It is mid of June and we are at the Medditerrean Sea to relax a little bit from the current pandemic situation and depression .
To be in nature and in history is always a good way to drop off all stress and to dive into a different world .
The southwest coast of Turkey is one of the most beautiful parts of the country especially if you like the seaside, nature and history and the Medditerrean Coastlines are nice wherever you go .
In the antique times it was the coastline of the old Pamphylia and Lykia empires . So many great civilizations that have passed via these routes that I would like to tell a little bit about .
Our route from Antalya to Marmaris along the coastline is about 360 km long and it is the first time that we have no time pressure and can fully enjoy this roadtrip.
Our first stop on our trip actually is Perge , Capital of ancient Pamphylia, about 17 km eastern from Antalya – a gorgeous ancient city , being excavated since more then 70 years and a treasure what concerns ancient historical buildings like Roman towers, gates , archs, baths , agoras ,Columned streets , fountains,Libraries ,a theatre , a stadium , an acropol ,a necropol and a very wide range of ancient sculptures and sarcophagus being around 2000 years old .
The 2nd stop is the ancient city of Sillyon .
For sure Sillyon, in the ancient world called Sylleion or Sylaeum, was an important city with a fortress in ancient Pamphylia and is definitely also worth a visit . It is located in the region of Serik , southeast of Antalya city in mid of the farmers fields .
Among the remains of the city are city gates, a stadium , an amphitheatre and an odeon , a temple , a cistern and a gymnasium . There is nobody then us around . We just enter the old city and have a look around .[2It is very quiet and we can see the mountains that are laid back from far . Though it is very hot , we enjoy our sightseeing and the award is a great ice cream at the ver little shop just at the feet of this forgotten ancien site .
3. Karain Cave
The 3rd stop is the very famous Karain cave , located 27 km northwest of Antalya at the slope of the Taurus Mountains .
We drive via the new Korkuteli highway . The cave is located close to a small village , called Yagca Village and is about 400 m above sea level .
Around there are many fields with pomegrate trees . It is very peaceful around and nearly no people.There is just nature and the usual life of the farmers .It is very hot and it smells dry grass.The view around is very picturesque , so pure.
After a while we finally arrive at the cave but unfortunately due to the pandemic situation the historical site is closed.
As the location is not open air but covered the local authorities decided that the cave might bear health risks for vistors and this is why they keep the site closed . What a pity but actually they are right .
We were very much interested in visiting this cave as it is a very important location for the history of mankind .It is an early paleolithic location which means that people were living here about 150.000 – 200.000 years ago . Traces of the Neanderthal people were found in this site . It is not a single cave but a cave complex which consists of 3 main chambers and their corridors as well as of narrow curves and walls and passages inside . Scientists could state that this cave was continously used for about 25.000 years from the Mesolithic age till the Bronze Age.
Artifacts out of the cave are presented in the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
For sure this place will stay on our bucket list and we will try to get inside again for the next time but if anybody is around in this region any time , this is a place that definitely needs to be seen .
4. Thermessos ( National Park of the Gulluk Mountains )
The 4th Stop on our way through the region actually is Thermessos which is located in the Nationalpark of the Gulluk Mountains at the slopes of the Taurus Mountains about 34 km northwest of Antalya . The natural surrounding is beautiful here. The whole area is surrounded by the mountains.
We drive into the Nationalpark and pay our entrance fee.
There is another 9km that we need to drive up the steep slope of the hills as Thermessos is located 1000 m above sealevel , high in the mountains.
What beautiful endless views that we have while we drive up the hills .
There are just very few cars around – some tourists that want to do some hiking up the hills to ancient Thermessos .
Shortly before we arrive at the main entrance to the site we see a waymark , marked as the Kings Road as this road was called in the ancient times.
Finally we arrive at the entrance where a map of the ancient site is situated .
Thermessos is one of the most spectacular sites in Turkey due to its very special location . The city is located on top of the mountain and was part of the Pisidia region .We need to walk and climb up the slopes to get there which takes about half an hour . There are lots of noises in the forests that we pass through – some squirrels are around which are probably nervous about our presence .
The way up is quite steep and not that easy to take . You definitely need the right equipment , at least the right shoes for hiking as otherwise you will definitely will slide on the cliffs .
On our road we observe different parts of the ruins .-the Hadrian Gate , the city walls , the cistern , the cemetery , the archs etc .
All the ruins are covered with plants – the green of the trees and the grey of the antique stones . It is very quiet.
At the top of the mountain is the stunning ancient theatre that is overviewing the peaks of the different mountains around .
