The Top 10 Ancient Sites on the Turkish Coast


Sedir (Cleopatra) Island

At this beach on the Gulf of Gokova, in the southeast Aegean Sea, legend says that Cleopatra and Marc Anthony bathed at the beach, leading to it being known as Cleopatra’s Island. On this stunning island, the beach is made up entirely of sand from seashells from the Red Sea, shipped from Egypt just for Cleopatra’s enjoyment. Its highly prized by the Turkish government, and as a result the sand is heavily guarded to ensure tourists don’t take any with them and damage this beautiful natural phenomenon.


One of many historical sites in the Gulf of Hisaronu, fragments of the ancient city of Bybassos can be found on the coast near Datça. It was home to a temple dedicated to Apollo and there is also a temple on Eren Mountain dedicated to Hemitia, goddess of health. The city is believed to have been built on the slopes here, and sections of a castle and theatre still exist there today.



The largest city of ancient Lycia, a Bronze- and Iron-Age Anatolian people is now the location of the town of Fethiye, around which ruins can be found of tombs, sarcophagi, a Roman theatre, and fortress. The ruin of the tomb of Amyntas sits on a mountain on the town’s edge can be visited by the public; it also offers a great view out over Fethiye.


Known today as Finikie, Phoenix was once a trading port of the capital city of Lycia's capital Limyra. Some of the ancient ruins which still exist here besides Limyra include Arycanda and Trysa, with structures such as theatres, sarcophagi and friezes from the time of the Greeks and Romans.


Located near modern-day Gocek and accessible only by boat. This was another part of ancient Lycia, and its ruins include an amphitheatre, a number of tombs, and water cisterns built by the Romans.



A nearly intact ghost town, built on the ruins of Lycian Karmilassos, for centuries it was occupied by Turkish Greek Orthodox inhabitants, who were massacred following World War I and the town left deserted when Greece and Turkey exchanged citizens. It was a backdrop of the 2004 novel Birds Without Wings and 2014 film The Water Diviner, and tours allow visitors to learn more about Turkish history.


Another Lycian town, Patara is home to the oldest lighthouse in the world, the remains of an acropolis and a stunning amphitheatre. It's said to be the birthplace of St Nicholas, the inspiration for Christmas stories across the world. Besides these intriguing ruins, visitors can enjoy the beautiful beach, which stretches out for 11 miles along the stunning Mediterranean coast.


Also known as Caravola, this small, uninhabited island is home to the sunken ruins of Simena, an ancient Lycian town destroyed by earthquakes during the 2nd century CE, which can be seen through the glittering waters along the coast. Sailing over the ruins in a dinghy, visitors will be able to spot walls and staircases still intact below the water, and diving tours are available, as well.



Site of the famous siege from Homer’s Iliad, this archaeological site shows how the city developed during each successive empire which took over it, from the ancient Greeks and Romans through the Byzantine Empire and beyond. The museum at the site showcases Turkey’s diverse mix of cultures through the ages.


Its name means "castle village" in Turkish, and the central feature is indeed a castle, built in the Byzantine Middle Ages to ward off pirates infesting the island of Kekova across from it. The castle contains a small ancient theatre, and the village is also surrounded by a partially sunken Lycian necropolis which visitors can explore.

Damon Culbert is with Salamander Voyages, luxury gulet cruise operators in Turkey.

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