“Go there, unload your ship, everything can be sold there.” Strabon
Aydıncık is situated between Silifke, Taşucu and Bozyazı, Anamur. It has always been a port town since the Antiquity.
It is not known yet who were the first settlers of this town founded on a small plain between the mountains and the sea. It was called Gilindire before its name was changed into Aydıncık. It seems that this original name is a modified form of Kelenderis, the name with which the port was known in the Antiquity.
Until 1987 it was administratively affiliated with Gülnar, a town on the Taurus Mountains inland. In 1987 it was given the status of a municipality with its own administration.
To have a bird’s-eye view of the town one has to climb up the fire tower on the hill called Taş Masa (Stone Table) or Yoruk Tepe. From this point you can see the various forms that the mountains take as they descend to the seashore. In some places the landscape descends in smooth angles while in others they come steeply down forming cliffs.
The town has a coastline stretching for 38 kilometers. But at places where the mountains form steep cliffs it is not possible to access the shore from land.
The most beautiful beach is the İncekum at the foot of the Tülüce Mountain. The coastline makes a sand beach at the Nazilli part of the Merkez neighborhood before turning into a rocky strip. To the south of the main quay there is a peninsula about 25 meters high jutting into the sea for 200 meters. At the tip of the peninsula there is a fishermen’s shelter. A lighthouse stands above the shelter. A little further up from the fishermen’s shelter, there is the Soğuksu Stream that provides the fresh water supply of the town and a little cove where it flows into the sea.
Useful Information About Aydıncık
There is regular bus service to Mersin 170 kilometers away.
Municipality Telephone : 0. 324 841 30 50
Short History of Aydıncık
Where does the name Aydıncık come from? There are two different views about where this name comes from. According to one opinion, this name comes from local languages spoken here in the past. The other view claims that Aydıncık is originally a Hellenic word. Apollodoros, a writer from the Antiquity says that Kelenderis was founded by the Hittite God Sandakos.
When Gilindire became a locally administered town in 1987, its name was changed to Aydıncık. The folk story explaining this name probably began circulating then. According to this story, years ago a nomadic Yoruk tribe while moving to the mountains for the summer with their chief Nar Bey (Pomegranate), they stop at a fountain for resting. At the fountain Nar Bey sees a beautiful girl filling up her jug. He is struct by her beauty and falls in love with her. But the girl is the daughter of the local bey and she has another suitor. Her name is Gül (Rose). Nar Bey’s tribe passes the summer on the Barcin Plateau one of the most beautiful places on the Taurus Mountains. But Nar Bey passes the summer gloomily thinking of Gül. When the Yoruks of Nar Bey begin descending to the plain at the beginning of winter, they again pass from the lands belonging to Gül’s father. Nar bey sends intermediaries to Gül’s father. The father says there is another suitor for his daughter, who is equally eligible as Nar Bey. His name is Aydın Bey. So, the father says, “There is no fresh water down there in the town. One of you will bring water and the other will build a nice fountain. Whoever finishes his job first will get the girl.” The two toss a coin and Nar Bey gets the job to bring water, Aydın Bey is supposed to build the beautiful fountain. They both start working. Aydın Bey almost finished his job except for the big stone, which he is supposed to put on top the fountain. It is getting dark and he says, “I will put it up tomorrow and I will get the girl,” and he goes home to sleep. In the morning when he wakes up he sees the fountain gushing out fresh water that Nar Bey managed to bring from the mountains during the night. Aydın Bey is so frustrated that he jumps into the waves and kills himself. Nar Bey marries Gül and they settle on the mountain. They now call the place where Nar and Gül made their home the town of Gülnar. They named the town on the shore Aydıncık, so that the memory of Aydın Bey is not forgotten.
All this is a fine tale but the elderly inhabitants of Aydıncık express their displeasure about changing the name of their town. They say the name Gilindere provided a link with their history.
The city played host to many civilizations since its foundation: Hittites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, Samotians, Seleukids, Egyptians, Romans, Byzantines, Umaiyyads, Karamanoğulları and finally the Ottomans.
