Termessos: Visiting The Ancient City, Antalya Turkey
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As we planned our Turkey itinerary we knew we had to visit Termessos, a mountaintop city and one of the best preserved ancient sites in Turkey. Known as the Eagle’s Nest, Termessos soars over 1,000 metres above sea level and the amphitheatre has stunning panoramic views of the Pamphylia region and the Taurus Mountains. Having enjoyed an incredible visit to Termessos, we wanted to share our tips for visiting this amazing archaeological site in this guide to Termessos.
Visiting Termessos is a little more challenging than many of the other major sights in Turkey. This is due to its elevated position 1,000 metres above sea level and its location in the middle of the Tauras mountain range! However, given that Termessos is a well preserved and relatively untouched archaeological site, it’s more than worth the effort!
The site of Termessos itself is located within the Güllük Dağı National Park 30km outside Antalya in Southern Turkey and is a perfect morning or afternoon trip from the city. Termessos is most easily accessed by car or taxi from Antalya although, with a little more effort, it is possible to reach the site by public transport.
Some quick tips for visiting Termesos:
- How long does it take to visit Termessos? You will need at least 4 to 5 hours to explore the site properly. This allows for the hike from the car park which takes between 45minutes and 1 hour. There is a café and small museum at the entrance, however, neither were open during our early morning visit.
- Entry to the park: the park is open from 8.30 am to 5.30pm and visitors must exit by 7.30 pm
- Termessos entrance fee: entrance to Termessos is an extremely reasonable 5 Turkish Lira
Visting Termessos Tip: We highly recommend visiting Termessos first thing in the morning and bringing lots of water and some snacks. The hike from the car park is rigorous and it gets very hot in the mountains. In addition there are limited facilities at the site so you need to bring all your own water and food.
Where to Stay in Antalya
The nearby city of Antalya is the best place to stay in order to visit Termessos. We stayed in Antalya during our road trip around Turkey and it was the perfect base for exploring the area. There are lots of hotel options: we recommend staying along the coast as the views and sunsets are spectacular:
- Akra Hotel: we stayed in this incredible 5-star resort overlooking the sea and it was stunning. The Akra Hotel is one of the cheapest 5-star hotels in Turkey and it was one of the best hotels we stayed in during our Turkey travels – check prices now!
- Crown Plaza Antalya: another great option located on the coast in Antalya with beautiful views, a luxury spa and great food options – check prices now!
- Rixos Downtown Antalya – overlooking the check prices now! and the Taurus Mountains, Rixos Downtown is located close to Konyaalti Beach and has a host of dining options and great pools –
How to get to Termessos
There are three main ways to get to Termessos:
- By car: The easiest way to travel to Termessos is by car and we drove ourselves using our rental car. The car park marking the start of the hike to Termessos is around a one hour drive from Antalya. The drive was relatively easy although there is a tricky switchback road leading up to the site after entering the national park.
- By private driver/taxi: Renting a cab/driver is a great alternative to driving yourself and it’s easy to arrange the trip from Antalya. Prices will vary on this but if you negotiate it should cost anywhere from 150-250 TLR.
- By public transport: There is a bus service that runs from the Antalya main bus station, the Otogar. The journey takes around 30 to 40 minutes and drops off passengers at Termessos Junction which is around 9km from the site. In the summer there should be taxis at the park entrance, however, they tend to charge a premium. Outside of summer months, you will need to hike to the car park.
Renting a Car in Turkey
We rented a car to explore Turkey and it was a great way to see the country. Driving is relatively easy and having a car gives you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and see places that are simply not possible on group tours or public transport.
We’re huge fans of road trips and have driven rental cars in over 40 countries so we have a lot of experience renting cars in foreign countries. Book your car now with RentalCars.com, where you will find the best rental car prices
Ancient City of Termessos
Surprisingly there has never been any excavation carried out at Termessos and, with the exception of some metal railings to protect visitors from falling into the open holes around the site, there has been very little done to protect or restore this ancient city.
