Softa Castle (tr. Softa Kalesi) is a mysterious fortress rising above the Mediterranean coast, 15 km east from the famous Mamure Castle in Anamur. In contrast to that fortress, Softa Castle is virtually inaccessible to the public. Visiting it requires the skills of a mountain goat while climbing to the top of the steep hill overgrown with thorny shrubs. Getting to the Castle of Fanatics, as this is the translation of its Turkish name, is an expression of sightseeing madness.
The history of fortifications in this location dates back to the late-Roman period. The hill was also fortified in the Byzantine era. Originally, it was called Sycae (gr. Συκαὶ). Most likely, the fortress owes its present appearance to Armenian architects, who erected the castle on the ruins of Roman fortifications. The castle was part of the defensive line, established to protect the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the threat of the Seljuk tribes.
In the first half of the 13th century, the castle was conquered by the troops of the Seljuk Turks, under the command of Atabeg Ertokuş. In the Seljuk period, Atabeg was a title granted to the governors of provinces. Later, the castle came under the control of the Karamanid dynasty. They were the rulers of the state (known as a beylik), covering the territory of southern Anatolia, around the present Karaman Province. From the 13th century until the fall of Karamanid dynasty in 1487, this beylik was one of the most powerful Turkish states in Asia Minor. Softa Castle was conquered by Ottoman troops led by Gedik Ahmet Pasha in the 70s of the 15th century.
Many myths and anecdotes are related to the castle. Apparently, it is protected by snakes, although we did not encounter a single one of these reptiles during the visit. The local story says that there is a secret tunnel connecting the Softa Castle with Mamure Fortress, but so far no traces of this passage have been found. Its existence seems unlikely because the castles are 15 km away from each other. Another legend claims that a secret tunnel connects the castle to the coast. It was supposed to be used by pirates who carried loot from the ships to the fortress.
The outer walls of the fortress are approximately of an oval shape. At its narrowest point, the distance between the walls is 80 meters. The gate leading inside the fortress is located on the western side. Inside the walls, you can find the ruins of a palace, baths, several cisterns that collected rainwater, and a mosque from the Seljuk times. There is a necropolis on the eastern slope of the hill.
Softa Castle is located in Bozyazı District, on the Mediterranean coast. The castle is clearly visible from the D400 route, linking Antalya and Adana. The exit from this route to the castle is marked with a small yellow signpost. A gravel road leads around the hill on which the castle was built. However, getting to the castle by car is not possible, and it is necessary to climb the hill.
Half-hourly minibuses between Anamur and Bozyazı pass the intersection with the road to Softa Castle. Ask the driver to stop at this point to get to the castle.
Apparently, there is a steep path leading up to the castle, but we could not find it. We managed to climb to the castle without it, but such a solution is only recommended to fit people, well aware of the risks taken. Getting a sprained ankle or falling from a great height is not difficult there. The hill has a height of 140 meters above sea level; its slopes are rocky and overgrown with thorny bushes eaten by local goats.