Gemiler Island - History and Facts | History Hit

Gemiler Island

Kayakoy, Aegean Region, Turkey

A tiny island located just off the Turkish mainland, Gemiler Island is packed with Byzantine remains including a number of ancient churches.

Peta Stamper

14 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Gemiler Island

Beautifully situated in a mountain-girt cove, Gemiler Island off the coast of Turkey is packed with 1,500 year old Byzantine remains.

Gemiler Island history

The island – just 1 kilometre 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.

Gemiler Island today

Today, one can explore the remains of these early churches, decorated with mosaics and frescoes, discover a huge public cistern with arches still intact and walk in a unique processional passageway up to the cathedral church and the island’s summit with its stunning 360-degree views of blue sky and sea.

There are lots of local tour guides who take you along the rocky trails. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as the ground is uneven.

Getting to Gemiler Island

The best way to reach Gemiler Island is by car on an outstanding scenic drive down the Turkish coast. After which you will need to get a boat to the island from Gemiler Bay.