12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Fethiye
Fethiye is the perfect launching pad to explore the many tourist attractions and things to do along Turkey's Turquoise Coast. This harborside town is in a prime position for heading out to the surrounding beaches or going inland to discover the crumbling remnants of this region's ancient Lycian culture.
If it's all about location, Fethiye provides it all. The town itself is a prosperous but laid-back kind of place; just what you need to return to after a day's hectic sightseeing of mighty rock-cut tombs and mountain-top, UNESCO-protected ruins or sunbathing bliss, boating, and paragliding action. Plan your trip with our list of the top things to do in Fethiye.
See also: Where to Stay in Fethiye
1. Lycian Sites
The Lycians ruled over this stretch of Turkey's coast from 200 BC, and Fethiye stands on the site of the important Lycian city of Telmessos. There are plenty of monuments scattered throughout the city, but the most famous is the rock-cut Tomb of Amyntas in the south of Fethiye. On Kaya Caddesi, as you walk up the hill towards the tomb, you can see Lycian sarcophagi along the way. More Lycian sarcophagi are also by the town hall in the city center.
2. Roman Theater
When the Romans conquered Turkey, they allowed the independently minded Lycians self-rule, but that didn't stop them making their own mark on the Lycian cities. Fethiye's small and only partially excavated theater was built in the 2nd century BC, when Telmessos had become part of Rome's Asia Minor dominion. It would have originally seated 6,000 spectators.
Climb up to the top tier of seating for great views across town and over the sea beyond. The park opposite the theater is a good place to relax and seek some shade on a summer's day.
3. Fethiye Museum
It may be small, but Fethiye Museum is an excellent place to get a grip on Lycian history, especially if you're planning to head on to attractions such as Tlos and Letoön. Brilliant information panels clearly explain Lycian culture, and the exhibits of pottery, jewelry, and stele are beautifully displayed.
The museum's pride and joy is the Trilingual Stele (inscribed with Lycian, ancient Greek, and Aramaic) found while excavating Letoön. This stone helped archaeologists to finally crack the Lycian language.
Address: 505 Sokak, Fethiye
4. Ölüdeniz Lagoon
Turkey's most famous beach is 15 kilometers from Fethiye. The calm turquoise water, sheltered from the sea, with its white-sand beach rimmed by dense pine forest, is impossibly perfect, which is why people have been flocking here for years now. Some of Ölüdeniz's sheen has been shaken off over the past two decades, as package tourism arrived on the scene, but the lagoon area has not seen the construction development of other tourism hot spots, and the village attached to the lagoon is still a low-story unobtrusive affair.
If you don't want to swim or sunbathe then the other big activity here is paragliding. Mt. Baba (Baba Dag) dominates the scenery inland, and paragliders launch themselves off the peak throughout the summer months. Even beginners can have a go with a tandem paragliding flight.
Up until the 1920s, Kayaköy (ancient Karmylassos), eight kilometers from Fethiye, had a thriving mixed population of Greeks and Turks who had lived together for centuries. The 1923 Population Exchange changed all of that, uprooting ethnic Greeks across Turkey and sending them to live in Greece and making ethnic Turks who lived in Greece abandon their lives there. The exchange created heartbreak and much trauma among those who were made to leave, and the somber results of this are no better seen than in Kayaköy.
The dilapidated, eerie stone village that snakes across the hillside here has been left to slowly decay since its Greek owners said goodbye. Among the ruins is the Katapongagia Church and Taxiarchis Church, which both still have some beautiful interior decoration.
6. Saklikent Gorge
This ravine, 30 kilometers from Fethiye, is cut deeply into the mountains of the Akdaglar Range. Most visitors come to trek the gorge, which has wooden boardwalks along part of the trail high above the river. The last section of the trail is reached by fording the swift-running river itself and then walking through the narrow fissure to the end. Cushion-strewn tea houses are beside the river here if you don't fancy walking through the freezing cold water. There are also canyoning and rafting trips along the river for the more actively inclined visitor.
This Saklikent Gorge 4x4 Safari tour is a great way to pack a bunch of the Fethiye area's key attractions into one day. In a full day of activities, you'll hike through Saklikent Gorge, have lunch by the river, and then travel on to Patara beach for a spot of swimming, and visit the ruins of Tlos afterwards. It includes all transport, including pickup and drop-off from your hotel.
In the hills southeast of Fethiye, the ruins of the Lycian city of Pinara are chiefly interesting for their honeycombed cliff of more than 900 rock tombs and monolithic house tombs. The site was so inaccessible that the tomb-builders had to be lowered on stages secured with ropes. The beautiful scenery that surrounds the ruins is lushly stunning, especially around the theater area overlooked by snow-topped peaks and rimmed by verdant forest. This is one of the quieter Lycian sites in the area and rarely gets busy with tourists.
