Explore The Turquoise Coast
Some 46km southeast of Fethiye on Highway 400, you’ll see the well-marked turning west (right) for ancient Pınara. Practically nothing is known about this city other than that it may have been founded as an annexe of Xanthos. Later, however, Pınara – meaning “something round” in Lycian, presumably because of the shape of the original, upper acropolis – became one of the region’s larger cities, minting its own coins and earning three votes in the Federation.
It’s just over 3km along the side road to the edge of Minare village (one café, one restaurant, no public transport), from where 2.2km more of signposted but steep track leads to the edge of the ruins. Approaching the site, the cliff on which the city was first founded practically blocks out the horizon – indeed it’s worth the trip up just to see this towering mass, its east face covered in rectangular openings, either tombs or food-storage cubicles. These can now only be reached by experienced rock-climbers and it’s hard to fathom how they were originally cut.
Most of Pınara’s ruins are on the lower acropolis hill, east of the cliff, where the city was relocated after defence became less critical. The lower acropolis is densely overgrown with pines and most buildings unidentifiable, though the access track reaches a point almost level with it.
Pınara’s tombs are its most interesting feature, especially a group on the west bank of the seasonal stream that passes the site. On the east side of the lower acropolis hill (follow arrows on metal signs), the so-called Royal Tomb sports detailed if well-worn carvings on its porch of walled cities with battlements, gates, houses and tombs; a frieze survives above, showing people and animals in a peaceable scene – perhaps a religious festival. Inside is a single bench set high off the ground, suggesting that this was the tomb of just one, probably royal, person.
On the same side of this hill but higher up, reached by a direct path north from the Royal Tomb, there’s a house-tomb with an arched roof topped by a pair of stone ox horns for warding off evil spirits. This stands near the summit of the lower acropolis, at the eastern edge of the presumed agora. Just north of the horned tomb, the massive foundations of a temple to an unknown god overlook the theatre. Hairpinning back south, a level path threads between the pigeonholed cliff and the lower acropolis, first past a ruinous but engaging odeion, then through a chaos of walls, uprights, heart-shaped column sections and tombs clogging the flattish heart of the city.
At the far south end of this little plateau, two sarcophagi flank a man-made terrace and a sharp drop to the stream valley. Above an apsed church here juts a strange tower, probably a guardhouse intended to control access to the upper citadel, and a fine vantage point for making sense of the jumbled town. From the terrace, the path descends sharply to the canyon floor, passing more tombs and a permanent spring – which moves downstream as the year progresses – en route to the car park.
Northeast of the town, accessible along a marked side track from the main track passing the base of the lower acropolis, is the well-preserved theatre, backing into a hill and looking towards the “Swiss cheese” cliff; small but handsome, and never modified by the Romans (on-site signage to the contrary), it gives an idea of Pınara’s modest population.