Enjoy a once in a lifetime moment in Termessos
Just 50 minutes from Konyaalti Beach or around 30-40 minutes from Antalya, Termessos is a fascinating window into a different world, a glimpse into a bygone era. Famous for resisting Alexander the Great in 333BC, the city was subsequently recognised as independent by the Roman Senate, and thus able to make its own laws. Welcome to ancient Antalya.
Getting to Termessos
Accessible from the 24th KM of the Antalya-Korkuteli road, a dedicated route climbs 9 km up a steep mountain ridge, winding around hairpin bends with vertiginous drops, to arrive at the car park in the shadows of Gulluk Mountain.
There are probably better ruins to visit for those who are unfit, or experiencing mobility issues, as it is a mile walk up a rock strewn trail to arrive at the ruins. With this in mind, I recommend getting there early to avoid the midday heat and don’t forget to take plenty of water also as there is nowhere to buy it on the mountain.
A personal guided tour
An incredibly helpful mountain guide wanders over to greet us as we park and cheerily points out a suggested route on a basic map. He is eager to engage and beckons us to follow him as he skips over to some scattered ruins at the base of the mountain. He points to reliefs of fighting animals, warriors, angels and goddesses hewn from the granite, remarkably well-preserved even after almost 2,000 years since it was abandoned following a suspected earthquake.
After exhausting the key points of interest at the base, we bid our friendly guide goodbye and take the path which winds up through shady forestation to a rubble converted plateau.
To the Necropolis
To a heathen histogram like myself this pile of rocks is of little interest so we continue along the path towards the Necropolis. At least that’s what we think as we soon discover that, either the map or the signs are incorrectly marked, as they do not correspond.
We march through sun-dappled woodland to find the necropolis and are mortified to discover simply a few tombs. We retrace our steps and with Jason striding off ahead, I find myself imagining how I will react if I stumble across a snake or scorpion.
I also ponder why anyone would choose to live up here. Yes the views are incredibly jealousy inducing, and there’s little chance of a successful invasion, but it would be easy enough for enemies to cut off supply routes surely and it must have been a torturous route back in 300 BC.
To the amphitheatre
We follow the signs for the Tiyatro and descend onto a plateau where five cisterns perch above an abyss with underground passages connecting the huge wells. Then, in the distance we catch a glimpse of stepped stones, a frisson of excitement as I clamber determinedly over a large cluster to emerge to a view which leaves me breathless from exertion and awe.
A perfectly shaped amphitheatre, still remarkably intact despite thousands of years of erosion, and with earthquake damaged stairwells descending to the theatre centrepiece overlooking Antalya gulf scenery.
With a sturdy pair of shoes and intrepid dedication, you could certainly make it to the base and reenact your own show. Not that you will have much of an audience as we are alone for most of our visit, arriving just as the prior visitors were leaving.
Stood atop the towering walls, looking out over the hillside to the coast beyond, the sun beating down on my neck, I feel a sense of peace which has eluded me for some time. I want to scream with joy at having the good fortune to be alone in this incredible space.
We estimate an audience of a few thousand could easily fit within these walls and try to imagine how it would have felt to be in the audience of old, jeering at the actors on the stage, enjoying far-reaching views. Would they have felt so fortunate? So moved by their surroundings? Or would they simply have been worrying for their safety? Preoccupied with disease, invasion and poverty?
I feel a sense of profound gratitude for being able to witness this scene alone. A once in a lifetime opportunity to have an ancient ruin to myself. I blink away the tears which threaten to slip down my cheeks and just sit taking in this immense gift from the past.