Exploring Kaunos

The ancient site of Kaunos was a valuable port trading in salt and slaves that, much like other great cities of its time, eventually suffered the fate of rapidly receding waters. Lying on the Carian-Lycian border, Kaunos first entered the history books under Persian rule in the 6th century B.C., passing to Carian rule when the administration of the port was assigned to Carian governor Mausolus of Halicarnassus. From around 200 B.C., rule of Kaunos was passed around like a hot potato, from Ptolemy of Egypt to Rhodes, from Rhodes to Rome, from Rome back to Rhodes, and finally back to Rome in the 3rd century A.D., when Diocletian added Kaunos to the province of Lycia. The ruins of Kaunos, especially the rock tombs, reflect this cultural jumble, including Hellenistic city walls, a Roman theater, and typical Lycian tombs.

Excursion boats moor on the river's edge amid the wooden pylons of a fish farm. The mooring is about 90m (295 ft.) from the entrance to the site, accessible by a footpath. A concession near the entrance to the ruins is your last chance to buy bottled water; be sure to avail yourself of this, because there's very little shade on the walk up.


The path that forks to the right will lead you directly up to a Roman theater, carved into the slope of the acropolis hill. Two of the statue bases that survive are inscribed with the names of Mausolus and Hecatomnos. Farther up the hill are the fairly well-preserved remains of a defensive sea wall, hard to imagine now that the sea is nowhere in sight. Take care hiking up to the top, as the terrain is pretty rugged, but evidently not too much of a challenge for the local mountain goats bleating in the distance. If you're not up for a treacherous climb, you can get comparable views of the marshlands (as well as what's left of the Great Harbor) from row 34 of the theater. Now a stagnant marshland, the Great Harbor was the cause of a seriously unhealthy malaria epidemic that stigmatized the locals for centuries.

Northwest of the theater are the Roman baths and a Byzantine basilica; slightly above these are the remains of a Roman temple, recently identified as a temple to the cult of Apollo.

Two types of rock tombs are visible from the river as well as from the summit of the acropolis: those carved in the shapes of ornate Greek temples or simple chambers cut into the lower rock. The tombs were reused during Roman times, and all of the tombs at one time or another have fallen victim to scavengers. Admission to the site is 8TL.


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.