A while back we told you to forget about Unesco in our post about Tlos. In that same post, we mentioned Xanthos as being part of the Lycian league, and a Unesco World Heritage site. In that perspective, it wouldn’t be fair just to claim you can forget about Unesco, without actually showing you what you would miss out on if you did. After all, who are we to tell you what to do? Objectivity demands we let you decide if you want to visit Xanthos or not. And the best way to do that is to show you what to expect when visiting Xanthos.
Xanthos: of great historical importance
One of the main reasons Xanthos was one of the first sites Turkey ever inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list is the historical importance of the site. The site became famous after being discovered by the Brit Charles Fellows in 1842 who needed barely two months to strip it and ship its most significant artifacts to the British Museum. Still, even today, there are enough attractive remains to admire in Xanthos, such as the theatre, the Pillar Tomb, and the Harpy Tomb, or the Xanthian Obelisk. The Harpy Tomb has beautiful marble reliefs at the top depicting sirens carrying off the soul of the dead. Casts replace the original marbles that are at the British Museum. The Pillar Tomb right next to it combines two tombs: a pillar tomb and a Lycian sarcophagus, and is a unique type of tomb you won’t see anywhere else in Lycia.
The showpiece at Xanthos was undoubtedly the Nereid Monument, now exposed at the British Museum.
A particularly beautiful Necropolis
Almost all Lycian sites have a Necropolis; you can see some beautiful examples at Sidyma, Tlos or Pınara. Xanthos is no different, and we found it to be small but lovely. If you ask us, it is the most intriguing place of the whole archaeological site. Visiting the Necropolis involves a bit of climbing and getting off the path, but it is worth it. The Lycian sarcophagi, pillar tomb, and rock tombs are nestled amongst greenery and olive trees and are very well preserved.
To go or not to go?
Looking at these pictures, one can’t find a reason not to visit Xanthos. And in all honesty, if you are driving by, or if you are going to nearby Patara or Letoon, it is worth to stop here too. But if you need to make choices on which sites to visit, look beyond the Unesco list. Xanthos may be significant regarding discoveries, but if you ask us, over time, it has lost a bit of its magic. Not only because of the shipment to the British Museum but because of its setting. The Xanthos Valley is fertile land, and while the site overlooked a green valley many years ago, greenhouses replaced nature. Almost every second of your visit, you are looking at a sea of greenhouses.
The sight may not disturb you, but we prefer the scenery of Tlos any time. If you have the time, visit both, if you can only pick one, our favorite is Tlos. It is impressive, in every sense. Read all about it here. Visiting an ancient site should be an immersive experience, and Xanthos has lost that immersive feel due to its surroundings. Still, it is an amazing site, despite the greenhouses surrounding it and despite the fact that the famous mosaic floor from the church is no longer visible after it has been covered to protect it.
Practical information to visit Xanthos, Turkey
Xanthos is situated in the village of Kınık, just off the D400 connecting Fethiye to Kalkan. Access to the site is well way-marked. There is an entrance fee to be paid. It is common to visit Xanthos together with Letoon, it’s so-called sister-site only 5km further down the Eşen Çayı river in Kumluova. Please note that a ticket to one site does not give you access to the other. Read what other travelers have to say about it on TripAdvisor.
Xanthos is about 30 minutes by car from Kalkan, so staying at Villa Rudi in authentic Islamlar is a great option. We loved every minute of our stay!
Also read our Turkey Travel resources page, containing essential information about traveling to Turkey, including links to the E-visa website and much more.