The ruins of the ancient city called Kanytelis are located off the beaten track, far away from popular tourist resorts. Kanytelis, beautifully situated around a karst sinkhole, is not available for users of public transport and therefore rarely visited by tourists. It's a ghost town that comes to life once a year during the International Music Festival in Mersin as some events and concerts are usually organized in Kanytelis.
Kanytelis is also known as Kanlidivane i.e. "Bloody Place of Madness". The explanation of this name is hidden in a 60m-deep sinkhole, 90m long by 70m wide, located in the heart of the old city. According to local legends criminals who had been sentenced to death were thrown into the abyss in Kanytelis. Probably the imagination of locals has been supported by the characteristic red color of the rocks forming the walls of landslide.
While looking into this abyss many travelers think about another nearby karst sinkhole called Hell (tr. Cehennem), situated 15 km south-west from Kanytelis. Indeed, both gorges were formed by karstic activity.
In Hellenistic times Kanytelis was the part of local Olba kingdom and was well-known as a sacred place of worship of Zeus Olbios. The city flourished under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Theodosius II, reigning in the years 408-450, made it a religious center, while changing its name to Neapolis. For unknown reasons, the city was abandoned in the 11th century AD.
Today if you visit Kanytelis you will see the riuns of four churches, several cisterns and carved rock tombs, bathed in the Mediterranean sun and, most probably, you will have the whole place for yourselves. Kanytelis ruins occupy roughly square area with sides of 300 m.
The most important preserved buildings are located around the sinkhole. Near the car park, close to the entrance, there is a 17-meter tower from the Hellenistic era, built in honor of Zeus Olbios. At the northern end of the sinkhole there is a ruined Papylos church, named after its founder. It has well preserved fragments of the walls and the dome, but, unfortunately, lacks most of the vaults.
Another attraction of the site are the reliefs carved in the niches cut into the walls of the sinkhole. The first one, on the southern side, shows the scene of the funeral meal, with a family of six. In Roman times there was a custom of the feast for mourners, sometimes combined with making sacrifices in the form of food and drink for the deceased. In the second, the northern relief, you can see a well-preserved Roman soldier silhouette.
A very well-preserved mausoleum tomb, located about 100 m from the sinkhole, was founded by a widow named Aba. It was built as a memorial of her husband and two sons who died during the plague.
A vast necropolis from the first and second century AD is situated 300 m from the center Kanytelis. In the walls of a shallow ravine many Roman tombs that resemble miniature temples were carved. Family tombs are decorated with reliefs depicting the deceased.
The ruins are open to visitors every day from 9:00am to 7:00pm during the summer months (April to October), and from 8:00am to 5:00pm. in the winter months (November to March). The ticket costs 5 TL.
By car: the road 400 links Silifke in the west with Mersin in the east. When traveling along this road, 33 km north-east of Silifke, you reach the village of Kumkuyu. Just before the center turn left (north) into the side road leading to Esenpınar. After about 4 km you will reach Kanytelis.