High in the Taurus Mountains, Termessos is Turkey's own Macchu Pichu.
High in the Taurus Mountains, the ruined city of Termessos is probably Turkey’s most spectacularly sited historical spot. A picturesque, rustic site, at 1000 metres above sea level and 34 kilometres from Antalya City, it really is off the beaten track for most visitors.
Once inhabited by the Termessians, it has the distinction of being the only city that Alexander the Great did not capture in his rampage across the continent in 333 BC. History tells us that Alexander did not fail to take the mountaintop settlement, but chose not to – the isolated city was of no use to the Persian navy.
The road to Termessos is dotted with tombs.
After Alexander’s death there were wars between the leader’s successors. One of his generals, Alcetas, became trapped at Termessos by another general, Antigonus. Alcetas was revered by the younger generation of the city but was betrayed to Antigonus by the settlement’s senior citizens. Alcetas killed himself rather than submit to Antigonus, and was later given a hero’s burial by the city’s youth. The lion sarcophagus at the site is thought to be Alcetas’ final resting place.
Termessos became part of the Roman empire, but remained much of its autonomy – its coins, for example, never bore images of Roman emperors, quite remarkable in these times. Most of the city’s buildings were built during its Roman period, including a theatre, gymnasium, temples and a huge cemetery.
Termessos' theatre was built in Roman times.
The city was abandoned between the fifth and seventh centuries, probably due to earthquakes and the city’s remoteness. It’s remained abandoned since this time – explaining the area’s pristine state.
It’s difficult to visit Termessos unless you have your own transport. If you’re the active type, however, you can get a bus (the one that runs between Antalya Bus Station and Korkuteli) which will drop you off at a junction. From there, it’s a nine kilometre uphill walk to the site – that’s about two hours of steady walking. You can always take a taxi from the junction, but this will be expensive. From the carpark up the top, it’s another 20 minute walk to the site itself. No wonder Alexander never made it up here – he was probably too tired!
The last Antalya-bound bus departs from the junction at 6pm.