Gemiler Island: History, Sun and Plenty of Sea in Turkey!

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Last Updated on 1st February 2018 by Sophie Nadeau

The prettiest island in the Mediterranean; if there’s one thing you make a point of doing whilst visiting the Fethiye region in Turkey, then make it a visit to Gemiler Island. This historical island is filled with history, incredible views onto the Mediterranean and is even though to be the birthplace of Saint Nicholas (Father Christmas!)

Although small (1 km x 400 m wide), the island is packed full of history and things to see. The island was inhabited in Lycian times (1500 BCE). The Lycians were first attested by the Ancient Greeks and the Hittite empire in the late bronze age. Although not much is known about this collection of city-states, it is known that they had a form of democratic government and children took their mother’s last name rather than their father’s.

gemiler island

What to see on Gemiler Island

On the island, there are the remains of four Byzantine churches and many other buildings built between 300- 500 AD. The Byzantine Empire came about after a split in the Roman empire and its capital was Constantinople. Originally called Byzantium, the emperor Constantine named Constantinople after himself and styled it as a ‘New Rome’. Now, it is now modern-day Istanbul.

blue sea gemiler island

Famous Burials on Gemiler Island…

The island is supposedly where St Nicholas is buried. The saint, best known for secret giving by placing coins in the shoes of people who had left them out for him. Did you know that Father Christmas was originally green but changed to red because of Coca-Cola?

Perhaps the biggest peculiarity about this island is the fact that there is no fresh water and so everything has to be transported to the island by boat. Perhaps this is why the traditional name for the island in Turkish is ‘Gemiler Adasi’ (Boat Island)

byzantine ruins gemiler island turkey

The processional walkway (pictured above), is one of the most breathtaking pieces of architecture that I have ever seen. 350m in length, it runs right from the top of the island down to the sea. The walkway is Byzantine and was built between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. The sunsets from this island are incredibly beautiful too!

gemiler island

Attractions you’ll want to see near Gemiler Island

Situated just a short boat ride away from the island of Gemiler is the world famous beach of Öludeniz. One of the most photographed beaches of the Mediterranean, its English translation should be ‘Dead Sea’ but is actually ‘Blue Lagoon’.

The story as to how the beach got its name supposedly goes that a father and son were travelling in rough seas. The son- at the wheel- spotted the shore and suggested that they try and approach it. However, the father wasn’t convinced and so, fearing for his life, he pushed the son overboard. Despite his efforts to change course, it was too late and the father carried on towards the shore. Luckily, as soon as he reached the bay, the waters calmed and he was saved.


The beach, situated under Mount Badadag (big papa- 1975m hight), is widely regarded as one of the best places to paraglide in the world. Below is a photo of me looking up at the mountain, simply amazed at its size. I think it’s pretty cool that you can see the peak sticking out from above the clouds! In ancient times, the mountain was known as Mount Cragus and was one of the main mountains in the Lycian region.

mount babadaggemiler island turkey

About Author

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, Paris, pizza, and history, though not necessarily in that order. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she's not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming her weight in sweet food. Currently based in Paris after studies in London, she's spent most of her life living in the beautiful Devonian countryside in South West England!


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