by W. Ruth Kozak
I’m standing at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps. High above me I can see the facades of the Doric-style temples that are cut into the cliff face of the mountain. I’ve waited years for this moment, but I’m ready to give up.
“Come on! You can do it!” my companion urges.
Ever since I saw pictures of them in the National Geographic years before, I’ve dreamed of visiting the Lycian tombs at Fethiye, Turkey. But can I reach them? I’m already exhausted from the 40C heat and the long slope I’ve walked up from the town.
These pillar tombs, carved in the rock face resemble small ‘houses’ and were modeled on the wooden houses of the Lycians. Important dynasts were laid to rest here. The Lycians who once inhabited this area were peaceful folk who founded the Lycian Federation, the first democratic union known.
I catch my breath and take a step up. I’d waited years for this moment. So I haul myself up the precarious two hundred steps until I am standing in front of the most predominant of these marvels, the Tomb of Amyntas, which dates to the 4th century B.C. The tomb chamber is empty and very small, but the magnificent view across the tiled rooftops of the village and town of Fethiye to the sparkling turquoise sea make a the long trek up worth the effort.
Below is the beautiful little town of Fethiye beside a sparkling bay strewn with islands. The town is built up the hillside, The ruins of a crusaders castle once occupied by the Knights of Rhodes crowns the hill. The rock tombs dominate the town, There are many sarcophagi in the town itself.
Fethiye is a traditional Turkish market town occupying the site of ancient Telmessos Although there are plenty of tourists about, most of them stay at the out-of-town resorts. My pension was located on the hillside overlooking the harbor. That morning, my friend and I relaxed on the roof terrace which was decorated in Turkish style, and were served a delicious traditional Turkish breakfast: boiled egg, cheese, tomato, olives, bread and honey and apple tea. Then we set off to explore the area and see the fabled Lycian tombs.
After accomplishing the long-awaited hike up to the tombs, my companion and I spent the day at Belceky Beach located on a bay surrounded by pine-forested mountains. The sea here is absolutely gorgeous, clear turquoise and very warm . The nearby village of “Oludeniz” is located on a lagoon of the same name that means “Dead” or “Calm Sea”. But the sea there certainly wasn’t calm. Big rollers crashed in on the pebbly shore. It’s a popular resort with lines of colourful umbrellas and lots of tourists. Parasailers soar out over the sea.
Behind the beach, a few brave people plummet off the cliff in what they call “tandem paragliding” with Turks hanging on their backs (or were they hanging on to the Turks?). Oludeniz is the starting point for the Lycian Way, Turkey’s only marked trekking route which winds along the coast to Antalaya.
At the village bazaar, I haggle with the jewelry sellers and watch a traditionally dressed lady rolling out gozleme, a kind of thin pancake, like a crepe but made with dough instead of batter, filled with shredded potato, cheese and onions. A delicious snack while waiting for the dolmus to take us back to Fethiye. I would have liked to have stayed longer, to go cruising down the Turquoise Coast. But that’s something I can look forward to on my next visit, for I will certainly return.
If You Go:
Turkish bus service is excellent and there is a large choice of buses from most main towns on the coast.
Accommodations: Fethiye has a good selection of budget and mid-range accommodations. Resort hotels are usually booked in advance.
Entrance to the tombs is free. You just need a good set of legs to climb there.
The Fethiye Museum is open Tuesdays to Sunday 8.30 – 5.30 $2.00 entry
Lycian Turkey – Discover the Beauty of Ancient Lycia
About the author:
W. Ruth Kozak is a travel and historical fiction writer, and the former editor and publisher of TravelThruHistory.com. A long time ago she read about the Lycian Tombs of Fethiye in the National Geographic, but she never dreamed that one day she’d find herself at the bottom of the steep stairway that leads up to them and summon up the energy and courage to climb those steps for a close-up look.