It is an unbelievable nice location .There is not too much known about the history of Thermessos. It was a city that was under the rule of the Roman Empire and it is known that Alexander the Great was passing by Thermessos in 333 BC .
The historical site on the one side , the flora and fauna on the other side are definitely worth for a drop in Thermessos .
The wildlife is also impressive as there are eagles, wild goats, roe deers , wild pigs , squirrels ,bears and many orthers that are living here in their natural environment .
5. City of Antalya
In this context it is important to have a visit to the Museum of Antalya , especially to see the gorgeous historical findings of the ancient City of Perge and also to pay a visit to the old City of Perge and its port.
Please see our link for the Museum in Antalya which is gorgeous and defintely needs to be visited.
When leaving Antalya and driving westwards along the Mediterrean Sea you just pass through beautiful aeras of pinetress , gorgeous mountain views .
What is very special here are the different ancient sites and old ports that you will find at this southern coastline . The blue shades of the sea as well as the green shades of the forrests are gorgeous and a feast for your eyes and soul .
Our 6st stop on this roadtrip is the ancient port of Phaselis – an ancient Greek and Roman city , 16 km south of Kemer and 57 km westwards of Antalya . Phaselis was built 700 BC and was a very important destination in the Lykian World connecting trading ways between Greece , Minor Asia , Egypt and Phoenicia in those days .
In later years the city fell under Alexander the Great , then under the Egyptians rule , then under Brutus who linked the city to the Capital of Rome and then it landed into the hands of pirates .
In the 11 th century the Seljuks were neglectings Phaselis and were more focusing on the port cities of Antalya and Alanya so that Phaselis lost its importance .
Today the ancient city consists of 3 different ports – the North port , the Battel port and the protected port which can be accessed .
Daily tourists are nowadays coming to this place to have a swim at this gorgeous place – an ancient port in mid of the pine tree forests with crystal clear waters and far away from mass tourism.
We also take a swim in the cool , clear water and it is as if you are diving into the ancient times when you are in the water . There are no boats , no traffic around . We enjoy our lovely tea and some small dishes that we brought with us, enjoy the fresh air where you can smell the pine trees and the sun and the ambiance of this great location .
At the backside there is the main road that leads through the old city , about 24 m wide .
There is the Hadrian Gateway and also some remains such as a bath , an agora with some shop ruins and a theatre and sarcophags .
Since I was a child whenever we were in this region we never missed the opportunity to come and take a breathe and a swim in ancient Phaselis . Even in late autumn times – end of October , beginning of November – the water is warm and then there is really nobody around . Since then nothing has changed in ancient Phaselis .It also reminds me of the gorgeous coastlines of Rhodes – so many things that are very similar as it is the same geography and culture .
Phaselis is absolutely a stunning place to be .
When you drive further along the southern coastline westwards you will arrive at Olympos which is together with Phaselis a part of the Beydaglari National Park .
The drive along this coastline is so beautiful and reminds of the nice coastlines in Italy and also South France .
Olympos is located in the region of Kumluca very close to Cirali where perpetual gas fires are burning at Yanartas . The exact date of the citys foundation is not clear and when it joined the Lykian league but findings at the ancient site were hinting the 4th century BC .
Olympos itself is located in a river valley and is hidden by the trees , the rocks and nature in that area . Just if you know that Olympos is lying over there you will pass the river valley where the rivers current is very strong in wintertimes or early spring but which might be dry in summertimes and find your way to ancient city ruins.
Olpympos was also belonging to Lykia in the ancient world and probably named after the Olympos mountain which always played a very important role in the Greek Mythology as it is home to the sky and thunder God Zeus as described in the Iliada of Homeros- similar to the other 20 mountains that are also called Olympos in this region . LINK …
The ruins that can be visited today are from Helenistic , Roman and Byzantian times that are mostly covered by the trees and bush .
It is as if this beautiful city is sleeping here and who knows what secrets and treasures are in the deep forrest that cannot be seen from outside .
Along the cute little riverside , about 150 m westwards there is a little temple from roman times which is dedicated to Emperor Marcus Aurelius .
Sarcophags that were found over lying half in the water here were brought to the Museum of Antalya .
300 m further is then the beautiful sand beach that is an awesome place for the Caretta turtles that give birth to their cubs.
In a walking distance to Olympos there is also the little agricultural village of Cirali with its permanently buring gas vents .
By walking up the hills you can arrive at the flames of Chimaera .Methane gas and other gases are coming out of the rock in this region are constantly burning.
Nowadays in Olympos as well as in Cirali there a lot of little pansions and tree houses to stay in the valleys of the mountains or along the riverside . The rural people are very friendly and there are lots of opportunities to get some bite from their local cuisines,- some so- called Gozleme which is filled with some meat , cheese or spinach served together with some tomatoes, cucumber and other vegies .You can get your delicious Turkish tea and enjoy the location .
