From Sidon in Phoenicia to Crete

From Sidon, the ship would normally have taken a direct northwesterly route across the Aegean Sea, but stiff winds forced its crew to sail between the island of Cyprus and the coast of Asia Minor.

Map: Caesarea to Myra

The ship stayed along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia until it landed at Myra on the southwestern coast of Asia Minor. This leg of the voyage probably took 10 to 15 days...


Myra was an important city in Lycia, on the southwest coast of Asia Minor; the most important of the 23 cities in the democratic Lycian Federation, which elected its own officials and rulers. The most widespread relics of the Lycians are their rock tombs carved into the mountainsides. Often they are very elaborate, with pillars made to resemble temples; but they can also look very much like Lycian dwellings in order to make the dead feel at home.

Below, Lycian tombs at Myra, near the theater

Lycian tombs at Myra

Below, Myra theater

theater in myra turkey

Below, Church of St. Nicholas, remembering Myra's most famous resident

church of st. nicholas in myra

Myra was located on the river Andriacus, 2.5 miles from its mouth. Its port, with a good harbor, was Andriaca; but common usage included it with Myra. Myra was the chief port for ships transporting grain from Egypt to Rome. According to tradition the city's name is derived from "myrrh," a plant resin used to make incense. However, some scholars say that myrrh was never grown in the area.

This was not the first time Paul had been in this region. On his previous missionary journeys he utilized the ports of Attalia and Patara. Today, the region is known as the Turkish Riviera, and the word "turkuaz" was created in the Turkish language to describe the color of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas there. This color was adopted into English as "turquoise," and nowhere can you appreciate the intensity of the Mediterranean's blues than at the cities along the southern Turkish coast (also called the "Turquoise Coast").

At Myra, Paul and his traveling companions could have remained on the first ship and continued up the coast to Macedonia, then taken the land route along the Via Egnatia across Greece (through Philippi and Thessaloniki) and on to Rome via Brundisium. But Julius found a large grain ship bound for Rome from Alexandria and transferred the party aboard it. Normally the ship had to make its way against the prevailing west winds. But this time the winds were particularly contrary, and the ship made slow headway along the south coast of Asia Minor until it arrived off Cnidus.

Cnidus or Knidos

A narrow peninsula (and a city with the same name) situated at the extreme southwestern part of Asia Minor. Now known as the Datca peninsula, it projects between the islands of Cos and Rhodes. The distance from Myra to Cnidus was about 170 miles. This leg probably took another 10 to 15 days.

At the time of Paul, the city of Cnidus, at the extreme western tip of the peninsula, had a population of some 30,000 with many temples, two amphitheaters, a hospital running water and a communal sewer system.

Below, two harbors at Cnidos

Two harbors at Knidos

No longer protected by the land, the ship's crew opted to sail around the south side of Crete ("to the lee of Crete") for shelter from the northwest winds. Rounding Salmone on the east point of Crete, they kept close to the shore with great difficulty until they dropped anchor at a small bay called "Fair Havens," near the town of Lasea, on the south central coast of Crete.

Satellite view of Crete with route of Paul's ship



A bold promontory, now called Akrotiri Plakos, on the east point of the island of Crete. The nearest modern cities are Palekastro and Zakros.

Fair Havens

Fair Havens, now the tiny (100 inhabitants) village of Kali Liménes, was on a small sheltered bay about midway on the southern coast of Crete, immediately east of Akrotiri Lithino (Cape Lithino), the most southern point of Crete. Today, there are beautiful beaches to the east and west of the village, also a church to the west dedicated to Paul. Also nearby is the ancient city of Levin, famous for its Asclepion (healing center).

Below, Kali Liménes/Fair Havens on the south coast of Crete

Fair Havens, modern Kali Limenes on the island of Crete

Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now "it was after the Fast," meaning that it was after the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, a fast day observed in early October to atone for the sins of the past year. Thus, the dangerous sailing season was upon them. During this time, from November 10th to March 10th, all shipping was suspended (this is true, at least for cruise ships, even today).

From experience, as well as growing up on the sea at Tarsus, Paul knew the Mediterranean and the dangers of sailing at this time. As he wrote in 2 Corinthians (11:25):

"Three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea."

So he warned them:

"Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also" (Acts 27:10).

Instead of heeding Paul's advice, the centurion Julius listened to the pilot and the owner of the ship who chose to sail on, gambling that they could reach the more sheltered harbor at Phoenix, forty miles farther west, and spend the winter there.

Below, Phoenix, the harbor Paul's ship was attempting to reach before the start of winter.

Pheonix on the island of Crete


Phoenix or Phenice

Phoenix or Phoenice (modern Phinix) was an important port in antiquity. Acts 27:12 describes it as "facing both southwest and northwest" (Acts 27:12), meaning it formed a semicircle, which denotes a secure anchoring place against the winter storms. It was still a port of consequence up until the early 19th century; now the modern village of Loutró.



From Crete to shipwreck on Malta