Of course, there was a reason for all these civilizations to rule the city one after the other. Kelenderis was a key port on the Mediterranean coast where sea trade linked Cyprus, Greece, Anatolia, Egypt and Africa together. Apart from its opening to the sea, Kelenderis also had access to the fertile plains of Konya by road. It was the nearest port to Cyprus.
Throughout history it was important for the powers of the period to control the Mediterranean. And the way to control the sea was to own the major ports around its coast. It was like this both in commercial and military terms.
On March 9, 1912 a Greek battleship flying the British flag opened artillery fire on the port of Gilindire. The sailors who disembarked on land gathered the animals grazing around the town and took them to their ship. After this event, the town moved first inland to the village of Hacibahattin for security.
Port of Kelenderis
The excavations carried out at Kelenderis provided a lot of information about the town’s history. Kelenderis was able to protect its independence for along period of time. Despite the domination of the Persians in the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C. the town was able to experience one of the most prosperous period of its history. It became the easternmost member of the Attica – Delos Marine Union. The name of Kelenderis is seen on the tax records of Athens in 425 B.C. Prof. Levent Zoroglu, who is leading the excavation work at Kelenderis thinks that the city was brave enough to ally itself with the enemies of the Persians. According to Zoroglu, Athens extended its protection as far as the shores of Cilicia making it possible for the Cilicians to maintain independence and continue their trade.
Under the Romans, Kelenderis had a second period of prosperity when the Mediterranean was cleansed of pirates.
Kelenderis maintained its character as a commercial port during the Middle Ages too. First under the Byzantine Empire, followed by Seljuks and Ottomans, the port continued to be a key link in the sea trade between Anatolian mainland, Cyprus and Africa. During the Ottoman times, it linked Istanbul to the Mediterranean via Konya through a land road.
Three rocky islets at the entrance of the port were useful in the Middle Ages providing a natural defense barrier. But with the advent of big ships starting by mid 19th Century, these islands became an obstacle for free entrance to Kelenderis. From this period on Kelenderis began losing its key position as the port of Mersin took over the functions of a major port in the area.
A Tour in the Antique City
When you pass through one of the most organized developments of summer residences and arrive at the opposite shore of the bay, you see the ruins of the antique city.
Fishing boats anchored here draws attention first. This is the place where most local fishermen keep their boats. The antique city spreads from the seashore towards an elevated ground behind. There are three types of graves seen in the necropolis: underground graves, vaulted tombs and a pyramid-roofed monumental grave the only example of which is found here in Aydıncık.
The ceramics and coins found in Kelenderis are considered as important finds for the Mediterranean archeology. Black varnished vessels and Attican vases called “lekythos” in archeological terminology are among the important objects uncovered here. Meanwhile, amphoras coming here from a wide area ranging from Phoenicia to the island of Thasos indicate that Kelenderis has been trading with most of the Mediterranean ports.
However, when it comes to buildings, there are very few examples from the Antiquity in Kelenderis, which has hosted human settlements for long centuries without a break.
The Public Bath in the Port: The public bath at the entrance of the port is one of the few antique buildings that have survived until our day. Its three main sections are still partly standing. It is understood that this was a large complex. The mosaic of the port made in the 5th Century A.D. gives an idea about the public bath. During the work to widen the While the Mersin – Antalya road, part of the bath was demolished.
The Amphitheater: The amphitheater is presently covered with earth. However surface survey and drilling work were conducted recently. Initial excavations revealed evidence that the theater belongs to the Roman Period.
Four-feeted Monumental Tomb
The most famous antique structure in Aydıncık is this monumental tomb made of a big limestone. Among the local people it is known by the name “Four-feeted Tomb”. It is dated to the end of 2nd or to the beginning of 3rd Centuries A.D. The pyramidal architecture of the tomb, which is well preserved condition, indicates that the tradition of Mausoleum graves was still continuing during the period when it was built.
The excavations at the Acropolis next to the Necropolis led to important progress. Underwater research in the port is still going on. Shipwrecks and anchors were found on the seabed at the small cove on the Yılan Island. The anchors and stones found here indicate that this was a place where ships cast their anchors since the Bronze Age (5000 to 3000 B.C.). The amphoras scattered on the seabed also confirm this view.
