Uzunyurt, Fethiye – Muğla – Turkey
GPS : 36°33’18.6″N 29°04’06.6″E / 36.555177, 29.068490
Gemiler Island is an island located off the coast of Turkey near the city of Fethiye. The island has a crescent shaped bay which is used as an anchorage. Gemiler Adasi, three miles west of Ölu Deniz, has an attractive anchorage on the north side which can be used in settled weather. Anchor in 15 – 20 metres and take a line ashore. Often rather aggressive “boat boys” will approach and offer to take your lines (for a tip, of course).
The prettiest anchorage on the north of Gemiler Island. There are good depths along the shoreline accross the island. The bottom is weed-sand-rock. You can anchor drop anchor and take a line ashore. Care is needed when dropping the hook. Ease your chain line as much as possible. To rig a trip line on your anchor will be safe and it will make it mush easier to raise.
The shoreline is wooded in olive trees. The anchorage on N of Gemiler Island is perfect for those who prefer serenity.
The shore here is lined with Byzantine ruins, extending some 15 – 20 metres out under the water, and the situation is most picturesque in the right conditions. The hillsides are covered by ruins from the Byzantine era. A path climbs the hills. The ruins of Lycian tombs are in attractive settings that help you imagine what the place was like in ancient times.
Beautifully situated in a mountain-girt bay, Gemiler Island is packed with c.1,500 year old Byzantine remains. The island, just 1km long, has been surveyed by Japanese archaeologists who have revealed the existence of a thriving small town clinging to the northern shore. Unlike the classical cities of the region, there are none of the typical public buildings, no theatre, no baths, no gymnasium, no colonnaded streets, no agora, just a dense collection of houses, cisterns and four main churches.
Described on Italian medieval maritime charts as St. Nicholas Island, Gemiler seems to have thrived as a key stop on the Christian pilgrimage route to the Holy Land. Pilgrims sailing to Jerusalem would put in at this safe harbour, replenish water and supplies and pray for their safe journey. Today, one can explore the remains of these early churches, decorated with mosaics and frescoes, discover a huge public cistern and walk in a unique processional passageway up to the cathedral church and the island’s summit with its stunning 360-degree views.
On the island are the remains of several churches built between the fourth and sixth centuries AD, along with a variety of associated buildings. Archaeologists believe it was the location of the original tomb of Saint Nicholas. The Byzantine ruins of five churches built between the fourth and sixth centuries AD remain, along with a 350 metres (1,150 ft) processional walkway. Other remains from the same period include around forty other ecclesiastical buildings and over fifty Christian tombs. One of the churches was cut directly from the rock at the island’s highest point, and is located directly at the western end of the processional walkway.
Modern archaeologists believe that the island may be the location of St. Nicholas’ original tomb. The traditional Turkish name for the island is Gemiler Adası, meaning “Island of Boats”, with St. Nicholas being the patron saint of sailors; the island was also referred to as St. Nicholas Island by seafarers in the medieval period. Archaeologists believe he was interred in the rock hewn church following his death in 326. They remained there until the 650s when the island was abandoned as it was threatened by an Arab fleet. The remains were taken to the town of Myra some 25 miles (40 km) to the east.