This UNESCO-protected ruin was an important Lycian religious center dedicated to the Greek goddess Leto who, according to local mythology, was banished to Lycia by Zeus' jealous wife Hera after an affair with the great Greek god. The three temples here are dedicated to Leto and her twin children by Zeus, Apollo and Artemis. The site is incredibly atmospheric and a wonderful accompaniment to a visit to Xanthos, the ancient capital of Lycia. In particular, check out the well-preserved mosaic in the floor of the Apollo temple.
Xanthos was the capital of ancient Lycia, sometimes called "the oldest republic in the world." This league of 20 cities was governed by a popular assembly and a president who ruled from Xanthos. The site is now protected by UNESCO. Although many of Xanthos' most beautiful monuments were taken to England in the 19th century, some fine mosaics are still in situ, and the theater, agora, and acropolis can still be seen.
Beyond the Roman theater, to the left of the road, is the plinth that once held the Nereid Monument, an ionic temple with rich sculptural decoration (now displayed in the British Museum). To the right of the road is the Hellenistic city gate. The city walls, considerable stretches of which are still visible, probably date from the 3rd century BC.
10. Butterfly Valley
This lovely beach, secreted between two sharp cliffs, is home to the Jersey Tiger Butterfly. One of the joys of Butterfly Valley is that it is unreachable by road. You either have to trek here from Faralya village, high above on the cliff, or take a boat (during summer they leave a couple of times daily) from Ölüdeniz. Great hiking opportunities are in the lush forested gorge behind the beach, though most people are happy to just stretch out on the sand.
The Butterfly Valley boat tour offers a full day cruise from Ölüdeniz, visiting Butterfly Valley to relax or hike, as well as anchoring at other coves for swim stops. This is a great opportunity to take in the coastal views of the area. Lunch is included.
High up in the hills that surround Fethiye, Tlos is another Lycian city ruin. Crowning the rounded acropolis hill are the remnants of an Ottoman fortress. The Lycians weren't the only ones to appreciate a good mountain stronghold position, and this fortress was used by various local brigands during Ottoman rule.
On the east side of the acropolis, the remains of the Lycian and Roman city walls can still be seen. Beyond lie the scattered ruins of houses and public buildings, including a hall-like edifice (possibly an indoor market), an agora, necropolis, and a restored theater.
Patara is home to Turkey's longest beach, so it's the perfect spot for a sun and sand break. This was also once an important city in the Lycian League, and plenty of ruins are just off the beach area when you've had enough of the sea.
The ruins of ancient Patara are entered through a Roman era triple-arched gate near a well-preserved theater, colonnaded street, a bath complex, and plenty of tombs. The city was used right up to the Byzantine period, and a basilica can also be seen.
Patara's other claim to fame is it's also the birthplace of St. Nicholas of Myra (modern Demre, near Kas), the 4th-century bishop, who became "Santa Claus."
Things to Do in Fethiye on the Water
Fethiye is home to one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Turkey and is known as a base for setting out on a yachting trip. The most famous of these trips is the Blue Cruise, a three-night yacht journey from Fethiye to Olympos.
Trips set out daily during the summer months. They're a great way to experience this beautiful and rugged slice of coastline with plenty of time for sunbathing onboard and swimming stops. If you don't have time for this journey though, there are plenty of one-day cruise options offered from Fethiye harbor.
Where to Stay in Fethiye for Sightseeing
- Luxury Hotels: The central Alesta Yacht Hotel has plenty of boutique hotel style and is within easy walking distance of all of Fethiye town's restaurants and sights. There's a rooftop pool overlooking the harbor, a restaurant, and spa, and breakfast is included.
Jiva Beach Resort is an all-inclusive resort on the beach, out of town. It has a natural lagoon setting and a pool with waterslides, a Mediterranean restaurant, and a spa with a Turkish bath.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Yacht Boheme Hotel is a boutique hotel with individually decorated rooms that exude bags of character. Breakfast is included, there's a good-sized pool, and the location by the harbor is excellent.
Minu Hotel, right in Fethiye's bazaar area downtown, is a great choice if you want to be in the heart of town. Rooms are swish and modern, with balconies. Breakfast is included.
- Budget Hotels: Harman Hotel has a quiet location close to the beach, out of the town center. There's a big pool area, a restaurant, and breakfast is included.
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More Coastal Towns: Head south to Kas for coastal village ambience, kayaking tours, and boat trips and then on to Olympos for the ruins that tumble down to the sand. Farther on from here, you'll come to bustling Antalya, which makes for a great base to visit the ruins of Aspendos and the small town of Side, with its Roman temple ruins on the seafront.
More Ruins: Fethiye is an excellent base for visiting coastal ruins such as Tlos. If you're interested in history, Turkey has a glut of other archaeological sites to check out from the eerie stone heads atop the summit of Mount Nemrut and one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world at Ephesus to the vastly important Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük.