The curious deserted town of Kayakoy in Turkey bears witness to an early 20th century upheaval that saw hundreds of thousands of people uprooted in a population swap between Greece and Turkey which followed the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922).
Originally built in the 1700s, the town, called Karmylassos in Greek, was home to as many as 20,000 Greek Orthodox residents by the early 20th century. The messy fallout of World War One and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to the land grabs of the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). The resounding loss of the Greeks in this war ended with violence and retribution, which was often aimed at the remaining Greek Orthodox community within the new Turkish borders, and in turn, against the Muslim Turks in Greece.
Hundreds of thousands of Greeks fled the violence in Turkey, which led the governments to agree to a mutual compulsory population exchange starting in 1923 in order to staunch the bloodshed.
The residents of Kayakoy, who up to this point had lived peacefully with their Turkish neighbours, abandoned the town and went to Greece, which was struggling to find places for the nearly 200,000 refugees of the exchange, added to the more than a million former Turkish residents who had fled before the official exchange.
Abandoned and ignored for almost a hundred years, the site was saved from developers to now stand as an historic attraction which is beginning to draw visitors from across the globe.
Described by some as a ghost-town, this once-lively Greek settlement perched on a hill now consists of almost five hundred decaying houses along with the forlorn remains of two derelict churches, mostly dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While the houses are run down and abandoned – with natural decay taking its toll on wooden doors, windows and upper coverings of buildings – the majority of the structures themselves are still intact, leaving an eerie atmosphere weaving through the ruins.
In more recent times, Kayakoy has risen to prominence due to its connection to the novel Bird Without Wings, by Louis de Bernières. The novel is set in the fictional town of Eskibahçe, which is based on Kayakoy.
Getting to Kayakoy
The closest airport is Dalaman. The village is a short drive from Oludeniz, or a 2 1/2 hour walk along a marked mountain path.