48km (30 miles) east of Kas; 225km (140 miles) southwest of Antalya; 25km (16 miles) west of Finike
The town of Demre (aka Kale, the names are sometimes used interchangeably, so this can get a bit confusing.) plays modern-day host to the ancient city of Myra, once home to a flabby, local 4th-century bishop making his rounds in 105°F (41°C) weather bundled up in a big red suit. After all, there were some lovely beaches nearby and not a mammal with antlers in sight. But somewhere during the 1,650 years that followed, several national folklores got mixed up, and legends merged that would elevate old St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, to the jolly international hero he is today. St. Nicholas served as bishop of Myra and earned himself a reputation of benevolence and good deeds by saving poor village girls from the fate of prostitution by dropping their dowries down the chimney. According to legend, he also rescued several village boys from the clutches of a serial killer disposed to pickling his victims in brine -- but that shocking piece of history ruins the feel-good vibe altogether. The legends accumulate, and the tour groups and pilgrims alike flock here to visit the ancient site and the Church of St. Nicholas, renamed by the Turkish authorities as Noel Baba Museum. The name change was controversial, and seen by followers of Orthodox Christianity as a way for the Turkish authorities to circumvent the celebration of the Mass at the church on St. Nicholas Day, December 6, which is currently not allowed. Another issue under the radar is the evolution of the statue welcoming visitors into Demre: The original bronze sculpture (now in the garden) was replaced in 2000 by a new bronze statue atop a colorful globe. Then in 2005, a preposterous Bakelite form of Santa Claus was installed on the site and was then replaced in 2008 by the present-day fiberglass and iron image that doesn't look like St. Nicholas OR Santa Claus. Sigh.
Unexpected is the necropolis of Myra, located above the ancient site and hewn into the rock like a high-rise apartment complex for dead people. This collection of rock-cut Lycian tombs is one of the best-preserved and finest examples of its kind, as pale shades of fading pigment can still be made out against the fine details of the bas-reliefs.
Because the modern town of Demre lacks decent accommodations and is located 5km (3 miles) inland, not many visitors stay here for longer than it takes to tour the necropolis and church. Hoping to change this trend, the local municipality has been investing in local development and preservation schemes. For now, it earns points for prettiness and charm, but still not enough to hold your interest for more than a few hours, including the area sites.