An ancient city that is so high up the mountains that even Alexander the Great failed to conquer it! Located at a 1000-meter altitude, Termessos is one of the most well-preserved and impressive sites in Antalya, Turkey!
Termessos is a mountain-top ancient city that is built 1000 meters above sea level. Concealed by a dense forest and steep mountains, Termessos had always been protected from invasions, sieges or any type of catastrophe. Its unique location has well-served the city as a natural shield. In this day, Termessos is inside Mount Güllük-Termessos Natural Park in the Antalya Province in Turkey.
History of Termessos
Termessos is primarily known as the city that could not be conquered by the famous Macedonian emperor & warlord, Alexander the Great. Unfortunately, aside from that there are not many documents that could illimunate the history of Termessos. It is still not known when and by whom Termessos was founded. The city was first mentioned in history during Alexander the Great’s siege. Here are some facts about the city.
- Despite the fact that Termessos was inside the Roman Empire lands, it had always been an autonomous city due to its remoteness.
- In 71 B.C, the Roman Senate unanimously voted for an act allowing Termessos to be autonomous and constitute their own laws.
- The inhabitants of Termessos call themselves the Solym people.
- Around 200 B.C, a severe earthquake hit the city leaving the aqueducts destroyed and the main water supply cut. Subsequently, the Solyms simply left the city.
Termessos is located 30 kilometers away from Kaleiçi (downtown Antalya). It is 45 minute drive which is accompanied by breath-taking natural scenery and ancient ruins. After the junction from the main road which leads you straight to Termessos’ parking lot, you will be driving on a steep and a narrow road for 9 kilometers. This narrow road is in good condition, however it is advised that you drive carefully.
A Quick Overiew
Entrance fee: 10 liras.
When can you visit Termessos?: Open every day *
- Summer Period / April 1 – October / 08.30 – 19.30 (8.30am – 7.30pm)
- Winter Period / October 1 – April / 08.30 – 17.30 (8.30am – 5.30pm)
Tips on visiting Termessos: You will need at least 3 hours to complete your visit and there are no shops nearby Termessos, so make sure you bring water and snacks!
What to wear and bring: Wear comfortable shoes that are suitable for trekking. The steep path starting from the parking lot to the entrance of Termessos is challenging to climb. Proper shoes would make your climb less tiresome.
Ancient City of Termessos Main Sites
The Hiking Path to Termessos
From the parking lot, there is a steep path going up to the main entrance of the ancient city. It is a bit challenging to climb this path, however, given what you will see at the top, it is worth the trek.
Lower City Walls
Upon trekking along the path, the first notable remains you will see are the lower city walls which had been the first fortifications that once surrounded the city. The walls are high, glorious and very intact.
Baths and Gymnasium
At the end of the path on the left side, you will see the massive well-preserved structure what was once the bath and gymnasium of Termessos.
Make sure you also explore the heavenly ruins behind the baths. In fact, this area is the most well-preserved part of the city. Simply take a left after passing the bath building which will lead you to a walkable path. Follow this dirt road and you will be seeing ruins of old state buildings and structures covered with green ivy.
The Colonnaded Street
This area was the most bustling spot in the city where most of the economic affairs and political activities took place. Sadly, except a few artefacts, this area is fully destroyed. On the ground, you can see many slabs, stones and fragments with legible ancient texts and carvings on them. Moreover, the thousands of years old drainage & sewage system remains intact on the ground.
The most well-preserved structure on colonnaded street could not be identified by the archeologists and upon being perplexed about the struture’s role, they marked as “an unidentified building”.
Undoubtedly, the theater is the most notable and remarkable site of Termessos. Being located atop of a hill near a steep cliff on the east borders of the city, the theater offers a breath-taking view of the Taurus mountain range. In addition, this well-preserved archeological wonder could seat up to 4500 people.
The Northern Necropolis
Hidden gem of Termessos! The necropolis includes hundreds of sarcophaguses with meticulous carvings and ancient inscriptions on them. Simply walk towards the northern part of the parking lot. If not found, ask the staff and they will show you how to reach there. Many of the tombs and sarcophaguses are unbelievably very intact and scattered among long pine trees. Feels like Indiana Jones movie set!
Alcetas was a prominent Macedonian warlord who was mentioned among Alexander the Great’s influencial generals. After Alexander’s death, Alcetas was waged by one of Alexander’s commanders Antigonus. The war between two warlords took place in Psidia and resulted in Alcetas’s clear defeat. Alcetas sought refuge in Termessos and the residents of the city provided protection to him. In subsequent months, in order to protect the city from danger the elders of Termessos wanted to hand him over to Antigonus who had set his military camp at the foot of the mountain. Alcetas didn’t want to face a gruesome death so he took his own life. Still in this day and age, his grave lies on a rock wall in the highlands of Termessos.