A holiday in Kalkan would not be complete without visiting the surrounding areas. One of the reasons for the growth in Kalkans popularity, other than its own charm is its fantastic location allowing you to easily explore Ancient Lycia with many areas of special interest less than a 2 hour drive away.
Arycanda (Arykanda) is a unique Lycian city, built upon five large terraces ascending a mountain slope, and was known for having the most pleasure and entertainment-loving (and debt-ridden) citizens. The city overlooks a magnificent valley and its view makes it one of the most spectacular sites in Lycia.
Located near the small village of Aykiriçay, on the Elmali-Finike road.
Arycanda is known to be one of the oldest Lycian sites – its name ends with -anda, indicitive of its Anatolian origin dating back as far as the second millennium BC. Some of the oldest coins of Lycia (5th c. BC were also found here during a recent digging; the site is under continuous excavation.
Gods and goddesses known to have been worshipped here are: Apollo, Ares, Artemis (in the forms of Kombike, Lagbene, Tharsenike and Eleuthera), Athena, Kakasbos (an Anatolian horseman-deity), Hera, Helios, Mithras, Tyche, Asklepios, Hygeia, Hercules, Hermes, Aphrodite, Somondeus (a mountain god), and Nemesis .
Arycanda survived through Byzantine times, until the 9th century when the settlement moved to a new site south of the modern road.
Excavations and restoration work in recent years have succeeded in unearthing a beautiful city, well-organized with the look of an architectural model.
Luckily for us, whether due to landslides, earthquakes or the difficulty for robbers in getting material down to the sea (there were sites nearer to the sea for that), Arycanda has not lost much of its large-scale materials except for the columns of the agora. Also, with no large settlement nearby in later years, many things have been spared the lime-kilns, at least none have been found on site yet. Since much of the site has been protected by landslips, the limestone of Arycanda’s buildings looks quite fresh.
Some features of this magnificent city include:
- Largest bath complex in Lycia, on the lowest terrace, still virtually intact in its sequence of arches, next to the gymnasium.
- Agora, some of the shops in its eastern part can still be seen. It is wide and flat, located to the south of the odeon and was enclosed on three sides by a portico.
- Amphitheatre, in excellent condition, built during the 2nd century AD. 20 rows of seats, divided into 7 sections. At the edge of every row are holes that were used to support protective awnings.
- Odeon – 2nd century AD. The main entrance is to the south, though a triple portal. This was once a very ornate building, the interior was lined with orthostats and the walls, orchestra and seats were once covered with coloured marble. A frieze over the portal bears a portrait of the Emperor Hadrian flanked by cartouches bearing masks and heads of deities in relief.
- Stadium, from the Hellenistic period, above the theatre, in the form of a running track. It is smaller than a usual stadium, measuring 106 m. long and 17 m. wide. A few step-like seats on its north side are all that remain of the stadium.
- Necropolises, there are two of them, and the one on the entrance to the site is very interesting with its series of richly decorated funerary monuments. The eastern necropolis has barrel-vaulted monumental tombs, temple-tombs and sarcophagi and the western necropolis has rock-cut tombs and barrel-valuted tombs.
- Bouleuterion, where the council met, located on the northwest slope of the city at the end of a 137 metre long stoa. The building is set into a mountain slope, with rows of seats cut into living rock.
Simena is a popular Lycian site, situated upon one of the most attractive spots of the Turkish coast. The name “Kekova” is Turkish for “plain of thyme” and describes the region encompassing the island of Kekova, the villages of Kaleköy and Üçağiz and the three ancient towns of Simena, Teimussa and Tersane (meaning “shipyard”, as its bay was the site of an ancient shipyard, with mostly Byzantine ruins). Both Simena and Teimussa have a large necropolis. Teimussa is now the village of Üçağiz, where boats set off for tours of the area.
The Kekova region was declared a Specially Protected Area in 1990 to protect the natural, cultural and geographic richness of Kekova Island and surrounding coast. The Kekova Specially Protected Area is 260 km² and is managed by the Ministry of Environment, Authority for the Protection of Special Areas.
