Friday, May 4, 2012

A Near-Perfect Day Trip from Antalya

Termessos, Turkey is a place out of my dreams. My heart actually raced a little bit after seeing pictures on the internet, and I imagined myself walking in the city with its walls intact, its people breathing, and its history playing out on the 2000+ year old streets. 

If you ever decide to go to Turkey, make the effort to get down south to Antalya and spend a few days. And on at least one of those days, rent a car from the good folks at Sabah Pansiyon (and be sure to stay here as well), then take the 40 kilometre drive north to Termessos. Only good things will happen.
If you're lucky enough to be there in October, you are likely to find blue skies, lots of green, and many leaves just starting to turn. The temperature will be idyllic. And if you are there early enough, you might even find yourself all alone. At one of the great sites in the world.

After a mildly arduous climb up the wrong side of the hill (preceded by a considerably more arduous uphill drive (on a road whose concrete edges were no longer interested in being part of the whole)) we stepped into the theatre from the back side and walked up into the seating. As I turned around, I literally gasped out loud. I call it Turkey's Machu Picchu.


Termessos is known to have been in existence around the time of Alexander the Great, as there is an account of Alexander maybe attempting to overtake the city but deciding against it due to its remarkable defensive position in the hills. There is a bit of dispute over this, but very little is known about the city's history. Of all the places we visited, this was I believe the most difficult for which to find historical information.

If you plan your time well and get to Termessos early, you can easily spend a few hours just wandering around the ruins, soaking up the atmosphere, playing on the boulders, and enjoying lunch in the theatre.

Make sure to check out the rock cut tombs - there's likely a map in your travel guidebook - as they are only a few minutes' walk away from the main areas.

From Termessos, drive about 10 kms to the east to the Karain Cave. The cave exhibits evidence of 25,000 years of continuous human habitation, I think from the Paleolithic Age. It's not a remarkable cave, but it is a cool and very quick stop. It does smell a bit like there were 25,000 years of teenagers hanging out in there, so you have been warned. It's also a bit of a walk up, so be prepared for that as well. There is a small museum there if you are so inclined.

To finish off your day, head south, past Antalya and along the coast (through the amazing hills of the area)

to Chimaera. Arriving in the late afternoon is perfect as it gives you the opportunity to explore a little bit before seeing Chimaera at its most dramatic, after the sun goes down. There are about 20 to 30 little spots on a hill where fire comes out of the ground. Yes, fire. Hopefully you've brought another meal with you as after the two or three kilometre uphill (and I mean really uphill, you're basically walking stairs for half an hour) walk you will want to rest and restore while enjoying the remarkable sight of fire coming out of the ground.

I mean this literally too. It's like someone turned on the propane on the underside of the hill and lit a match. Anywhere there's a hole, you've got fire. Very fun for kids. It's not the most incredible thing you will see in Turkey, or maybe even on this day, but it is quite cool and different. Make sure you bring a flashlight for the walk back down the hill as there are no lights anywhere. And hopefully you paid attention as to how you drove in because there aren't many (any?) signs telling you how to get back to the highway.

So, a fun day all around, and now you have to make your way back to the Sabah,

View Larger Map
just don't forget to fill the car up with expensive Turkish gasoline. And if you're not crazy about driving that car all the way back to the hotel down those twisty, winding, skinny Kaleiçi streets, get as close as you can, then get your husband to run back to the hotel and tell one of the Sabah guys where you are. They can take care of the rest.

More Termessos....

Sarcophagi literally litter the hillsides.

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