FETHİYE is the fulcrum of the Turquoise Coast, and a hub of its property industry. It remains, however, a lively market town of 80,000-plus souls, sprawling north along the coastal plain, and the transport and marketing of oranges and tomatoes is still important to its economy. Fethiye occupies the site of ancient Telmessos, and some impressive rock tombs are an easy stroll from the centre. It also makes a convenient base for the nearby beaches of Ölüdeniz and Kıdrak, while a short drive or long walk out of Fethiye brings you to the atmospheric ghost village of Kaya Köyü. Much of the nearby coastline is accessible only by sea, and with the Gulf of Fethiye speckled with twelve islands, one- to four-day boat tours from Fethiye harbour are popular, aiming for secluded coves in which to swim, fish and anchor for the night.
Little is known about the early years of ancient Telmessos, except that the city wasn’t originally part of the Lycian Federation, and, in the fourth century BC, actually resisted it. A Lycian ruler later subdued the Telmessans, and during the Roman imperial era it formed part of the Federation, albeit unique in maintaining good relations with Rhodes.
During the eighth century, the city’s name was changed to Anastasiopolis in honour of a Byzantine emperor. This became Makri in the following century (Meğri in Turkish). Finally, a thousand years later, and following the expulsion of the predominantly Greek Orthodox population, it was changed once again during the 1930s to Fethiye, in honour of Fethi Bey, a pioneering pilot who was killed during World War I.
That little now remains of the medieval town is largely due to two immense earthquakes, in 1857 and 1957, which toppled most of its buildings; the rubble lies compacted beneath the present quay and shoreline boulevard. Another, lesser quake in the spring of 2012 did little damage, but nonetheless had a significant impact on domestic tourism to the town and its environs.