over the hills. We spent about 45 minutes at the castle and then started our decline to be sure we didn’t miss our boat. On our way back down, we couldn’t resist stopping for some house-made ice cream. Just about every cafe offers delicious ice cream along the path, but we got ours from Cafe Mola-1.
We would love to go back some day and explore around the area some more, or maybe even hike from Uçağız to Kaleköy instead of taking a boat. A night or two at one of the hotels lining the harbor also looks alluring and was on our wish list of things to do in 2022.
- Contrary to what people tell you, you can reach Kaleköy by car from Uçağız. However, we recommend supporting the local tourism industry because part of the lure is the mystique of arriving by sea.
- To get to Simena Castle, secure a boat or kayak tour from Kaş, Demre, or Uçağız. If you want to enjoy all the area has to offer, it is only a 30-40 minute hike from Uçağız.
- When you disembark in the small Kaleköy harbor, follow the signs which point you in the right direction to climb to the castle.
- Be sure to bring a water bottle (or buy one at a cafe as you climb) and wear lots of sunscreen. You will be exposed to the sun for most of the hike, and the climb is a good workout.
- It is a good workout, but it is not impossible. There are plenty of places to stop along the stairs for rest and/or a snack or water.
- Wear comfy shoes so you can climb and explore easily. Close-toed shoes are not necessary.
- Be sure to bring a good camera or smart phone to take pictures. The view from the top is Instagram worthy and you will spend a good amount of time capturing photos.
- Plan time to stop and try ice cream at a cafe. It is most certainly worth the splurge and an essential part of your visit.
- If you are a fish lover, plan extra time to feast on some freshly caught fish in a cafe overlooking the harbor.
- There is a bathroom around the corner from the entrance to the castle at the top on the east side. It was relatively clean, but there was not toilet paper. (This is common in Turkey, so you should always travel with napkins or tissues.)
- Don’t miss the partially submerged sarcophagus near the shore as you head back down toward the harbor.
- Some other things to look for while you are there: water cisterns, remnants of a religious building used as a temple, a church, and a mosque.
- If you want to hike around a bit, the necropolis on the northeast side of the castle is littered with sarcophagi and rock tombs. This area is relatively easy to walk around, but there is zero shade.
- This is a popular tourist attraction because of the sheer number of people taking blue cruises. If you want a smaller crowd, go during the off season when summer tourists are gone.
Address: Kaleüçağız, 07570 Demre/Antalya
Opening Hours: Daily from 08:30-19:00 (hours subject to change)
Entrance Fee: 25TL per adult (as of October 2022)