Located 1665 meters up in the Taurus Mountains are the very special ruins of the ancient city of Termessos. Termessos was built atop Mount Solymos or now known as Güllük Dagi in the Antalya province. The ancient Pisidian city dates back thousands of years (when exactly we’re not certain but we do know it was abandoned sometime in the 5th century).
It was a beautiful hot summer’s day when we arrived in the Termessos National Park. After paying a small entry fee we drove about 9kms up through the mountains before reaching a parking area. After putting on our hiking shoes and grabbing some essentials like water (don’t forget water!) we began our climb to the ancient city.
I’m not quite sure how far it was to the top but I think it may be a few kilometers at least. We didn’t see too many people on the way and after about halfway we knew why. It certainly wasn’t easy going by any means. The track was steep and the heat didn’t help. I guess we can be grateful they at least built a road 9kms up we could drive on.
Once at the top we saw two other fellow explorers relaxing on a bench and taking in the spectacular view. We gazed at beautiful travertine mountains and lush green valleys for as far as our eyes could see. I can only imagine how incredible this city must have been back in the day with amazing vistas like these.
Signs pointed us in a number of directions to different parts of the city’s ruins. According to the little map that was given to us we had quite a bit of area to cover so we knew we’d better get a move on in order to see all of it.
First we headed to the Tiyatro (Theater). This had to be one of the best theatres we’d seen so far. It is a breathtaking open air Roman Theatre with a Hellenistic semi circle seating area equipped to fit anywhere from 4000 to 5000 people. The views were amazing overlooking rocky mountain peaks and the Pamphylian plain. We spent quite a bit of time there at first excitedly climbing all the steps like a couple of happy kids at Christmas, then we just sat back and took it all in.
Next we ventured further into the mountains and went in search of the city’s Tombs, which according to our map are a big highlight in Termessos. There was more climbing involved but it wasn’t that bad. Along the way we passed a few temples and what was once a beautiful street lined with little shops. Sadly now they are all but gone but you can still see an outline of what once was.
It wasn’t long before we came upon the tombs. All of them had been expertly carved out of one piece of rock, each displaying different family insignias. They were scattered throughout a pretty big area and each were empty and appeared to have been ransacked, having been broken or tipped over with their lids pushed off most likely by grave robbers.
Back in the day the wealthy were placed in massive, ornately carved family tombs. There was one sarcophagus in particular we had read about and after much searching we finally came upon the Lion insignia. It too had been broken into but it still had its beautiful engravings.
We spent about 4 hours walking around Termessos. There was so much to explore! We found a different path on the way down. Apparently this used to be one of the main roads back in the day. Along the way we passed some more really interesting tombs that had been cut right into the mountainside. They displayed beautiful soft cream, grey and rosé colors.
What an incredible city! It wasn’t the easiest to explore but I would have to say one of the more enjoyable. We were really glad we didn’t give this one a miss. I would highly recommend a visit but make sure your fit enough for the journey and don’t forget to take lots of water!
This travel diary has been written by Machalle Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!