Ok – I have gathered together for a long time to write this post about Phaselis – one of my absolute favorite places throughout Turkey. In fact, it was my 1st post here on the blog, just because it’s my favorite place (you can see the post right here). So I have to warn you – I have a lot to tell and this post will be very long! Hope you want to follow anyway.
Phaselis is one of those places, that you can return to over and over again without really getting tired of it. I have been there countless times since 1999 – at least once in every vacation it will be. And why? Well … it’s never easy to answer. But Phaselis is, in my opinion, an adventurous place with an amazing mix of ancient history and the most beautiful surroundings imaginable combined with wild nature and some of the warmest waters in Turkey. And then it is still not completely spoiled by strange kiosks and a loads of tourists – yet. Not a word, that when my son was about 4 years old and saw the famous arches, excitedly exclaimed: “MCDONALDS” …. : / I’ll let it stand for a second …
What is Phaselis?
But what is this Phaselis you might think? Basically an ancient historic city, now in ruins, but with a unique history. The city was “discovered” and excavated once in 1811. Over the years, the city has been explored more and more – most recently from 2011-2016 via a 5-year project from the big Akdeniz University in Antalya. So it’s always exciting to come back and see what the archaeologists have found out lately.
Phaselis is an ancient Greek city founded by relocates from Rhodes in 700 BC. Phaselis is located in, what once called Lykia – a very central and well-developed region, that has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Here, the city was the eastern and most important port city in Lykia and a very important trading center between Greece, Egypt, the Middle East and Asia Minor. One handled especially with rose oil, perfume and wood due to the large surrounding pine forests.
Phaselis as a trading center:
The city was very well located and could, through its 3 ports, provide a natural protection for the merchant ships under the often very violent storms that – even then, raged in the area. At the same time, the merchant ships could not sail so far without proviant, and it helped to make the city an important destination in the area.
Phaselis has had a very fluid life and has been changing hands throughout the ages. It has been conquered by Romans led by Alexander the Great, Egyptians, Persians and Seldjukker. Even pirates have taken over the city several times (yes you read correctly !!). Is there anything to say to, that the place is full of adventure and history ??. Like the nearby ancient city of Olympos, the city was constantly threatened with pirates, especially the famous pirate Zekenites, who for a period was ruling over the city. After the Arabs robbed the city in the 3rd century AD, it began to lose its influence. And after the 11th century the city was abandoned. The city was completely irrelevant due to the development of, in particular, Antalya (or Attaleia as the city was named at that time) as an important port city.
On a trip with a picnic basket:
Now, of course, everything must not go into history (though – admitted, I love it and can get a bit nerded). But it’s quite mindblowing to think of the long story and life, Phaselis has had, as you descend from the vast, large open street with beautiful coatings and countless well-preserved ruins. It is incredible to see how well-developed and modern the city was, despite the fact, that it is several thousand years old. It also provides an extra dimension, when diving in the warm clear waters, that there is a real opportunity to find old antique coins, pots, etc. (though not allowed to pick them up or bring them home). That is quite exciting. Especially our children have loved it and still loves to come out for a day to swim, dive and explore the ruins. The pirate story helped especially when the children were younger. How many places have this kind of history?
So Phaselis can always be recommended as a destination – also with smaller children. The water is so hot here, so that even when our children were small thick babies, they could sit for a long time at the water’s edge without freezing. We spend a whole day in Phaselis and often take a picnic basket and blanket with us. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Antalya, but the road is good and easy to find. You just have to keep an eye for the sign pointing to Phaselis after passing the cities of Kemer and Tekirova, because it comes suddenly .
Phaselis – a modern ancient city:
And it was also a quite well-developed city with a big beautiful theater, a huge hamam (a cold and hot water bath, heated rooms, steam baths, pools, fountains etc) and a little smaller public restroom with the drain connected to a sewage channel (!!) and large watercourses and aqueducts that helped to collect rainwater and water from the mountains. There was also a major sports gym with wrestling, a smaller basilica that served as a court room, countless covered stores, 2 major trading venues (agora) and 3 large funeral sites spread across the vast area.
