The heart of Lycia, east of Fethiye, is home to several archeological sites, including the ancient citadel-cities of Tlos and Pınara, on opposite sides of the Xanthos valley. Tlos had the geographical advantage, lying above a rich, open flood plain and sheltered to the east by the Massikytos range (today’s Akdağ); Pınara’s surrounding hilly terrain was difficult to cultivate. Even more remote and less fertile is mysterious Sidyma, up on the ridge separating the valley from the Mediterranean. All these cities were unearthed by the English traveller Charles Fellows between 1838 and 1842, contemporaneous with his work – or rather pillaging – at Xanthos, though he seems to have left the nearby religious sanctuary of Letoön and the naval fortress of Pydnae unmolested.
Mostly following the valley of the ancient Xanthos River (now the Eşen Çayı), the road between Fethiye and Kalkan threads through an immensely fertile area that’s known for its cotton, tomatoes and other market-garden crops. The fact that plans for a local airport have never materialized, in tandem with archeological restrictions, means that has growth at Patara, the main resort, has remained modest by Turkish coastal standards. Between Tlos and Patara, the magnificent river gorge of Saklıkent is easily reached by dolmuş or with your own vehicle, though it’s become something of a tourist circus. Fans of isolated ruins can instead visit the unpromoted, unspoiled Lycian city of Oenoanda, high in the mountains north of Tlos.