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12 March 2023 / Culture

Where to See Lycian coast History in Fethiye

The Mediterranean coast region of Fethiye earns much fame for tourism and expat living. Once you see it for yourself, the lure is easy to understand. Think gorgeous beaches, lounging around pools, top-notch restaurants and bars, and a lifestyle to escape the rat race and live here permanently. Indeed, Fethiye is the perfect stereotype of an idealistic beachfront resort. However, those who know Fethiye well will also say, learn about the Lycian history. Of course, traces of ottoman history can be found, but ideally, for that era, visit Istanbul. Instead, Fethiye’s ancient civilization and forward thinkers were the Lycians and exploring Fethiye and the rest of Mediterranean Turkey opens up their world.

Who Were the Lycians?

Although they are relatively unknown today, their unique language, art, and architecture left lasting legacies. The unique and mysterious Lycian language combined ancient Greek and native Lycian characters; hence, historians struggled to decipher it. Only a few inscriptions have been found, on tombstones and other monuments. Lycians spoke the tongue until the 3rd century AD but then turned to the Greek language. Lycians carved stone to create sculptures inspired by nature that depicted animals like lions, bulls, and eagles, which were engraved with Lycian inscriptions. The Lycians also built impressive public buildings, such as theatres and temples, often adorned with elaborate carvings and sculptures. Despite their relative obscurity, the Lycians were skilled fighters, and their navigational skills enabled them to travel afar and trade with other civilizations. Today, traces of the Lycian civilization bring the Mediterranean coast and Taurus mountains alive.

Lycian Ancient Rocks

The Ancient Lycian League

The 2nd century BCE Lycian League was a union of ancient cities in the southwestern region of Asia Minor, now modern-day Turkey. Created to respond and protect against increasing threats from powerful neighbouring states like Persia and Macedonia, the league lasted until the Roman conquest in 43 CE. The democratic federation league of 23 cities united against common threats but each member city-maintained autonomy. Each city also had equal representation and voting rights. The league was federally governed with each city retaining individual government practises and laws. However, the league’s federal council oversaw all decisions and policies that affected them as a whole.

The league's military was composed of soldiers from each city, for a more diverse and effective fighting force. The league was also successful economically, as the Lycian cities were major centres for trade and commerce. The standardized monetary system and agreements between member cities promoted economic growth. The Lycian League eventually joined Rome but the legacy lived on because Rome adopted many of their political and economic practices.

Where was Lycia in Turkey?

In ancient times, the Lycian civilization contributed significantly to the Mediterranean region of modern Turkey, known today as the turquoise coast. The region of Lycia covered the southwest coast fronting the Mediterranean Sea. The combination of natural beauty and history makes Lycia an enchanting destination for history buffs friendly locals and adventurers alike. Heading from west to east on the turquoise sea coast, current days towns within ancient Lycia include Fethiye, Patara, Kas, Kalkan, Demre, and the Antalya province. Infact, Fethiye is ideal to start your exploration of Lycia’s vibrant history.

About Fethiye on the Turquoise coast

Fethiye coast town and popular tourist destination in the Mugla province of Turkey, boasts of stunning beaches, and clear waters. The Blue Lagoon in the Oludeniz neighbourhood of Fethiye is one of Turkey's most photographed beaches. Whereas Butterfly Valley, which can only be reached via water taxi or a rugged and steep path, portrays nature at its best. Many tourists also explore the abandoned village of Kayakoy or jump on jeep safaris to visit places like Saklikent gorge, Yakapark, and the ancient ruins of Tlos. All this has made Fethiye popular for tourism and holiday homeowners and ex-pats who live in Turkey all year round. However, Fethiye also earns fame as the starting or finishing point of long walks along the famous Lycian Way, depending on which way you trek.

Walking the Lycian Way

This 540-kilometre-long distance footpath, formed by British hiker Kate Clow from Antalya to Fethiye, takes hikers through villages, rugged terrain pine forests, and ancient Lycian ruins scattered across the coast. Hikers enjoy Mediterranean Sea views while exploring ancient city ruins like Xanthos, Patara, and Myra. The extremely difficult Lycian Way of Turkey is not for beginners. This challenging trail requires preparation and experience. However, the rewards are well worth the effort, and the Lycian way is one of the world's best hikes. It takes weeks to complete the Lycian way trail, but there are numerous hotels and set stages if you want to walk over a long time instead.