Anchors and amphoras found underwater provide very valuable information to the scientists.
The Mosaic of Kelenderis
The First City Plan of the World
A mosaic uncovered here and named The Kelenderis Mosaic is perhaps the most exciting find in this region.
It can be said that the mosaic is the first city plan extant in the entire world. A shipbuilding yard is depicted on the ceramic. Findings at the on site excavations also confirm that there had been a shipbuilding yard here. The uncovered part of the mosaic is in very good conditions. However, work is still con tinuing to bring the whole mosaic to light. The mosaic is dated to the second half of the 5th Century.
The Kelenderis Coins
The coins found in Kelenderis so far show that the city started minting its own coins during the 5th Century B.C. The silver coins display a horse standing on its hind legs and a rider sitting sideways on one side and the figure of a goat on the other.
The coins dug out by the locals before the beginning of serious excavation work here have been smuggled abroad. Some of the coins are on display at the Museum of Silifke.
Castles and Aqueducts
On the 15th kilometer of the Aydıncık – Gülnar road the sections of the aqueduct and canals that used bring water to the town still exist. The castles of Duruhan and Bodur close to the town are in ruined condition.
The Caves of Aydıncık
Even those who do not have a special interest in the caves should visit the ones that are considered wonders of nature. Just to see the myriad of forms and colors that cannot be seen elsewhere. The caves of Aydıncık certainly come under this category. There are seven caves. Each of them more interesting than the other. These are the main ones:
The Cave of Gilindire
Shepherds found this cave in the year 2000 and it is close to the Gemi Duragi neighborhood of Aydıncık. Only you cannot access this cave by land, its entrance is by the sea. You reach the location after taking a one-hour ride on a fishing boat and then you have to walk for another 50 meters to arrive at the mouth of the cave. The entrance is at an altitude of 46 meters and it is a hole 80 by 60 centimeters big. The cave is 555 meters long. There are stalactites and stalagmites and galleries in it. There are natural surfaces formed by the minerals carried by water drops that have been dripping from the ceiling for thousands of years. In some places the cave opens up as wide as 100 meters and the average height of the ceiling is 18 meters. Galleries open to numerous chambers.
Giving the name Gilindire, the previous name of Aydıncık, to this newly discovered cave has been pleasantly welcomed by the inhabitants.
At the end of the cave there is an underground lake, which is 18 to 30 meters wide, 140 meters long. The depth of the lake changes between 5 and 47 meters. The ceiling of the cave above the lake is 35 to 40 meters high. The surface of the lake is on the same level as the sea. The top layers of water are calcareous and it turns to salty seawater when you go deeper than 10 meters.
Pieces of ceramic dating back to 5000 B.C. have been found in the cave, which has been registered as a Natural Heritage site.
The work is still continuing for opening it up to tourism by realizing a project of lighting and paving of the walking course. This project might have been already realized by the time our readers read the information on this page.
A Special Taste from the Mediterranean
This herb called kayakorugu is a really exclusive to the Mediterranean. Its taste is also very special and cannot be compared to anything else. They also call it simply sea herb (deniz otu).
The herb, which has yellow flowers, is found in clusters from July to the end of October. It is 20 –25 centimeters tall and it grows on the seashore, on the rocks and generally in rocky and sandy ground. It has long, green and thick leaves. In addition to its special taste, it is said that it also therapeutic qualities especially for urethral and goiter disorders.
Local people mix the powdered leaves with olive oil and make a cream that they use for skin inflammations.
It has a different aroma, which makes it a local appetizer. You can try it at almost all the restaurants in the area. It is also sold at the marketplaces either in natural form or pickled in jars. It is easy to pickle it. The leaves are boiled slightly and then dipped into cold water. They are pit into jars adding a few garlic cloves. Then the jar is filled with vinegar and a smack of citric acid. That’s all. In a week, when the leaves turn yellow the pickle is ready for serving. It is usually served with lemon and olive oil. The pickled leaves are also added to salads. Some local gourmets fry the leaves in oil and mix them with yogurt and garlic making a very tasty appetizer indeed!