8. Demre and Myra
The 8th stop on our roadtrip is Demre which has a very special place in our hearts as it is home to Santa Claus or so-called Nikolaus.
Nowadays kids know Santa Claus as Nikolaus , a figure symbolizing Christmas and bringing presents and chocolate to the kids on the 6th of December – the Day Of Santa Claus – as well as on the 24th of December each year on the Holy Night due to Christians faith .
In reality Santa Claus was born in Patara in 270 BC , elected as a bishop to Demre and died in Myra -Demre around 350 .He was well known for his charitable actions where he saved 3 kids and brought them back to their parents as well as the story of 3 girls who were not able to marry as they did not have any dowry where he brought a little sack of gold to each of them and let his gift under the window of the girls in the night .These were the stories that led him become the legend where the global St Nikolaus story for Christmas was derived from – today he is the symbol of Christmas worldwide .
We approach the little city of Demre and try to find the museum of Santa Claus as the roading changed over here but a local person is so kind to offer his help , takes his motorbike and shows us the way to the museum and the carpark . People are so natural and helpful here .
The museum of Santa Claus is a church , a little basilika ,which is located above the burial place of Santa Claus who was a bishhop in the ancient city of Myra and became a key religious figure for the Orthodox Christians and the Roman Catholic Christians .
It was built in the 5th century BC and was in use till 1923 .Today the Church is on the tentative list for a Unesco World Heritage due to its history , its religious value and its freskoes inside the basilika .
Christian Greeks were living in the surround till the 1920s before they moved to Greece .Today lots of Christian pilgrims especially Russian tourists are visiting the tomb of Santa Claus honoring the bishop of Myra .
Close by is also the ancient city of Myra which was also an important city in the Lykian league together with Phaselis , Olympos, Patara , Xhantos etc .
It is well known for its rock cut tombs and was once also hosting a temple of Artemis which was removed in later centuries .
The weather is very hot and after our visit to the museum we need to have some ice cream and some baklava , which is a sweet special pastry with some pistacchio to cool down, to get energy and to enjoy the location before we leave .
Andriake or Andriaca is the 9th stop on the route . It is a little ancient site being a suburb and little port of ancient Myra , about 5km westawrds from Demre at the region of Cayagzi and is today a wide area of an open air museum . It is very hot and very quiet and we are the only ones due to the pandemic situation and the hot climate to come and visit the site .
It is located at the river named Andriakos in ancient times , today called Kokarcayi .
We arrive at the museum complex – nice ancient sarcophagus are standing in front of the museums garden .
In front of the museum shop a peacock is proudly walking around . It looks beautiful in this scenery .the gardener of the museum is watering the garden and the surrounding which helps a little bit to cool down .
We start walking into the site that is quite huge – there are ruins of several churches and a Roman bath on our path .
Columns with some Corynthian decoration at their heads are standing there in mid of nature . All the colours are so nicely matching.
One of the most impressive parts is the Agora of the port which is quite well preserved .
The entrance of the Agora makes us easy to imagine how the site was looking like in the old days .
The Museum of Andriake is also accommodating the Museum of Lykian cultures which is located just next to the Port Agora . A Granarium ie a old granary is used as the museum building . Unfortunately due to the pandemic it is closed but we can walk around and have a look at the sculptures and motives which are standing outside thebuilding – motives of the old Lykian times and civilizations- they all look beautiful .
When looking down from the site , you can see the ruins of the ancient port – today being located at a kind of swamp . Birds are flying around .There is a reconstructed ancient boatdown there to visualize the location .
It takes us quite some time to finalize our full tour under the sun but it is so agreable , so exciting .
When we walk back to the entrance area the gardener is welcoming us with his water hose in his hand – yes we need some cold water and to refresh as there is no shadow at the site and we were walking for a long time under the intensive sun but it was definitely worth it .
When we leave we are happy to have explored a new location of old Lykia .
The 10th stop is Antiphellos , today called Kas .
The curves of the road and the scenery are impressive . The dark blue of the Mediterrean ocean is stunning.
In the different curves we observe rocky bays where people just stop with their cars to take a fresh cold bath in the turquoise waters . It looks phantastic !
It was in 1979 when I took this path for the first time – in those days it was a very narrow passage in the mountains where 2 cars could not move next to each other . The slopes of the mountains were steep , the way was more than difficult . A distance of 180 km took us a whole day in the past .In the evening the road was totally left in the dark and there was just the light of the cars , if any . To pass each other you needed to find a curve that was abit wider then the road – just to pass by each other . If you needed to pass by a kind of larger vehicle like a bus or a van , then it became really dramatic and frightening . Big rocks were falling down from the mountains onto the road so that the road was closed for a few hours until it was arranged by the authorities .
