FETHIYE is the fulcrum of the Turquoise Coast, and a hub of its property industry, though it remains a lively market town of nearly 70,000, expanding north along the coastal plain here. The transport and marketing of oranges and tomatoes is also significant. 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 Ölüdeniz and Kıdrak, while there’s considerable nearby coastline accessible only by sea; the Gulf of Fethiye is speckled with twelve islands, and one- to four-day boat tours from Fethiye harbour are predictably popular, aiming for secluded coves in which to swim, fish and anchor for the night.
Little is known about early Telmessos, except that it 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 was part of the Federation, if unique in having good relations with Rhodes. During the eighth century, the city’s name changed to Anastasiopolis in honour of a Byzantine emperor. This became Makri in the following century (Meğri in Turkish), and – after the expulsion of the predominantly Greek Orthodox population – Fethiye during the 1930s, in honour of Fethi Bey, a pioneering pilot and World War I casualty. A small Jewish community remained here well into Republican times, until dying out or emigrating to Israel by the 1950s. Little remains of the medieval town, partly because it suffered two immense earthquakes in 1857 and 1957, which toppled most buildings, their rubble compacted under the present quay and shoreline boulevard.
Easily reached on a day-trip from Fethiye are a variety of attractions: the appealingly remote ancient city of Kadyanda, the huge abandoned village of Kaya Köyü, and a handful of popular if variable coastal havens such as Aya Nikola and Gemiler.Read More
Under an hour’s drive north of Fethiye, the ruined mountain-top city of Kadyanda dates back at least 2500 years, but has only seen tourists since the mid-1990s. It’s accessible on a broad, well-marked road from a roundabout on the bypass highway, northeast of Fethiye, and the initial, paved 16km to ÜZÜMLÜ (served by frequent public transport) are quickly covered. This attractive village has made little of its proximity to the ruins, other than a basic restaurant opposite the mosque and a low-key trade in its fine dastar cloth. At the crossroads here, turn left at the usual black-on-yellow sign, then proceed 3.5km more on a narrow paved road to just beyond the summit of a pass with a view of Akdağ. Now bear right, following another “Kadyanda” sign, to negotiate over 5km of improved dirt track to a small car park in the pines below the site. The old direct path from Üzümlü (90min up, 1hr down), short-cutting all but the last 2km of the road, is waymarked in red and white.
At the site, an arrow points you towards a self-guided tour along a loop path. First bear south, past numerous vaulted tombs of the necropolis, then keep close to bits of the city wall on the left, followed by a climb to a false summit with a long, partly preserved agora, and views of Fethiye. At the true top of things awaits the site’s highlight: a long, narrow stadium, with seven rows of seats surviving. Steps in the seats lead up to a huge jumble of masonry, all that’s left of a temple to an unknown deity. On the opposite side of the stadium stand substantial Roman baths, with their polygonal masonry and entry archway. At the northeast edge of the stadium, a flat expanse is pierced by the mouth of a deep cistern that supplied the city with water – one of many, so beware holes in the ground.
Finally the path angles south to the best-preserved stretch of city wall, punctuated by windows and affording fine views of distant ridges and forested valleys in between. Crossing the top of a square bastion, you look down into the theatre, which retains its rear-facing and stage wall, plus many of its seats – though like most of Kadyanda it’s only partly excavated. The descent to the road completes a leisurely 45-minute walk through superb mountain scenery – good reason enough for a visit.
Eerie KAYA KÖYÜ, Asia Minor’s largest medieval ghost town, lies southwest of Fethiye, near the site of ancient Karmylassos. Known as Levissi after the eleventh century, it was settled by Greek Orthodox Christians and supported a local population of over 3000 before 1923, when its Christian inhabitants were exiled, along with more than a million others, to metropolitan Greece, leaving a dramatic and moving site that places in stark relief the human suffering experienced during the compulsory population exchange. Despite the horrors of the 1919–1922 Greco–Turkish war, relations between Christian and Muslim remained good here, with local “Turks” accompanying “Greeks” to Fethiye to bid them farewell. Tales abound of Christians entrusting their neighbours with treasure chests against their possible return; they never did come back, but the caskets remain unopened. Macedonian Muslims were sent to occupy the abandoned buildings but most didn’t stay, considering Kaya’s land poor and emigrating. Most locals now live in Keçiler and Kınalı hamlets at the far fringes of the surrounding plateau, overlooked by the ruins.
All you can see now of Kaya is a hillside covered with about six hundred ruined dwellings – all with fireplaces and cisterns intact – and the attractive Panayia Pyrgiotissa basilica (or Kato Panayia), the most important of three churches here, about 200m uphill from the road. The church, dated 1888 by a scandalously deteriorated floor mosaic but over a century older, retains some of its marble altar screen and murals, but its general dereliction merely serves to highlight the plight of the village. A grisly item in the southwest corner of the church precinct is a charnel house piled with human leg bones; the departing Orthodox took the exhumed skulls of their ancestors with them.
As with other remote, abandoned Greek villages, proper title deeds for individual Kaya properties were never issued by the Republican Turkish government. In 1988, mass acquisition of the village houses for package-holiday accommodation was threatened, though development plans have been withdrawn and a preservation order slapped on the valley. Only five percent of agricultural land area may be built on and only archeologically approved restoration is allowed. The old village remains the focus of Greco–Turkish reconciliation festivals, with its Orthodox diaspora visiting regularly from Greece; Orthodox Patriarch Vartholomeos himself stayed here in 2000. Kaya has again been in the spotlight since Louis de Bernières disguised it as Eskibahçe, the setting for most of his 2003 epic Birds Without Wings.