Termessos is currently on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised if it makes the inscribed list in the coming years as the site is breathtaking.
The Hike to the Eagles Nest
Alexander the Great once referred to Thermessos as the ‘Eagles Nest’ and it is easy to understand why upon visiting. We hiked to Termessos first thing in the morning: we arrived at the car park and began our hike at around 9am after entering the park at 8.30am. From the car park, the winding rocky path leads up the mountain to the Lower City Walls. There are basic toilet facilities at the car park but there are none in the ruins themselves.
Termessos Tip: There is very little visitor information at the site so it is good to read up on Termessos before you visit. We only came across a map etched on a wooden sign at the entrance to the hike.
One of the best things about Termessos is that the site is almost completely untouched and, as a result, exploring Termessos really feels like stepping back in time. Most of the city has been allowed to remain as ruins and the path up through the city is only marked by occasional signs. We got lost on a number of occasions as we strayed from the path but it only added to the fun!
Hiking early in the morning meant we were able to take advantage of the shade of the mountains during our ascent. We were relieved we started early, as by 11am, the temperatures were already over 30 degrees and we couldn’t imagine hiking in the heat! We started our descent from Termessos at around 11am and, until then, we were the only people at the site. It was amazing to have the place to ourselves!
Visiting Termessos tip: You will need to be quite physically fit to reach to the top of the Termessos site as the ground is uneven and requires scrambling across rocks in some places. The hike to and around the ancient city is very rough and you will need to climb over some large rocks and walls.
Lower City Walls
The first signs of the ancient walled city are the massive lower city walls which rise up above the path. This is the start of the main ruins and except for some climbing over large stones, the remainder of the city is relatively flat.
Upon reaching the lower city walls it becomes clear why even Alexander the Great was unable to capture this incredible city during his conquest into Asia. Although most of the walls are in ruins today, the scale and location of the original city made an attack almost impossible.
Entrance to the walled city
After a short scramble across some rocky ground the path from the lower city walls leads to the walled city. After the climb, spend a few minutes catching your breath and take in the incredible views of the valley below.
Visiting Termessos tip: One of the best views of is from the main entrance at the top of the lower city walls. The view looks back into the valley and the original entry point to the city.
The Termessos Ampitheatre
For us, the ampitheatre is the highlight of Termessos and we recommend heading to the Theatre right after you enter the walled city before the site gets too busy. You can then explore the rest of the site before working your way back to the entrance.
From the entrance to the walled city continue up through the ruins for around 10 minutes until you see the sign pointing left to the ‘Theatro’. After 5 minutes you will come across some rough rocky terrain before finally reaching the Theatre. Getting around the theatre takes some care as there is no marked path through it.
When we first laid eyes on the ampitheatre it took our breath away. It’s easily one of the coolest places we visited during our time in Turkey. This incredible structure is perched right on the edge of the mountain overlooking the surrounding peaks and valleys. The Eagle’s Nest perfectly describes the view from the rim of the Theatre!
It`s estimated that the theatre had an original capacity of 4,000 to 5,000 spectators, with live animals kept beneath the stage for fights and shows. It’s amazing to sit in the original seats and imagine what once was at Termessos.
Once you’re finished at the theatre it’s time to explore the rest of the remains of the sprawling city.
The Collonaded Street
The Collonaded Street was once the centre of economic activity in the city. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are now in ruins but the remains of the original city drainage system are clearly visible.
Baths and Gymnasium
On the walk to the theatre you will have passed the baths and gymnasium buildings on the left-hand side of the trail en-route to the collonaded street. The original hammam/bath building is still standing and you can explore the ruins easily. Make sure to walk through the gymnasium as there is a stunning view across the countryside on the far side.
Overall Termessos is one of the most incredible sights in Turkey and is among our Turkey favourites which includes Cappadocia, Ephesus and Pammukale. Termessos is simply amazing! For anyone planning a trip to Turkey, make sure to check out Antalya and set aside a half day to visit the stunning ruins at Termessos.
Let us know if you have any questions or share your experience of visiting Termessos in the comments
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