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Xanthos, Turkey – Exploring The Lycian Federation’s Leading City

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Our previous post was a series of photos showing different scenes from the site of the temple of Leto, Letoon. This post is another photo story but this time, all the shots are of different areas of the site of Xanthos.

While Letoon was the religious centre of the Lycian Federation, Xanthos was the Lycian Federation’s leading city.

Nereid Monument, Xanthos, Turkey
Where once stood the Nereid Monument

A Wander Around The Archaeological Site Of Xanthos

If you follow the Lycian Way and walk from the ancient site of Letoon to Xanthos, at the entrance road to the Xanthos site, you will pass the Arch of Vespasian to your left.

To your right, you will see the rubble and an information board marking the site of where the Nereid Monument once stood.

The Nereid Monument is now displayed in the British Museum after a certain Sir Charles Fellows came along in the 1830s, liked what he saw – and so returned in the 1840s with a group of sailors to help himself to that and other marvels of Xanthos.

Xanthos Ruins, Turkey
A view of the famous tombs as you enter the theatre at Xanthos

The Roman Theatre, Xanthos

Further up the road, on the left hand side, you’ll see the Roman theatre.

You can enter the theatre through a stone archway and it’s worth doing so because standing atop the rows of seats are the two landmarks which have become a symbol of Xanthos.

Ancient Theatre, Xanthos, Turkey
The Roman theatre at Xanthos

Harpy Tomb, Xanthos

The Harpy Tomb and the Lycian Sarcophagus.

The simple, rectangular Harpy Tomb was once topped with marble (we’ll leave you to guess who removed that) but at least we can still see a cement copy of what it should look like.

The Harpy Tomb’s neighbour, the Lycian sarcophagus, is thought to date from the 3rd Century BC and is unusual in its design.

The Harpy Tomb
The Harpy Tomb and the Lycian sarcophagus are key features of Xanthos

Even if you’re not interested in the history around Xanthos, photographers will be kept occupied for some time around the theatre as this pair of tombs and the archway through which the theatre is entered make for some great photo opportunities.

By the time we were leaving, the sun was getting lower in the sky and the silhouettes were already looking impressive.

Roman Agora, Xanthos, Turkey
You can wander along the Roman agora at Xanthos

The Roman Agora

On leaving the theatre, you’ll see a couple of cabins on the opposite side of the road.

This is where you pay your entrance fee (even though you’ve probably already been round the theatre) and in summer, there is a cafe and bookshop open, too.

It’s this side of Xanthos where we love to spend time. It’s not so much a looking-at-the-ruins visit as an enjoying-the-mountain-scenery stroll. A stroll along the Roman agora.

Byzantine Basilica

Byzantine Basilica, Xanthos, Turkey
The Byzantine basilica is easy to make out at Xanthos

And towards the ruins of the Byzantine Basilica. It’s not as obvious as the outstanding basilica at Kaunos, near the small town of Dalyan to the west. But, it’s impressive all the same and you can make out the apse at the far end.

The last time we were at Xanthos, it was possible to view the beautiful floor mosaics around the edges of the walls.

These days, there is tarpaulin and gravel where the mosaics are/were and the entrance is fenced off.

Archaeological work has been taking place at Xanthos for decades and, along with Letoon, Xanthos enjoys Turkish World Heritage status.

Lycian Sarcophagus, Xanthos, Turkey
Ancient and modern – Xanthos overlooks the town of Kınık

Take In The Scenery

But let’s not dwell on that. Take your photos, breathe in the fresh air and wander on along the hillside to this lonely sarcophagus.

As you can see in the photo, there are extensive views of the polytunnels and greenhouses of Kıınık from here.

As in Kumluova, where Letoon is, most of the people in Kınık earn their living from tomato production. To the right of this shot, in the distance, you can also see the sea at Patara.

Archaeological Finds
Oh to be an archaeologist

Further along, excavated and labelled boulders and column sections are neatly laid out, set against a backdrop of forested hills and mountains.

Even if you’re starting to feel the onset of ruin-fatigue, the scenery of this beautiful area should be enough to keep you interested.

Bee Keeping
Daily life continues alongside ancient Xanthos

And as with many of Turkey’s ancient sites, daily life still continues in their immediate surroundings.

We stood at the top of the hill, amongst the Lycian tombs, for some time watching this beekeeper harvesting the honeycomb.

Xanthos – Useful Information

  • The site of Xanthos is open daily and, as of February 2024, the entrance fee is 70 TL. You can check the latest price on the Turkish Museums website.
  • At the entrance gate, there is a WC, souvenir shop and refreshment stand. (We were there out of season so the souvenir shop and refreshment stand were closed.)
  • The photos above are just a few taken on the day. Don’t forget to take your camera if you are visiting Xanthos as the scenery of Lycian Turkey, particularly around the Xanthos Valley, is certainly worth more than a bit of space on your memory card.

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Turkey's For Life

Saturday 7th of April 2012

@ Sophie: Thanks, we do our best. :) That's what's so in interesting about a lot of the ruins in Turkey. They're not really thought about too much by the locals, in general. Maybe it's the same in other countries but we notice it more here because we're around the ruins all the time.


Saturday 7th of April 2012

A great dose of Turkey inspiration from you, as usual :)

I think it would be wonderful living among ruins like that - walking, working, planting, growing tomatoes or keeping bees - and thinking of how people might have done the same there for millennia. But perhaps one would soon take it for granted, and be too busy with daily life to think about it much...

Turkey's For Life

Friday 6th of April 2012

@ Alan: Why, thank you very much. Hope you make it back there soon while the prices are still reasonable. :)

@ Suzanne: Thanks for that comment. I'm sure some people would love that as an alternative to our hiking up and down everywhere. A driver at your beck and call sounds like a great idea and, like you say, can be really cost-effective if there are people to share the fees. :)


Friday 6th of April 2012

I love the three sites of Tlos, Letoon and Xanthos. With visiting friends, we hired a car with a driver to cruise around and plan two full days. It is a great way to visit the Fethiye area if you are a few people to share the cost and can only manage a few days in the Fethiye. It is better to shop around Travel Agencies for a good price and you make your own map. Lunch at Kaya Park after Tlos and Saklikent and a swim with lunch on the beach of Patara after Letoon and Xanthos. Beautiful scenary, stops anywhere you wish and 2 full days of beautiful historical sites. By sharing the cost, its affordable and saves on time and our drivers were very interesting. Suzanne


Friday 6th of April 2012

. . excellent post and another timely reminder to get our backsides into gear and re-visit these fascinating sites.

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