Kızkalesi, in ancient times known as Korykos, is known by locals as having some of the best beaches in Turkey. And while the beaches are really worth coming for, while you’re here don’t miss out on the history that awaits your discovery.
In Roman times, Korykos was the port for Seleucia. The most obvious historical attraction to Korykos are the two castles, one on the shore, and the other on a small island about 300 meters off the beach. The later is known as the maiden’s castle, or in Turkish Kızkalesi. You can swim over to it through the clear blue water if you’re a strong swimmer, or you can choose to take a motorized boat or paddle boat from the small pier.
But to the northeast of the castles, there is more history to be discovered. On the coastal side of the D400 road, you will see some remains of ancient buildings, but to the north, there are some historical treasures hidden from the view of passersby. There is a necropolis that has many Christian sarcophagi with Greek engravings. There is also what remains of a Cathedral with a partial dome still standing. From this site, you can see down to the coast and the castles that still stand there and on the islet.
If coming from Mersin, just before entering Kızkalesi, turn right at the sign to Çatıören, İmirzalı and Hisarınkale (pictured above) about 300 m. Also, be careful around the dome of the cathedral, as there is a very deep, empty space into which one could easily fall.
Take the opportunity while you are here (and if you are in good physical shape) to hike down into the Cave of Heaven at the Cennet ve Cehennem Mağaraları. Down in the Cennet cave, there are the ruins of a monastery, and while back in the cave you can hear the water of an underground stream. This sink hole is also known for the Saffron that grows here. The rocks can be very slick at the bottom, so wear good shoes. The Cave of Hell (Cehennem) can not be entered, but is quite a site to peer into.