Kekova-Simena is an enjoyable place to visit for its great beauty and charm. For this reason, it is popular with yachters (known to them as “Kekova Roads”) on their Blue Cruises along Lycia’s Turquoise Coast. In fact, cruising yachts often anchor here for several weeks at a time. It is a peaceful place of history, gorgeous turquoise water, sun, islands, unspoilt nature, blue skies and wonderful swimming.
The ancient Lycian sunken city of Simena is often referred to as Kekova-Simena. The city is a charming mix of ancient, medieval and modern history making it interesting as well as beautiful. In ancient times Simena was a small fishing village and was later an outpost of the Knights of Rhodes (formerly of St. John).
The ancient city of Simena was once of two parts – an island and a coastal part of the mainland. On the mainland the charming fishing village of Kaleköy (”castle village”) stands today, its buildings mingling with ancient and medieval structures. The top of the village is dominated by a well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes partially upon ancient Lycian foundations. Inside the castle is the smallest amphitheatre of Lycia. At the eastern end of the village is a Lycian necropolis with a cluster of some very nice sarcophagi overlooking the sea and surrounded by ancient olive trees. Near the harbour of Kaleköy is another sarcophagus, popping up from the water. Across the bay, along the island are the half-submerged ruins of the residential part of Simena, caused by the downward shift of land by the terrible earthquakes of the 2nd century AD. Half of the houses are submerged and staircases descend into the water. Foundations of buildings and the ancient harbor are also seen below the sea.
WebLink: 3D Tour of Kevoka
Letoon was the sacred cult center of Lycia, its most important sanctuary, and was dedicated to the three national deities of Lycia – Leto and her twin children Apollo and Artemis. Leto was also worshiped as a family deity and as the guardian of the tomb.
Letoon lies less than 10 km to the south of Xanthos on a fertile plain. Xanthos and Letoon are often seen as a “double-site”, since the two were closely linked and Letoon was administered by Xanthos. Xanthos-Letoon is one of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Turkey. For this reason, it has been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. Letoon has been under excavation since the 1950’s and since 1962 by the French Archaeological Mission, in conjunction with the excavations being carried out at Xanthos. Excavation goes on today – the team has done some excellent work and in recent years has begun to restore the Temple of Leto.
Letoon is a romantic site and many of the monuments arise from standing water which provides lush vegetation. Terrapins and frogs are usually seen. Unfortunately though, the high water table hinders excavation.
To reach Letoon, you turn west one km beyond the road from Kinik to Fethiye and continue 5 km. It’s not far from Patara and a day trip from Kalkan, Kaş or Fethiye to Letoon or Xanthos could easily be combined with a trip to the beach and /or ruins there.
Letoon was a sanctuary precinct and not actually a city, and seems to have had no major settlement associated with it at any period. It was administered by Xanthos and was the spiritual heart of Lycia, its federal sanctuary and the place of national festivals. Letoon was the center of pagan cults activity until perhaps the 5th century AD when Lycia was ravaged by Arab attacks and the area started to silt up with sand brought by the Xanthos River. It is believed to have been abandonded by the 7th century AD.
Archaeological finds date back to the late 6th century BC. During the Archaic and Classical periods (7th-5th century BC) the site was probably sacred to to the cult of an earlier mother goddess (Eni Mahanahi in Lycia), which was later superseded by the worship of Leto.
WebLink: 3D Tour of Letoon
Myra was a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia. Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today’s Demre, on the Kaş-Finike road. Most of the ancient city is now covered by Demre and alluvial silts, for it is located on the river Demre Cay in a fertile alluvial plain. Today this large plain is almost covered with greenhouses stuffed full of tomatoes. In ancient times this area was probably farmed extensively, for export and trade with the interior of Lycia.
The date of Myra’s foundation is unknown. There is no literary mention of it before the 1st century BC, when it is said to be one of the six leading cities of the Lycian Union (the other five were Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara, Patara and Olympos). It is believed to date back much further however, as an outer defensive wall has been dated to the 5th century BC.