We have never been around the graves though. One of them is along the long winding road, driving on the way down to the bay and the actual city. It is reportedly possible to find more caves with tombs, sarcophagi, etc. The earliest settlement, known as Phaselis, started near the top of the nearby mountain. So Phaselis actually spreads across a larger area, where many paths are established today to explore. If you are hiking, the famous Lykia route goes straight through Phaselis.
The city is cut through a huge street, 225m long and 24m wide and with shops, theater, etc. on each side. It is something, I’m constantly impressed with, when we come. If I just could seen, how it looked in ancient time? With huge statues on each side, beautiful marble tiles on the street, the most beautiful large mosaic floors inside the buildings, beautiful buildings decorated with carved ornaments and floral decorations. It must have been a wonderful sight.
Today, all statues and some of the beautiful decorations are unfortunately removed from the site. Fortunately, I managed to see some of them for about 20 years, before they were moved – mainly to the large archaeological museum in Antalya.
The 3 ports in the city:
Phaselis has nothing less than 3 harbors – a north facing the great ocean. You can not swim from here, as the beach (and bottom) consists primarily of rocks. Around this harbor is part of the burial place. The military port – or city harbor, as it is also called, is the small round beach, as you can see in front of you, when parking your car in front of the 3 major aqueduct arches. It is a really lovely place to swim, even though there are stones on the beach, as it is so small and cozy and the surroundings are optimal. A partially natural reef or jetty protects the bay so the water is quite hot in here. And there are some fish (and small squids if you are lucky).
The docks have long elapsed, but the foundation can still be seen in some places. Among other things, the look of a view tower / watch tower was found on the northernmost bridge, which was approx. 70 meters long and 4 meters wide.
The last port – the south harbor is by far the largest and also where the tourist ships and yachts add. Originally there was a 200m (!!) jetty, so that the merchant ships could easily add, load goods and proviants from here – and so the bay was also well protected from wind and weather. The port was used for representative purposes. Ex. King Hadrianus (Hadrian) has been here in year 29 – you may know him as he also visited Antalya and built the city gate into the (now old) district. You can read about Hadrian’s gate here. Here in Phaselis, too, a nice gate was built for his honor, but it is now completely decayed and spread on the ground.
Today, tourists sail into the sandy beach in small boats to enjoy the history and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, it also means that there is a lot of noise from the many people and boats with high (terrible) music. Something that always hurts me, because high Russian music and singalong do not really belong with this raw and virgin area.
Practical information about Phaselis:
The beautiful theater is damaged, but you can clearly sense the place surrounded by tall trees and overlooking the most beautiful mountain. The theater is located on a hill, but is easy to reach by a large new wooden staircase. The approximately 3000 seats are divided into a semicircle in front of the large stage and the orchestra grave. There were 5 large doors that led to the theater itself. Wonder what has been of story-telling, poetry reading and gladiator struggles here.
If you should be interested in visiting Phaselis (and I really think you should prioritize it), then it will cost you 20 Lira at the entrance (children under 10 years are free). Something I gladly pay, because it helps to maintain the place. If you have the museum card, you can also access this.
Opening hours are in the summer-time is from 8-19. In the winter from 8-17.
If you would like to read more about the historical part around Phaselis, you can look at http://www.phaselis.org – it’s a surprisingly good website.
If you want to read more about my suggestions for experiences in the area, you can find inspiration by writing Phaselis in the search box on this page. Then there are several pages of ideas open up (you’ll get a taste here).
Leder du efter artiklen på dansk? Så kig her: http://loveantalya.com/historiske-phaselis-et-eventyrligt-sted/
Thanx for writing this helpful info. Am booking place to stay any particular hotel would you recommend that i can stroll my baby to that shallow swim area?since we have.no.car…
There isn’t really any hotel nearby Phaselis as it is a protected area.
But nearby in the town of Kemer or Tekirova, there is a lot of amazing hotels. It will be easy to rent a taxi to drive you to Phaselis and back and it isn’t that expensive (and worth the money).
If you decide to bring a stroller to Phaselis, be aware, that you need to struggle a bit, to get it to the beach. But I’m sure you are used to this and you will not be alone. It is an excellent area with kids – even smaller ones 🙂