Everyone thinks there is no such thing as Santa Claus, but he did exist and lived in Turkey. The name behind the Father Christmas legend is Saint Nicholas, born in Patara Turkey (where I went last week) and died December 6th 345 AD, this was the Byzantine period of History or The Eastern Roman Empire.

A very messy period of History, Turkey, as its called today, belonged to either the Greeks, Roman, Persians or Arabs for much of its past and has had various names, but has only recently become Turkey, founded in 1299 by the Ottomans and became a Republic in 1923.


Since St. Nicholas was born in the Byzantine period, he would be either Roman (Italian) or Greek by birth. He regularly gave money and Gold away to the poor and unfortunate, which is where the legend was born. There are three burial sites for St. Nicholas (Santa) two in Turkey and the last in Italy, we decided to find the two burial sites in Turkey.


Following on from a survey by a Japanese team of archaeologists in 1990 and an American team in 2003 it is thought the first burial site is Gemiler Island or St. Nicholas Island, as it was once known. The Island is close to shore and less than an hours ride from Fethiye.


Once in Fethiye we had a quick look around the marina, but it was quiet there today.



We rode through Fethiye town and on to the narrow country roads.


Its nice the old tomb was left in place and the road built around it.


On the road high above Fethiye we saw an old circular stone structure, you can never tell if these are burial chambers or water cisterns because they look alike, only when you stick your head through the doorway will you know, body or water, this one was a water cistern.


The narrow road winds its way through pine forests and over hills with many challenging hairpins and switch backs, we stopped at a water fountain to re-fill our water bottles, perhaps this is the time to mention its HOT !!

Along the way to St.Nicholas Island we passed through ‘The Ghost Town’ during tensions between Greece and Turkey in the 1920’s it was decided to have a population exchange instead of a war. Both governments quickly built towns, Turkish people living in Greece could return to Turkey, and Greek people living in Turkey could return to Greece. The Greeks left Turkey but the Turkish people living in Greece decided to stay there and become Greek citizens, the population for the new town never came, and the town has been left abandoned since 1922.





We rode on after looking in some of the abandoned houses and came across another circular stone structure, but it was a water cistern again.




About another 20 minutes further along we caught sight of St.Nicholas Island in the distance.




We rode on down the hill to Gemiler beach, where we found a chap with a boat to take us across to the Island.



We stood on the wobbly make shift jetty while our boat was pulled in.




The ride in the boat was only about 10 minutes long, the sea was absolutely crystal clear and warm to the touch.


There was just the caretaker on the Island, I always prefer wandering around ruins when there is no one else about, the boat owner said he would be back in an hour to pick us up.


The Japanese survey revealed a Monastery, 5 churches and countless shrines and religious buildings here, all packed in on a small Island, Centuries ago the Island was also known as ‘Sailors Island’ and was on the Pilgrim trail.






After his death St. Nicholas replaced Poseidon as the patron Saint of sailors.





Which of the structures on the Island housed the Tomb of St. Nicholas is still not exactly known.



There were many stone structures around.


In the centre of the Island is a long vaulted (Roofed) corridor running from sea level all the way up to the top of the Island, this was for Pilgrims and Priests etc.




On the far side of the Island is another large structure.



Our boat returned exactly on time, it is now thought that this Island was the place of the first Tomb of St. Nicholas, but when the Arab Muslims began attacking and raiding the Turkish coast a few Centuries after his death, his body was moved on to the mainland, to Myra, about an hour and a half’s ride further East.


We were absolutely exhausted after climbing up the hills of the Island, so decided to go to Myra next week to see the very well preserved church where he was entombed for a second time.



We had a pleasant ride back, stopping for water and ciggies.



Because Fethiye was so unusually quiet when we passed through this morning, we though we would see how close we could get the bikes to the 2500 years old Lycian Kings Tombs. One of these Tombs though was carved out of the rock for one of Alexandre The Great’s Generals who died  here when he conquered turkey.




After yet more water, we drank 4.5 litres between us while we were out today, we headed back home.



Click here for:  ON THE TRAIL OF SANTA CLAUS (part 2)


~ by travelswithmymotorbike on August 9, 2009.

22 Responses to “ON THE TRAIL OF SANTA CLAUS (Part 1)”

  1. Dave, I really enjoyed your post – thanks for giving us the historical perspective, and your pictures are fantastic! Yes, there is a Santa Claus. Thanks again for your wonderful post.

    • Hi lance,

      Yes, I was amazed to learn it was not only real, but on my doorstep, all being well we should visit the other place next week.



  2. A really nice post, thankyou for taking the time to share your trip with us, love the history of it all.

    • Hi J,

      Thanks very much for the comment, there is just sooooo much history here in turkey, I hope to see and share more of it.



  3. Dave:

    You are an excellent tourguide. Thanks for taking us along. Lots of pixs with historic narration. It almost like us tagging along with you both. I like the idea of little traffic, few tourists and also that abandoned Ghost Town.

    Glad the gravel didn’t eat you up

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the kind words buddy, yeah the gravel claimed both of our backs yesterday, when I lifted Montie up with Linda still sat on I am sure I felt something inside me go PING…SNAP lol…



  4. Dave:

    glad you were able to view the videos. Ram-Mounts are very stable, but as you are mounted on the handlebars you are subject to road imperfections and shocks bouncing around but it is safer than riding with one hand

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m tempted to make a camera mount for my bike from my miniture tripod hmmmmm !!



  5. Did you go to Af Kule. There’s a track leading up to it which you and Linda probably would have enjoyed.

    • Hey MD,

      I don’t know is the answer, I used Google maps to find the Island but the roads and villages were not marked much on the map.

      After climbing up to the top of the Island, which if you ask me is harder than climbing Everest, becuase Everest is not HOT, we were knackered and just came home, we were supposed to carry on to Myra but just did not have the energy.

      oops just noticed its a clickable link after writing this lol..



    • Hi MD again,

      just read your post about Af Kule, both Grandperents at Gallipoli, how cool, though I dont think they would have thought so at the time.

      No we did not go there because its not marked on the map as much of Turkey isn’t, had I known we were so close I would have poped in, such is life !!



  6. Dave:

    Happy Anniversary. Today I think you should give Linda the remote Fan and make tea for her.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

    • Cheers bob, but you go to far with your talk of remote sharing lol..



  7. Great photos Dave and very informative, I never knew Father Christmas was real.

    • Hi James,

      Thanks for the comment, yeah who would guess for a moment that Santa was true and he really existed.



  8. Such a splendid trip Dave, I like the little boat ride over to the island to go exploring, very Indiana Jones, I am sat in my office with rain running down the windows wishing I could go exploring.

    Great post Dave!!

    • Hi Stan,

      Thanks for the kind words, it was a nice trip for us also, cant wait for the next one !



  9. charming post.

  10. […] ON THE TRAIL OF SANTA CLAUS (Part 2) This post continues on from: ON THE TRAIL OF SANTA CLAUS (Part 1) […]

  11. Nowhere else is there bike trips on the internet quite like your, great pics as always!!

    • Hi Eva,

      Most peoples bike trips are to a bar or cafe and back, we try to see more interesting places lol..



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