Things to Do in Fethiye
Despite its enormous popularity, however, Fethiye has managed to maintain much of its village charm. Particularly popular with British travelers, Fethiye (along with Ölüdeniz) was chosen as the best tourism center in the world by The Times and The Guardian newspapers in 2007. It’s easy to see why: the marina is excellent, living is inexpensive and there is a bustling nightlife scene during the summer. Scuba diving, paragliding off mountain peaks and hiking ancient trails are just a few of the activities possible in and around Fethiye.
In Fethiye’s town center you’ll find an antique theater that dates to Roman times, as well as a two-story sarcophagus. A ruined Crusader tower, constructed by the Knights of St. John, stands on a hillside east of the city, while on the cliffs above town there are a number of rock-cut tombs, some dating as far back as the 4th century BC.
Beyond the attraction of the town itself, Fethiye has a number of great options for day trips to the surrounding region. Not only does Fethiye mark the beginning of the Lycian Way, a gorgeous 500-km hiking trail that runs along the Mediterranean coast all the way to Antalya, but it is also the starting point for popular cruises during the summer. These consist of three to six days of utter relaxation and sparkling blue waters aboard a Turkish gület, which will take passengers from Fethiye to Olympos and back, or around to a number of the area’s nearby islands. There's also a day-long 12-island yacht cruise of the bay, with stops at such sites as Gemiler Island, which is full of Byzantine ruins.
Also nearby is Ölüdeniz, also known as the ""Blue Lagoon,"" one of the nicest beaches in Turkey and a center for extreme sports such as paragliding. Butterfly Valley and Kabak are also relatively close; both are isolated canyons bordering the sea to the south of Fethiye, and both feature waterfalls and secluded beachfront campsites.
Butterfly Valley (Kelebekler Vadisi) makes a dramatic first impression with its narrow gorge, steep cliffs, and white sand. Reachable only by boat, the secluded cove gets its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed in the valley.
Though Saklikent translates from Turkish as Hidden City, urban life is the last thing that comes to mind in Saklikent National Park (Saklikent Milli Parki). Encompassing a dramatic gorge that cuts through the mountains, the national park is a playground of river rapids, streams, waterfalls, and cliffs.
Known in English as St Nicholas Island, Gemiler Island (Gemiler Adası) lies along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, south from Fethiye and west of the sandy beach at Ölüdeniz. Separated from the mainland by a narrow sea channel, it is a tiny speck of an islet, just 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide and 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) long but is renowned for its wealth of Byzantine ruins, which date back more than 1,500 years.
Gemiler Island was once one of Christendom’s most popular pilgrimage points with devotees heading for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. They came to honor the tomb of St. Nicholas – the original Father Christmas, who was Bishop of Myra on the Turkish coast opposite. Even though his remains were moved to the mainland in 650 AD, the island is still occasionally known as St. Nicholas Island. Also around this time, the little Byzantine settlement on Gemiler came under threat from pirates and was abandoned as the residents moved to the mainland for protection.
Today a chaotic jumble of ruins covers much of the island, comprising the scattered remains of four churches, evidence of Byzantine houses, a port, waterways, tombs and graveyards. Stores once stood along the shoreline, where traders would sell olive oil and grain to passing ships. The fragments of St Nicholas’s tomb that still stand today reveal faint vestiges of frescoes depicting scenes from his life; these are open to the elements and are slowly deteriorating in the sun.
Gemiler has plenty of rocky bays providing safe mooring for yachts and provides excellent snorkeling along its coastline; tumbledown ruins can occasionally be spotted just below the surface of the sea.
Framed by forested hills, lively seaside resorts, and miles of glittering blue waters—the Gulf of Fethiye (Fethiye Körfezi is among the most scenic stretches of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. A popular destination for boat cruises; it’s home to a dozen islands, dotted with Byzantine ruins and beautiful beaches.
Turkey’s Ölüdeniz (aka Dead Sea, for its calm waters and idyllic setting is the postcard star of the Turquoise Coast. Silky sands stretch along the spit, dividing the seafront beach from the rippling waters of the Blue Lagoon, while the craggy peak of Babadağ Mountain looms on the horizon, swirling with paragliders at sunset.
