Fethiye, Turkey and the nearby Lycian Ruins of Tlos

After taking the afternoon ferry from Rhodes we arrived at the port of Fethiye. Once the ferry docked there was a long wait as everyone made their way towards the immigration and security desk inside a small building. It took at least an hour for us to get through, and we were among the first quarter of passengers off the ferry. Don’t linger when it docks as it’s first come, first served to get in the long line.

The x-ray machine wasn’t in operation so we didn’t need to worry about customs as we were waved through after passport control.

View from the tombs overlooking the city. Our hotel was somewhere to the centre-right of the photo.

Fethiye is a port city of 162,000. While it doesn’t have the sandy beaches of the towns to the east and west of it, there is a nice boardwalk promenade along the waterfront. However, it wasn’t so much of a walking town and we had other beach plans nearby so we focused on using the town as a place for day trips to the surrounding area.

Breakfast at the Trio Cafe, down the street from our hotel. The fresh bread basket is off screen

We stayed in a small hotel located a bit north of the port and close to the water. Luckily there were good food options nearby. After our 2019 trip I had missed the traditional Turkish breakfast, which included bread, cheese, fruit, olives, vegetables and jams. It always varied by location but was rarely disappointing. Now that we were back in Turkey I could get it once again.

Athough there were some restaurants and cafes and a small supermarket within walking distance, the busier areas were further out. On the second day we rented a Kia Rio from a local agency to get us from place to place as well as out next destination. You had to be on your toes when driving the streets as cars double-parked and changed lanes without warning. Taxis stopped suddenly, and scooters darted through traffic wherever they could.

Approaching the tombs

We drove just ten minutes from our place to a residential area just under the hills surrounding the south part of town. This was an area with Lycian Tombs, a feature we would see repeated throughout the region. The Lycians were an ancient people who ruled the region between 1250-546 BC. One of their primary cities was Telmessos. It was a city famous for diviners who were consulted by kings. One of the seers there was named Aristander, and was a personal favourite of Alexander the Great.

The city was renamed a few times and eventually came to be known by its present name of Fethiye. Although the Lycians are long gone, their achievements loom over the town. Scattered around the hills are Lycian tombs cut into the rock. They were impressive, and looked unlike any of the Greek or Roman ruins we had seen before.

Heading up to the tomb. The heat of the day was upon us

The Tomb of Amyntas was the most impressive of the lot, and the best one to see up close. It was a short walk up from the nearby neighbourhood, and cost 20 lira each to see them.

Nothing to see inside, but it was a spacious tomb

The impressive rock tombs were a feature we would see many times in this region. But it was the smaller, simpler tombs that we saw even more often. They resembled giant board-game pieces and could be found in many towns and wherever Lycian or Romans ruins were located.

Lycian tomb in the middle of the street nearby. The more we travelled south-western Turkey, the more of them we saw

One nice thing about being in a more residential area was having cheaper and more authentic restaurants around–fewer of them catered to tourists. In the evening we researched and found a well-reviewed place nearby so we went out to check it out. After arriving I got mixed up and we went to the place next door. The menu looked good and they so we stayed. W didn’t regret it at all, though it might depend on whether or not you like spicy food–it was spicy! We ended up going the place next door the next night (a pide restaurant) and it was fine too.

The next day we did our first day trip: the ancient ruins of Tlos. Located about 40 minutes east of Fethiye, it was a relatively easy drive from using the D400 highway. Once we left the highway things got narrower for the final 15 minutes or so and we had to be more careful. Just before reaching the ruins we drove through the towns of Girmeler and Gucesli. The village streets were narrow but traffic was light and we eventually made it to a parking area near the ruins.

Left side of the stadium

Once we were out of the car there was no escape from the sun. The area had trees around but few were around the ruins. On the other hand, few tourists were around and it was quiet. We paid the 20 lira per person entry fee and went in.

Towards the acropolis. The right side of the stadium is in the foreground

Known as one of the founding cities of Lycia, human settlement around Tlos happened over 4000 years ago. In Greek mythology, Tlos was known as the town inhabited by the hero Bellerophon and his winged horse Pegasus.

Map of the ruins

In later times Tlos was conquered by the Persians but later regained its independence before becoming an ally (rather than a vassal) of Rome. It was hit hard by an earthquake in 141 AD, and was almost destroyed by another earthquake a hundred years later.

More of the ruins below us. The theatre is in the distance
Below the acropolis

The site was rediscovered in 1838 by British archaeologist Charles Fellows. A few decades later fellow explorer Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt declared: “A grander site for a great city could scarcely have been selected in all Lycia.”

The acropolis
There was one more climb to get to the top
A view of the valley from the top. Our car is in the parking area at the bottom right

Another Lycian tomb
Even more ruins further down the hill

The heat of late July was strong but we made it back down to the car. Before escaping back into the air conditioning of the rental car we decided to get a drink at a place next to the parking lot.

It was a simple drink stand that served freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice, but it also offered shade from the intense sun. For a few dollars we had a tall glass of fresh juice. The owner and her parents took an interest in us and asked us a few questions in basic English while we answered as best we could. She appreciated our interest in history and pulled out an old copy of a Lycian travel guide in English. She then pointed out other Lycian sites in the area, which was a really nice gesture.

Although it wasn’t the most exciting place on its own, Fethiye was a good jumping off point for the region. Tlos was just the first place we would be visiting nearby, and one of our next stops would be giving us more relief from the sun.

Sunset in Fethiye

2 thoughts on “Fethiye, Turkey and the nearby Lycian Ruins of Tlos

    1. Thanks, it was a great area to visit.

      As far as ruins & tombs go, this was just the start. We ended up doing a lot more of them over the next week or two including one in the water! (coming soon). Turkey is really an underrated country for ancient sites.

      Liked by 1 person

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