The city is well known for its amphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the plethora of rock-cut tombs carved in the cliff above the theatre.
The origin of Myra’s name is uncertain and may be a modified form of a Lycian name, like Tlos and Patara. The name was popularly associated with the Greek name for myrrh and the emperor Constantine Porphrogenitus describled the city as “Thrice blessed, myrrh-breathing city of the Lycians, where the mighty Nicolaus, servant of God, spouts forth myrrh in accordance with the city’s name.” However, Myra does not seem to be known for its production of myrrh, the only product actually recorded is rue.
Myra once had a great temple of the goddess Artemis Eleuthera (a distinctive form of Cybele, the ancient mother goddess of Anatolia), said to be Lycia’s largest and most splendid building. It was built on large grounds with beautiful gardens and had an inner court defined by columns, an altar and a statue of the goddess. Not a trace of it remains today, however, since St. Nicholas (the bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD) in his zeal to stamp out paganism in the region, had the temple of Artemis, along with many other temples, completely destroyed.
Features of Myra include:
- Amphitheatre – Myra’s Greco-Roman theatre is the largest theatre in Lycia and one of the main attractions of Myra, still in good shape. Its double-vaulted corridors are still preserved and an inscription in a stall space reads “place of the vendor Gelasius” – the location of an ancient concessions stand. It has 38 rows of seats and its facade was richly decorated with theatrical masks and mythological scenes.
- Rock-Cut Tombs – The famous rock-tombs of Myra are in two main groups, one above the theater and the other in a place called the river necropolis on the east side. Although most of the tombs are plain today, Charles Fellows tells that upon his discovery of the city in 1840 he found the tombs colourfully painted red, yellow and blue. The entire cliff face must have once been a bright riot of colour.
To the west of the theatre the steep cliff is pockmarked with a huge number of closely packed rock-cut tombs in an asymmetric pattern, house type rock-cut tombs. A few are temple tombs and one can see steps carved out out the rock that lead to them. Most of the tombs are from the 4th century BC, and many contain funeral scenes in relief, some scenes portraying the daily life of the deceased.
The tombs on the eastern face of the hill resemble those next to the theater. Approached by an uncomfortable rock-path is the monument known as The Painted Tomb, one of the most striking throughout Lycia. It is the ususal house-type tomb with the outstanding feature of a group of eleven life-size figures in relief.
Patara was the major naval and trading port of Lycia, located at the mouth of the Xanthos River, until it silted up and turned into a malaria-plagued marsh. It is not far from the sites of Letoon and Xanthos and a day trip from Kalkan, Kaş or Fethiye could easily combine the sites. Beautiful 12 km-long Patara Beach, voted one of the top beaches in the world by Times Online – Best of 2005, is an easy 10-15 minute stroll away from the major ruins at Patara. The Patara area is a national park, a key biodiversity area and is rich in birdlife.
Patara was a very wealthy city due to trade and was one of the six principal cities of Lycia. Patara’s oracle at the renown temple of Apollo (not yet found) was said to rival that at Delphi and the temple equaled the reputation of the famous temple on the island of Delos. It was believed that Apollo lived at Delos during the summer but spent his winters at Patara. Omens were interpreted in these two towns during the respective seasons. A large bust of Apollo, discovered on the hill beyond the City Gate, indicates the existence of an Apollo Temple which has not yet been found.
Following its capture by Alexander the Great Patara became an important naval base as well. Alexander promised the revenues of four cities, including Patara, to one of his commanders, thus its value at that time is quite clear.
Many legends exist explaining the origin of the name of Patara. During the time of Lycia’s Ptolemy domination, Ptolemaios II (reigned 285-246 B.C) re-named Patara as Arsinoe in honour of his wife. The name did not stick, however, and the original name was soon again in use.
WebLink: 3D Tour of Patara
Much of the information above has been reproduced with the permission of The Lycian Turkey Website.