Thrilled with Termessos

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Door frame not far from the parking area.
Door frame not far from the parking area.


About a half hour’s drive north from Antalya is the ancient city of Termessos. Termessos is best known for being able to thwart Alexander the Great’s attack. Not too many cities can claim this – in fact only two in Turkey – the other being Silyon. Why was this city able to laugh in the face of the conqueror? Well, if you’ve been there, the answer is all too apparent. Termessos is situated on the top, and I do mean top, of a mountain, and Alexander himself likened it to an eagle’s nest. The Psidians who built the city were a war-like people, and obviously knew what they were doing. It was never conquered by anyone, but was eventually abandoned after a massive earthquake in the 5th century AD. As you wind your way in through the national park searching for the trailhead, you pass beautiful pines and the aroma of sage permeates the car. You can easily spend a whole day here, so bring a picnic to eat after your exploring.

Finally we reached the parking lot, and right there welcoming you is a door of an old house, standing among the rubble. Even though we’ve already paid to drive in the national park (5 Tl.), there is an additional fee (3 Tl.) to see Termessos. We pay, and start up the path. Humorously, we read a sign that says all the plants are protected in this area and there is no picking them and taking them home. We quickly find out why. There is a plant that suspiciously looks like marijuana hugging all the hillsides. We climb, we pant, we sweat, but we are soon rewarded with outcroppings of ruins. We investigate columns, stone markers, and lots of marble something-or-others. It does give us plenty of excuses to rest as we hike up the near-vertical incline. We keep following the signs to the theater, which is supposed to be spectacular, and we are not disappointed. The whole city clings to the sides of the mountain with branches going in many directions. The theater itself is almost too impressive for words. As we sat on the top row, and look behind us, the Taurus Mountains seem to reach right up into the cornflower blue sky. It’s dizzying to think that we are so high up (it’s about 1050 meters). The acoustics are fantastic and we experiment with how low we can whisper and still hear whoever is on stage.

The Termessos theater sits atop a mountain like an eagle's nest.
The Termessos theater sits atop a mountain like an eagle’s nest.

The theater is not the only sight to see. We saw an official’s house, the cisterns, a temple, gymnasium, and then when we thought we’d seen it all, started down the “back to parking” path, to discover a whole wall of the mountain covered in sarcophagi and tombs. The steep descent went by quickly even stopping to take photo after photo. Turkey is filled with ruins in every direction, but I have to say Termessos is one of my favorites that I’ve visited to date. The scenery, atmosphere, and the history all rolled up into one, made this a memorable outing.

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