Xanthos Ancient City

Xanthos Ancient City was built on two hills between Mugla and Antalya and served as Lycia’s administrative union for many years. Xanthos Ancient City was known for being the most democrat union of that time. This ancient city contains a theatre, a palace, a parliament building, and many mausoleums.

Today, Xanthos Ancient City is one of the most popular destinations in terms of historical landmarks. It is located in the Kınık town in the Kaş district of Antalya, and it is very close to the Kalkan district.

Xanthos Ancient City was added as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1988.

Visiting Xanthos Ancient City

Xanthos Ancient City is 45, 20, and 235 kilometers away from Kaş, Kalkan, and Antalya, respectively. Despite your reason to visit Antalya, Xanthos Ancient City is worth your time and effort to visit.

Where is Xanthos Ancient City located on the map of Turkey?

Antalya, the city in which Xanthos Ancient City takes place, is located in the very southwest of the map of Turkey

It has a long coastline to the Mediterranean Sea, and it goes without saying that it is located in the Mediterranean region.

How do you get to Xanthos Ancient City?

Xanthos Ancient City is in Kaş district, Kınık region and you can get there directly by minibus, car, or taxi from Kalkan or Kaş. 

If you are going in a car, the road might be tricky and difficult if you are not familiar with the area because the signboards are not sufficient enough to get you there. As you get into Kınık district’s main street, you will see Ataturk’s statue is standing in the middle of the parting of the ways. You need to follow the right path and continue until you see a hill. As you get to the hill, turn left, and follow the road up to the hill and you will see Xanthos Ancient City there.

In addition, minibusses are departing from Kaş bus station that takes you to Xanthos Ancient City every 20 minutes. Kaş bus station is quite close to the city center. If you do not want to take the minibus, you can take a taxi. There are 2 taxi stations in the Kaş region, and the prices are fixed. You can get to Xanthos Ancient City with a taxi for 220 Turkish liras(as of February 2021). Renting a car is another option for getting to Xanthos Ancient City if you did not already get to Antalya with a car.

Public transportation options are available from Kaş to Xanthos Ancient City. The following are the names of the buses that you can take from Kaş to get to Xanthos Ancient City:

  • AK03 (Antalya Terminal way)
  • Antalya, Patara (Patara way)
  • Kaş, Fethiye (Kaş way)
  • Kumluca, Fethiye (Fethiye way)

Fethiye is 50 minutes driving away from Xanthos Ancient City. If you do not have a car with you, you can take the buses that depart from Fethiye, named “Kalkan/Kaş” and stop in the Kalkan station. After 10 -15 minutes of walking from Kalkan station, you can get to Xanthos Ancient City.

Visiting Hours of the Xanthos Ancient City

Visiting hours of the Xanthos Ancient City differs in the summertime and the wintertime. It is between 10:00 AM and 07:00 PM in summertime (which is defined between the dates April 1 and October 1), and between 08:30 AM and 05:30 PM in the wintertime (which is defined between the dates October 1 and April 1).

As an exception, Xanthos Ancient City is not open for visitors until 01:00 PM in the first days of religious holidays. Lastly, the Xanthos Ancient City is not open to visitors on the weekends.

You can check up to date visiting hours from here. For English page, you have to select the language from the top-right corner of the page.

Entrance fee of the Xanthos Ancient City

The entrance fee of the Xanthos Ancient City is determined as 14 Turkish liras. If you have a museum pass from Turkey, your entrance to the Xanthos Ancient City will be free. 2 visits each year is free with a museum pass for Turkish citizens. If you are not a Turkish citizen you can still buy a museum-pass but its regulations are different. For more information about the museum-pass, click here. If you are planning to visit other historical landmarks and museums, getting a museum card is highly recommended.

How long is it to spend in the Xanthos Ancient City?

45 minutes will be enough to explore Xanthos Ancient City since the average duration of people to stay in Xanthos Ancient City is around 45 minutes.

Of course, this duration might change according to your interests and reason to come.

Best time to visit the Xanthos Ancient City

Xanthos Ancient City reaches the peak point in terms of the crowd on Fridays

Since People typically prefer to visit Xanthos Ancient City on Fridays, it may make you think something is special about Fridays in the Xanthos Ancient City, but it is not. 

If you want a calmer and less crowded experience in the Xanthos Ancient City, you might prefer to go on weekdays except for Friday, especially in the morning hours. But since Antalya is a warm region, morning and noon hours could be hot enough to disturb you. So, if you ask me, the best time to visit would be around sunset, on weekdays.

History of the Xanthos Ancient City

Xanthos Ancient City is approximately 2800 years old. In addition to being the administrative center of the Lycian Union, Xanthos Ancient City was important due to its geographical location and was used as a port city.

The importance of this city was known to everyone in the past, and for this reason, it was subjected to many attacks and occupations. Such that, some of the attacks were so destructive that this city had to be rebuilt many times in history. It has been said that once occupiers completely burned down the whole city and rebuilt it.

The Xanthos Ancient City, which was occupied by Alexander the Great in 334 BC. After Alexander the Great’s ruling period of the city, the Egyptian dynasty Ptolemy started to rule Xanthos Ancient City, followed by the Syrian king Antiochus III. When it was occupied by the Roman Brutus in 42 BC, the Xanthos Ancient City was the capital of the Lycian Union.

Ruins of Xanthos

Emperor Mark Antony repaired the enormous amount of damage the city suffered during the occupation of the Roman Brutus. It is known that the Xanthos Ancient City was under the rule of the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD. After the 7th century, with the Arab occupations in Xanthos Ancient City, the city started to lose its importance for good. After losing its importance, it remained as nothing but a small village for many years. This insignificance continued until 1938 when Charles Fellows found this ancient city and took some of the remaining with him to London.

Herodotus mentioned the importance of Xanthos Ancient City in the Trojan War, yet since the dates of the building of Xanthos Ancient City and Trojan War does not have a common point, it can be inferred that it is just hearsay. In addition, it is known that in the Byzantine period, Xanthos Ancient City was used as an episcopal center.

The excavations were started by the French in 1950 and are currently being continued by the Archeology department of Akdeniz University.

Architecture and Significant Structures in Xanthos Ancient City

Architecturally, Xanthos Ancient City is a unique place and will not disappoint you. It has different structures in different styles, and each of them has a different story. Unfortunately, since Charles Fellows took some of the remaining to London, not all the structures are present today in the Xanthos Ancient City. 

Xanthos Ancient City consists of two acropolises and surrounded by quite interesting walls. Those walls are filled with different types of building techniques. One of the important features of the Xanthos Ancient City, Roman theater, is located on the north side of Lycian acropolis. The Roman agora was surrounded by small shops on three sides and is right next to the Roman theater.

Some of the remains that were taken from Xanthos Ancient City are now being exhibited in the Antalya museum. Xanthos Ancient City includes a palace, theater, and a parliament building in addition to the monuments which will be described now.

Harpy Monument

Winged spirits from Greek mythology are what are called harpies. On the top of the monument, there is a room which is called the burial chamber, and it is made from marble. Its walls are filled with reliefs, and those reliefs were evaluated as harpies in the first place. Later, it was decided that those reliefs were representing “sirens” which refers to the carrier, which carries the deceased to death.

Harpy Monument

Hesiodos, one of the most important names of Greek poetry, described harpies as two creatures who have beautiful hair. After this description, harpies were referred to as ugly women with wings.

The reliefs I mentioned earlier, were made in a style called “isocephaly”. Isocephaly means that all of the figures’ heads in the relief are exactly in the same line regardless of what they are doing, for instance, a figure might be sitting whereas the other figure is standing yet their head is located in the same line. Isocephaly was a technique that was used widely in Greek reliefs. Yet some details in those reliefs are under the influence of the classical period in art, and some reliefs are under the influence of archaic periods. 

The original harpy monument is being exhibited in the British Museum. As I mentioned earlier, Xanthos Ancient City became popular thanks to Charles Fellows taking some pieces to London, this is why the harpy monument is in British Museum today. The one that is in the Xanthos Ancient City is the copy of it. Copies were taken directly from the original monument using plaster. According to some piece of evidence, it was thought that this monument was blue and red when it was first constructed.

Nereid Monument

Nereid Monument was an important structure in Xanthos Ancient City, but like Harpy Monument, it is today in the British Museum as well. It is among the pieces that Charles Fellows took to London. Nereid Monument is a sort of grave that is built like a statue. The name Nereid comes from the Nereid statues in this monument. Nereid refers to the 50 daughters of sailor Nereus and Doris, in Greek mythology in addition to “underwater fairies”. Additionally, Nereus was known as “the old man of the sea” in Greek mythology as well.

Nereid Monument in British Museum

It has been said that the Nereid Monument was made by Xanthos ruler Arbinas for him and his family. An interpretation of this situation is that Arbinas decided to build this monument because he was concerned that his domination in the Lycian Union is getting weaker every day. To strengthen his dominating power in the Lycian Union, he decided to build the Nereid monument. In those terms, the Nereid monument also has a political side within.

The architectural properties of the Nereid monument are quite similar to Athens architecture in the BC 5th century. Some say that the architect of the Nereid monument must be a Greek individual or there is no way it has this many Athens architecture features in it.

The celebration of the Persian – Greek war in which the ancestors of the tomb owners took part was in the large frieze section under the segment where the statues are located in the monument. The achievements of the Lycian prince are described with enthusiasm on the small frieze in the same spot. This narrative is included in an inscription called Kherei. The Kherei inscription is the longest inscription written in the Lycian language.

Additionally, the lion tomb takes place in the Nereid monument and it is among the remaining that did not transfer to London, British Museum.

Recommended Places to Visit Close to Xanthos

Letoon Ancient City

While you are visiting Xanthos Ancient City, going to Letoon Ancient City which is ten minutes driving away is highly recommended. There is a legend about how this ancient city and Lycia union got their names.

Ruins of Letoon

“Letoon” comes from “Leto”. According to the legend told by Ovidius, Leto is the woman which the god Zeus fell in love with. Zeus has an affair with Leto and impregnates her with twin babies. But Goddess Hera, the wife of Zeus, does not welcome this situation well. She decides to follow Leto in order to prevent her from giving birth to Zeus’ children. Leto realizes that she is being followed and decides to run far away. As she arrives at Delos Island, she gives birth to her twin babies named Apollon and Artemis. 

She still feels unsafe and wants to get away even further, and she decides to get to Lycia Union. While she was on her way to Lycia, a horde of wolves helped her through the way, and she arrived at the Xanthos coast. Subsequently, he names this region as “Lycia”, which is rooted in the Greek word for wolf, “Lycos”.

A mosaic in Letoon

Here, very important findings and inscriptions for the history of Lycia were found. The most important of these inscriptions is an inscription that was written in 3 different languages. This inscription played a great role in the analysis of the Lycian language. In addition, the temples of Leto, who gave the name to this ancient city, and his twin children, are the most interesting works in this ancient city.

Antalya Museum

Antalya Museum, also as known as Antalya archeology Museum, is approximately 2 and a half hours of driving away from the Xanthos Ancient City, and since Antalya is rich in terms of historical landmarks and ancient cities, the chances of you getting disappointed for visiting this museum is quite low. There are various remaining and historical artifacts from the Mediterranean region that are being exhibited here. The museum is very well organized and enjoyable to visit.

As I mentioned earlier about the remaining and historical artifacts that were taken from Xanthos Ancient City to London, today there are protests and campaigns about bringing those historical artifacts to where it belongs on the agenda.

Further information and travel tips

If you did not get to Antalya with a car, renting a car is not recommended. You might face lots of parking problems in terms of not finding a place to park the car, and there are enough public transportation opportunities to get you wherever you want. Still, if you do not want to use public transportation and you do not want to get in trouble with finding a parking spot, you might prefer taking a taxi everywhere, but it can be a little bit pricey.

As you are in Xanthos Ancient City, exploring other historical landmarks and attractions in the area is recommended. Since visiting Xanthos will not take too much of your time, you will be able to see more, travel more, and learn more in Antalya.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...