When I look at the road today that is wide , comfortable , lightened , I always remeber those days , especially when Antiphellos ie Kas was a sleepy , undiscovered very little village hidden in the bays of the mountains that nobody knew and nobody accessed .
It was a real pure life – life as it was probably similar in Lykian times .
Today Antiphellos is a popular seaside destination that is visited by a lot of people . Most of them take a boat tour also to ancient Kekova .
Some are also visiting the Greek island of Kastellorizo – Meis which is just located 1 .2 km in front of the Turkish border .
Antiphellos has a litte port where fishermen are preparing for their fishing trips . On the other side all the boatrip companies are selling their daily boattrips to the close environment .
Flowers in pink and red colors are climbing along the roofs and windows of the houses into the blue sky . What a festival of colors !
The symbol of Antiphellos is are the hilltombs of which one is situated in mid of the village on the hillside . Antiphellos was the port of Phellus in Lykia .
the way there are small villages like the Bezirgan village where you can get in touch with the rural people , also to get some small bites – filled wine leaves , fresh yoghurt with herbs , spring rolls , salads and so many other delicious dishes .
The 11th stop is beautiful Patara .
We leave the main road at Gelemis and take the side road to Patara and Patara Beach . The road is full of oleander trees in white , pink and red colors along the road till we arrive first at the village of Patara . In the little village itself there are lemon trees , pomegrate trees , different cactus , palm trees and a lot of more flora .
We pass by the village and drive further to the National park of Patara – a nice gate is welcoming us to the ancient site . This year 2020 is the Year of Patara and this is why the site is under construction and a lot of people are working here to get it ready and to settle the new museum building .
Patara actually was a uge city thatw as flourishing as a maritime port in old Lykia . It was the birthplace of St Nikolaus in 270 AD . It is said that the name of Patara is coming from Patarus , the founder of the city who was the son of Appollon .
It was acity located close to the river of Xhanthos and famous for its temple and its oracle of Appollo .Patara was also the biggest and most powerful city in the Lykian league .
In 333 the city was taken over by Alexander the Great .
For centuries in different civilziations it was an important port to handle trade. There are ruins of a theatre with about 30 rows of seats , a large main street with columns , altars , temples and also very important a Boulleiterion , a kind of Council Chamber- today all next to a kind of swamp backed with the sandbanks of Patara Beach .
What is on top of this great location is the 18 km long white natural sandbeach in front of Patara that is one of the most important breeding places of the seaturtles in the area .
12. Letoon and Xhantos
Very close by to Patara ca 8 km is the great site of Letoon ( Lycia , the Land of the Light Turkey June 2019)and Xhanthos which is definitely to be seen . It is a UNESCO Heritage site since 1988 .
Our 13th stop is the ancient city of Tlos , a hillside citadel about 40 km east to the city of Fethiye . The first settlement in this area is said to be about 4000 years ago and was one of oldest and largest cities and also a religious site in Lykia . In Lykian inscriptions the city is called Tlawa .
We drive towards the mountains through the fields and some small villages along the rivers to the site .
The path is going up and we can already see the rocktombs on top of the hill.
The city is really huge and consists of ruins from the different time periods -Lykian , Roman ,Byzantine and Ottoman .
There are lots of rocktombs and some sarcophagi on the slope . The most famous one is the rocktomb of Bellerophone riding on his winged horse which is called Pegasus . Next to the rocktombs are some temple type rocktombs.
On top of the same hill are the ruins of an old Ottoman castle and when looking down the slope we recognize a large stadium .
A Lycian fortress, a Roman city wall , some Roman public baths , a huge theatre for 2500 people , a Byzantine church, temples , an agora , a palaestra , an apse with 7 doors and so much more can be seen on these hills of Tlos .
It is a superhot summerday and since we climbed up the hill we are really tired . Just at the little road through the village and Tlos there is a little rural cute cafe . They offer cold pomegrate and orange juice that we are happy to take .
It is a beautiful view to the rocktombs – they look so unreal .We are sitting here and are amazed of what we have seen so far .
A stunning site that we did not hear before – so many great palce and so many more that I did not mention here .It was a great time in the pandemic summer of 2020 to get out , to get the fresh breeze of the seawind , the sun and the sea after having been locked down for months at home and worrying about your health and the family .
We need to appreciate what we have , we need to value nature and history and focus on what is really important in life rather than blindly running without any direction and risking our health and mind .
Any minute of our Life is so worthful .