The Tomb of Amyntas in Fethiye

The Lycian empire built large, towering rock-cut tombs for wealthy Lycians, who were laid to rest here with their wealth and treasures. The tombs were situated in high places because the Lycians believed their location made it easier for the winged creature to carry them into the afterlife. Unfortunately, many tombs across the Mediterranean region were looted and now lay empty, making for dramatic viewing.

A famous landmark in Fethiye is Amyntas' rock-cut tomb. This ancient tomb from the Hellenistic period, which lasted from the 4th century BC to the 1st century BC, has been a popular tourist attraction for many years. The tomb was built for a man named Amyntas, who ruled nearby Xanthos. Carved out of a rock cliff, these days, the tomb gives off marvellous views over modern-day Fethiye. The tomb's interior consists of a single chamber with a vaulted ceiling and reliefs depicting scenes from Greek mythology, including the battle between the gods and Titans.

Butterfly Valley Fethiye

Walks Within Fethiye

Complete the official 5-hour Fethiye centre to the Kayakoy route for an easy Lycian way route. There is a lack of shade, so ideally, walk in the early mornings. Another moderately challenging walking route is the five-hour Ovacik to Faralya, the first official stage of the Lycian walking path. Then, heading uphill to Kozagaci village at 730 meters altitude, trekkers are treated to marvellous panoramic views of the Oludeniz blue lagoon and turquoise sea. Here, small cafes are ideal for resting and grabbing refreshments. The last stage descends into a piste, Faralya village, and Butterfly valley. From Faralya, the turquoise sea views are amazing. Experienced walkers can take the path from the village down to Butterfly valley. Private guides are available for hire if you are unfamiliar with the area and walking routes.

From Fethiye to Xanthos and Letoon Ancient Cities

Xanthos ancient city, sitting just 40 minutes drive from Fethiye, was Lycia’s capital. The primary city, which these days belongs to UNESCO, was built on a hill and surrounded by walls for protection against invaders. The city has a complex history, having been inhabited by the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. Xanthos famously resisted the 5th century BCE Persian invasion when locals chose to fight rather than surrender. The city eventually fell, but memories of the heroic resistance lived on.

Located just a few kilometres from Xanthos, Letoon, Lycia’s religious centre worshipped Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. Letoon, an important cultural centre, hosted many festivals and games, drawing in citizens from all over the Lycian coast.

Today, Letoon features several ruined temples, including Leto, Apollo, and Artemis. The site also includes a well-preserved theatre and communal bathhouse. Xanthos and Letoon are both important sites for understanding the history and culture of ancient Lycia. Xanthos reflects Lycian bravery and resilience, while Letoon provides insight into ancient world religious and cultural practices. Together, these two sites offer glimpses into this region’s fascinating history. Both these ancient cities are stops on the Lycian way.

Lycian Coast Attractions Further Afield

The Sunken City of Kekova is another must-see Lycian coast attraction. Destroyed by 2nd-century AD earthquakes and submerged underwater, people tour the coast on boats to see the submerged ruins from onboard, then visit picturesque Simena village and castle for amazing peninsula views.

The nearby 4th century BCE rock tombs in Dalyan are located on small hills overlooking the Dalyan delta and town and are accessible only by boat. Many wealthy Lycians lived in Myra port city in the current day Antalya province, which boasts a well-preserved amphitheatre, Saint Nicholas church, and impressive Lycian rock tombs.

Kayakoy Fethiye

Also About Fethiye

So, the Lycian coast section in Fethiye commands much fame and attention. However, Fethiye also has another feather in its cap; the turquoise coast and blue voyage sailing routes. Given Turkey has 7000 kilometres of coastline, sailing the Mediterranean and Turkish Riviera is big business. From here, they sail set routes and visit secluded coves, and for those who don't like walking the Lycian way, they make alternative ways to get around all the attractions. Spend just a day sailing the coastline and stopping off at towns and villages, or complete the 3-night Fethiye to Antalya Turkish riviera route.

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