Warm springs bubble around and under Lake Koycegiz, making mud baths a signature of the waterfront town of Dalyan. Minerals give the mud a sulfur smell, but can, locals say, work miracles on aging skin. Just lounge in the shallow pools, coat yourself in glop, then rinse off in the river, lake, showers, or spring-fed pool.
Carved into the cliff sides above the town and looking out over the ocean, the Fethiye Lycian Rock Tombs offer a fascinating glimpse into the city’s ancient past, dating back to 350 BC. The cluster of tombs is crowned with the grand Tomb of Amyntas, thought to be a Lycian ruler or nobleman.
Sitting above a Lycian hilltop, Tlos is an ancient settlement now in ruins that is considered to be one of the most important religious sites in the area. Its foundation is estimated to date back to 2000 BC. Today an entire citadel remains, including a fortress and acropolis, city walls, ancient baths, a Roman amphitheater, and the remains of an Ottoman castle. Set against the Akdağlar mountain range, sweeping views of the Xanthos Valley and the river Esen can be seen from atop the ruins.
Equally fascinating are the Lycian rock tombs carved into mountainsides. The Tomb of Bellerophon resembles a rock temple — with four columns, an unfinished facade, and a relief of the hero Bellerophon on a Pegasus horse. Historical evidence suggests that Tlos may have been the most powerful of six Lycian cities in the Roman era. Tlos was only recently discovered in 1838, and archeological discoveries are still being made there.
Just outside the ancient Lycian city of Patara, Patara Beach (Patara Plajı) is known as one of the most beautiful on the coast of the Turkish Riviera. At 11 miles long, it is one of the longest beaches in the area. Its soft, white sand and calm blue waters make it a particularly welcoming Mediterranean beach, in an area known for beaches of pebbles and stones.
As it is part of a national park, seasonal wildlife is protected by the Turkish government and can be spotted seasonally. There are many native birds and sea turtles, who come to nest in the sands. At Patara Beach’s easternmost point, there is a scenic rocky cove worth seeking out.
History exists here as the half-buried remains of an ancient Roman amphitheater partially covered by sand. Because of its nearby historic ruins and national park status, the beach area cannot be developed and sees very few tourists. Many archaeological sites can be viewed along the road to the beach.
Just minutes from the bustling bazaars and yacht-lined marinas of Fethiye, the crumbling churches and long-deserted buildings of Kayakoy—known to locals as the “ghost town”—stand in eerie contrast. Abandoned in 1923 after the Greco-Turkish War and later ravaged by an earthquake; the town offers a fascinating insight into Turkey’s complex past.
More Things to Do in Fethiye
While the modern city and beach lie to the north, the yacht-lined seafront and maze-like bazaars of Fethiye Old Town (Paspatur are where most travelers spend their time. Cruise ships dock right in the heart of the Old Town, making it easy to stroll around the shops, markets, and marina.
Don’t be put off by its small size—Fethiye Museum is crammed with ancient treasures. Findings from Telmessos (the ancient Lycian city over whose remains Fethiye was founded and several nearby sites, including Tlos and Kaunos, form the basis of the collection, which includes statues, mosaics, and other artifacts.
Just north of Fethiye Old Town, Calis Beach is Fethiye’s principal beach, stretching for almost three miles (four kilometers along the Bay of Fethiye. Famed for its dreamy sunsets, wind-swept shores, and movie connections—the bay of Calis Koca was a filming site for Bond movie Skyfall—it’s a favorite among both locals and travelers.
Hidden away in a hillside enclave just behind Fethiye Harbor, the Fethiye Roman Theater (Telmessos Theatre is one of the last remaining traces of the ancient Lycian city of Telmessos. Dating back to the 2nd century BC and once seating up to 6,000; the theater is currently undergoing extensive restoration work.
Once the Greek city of Telmessos and an important stop along the Lycian way, Fethiye’s ancient ruins reveal a history dating back to 350 BC. The Lycian Stone Sarcophagi are scattered around the modern town and the ancient tombs are easily missed if you don’t know where to look.