The distinctive features of the coastline around Kalkan and the nearby Xanthos River allow for innumerable options for day trips on or near the water. Here the jagged edges of mountains meet the sea, forming a breathtaking network of islands and coves that present endless possibilities for a day of dive bombing off the roof of a boat and swimming into eerie caves. High up on your list should be a boat trip around the island of Kekova and the sunken city, accessible from a number of port towns along the coast.
Exploring Lycian Ruins in the Xanthos Valley
Kalkan is a great base for day excursions to the ancient Lycian cities along the coast. You'll get your biggest bang for your buck/quid visiting the headliners of the Xanthos Valley, including Xanthos, Letoon, Patara, and yes, Tlos. But you can also head off the beaten track and visit the "lesser" (read: still blissfully untouched by the hands of archaeologists or tourists) sites of Pinara and Sidyma (accessible via an unpaved dirt road). There are yet others.
All of the sites are easily accessible by car with a short detour off the main road or by dolmuses that run regularly from the main square. Several travel agencies in town offer excursions to one or more of the sites as part of a day tour, contact Adda Tours, Yaliboyu Mahallesi (tel. 0242/844-3610; www.addatours.com). You can also get great guidance on local subjects by logging on to Enjoy Kalkan's website and forum (www.enjoykalkan.com).
The oldest and most important antique city of the region is Xanthos, the ancient capital of Lycia. Homer mentions this center in the Iliad: It was from here that Arpedonte led his troops. More tragic is the actual history of the city: On two separate and unrelated occasions, the inhabitants of Xanthos chose collective suicide rather than submission to invading armies.
The ancient city was uncovered by Sir Charles Fellows in 1838, who had much of the city dismantled and transported to the British Museum, where ruins still reside. Nevertheless, reproductions successfully evoke the originals. On your travels through Kas/Kalkan, pick up a free map of the site, or, you can buy a book on Lycian sites at the refreshment counter. Two unforgettable monuments are on the road from the village of Kinik -- the City Gate, dating to the Hellenistic era, and Vespasian's Arch, erected in honor of the Roman emperor. The acropolis is dominated by the remains of the Roman Theatre, flanked by the ancient city's three most memorable sites: Harpies' Tomb, named for the Persian General Harpagus through a controversial interpretation by Fellows of the tomb's reliefs, the Lycian Tomb (one of several), and the Roman Columned Tomb. Farther back into the brush is a pillar tomb called the Obelisk, whose monumental contribution was lengthy inscriptions in both Lycian and Greek, which proved indispensable to deciphering and classifying the Lycian language (another inscription, found at Letoon and written in Aramaic, Greek, and Lycian, was also important).
The New Acropolis is located on the opposite side of the road and is home to the Byzantine Church, famed for the well-preserved mosaic flooring uncovered beneath layers of sand. Tour groups generally circle these major sites, overlooking entirely the overgrown path that leads along an ancient wall through to the Necropolis, a visit that is well worth your time. Sarcophagi are scattered or overturned, keep an eye out for the Belly Dancer Sarcophagus, named for a relief that more resembles water-bearers, the Lion's Tomb, a sarcophagus with carvings of lions and a bull in battle, and a 4th-century-B.C. tower tomb rising above a stone-cut Roman acropolis. Admission to the site is 3TL.
Patara was Lycia's chief port city until the harbor silted up to form what is today an inland reed-filled marsh. If you climb to the hilltop above the Roman Theatre, the fierce winds and unrelenting lashes of sand will give you a clue why much of this ancient city still remains buried -- a consequence that has kept the city in such an outstanding state of preservation. Founded according to legend by Patarus, son of Apollo and the nymph Lycia in the 5th century B.C., the site served during the winter months as one of the two most important oracles of the god, his winter months being spent at the temple at Delphi. Today the city gains its fame as the birthplace of the bishop of Myra, better known in northern and Western circles as Santa Claus. Little by little, ongoing excavations are beginning to reveal details above and beyond the monumental arch that rose defiantly above the meters of earth for centuries. At the time of this writing, Patara's main avenue, paved with marble stone and scattered with the remains of what was probably a columned arcade, is clearly visible (albeit sometimes a bit waterlogged). Fleeting features of the Basilica poke through the ground, but perimeter excavations provide a cross-section of the city's entombment.
The ruins can be easily explored in combination with a trip to Patara Beach; the road from the turnoff passes a saturated level of home-style pensions with varying degrees of charm and leads to the entrance of the archaeological site (admission 5TL). The beach is at the end of the road.
Letoon, located less than 5km (3 miles) south of Xanthos, was the primary religious center of ancient Lycia. And while the buses are circling around Xanthos, you can escape here, smack in the middle of the Turkey you envisioned, along a pastoral village road, admiring the wind in the trees and the goats grazing in the archaeological site. Aren't you clever?
The ruins of three temples rise above an uneven plateau and were dedicated to the gods Apollo, Artemis, and their mother, Lato, the mythical lover of Zeus for which the sanctuary was named. The foundations of the three temples are laid out parallel to each other. The theater is in better shape, and it served for meetings of the Lycian Federation, religious ceremonies, and even sports events. 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.