Eastern Mediterranean Coast Trip with Kids: Kanlı Divane Ören Yeri, Uzuncaburç, and Akdeniz

From Mersin, we drove to Kanlı Divane Ören Yeri. Ören Yeri means ruins and the focus of our trip was lots of ruins! We were the only ones in the parking lot when we arrived about 9 am (1 hour drive from Mersin). Entry was 10 tl (About $1.50) or free with Musekart. It took us about an hour to see and they had Western bathrooms and a little cafe with outside tables. The area nearest the cafe and sinkhole are stroller friendly, but then it starts becoming more steps and rough paths.

Kanlı Divane is an ancient city around a large sinkhole. Parts are pre Roman when it was part of the Olba Kingdom and parts are from the Roman era. Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II rebuilt the city as a Christian religious center. You can see temples, basilicas, cisterns, churches, houses, olive oil workshops, and more dating from the 3rd century BC until the 7th century AD. Then there was a gap in occupation until the 15th century.

Kanlı Divane means “blood red assembly” and comes from the color of the rocks (red) and the groups of Turkmen who lived in the area. The large sinkhole in the middle is also quite impressive.

From there, we drove about 45 minutes inland and stopped at some Aqueducts along the side of the road. You just park along the road and hike into a valley area. It doesn’t take long, but is fun for stretching your legs, climbing, and running around. You can also climb up to one of the arches.

Our next stop was the Greek temple ruins at Uzuncaburç. They are best known for their temple to Zeus. There is also an arched gate and another structure. If you walk away from the parking lot (to the right if your back is to the parking lot) down the main road, you’ll find an amphitheater on the right side. It doesn’t take too long to visit the site–maybe 30 minutes total. There are bathrooms at the ticket counter (including a Western toilet) and a small parking lot. No cafe. There are informational signs in English and Turkish. We packed our lunch and ate in our car in the parking lot. While we enjoyed the stop, it’s not worth the detour in my mind if you have seen other Greek temples.

We ended the day driving to a little town that I think is called Akdeniz? Part of the Erdemli/Mersin area. We originally booked a room at the Rain Hotel. When we arrived, they said they were not crowded and did we want to a free upgrade to their hotel by the water. So we agreed. The Rain Hotel lobby looked cute and the people were very nice. 1 block from the water.

The sister hotel is the Rain Garden. The lower level is a restaurant (and GoogleMaps tags it as a restaurant, not hotel). Upstairs are rooms that they rent out. They don’t reserve rooms online, only through messaging via Instagram. The Rain Garden is right on the water, with just a pedestrian sidewalk between you and the beach. We had a great view of the Kiz Kalesi on the island (Maiden’s Castle) and the outside garden/patio space was great for the kids.

The Rain Garden serves a huge breakfast spread, but at the time was not doing dinner service (lots of restrictions and few tourists). Luckily, there were restaurants within walking distance. The kids played on the beach and enjoyed the water and the sand. It was too cold for me to want to be in a swimsuit or get wet (April still being spring), but they loved it. My biggest complaint with the beach was that there were a lot of stray dogs. None were aggressive, but they completely ignored us when we’d try and shoo them along and they clearly expected us to feed them. The beach also had trash on it. So not the best beach Turkey has to offer, but a nice stopping point and a good break for the kids from sightseeing.

We walked along a sidewalk by the water down to Balik Restaurant, a seafood restaurant. I had a great shrimp dish, DH had delicious seabass, and the kids shared chicken dish with a chunky tomato sauce. We requested no cheese in the dish and the restaurant understood and complied. Meal cost was 360 tl (about $40) for the food, beer, and water.

The hotel room was a bit cramped and clearly not designed for 4 people. Kids and I shared a double bed and DH had a twin. They were possibly the most uncomfortable beds ever. Turks love hard beds it seems and this one took it to the extreme. Luckily we were only there one night. The view and staff and breakfast spread made up for the uncomfortable beds luckily.

We wanted to take a boat to Kiz Kalesi, the castle on an island. We’d heard that there are typically many boats along the water’s edge and you just hire one to take you out. However, due to Covid, restrictions, and low tourism numbers, there were no boats. We asked the hotel manager and he said he’d call around and see what he could do. So he tells us that he’s got a boat for the next morning.

At breakfast, we find out the boat can’t go until 11. A bit later than we wanted, but ok, we can manage. Then we find out it has to come from another town and will be later. Then we find out that the castle is currently closed and locked, but the boat captain has called the town to ask them to go open the castle. but that won’t happen until after 12 at least. At this point we decide to cancel because it was becoming more effort than it was worth for something we’d wanted to be just a quick boat ride to see some castle ruins. This really, really disappointed DS as he loves boat rides.

We took a walk down to another castle (the sister castle) and it was closed for renovations. We found this to be true at many castles in Turkey. They’re clearly taking advantage of lower tourism numbers to do repairs.

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