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Phaselis Guide – Coastal Ruins Of An Ancient City

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The engines of the gület slowed to a steady purr as we pulled into the natural sweeping harbour. Somewhere in that dense pine forest was the ancient city of Phaselis.

For now, however, it was the pine trees and a curve of sandy beach that greeted us.

Historic boulders along a forest path at Phaselis. Pine trees fill the scene.
Hadrian’s Gate is easily missed

And there was indeed a ticket booth on the edge of the forest. The unlikeliest of places!

We paid our entrance fee and wandered off into the trees, pine needles crunching under our feet as we rounded ancient boulders and headed towards the ruins of Hadrian’s Gate.

Unlike the monumental Hadrian’s Gate of Antalya old town, rather a lot of imagination is needed to conjure up an image of the grandeur of this gate.

The pillars either side are our only clue to the size of a gate built in honour of Emperor Hadrian who visited Phaselis in 160 AD when the city was under Roman rule.

Phaselis isn’t the hugest of archaeological sites.

But, as with many archaeological sites in Turkey, it is beautifully situated. And what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in mystery and natural beauty.

A must for history buffs.

The site and the beaches are enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

But choose your day and the time of year wisely and you can wander under the forest canopy amongst the ruins as though in an undiscovered corner of the world.

In Phaselis, we’re close to Tekirova in the Kemer district of the Antalya Province.

A traditional wooden gület in the sea with beach and pine-clad hills in the background.
The pretty Phaselis coastline

If you don’t know the country, those are just words. Let us tell you what those words mean.

We’re right on the coastline; natural harbours being lapped by the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

Those natural harbours are the reason Phaselis was so important in ancient times – an importance that lasted for centuries.

And these days, those harbours make for easy anchoring for traditional gülets (our mode of arrival) and other sailing boats.

The small, sheltered bays with their mix of rocky and sandy beaches are bases for sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelling enthusiasts.

And the inland backdrop to all of this is the dramatic mountain scenery generously provided by the Taurus Mountains.

Greek writing engraved into an ancient column at the Phaselis Ruins in Antalya.
A relatively intact column with ancient Greek script at Phaselis

As for our own personal agenda for our gület cruise, we were excited to scoop up as much of ancient Lycia and the remote ruins of Turkey as we could.

And, once a member of the Lycian League, the Phaselis ruins were high on our list.

An ancient stone door archway amongst pine trees.
What was beyond this ancient doorway?

Ahhh, beautiful Phaselis.

It was a hot, still October day and we walked towards the hidden entrance from the blazing late summer sunshine into the dappled shade of dense pines.

Stone columns line the Agora area under trees.
Columns line the avenue that leads to the Phaselis South Harbour

And no intense sun to contend with.

The sun was there, directly above us, but it was outmatched by the ancient pine forest all around us.

As ancient as the Phaselis ruins? Who knows?

It’s certainly witnessed a few events in its time, though.

The Hellenistic, Roman & Lycian Phaselis Ruins – Interwoven Layers Of History

We all know there’s an astounding number of ruins in Turkey, some of which have made it onto the country’s UNESCO World Heritage List.

But the Lycian coast, for us, baffles the logical mind with history; dates, anecdotes, legends, mystery, major historical events, world known names transcending different faiths and beliefs.

Compared to many ancient sites, Phaselis is tiny. But it crams all of this in.

A view of the summit of Mount Olympos from Phaselis Theatre.
Climbing to the top of the theatre of Phaselis offers views of Mount Olympos

In many places, Phaselis is piles of crumbling rubble.

Well the town does date back to the 7th Century BC when colonists from the kingdom of Rhodes arrived and quickly realised its strategic importance.

Phaselis is built on an isthmus and has large, natural harbours which were used for receiving guests, and, of course, receiving and exporting goods to support the local communities.

The city was an important centre of commerce.

In the 21st century, we had just arrived in an inflatable dinghy, via one of those harbours: the South Harbour.

We were now walking along Hadrian’s agora and the main avenue towards the Military Harbour.

Magnetic Draw

Despite the crumbling ruins on either side of the agora and main avenue, the boundaries of these avenues are completely intact.

And, with lush towering pines reaching above, they lead the eye directly towards the beach and the turquoise waters of the south harbour.

You can’t help but be drawn in that direction.

It’s a magnetic vista, but we resisted the pull for a while as we explored the ancient city; the Roman baths, the gymnasium and the 2nd century theatre.

Ruins of the Phaselis Hellenistic Theatre with a backdrop of trees and clear blue skies.
The Phaselis ruins contain a Hellenistic theatre that once sat 1,500-2,000 people

Phaselis theatre is reached by wooden steps as the ascent is currently too dangerous – that rubble, again.

