Defeating Alexander the Great: conquering Termessos

We never thought the day would come that we would be able to say we’d defeated Alexander the Great. Yet, we did when visiting Termessos, one of those ruins in Turkey that leave you speechless if only because of the climb up to the mountaintop that is home to Termessos. Discover this untouched and remarkably well-preserved eagle’s nest just northwest of Antalya.

Dramatic Setting Of The Theatre

Dramatic Setting Of The Theatre

Termessos, eagle’s nest hidden in the mountains

Nowadays there’s a big brown roadsign pointing towards Termessos, so you can hardly keep calling it hidden. Still, apart from the sign, it isn’t until you arrive at the parking lot after following the 9km winding King’s Road that you get to see the first ruins of what instantly looks like a promising ancient site to visit. Termessos is located in the Güllük Dağı National Park, the perfect setting for a historical hike.

Ruins At The Water Storage

Ruins At The Water Storage

Contrary to what many guidebooks say, Alexander the Great wasn’t actually unable to take the city during his conquests of the region. He just didn’t try. Still, we did, and after reading this post and seeing our pictures, you probably will be inclined to visit too. Termessos is strangely enough one of the best preserved ancient cities in Turkey. Strangely, because one would expect a far greater amount of visitors for a site of this size, so close to Antalya. But it seems it isn’t on too many people’s radar yet. The city is roughly divided into three areas; the lower city ruins, the city center, and the southern necropolis. You’ll be impressed by its city walls, the Artemis-Hadrian Temple, the gymnasium, and the theatre.

Baths Adjacent To The Gymnasium

Baths Adjacent To The Gymnasium

Hiking amidst ruins in Turkey

Visiting Termessos isn’t a walk in the park. While ruined after an earthquake, the site is still relatively intact. If you want to see things from up close, be prepared to climb some stones, or use the rough paths. Not to worry, anyone who is relatively fit and wearing proper shoes instead of flipflops should be fine. Arm yourself with a bottle of water and the excitement of discovering an unrestored site, and you’ll be wowed. The setting in the National Park combined with the site being unexcavated gives you a real sense of exploring. You’re not just looking at ruins here, you’re also having a great day outdoors. The lack of huge amounts of tourists and the extent of the site lets you enjoy this fascinating place in silence, enhancing the experience even more.

Near The Colonnaded Street

Near The Colonnaded Street

Two necropoles, one isolated tomb for Alcetas, and a handful of rock tombs

Termessos’ northeastern necropolis, located just before you reach the car park is part of the lower city ruins, the southern necropolis requires a climb towards the mountaintop. While you’re at it, head just a little bit further to the fire watch tower. If you’re lucky, like we were, you’ll be invited in by the guard for some tea and a complimentary 360° view of the area. Both necropoles are an extraordinary gathering of tumbled sarcophagi and tombs stacked upon each other. Just before you head up to the upper necropolis, look out for the sign to Alcetas tomb. This isolated tomb is one of the more ornate tombs. Alcetas was a general of Alexander the Great’s Guard, who fleed to Termessos after the conquerors’ death. He was betrayed there and killed himself but later received a hero’s burial and an elaborate tomb depicting him on his horse. After visiting the city center, make your way back down to the parking lot taking the western path and admire the distinct rock tombs along the way.

Sarcophagus On Top Of A Sarcophagus In The Upper Necropolis

Sarcophagus On Top Of A Sarcophagus In The Upper Necropolis

Alcetas On His Horse

Alcetas On His Horse

How to get to Termessos and other practicalities

Termessos is located along the Burdur-Korkuteli road, some 34km before Antalya and is well waymarked. If you plan on going by public transport from Antalya, you can take a bus from the otogar (bus station) to Korkuteli. Get off at Güllük Dağı National Park and take a taxi from there or hike your way up to the site. There is a small entrance fee to be paid and opening hours vary depending on the season and the weather. In general, the park is open from 9 am to 7 pm from April to October, and from 8 am to 5 pm the rest of the year. Bear in mind that the ticket booth closes two hours before that time.

Remember that you’ll be hiking some rough trails, or even scrambling over stones and rocks if you want to have a look from up close, and that includes if you want to access the theatre. So, make sure you are wearing good hiking shoes and carry enough water and food to get you through your visit. Count at least two hours, and if you like to take things slowly, half a day isn’t exaggerated.

If you’re looking to visit more ruins in Turkey, or if you want to fit this into an itinerary, check out our interactive Turkey travel map. Still preparing your trip and looking to buy your tourist visa for Turkey online? There’s only one official link! You’ll find it along with all the other information you need on our Turkey travel resources page.

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All pictures © @aegean.images

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