Kiz Kalesi

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The majority of visitors to this small resort town are Turks on a short holiday from nearby cities. German tourists and the Americans stationed at İncirlik military base make up much of the rest. Despite the unchecked hotel construction brought on by the recent tourist boom, Kizkalesi still remains fairly small, and it offers hedonistic beaches and a vibrant nightlife. The nearby sites of Kanlidivane and Adam Kayalar also make fine daytrips, allowing the amateur archaeologist to leave Kizkalesi with something more than memories of sun, sand, and beer.

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Legend holds that a king built the castle on the island off the coast to protect his daughter from the untimely death prophesied for her. She lived in splendid near isolation until a snake, unintentionally hidden in a fruit basket sent by the king’s adviser, fulfilled the prediction with a poisonous nibble. A lovely story, but the Maiden’s Castle (Kizkalesi) and its counterpart on the shore were actually built to protect the Armenian city of Corycus from foreign invaders. Today, these “obstacles” provide the raison for the town’s tourist industry.


Nearly all of Kizkalesi’s sleeping, eating, and nightlife establishments line the lkm strip of waterfront. Buses run through Kizkalesi en route to Mersin or Silifke (at least every 20min., $.50). There are no banks and no tourist office in Kizkalesi; the nearest are 25km away in either Erdemli or Mersin. Other services include: the police (523 22 21); a pharmacy, Kizkalesi Eczane (523 2850); a medical clinic, Sağlık Ocağı (523 2139); and the PIT, behind the Belediye building, with public phones outside (open M-F 8:30am-12:30pm and :30-5:30pm, Sa 8:30am-1pm). Postal code: 33790.


Kiz kalesi has an astounding number of hotels and pensions, and it is impossible to walk the streets without being hounded by eager cries of “yes, please!” and “pansiyon?’’ The Best Motel , 2 Plaj Yolu No. 6, has 12 large but simple rooms with ceiling fans. The Turkish owners will speak to you in German regardless of your nationality. (523 20 74 or 523 25 23. Breakfast $1.60. $5 per room.) For sheer comfort worth far more than its asking price, try the Yaka Hotel . Its 16 well-furnished rooms boast phone, A/C, minibar, and even coffee/ tea machines. The owner, Yakup Kahveci, is the head honcho of regional tourism and a geyser of information. (523 24 44. Breakfast included. Singles $20; doubles $30; triples $40.) Farther from the beach, Sahil Motel , Mavi Deniz Mah., 2 Plaj Yolu, is an excellent value. The 21 no-frills rooms are have electric fans. (523 20 59. Breakfast $2. Singles, doubles, and triples $7, with A/C $10; quads with A/C $13.) Next door to Yaka, the homey Hotel Rain  offers 19 rooms with A/ C and a killer, included rooms, try the Inka Hotel . All rooms have Mediterranean balcony views. (523 21 82; fax 523 26 73. Singles $18, with A/C $24; doubles $29.)


Almost all the hotels and pensions in Kiz kalesi have full-fledged restaurants that host live singers and lively, table-dancing rows. Price and quality are consistent with those of their rooms. Other options Include Cafe Rain, which faces the back of the hotel of the same name. Check out Hi Honey Restaurant and Bar  (523 24 38), facing the highway, whose owner, Erdogan, takes credit for introducing tantuni (minced meat in a wrap) to Kiz kalesi. The mixed Turkish-German menu of this tastefully hip restaurant features a “$3 Ottoman pan” with beef, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.

Nightlife in Kizkalesi consists of drinking and people-watching from the several popular beach bars. Then, after midnight, when outdoor bars are required to stop serving alcohol, the dancing crowd heads to Oxy Disco, where a cavernous interior pulsates with an eclectic mix of music, from Turk -pop to techno. ( 533 260 88 . Cocktails $3-5. Open daily 10pm-3:30am.)


The sea castle, about 150m from the shore, is Kizkalesi’s main attrac- I ion. Non-swimmers can catch frequent boats to and from the castle ($3.20). Alternatively, large paddle boats ($4) and smaller “sea bicycles” ($1.60) are rented out on the beach. The walls of the castle reflect the influence of many civilizations, the Armenians to the Crusaders. Inside, there are ramparts and chambers worth exploring, but its novelty as an island castle is its real attraction. The land castle, made partially of pieces salvaged from the ancient city of Corycus, is surrounded by an empty moat. Breaches in the walls afford beautiful views of the water. (Open daily 8am-7pm. $2.40, students $1.60.)

In the rugged “Devil’s Glen” valley, 7km north of town, hikers can find the eerily majestic Adam Kayalar, a set of 13 Roman reliefs from the first and second centuries AD carved into the face of the valley. The descent is a bit steep, so wear sneakers or boots. The most interesting place near Kiz kalesi is the ancient city of Kanlidivane (“Bloody Crazy”), named for its rust-colored soil and rocks. The chasm in the center, over 90m wide and 60m deep, is believed to be the final resting place of criminals and outcasts who were hurled to the bottom. The red rock and shattered buildings evoke the feeling of walking amidst a lost Martian civilization, rendering Kanlidivane as spooky as it is fascinating. (Open daily 8am-7pm. $1.60.)

Accessing either Adam Kayalar or Kanlidivane can be difficult; public transportation doesn’t service either site. A bus from Kizkalesi can drop you 3km from Kanlidivane ($.60). The walk is mostly uphill and unpleasant, on hot days. While Let’s Go does not recommend hitchhiking, someone will probably offer you a lift as you trudge up the hill. Hiring a taxi to Kanlidivane costs $24, to Adam Kayalar $29. With enough tourists, one of the local travel agencies will organize expeditions. On an off day, they may provide a ride that will cost less than a taxi.