St Nicholas Island
About St Nicholas Island
St Nicholas Island, also known as Gemiler Island, is famous for being the supposed resting place of Saint Nicholas or otherwise known as Santa Claus. This island is located just 20kms from the large town of Fethiye. It is believed that when St Nicholas died in 326 he was buried here on the island before moving remains to Demre due to increased pirate raids. His bones final resting place is in the Italian city of Bari where they were relocated in 1087 by visiting monks. The island is scattered in some impressive ruins well worth the exploration. There are five churches that date back to the 4th and 6th centuries AD along with a large covered walkway that is over 300 metres long. St Nicholas Island is also one of the best spots to sit atop and get to witness one of the most magical sunsets in Turkey.
The story of St Nicholas
A 4th-century Bishop of Myra, St Nicholas, was born in nearby Patara, rose to the rank of a bishop because of his charitable nature including providing for the poor and sick. Legend has it, that St Nicholas would drop small gold coin bags down the chimneys of homes of poor girls who were old enough to marry but did not have a dowry. He would also leave gold coins in the shoes of those who left their shoes out for him. After his death, the legend of St Nicholas’ gift giving grew. So much so, in modern days he has transformed into the renowned character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.
How to get to St Nicholas Island
St Nicholas Island is not accessible by land however there are a few ways to gain entrance to the island. The first is to catch a bus from Fethiye to the Greek Ghost Town of Kayakoy. From here, there are both taxi’s and buses travelling down to Gemiller Beach. Once on Gemiller Beach, it is just a short boat ride to the island. You can ask the watersports companies or a local boat owner to transfer you to the island and return you to the beach and exploring.
The most common way to access the island however is on a cabin cruise from Fethiye or Olympos. St Nicholas Island is an overnight stop on these tours giving customers the opportunity to climb through the ruins and watch a magical sunset from the top or just enjoy the surrounding bays.
Things to do in St Nicholas Island The island is known both as St Nicholas Island and Gemiler Island. The meaning of “Gemiler Island” in English is “Island of Boats”. As a result of the abundance of boats in the area taking shelter behind this enclosed island, came the name. And rightly so, the yacht cursing around the region from Fethiye harbour is perhaps the most popular thing to do among tourists visiting Turkey. St Nicholas Island and its surrounding region is like the yachting Mecca with a great number of yacht curses passing through this region.
Many may think, the five churches dating from the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries are the main attractions in the island, but the popularity of yacht cruising is definitely more than the ruins of those five churches. Still, visiting the location of St Nicholas’s grave along with the ruins of the historic churches, ancient vaults and tombs on the island is always one of the top things to do during your stay.
St Nicholas Island is also known as a watersport haven. On offer is everything from ringo rides and banana rides to water skiing, wakeboarding and even parasailing. The prices are reasonable and the activities are available throughout the entire summer season.
For those wanting to try a local delicacy, Turkish gozleme will be available from the small fishing boats that coast through this bay. The gozleme boats pull up alongside the yachts and larger vessels moored in this area and cook up your gozleme of choice whether it being Nutella and banana or a savoury version of spinach and cheese. They are the perfect afternoon snack!