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.