A thorough exploration of the ancient site can be quite strenuous. Sturdy footwear and a supply of water are advisable, and you should time summer visits to avoid the midday sun. After checking the site map at the car park you’ll need to climb a good fifteen minutes before you reach the first remains of any interest, although on the way you’ll pass a number of well-labelled, though mainly inaccessible, ruins, including the aqueduct and cistern high on the cliff face to the left of the path.
The second-century AD King’s Road was the main road up to the city, close to which the massive lower and upper city walls testify to a substantial defence system. The central part of the city is beyond the second wall, to the left of the path. Its surviving buildings, formed of square-cut grey stone, are in an excellent state of repair, their walls standing high and retaining their original mouldings. In part, this is due to the inaccessibility of the site; it’s difficult to imagine even the most desperate forager coming up here to pillage stone.
The first building you reach is the well-preserved gymnasium, with a baths complex alongside. This, however, is far overshadowed by the nearby theatre, one of the most magnificently situated in Turkey, with the mountain climbing behind and a steep gorge dropping to its right. Greek in style, it had seating space for 4200 spectators. Some of the seats are missing, but otherwise it’s in a good state of preservation.
To the west of the theatre is the open grassy space of the agora, at the far end of which is a Corinthian temple, approached up a broad flight of steps, with a six-metre-square platform – at the back of which a pit sunk into the rock, claimed by some to be the tomb of Alcatus, the pretender to the governorship of Pisidia – though the tomb on the hill above is generally accepted as more likely. On the far side of the agora from the theatre stands a smaller theatre or odeon, which, according to inscriptions, was used for horse and foot races, races in armour, and – by far the most frequently held – wrestling. The walls of the building stand to almost ten metres. Surrounding the odeion are four temples, only one of which – that of Zeus Solymeus, god of war and guardian of the city of Termessos – is in a decent state of repair.
Following the trail up the hill from here brings you to a fork, the left-hand path of which continues on to the necropolis, where you’ll see an incredible number of sarcophagi dating from the first to the third centuries AD. Most are simple structures on a base, though there are some more elaborate ones carved from the living rock, with inscriptions and reliefs.
Returning downhill, take the left-hand fork for several hundred metres to the so-called Tomb of Alcatus – widely accepted as the mausoleum of the general. The tomb itself is cave-like and undistinguished, but the carvings on its facade are remarkable, particularly one depicting a mounted soldier, with a suit of armour, a helmet, a shield and a sword – the armour of a foot soldier – depicted lower down to the right of the figure. Continuing along the path downhill will lead back to the car park.