You come here not just to view the theatre – there are lots of them in Turkey – but to enjoy the spectacular view from the top, too.

From here, we can see the summit of Mount Olympos (Tahtalı), framed by pines and olive trees and low lying hills.

What’s so special about all of this area is that the coastal D400 road is relatively new.

Can you imagine how remote and untouched all of this area – the coast of Lycia – must have been before that construction?

Phaselis was the eastern point of Lycia and was incorporated into the Lycian League between 190-160 BC under the rule of the Romans.

Because of its position, over the centuries, the city of Phaselis was under constant threat; often attacked and pillaged by pirates.

It even came under pirate rule at one point when Pirate Zekenites took control for a short period.

By the 11th Century AD, the town was left to fall into ruin because the Seljuks preferred the nearby cities of Antalya and Alanya as their ports.

In the modern day, there’s very much a pirate theme (à la Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow) going on around coastal tourism circles in the form of boats and bars. And, although it’s not explained anywhere this is probably the reason why.

A smattering of bathers at the curved Phaselis Beach.
Phaselis Beach – formerly the ancient South Harbour

While we loved exploring the avenue of Phaselis ancient city in the cooling shade, it was time to allow ourselves a closer look at that oh-so-inviting beach with its clear turquoise lapping sea.

Phaselis Beach Life

Whether it was because we were coming to the end of the season or because of the remoteness of Phaselis, hidden in thick forest as it is, there was just a smattering of people; both around the ruins and on the beach.

The ancient South harbour once used by the Greeks, Romans, Lycians and pirates is now a quiet bay for sunbathers and swimmers.

Stone archways of the Roman Aqueduct at the Phaselis Ruins in the Kemer area.
A largely intact section of the Roman aqueduct of the Phaselis ruins

To our left were significant ruins of the Roman aqueduct that brought water not just to the people of Phaselis but to the whole area.

And directly through the arches of the aqueduct?

Well, we are in the 21st century, don’t forget. A small car park and a snack bar with picnic tables.

Sunbathers, swimmers and explorers of ruins need to feed and water themselves at some point.

Magical Arrival

Arriving by boat to Phaselis does have certain magical qualities that you can get carried away with.

The car park at the far end of the Roman avenues was a reminder that we’re not actually too far away from Kemer, the holiday resorts of Tekirova. And, of course, the D400 coastal road.

A couple of visitors wander along the forested area of Hadrian's Agora ruins.
Walking back along Hadrian’s Agora and, eventually, to our waiting gulet

For this journey, we didn’t want that reminder.

After having a quick pit stop at the snack bar, we made our way back towards the end of the main street and the gate of Hadrian, through the trees.

We emerged at our little jetty where the dinghy was waiting for us to take us back to our gület.

Life at sea – and arriving at Lycian sites by sea – was already suiting us well!

Next stop; Olympos.

Phaselis Ruins – Useful Information

  • Phaselis is in the Antalya province of Turkey in Kemer (see map below).
  • The Phaselis ruins can be reached by boat or by road. By road, the site is signposted from the D400 just before you reach Tekirova from the west. From Antalya, heading west towards Tekirova, it’s around 35 miles.
  • We arrived at the Phaselis ruins by gület as part of our week-long Blue Cruise.
  • Phaselis is open daily from 08:00-17:00 with last entrance at 16:30. The entrance fee to Phaselis is €10 (March 2024). You can check the latest price on the website.
  • As well as exploring the Phaselis ruins, you can also use the beach. There is also a snack bar selling soft drinks, confectionery and sandwiches etc.

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Jack Scott

Saturday 7th of November 2015

Phaselis has got to be one of my favourite ruins on the Turquoise Coast. The perfect place for a warm dip and a picnic under the shade of an old pine tree. Glorious!

Turkey's For Life

Monday 9th of November 2015

We loved Phaselis, Jack Scott! :) It's probabe extra special because the two bays are linked by he ruins in between. Would love to go back for longer, now, and enjoy a full day around the ruins and the beaches. :)


Sunday 1st of November 2015

I'm delighted by the idea of being taken exploring by dinghy. :-) What a lovely spot this is, all those trees cast beautiful shadows and must be nice and cool on a blazing hot day. :-)

Turkey's For Life

Monday 2nd of November 2015

Usually, when you're exploring places like Phaselis, you're stuck under the blazing hot sun so these trees made it so pleasant. And yeah, we loved chugging about in the little dinghy from the gulet. :)

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