Kayaköy, anciently known as Lebessos and Lebessus and later as Livissi is a village 8 km south of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey. In ancient times it was a city of Lycia, Later, Anatolian Greeks lived there until approximately 1922. The ghost town, now preserved as a museum village, consists of hundreds of rundown but still mostly standing Greek-style houses and churches which cover a small mountainside and serve as a stopping place for tourists visiting Fethiye and nearby Ölüdeniz.
Livissi was built probably in the 18th century on the site of the ancient city of Lebessus, a town of ancient Lycia. Lycian tombs can be found in the village and at Gokceburun, north of the village.
Livissi is probably the place where the inhabitants of Byzantine Gemiler Island fled to protect themselves from pirates. It experienced a renewal after nearby Fethiye (known asMakri) was devastated by an earthquake in 1856 and a major fire in 1885. More than 20 churches and chapels were built in the village and the plain (Taxiarhes – the ‘Upper’ church – and ‘Panayia Pyrgiotissa’ – the ‘lower’ church – St. Anna, St. George, etc). Most of them are still standing in ruinous or semi-ruinous condition. The village population was over 6.000 people, according to Greek and Ottoman sources.
Kayaköy may be abandoned now, but it was once a thriving Greek community, as evidenced by the houses and churches that still stand, albeit in a rundown state. It used to be home to around 2,000 residents, but in the early 20th century this all changed.
This hillside village was left deserted in 1923 following the Greek and Turkish agreement to exchange populations, meaning that Greek Orthodox Christians in Turkey were returned to Greece, and Muslim communities in Greek Macedonia were exiled to Turkey.
Although the Muslim families coming into Turkey were initially housed in the homes left behind by the Greek community, they quickly abandoned the village on its rocky hillside, as it didn’t suit their farming lifestyles, and moved to other regions of the country.
In 1957 again an earthquake damaged the already derelict properties and it is this slightly surreal scene that greets visitors today.
Today Kayaköy village serves as a museum and is a historical monument. Around 500 houses remain as ruins; now sit empty and mostly roofless and are under the protection of the Turkish government, including fountains and cisterns that watered the city and two Greek Orthodox Churches, which remain the most important sites of the ghost town. There is a private museum on the history of the town that tells the story of the town.
The book Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres is set in a fictionalized version of Karakoy during WWI and the last days of the Ottoman Empire.
Kayaköy was adopted by the UNESCO as a World Friendship and Peace Village.