Gemiler Island is a fascinating port of call and a must-see for travelers to this part of the coast. With Byzantine ruins covering most of the forested slopes and “pirate ship parking” lying submerged in the shallows, Gemiler is a treasure trove for lovers of history and archaeology.
It’s a good idea to set out on you Gemiler island excursion during the late part of the day. Not only is it cooler, but if you time it right, you can walk up through the city district and beyond to the largest church on the island -- the church where Saint Nicholas is thought to have been laid to rest in a tomb. . . until frequent raids by Arabs forced the Byzantines to flee, taking the tomb with them -- and once you are at this church, it is a short hike to the summit where you can view the mosaic floors of this church and also, find a spot to sit down and watch the sunset, champagne in hand. The sight of the sun glowing red over the sea, framed by mountains and hilltops is really something unforgettable...
While exploring the island’s fascinating collection of ruins, you will come across hundreds of houses, graveyards, tombs, cisterns and four churches, the largest being the uppermost church with the floor mosaics (at the summit). Between this church and another on the east of the island there runs a ceremonial covered walkway - by far the most interesting structure on the island and well worth following for as long as you can.
Snorkelers will also find the waters around the island to be full of interest: as centuries of earthquake activity caused the whole area to subside, the settlement’s docks and supply stores now lie submerged in the shallows. With a little imagination, you might be able to conjure up the image of Christian pilgrims arriving in Byzantine-style wooden ships to take rest, re-provision and pay their respects to the “Patron Saint of Sailors” whilst en route to the Holy Land.
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