If it’s all about location, Fethiye is one of the best places to visit in Turkey’s Mediterranean region. This harbor-front town is the perfect launching pad to explore the many tourist attractions and things to do along the famed slice of lush coastline known as the Turquoise Coast.
As well as being a major destination for boat day trips and the starting point for yacht multi-day tours, Fethiye is in a prime position to use as a base for days spent relaxing on the region’s beaches or heading into the surrounding hills to explore the ruins of this area’s ancient Lycian culture.
Fethiye itself is a prosperous but laid-back kind of place; just what you need to return to after a day’s hectic sightseeing of mighty rock-cut tombs and mountain-top, UNESCO-protected ruins or sunbathing bliss, boating, and paragliding action.
Plan your trip with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Fethiye.
“Up until the 1920s, Kayaköy (ancient Karmylassos), eight kilometers south from Fethiye, had a thriving mixed population of Greeks and Turks who had lived together for centuries.”
1. Take a cruise from the harbor on a yacht
Fethiye is home to one of the most beautiful natural harbors in Turkey and is known as a base for setting out on a yachting trip. The most famous of these trips is the Blue Cruise, a three-night yacht journey along the coast from Fethiye to Olympos with stops at Kaş and the Kekova Island area along the way. Blue Cruise trips set out daily during the summer months. They’re a great way to experience this beautiful and rugged slice of coastline, with plenty of time for sunbathing onboard and swimming stops. If you don’t have time for this journey, though, there are plenty of one-day cruise options offered from Fethiye harbor. The most popular of these is the 12 Islands Tour, which cruises around the islands of Fethiye Bay, with plenty of swim stops along the way.
2. Sunbathe then Paraglide Over Ölüdeniz Lagoon
Turkey’s most famous beach is 15 kilometers south from Fethiye. The calm turquoise water, sheltered from the sea, with its white-sand beach rimmed by dense pine forest, is impossibly perfect, which is why people have been flocking here for years now.
Some of Ölüdeniz’s sheen has been shaken off over the past two decades, as package tourism arrived on the scene, but the lagoon area has not seen the construction development of other tourism hot spots, and the village attached to the lagoon is still a low-story unobtrusive affair.
If you don’t want to swim or sunbathe on the beach here, the other big activity is tandem paragliding.
Mt. Baba (Baba Dağ) dominates the scenery inland, and paragliders launch themselves off the peak throughout the summer months. The aerial views of lush forested hills and turquoise blue water have made Ölüdeniz one of the most renowned tandem paragliding destinations in the world. The popular paragliding at Fethiye experience offers the typical Ölüdeniz tandem paragliding trip, with fully-qualified paragliding pilots and a choice of departure times from their Ölüdeniz office.
3. Explore the Ruins of Kayaköy
Up until the 1920s, Kayaköy (ancient Karmylassos), eight kilometers south from Fethiye, had a thriving mixed population of Greeks and Turks who had lived together for centuries.
The 1923 Population Exchange changed all of that, uprooting ethnic Greeks across Turkey and sending them to live in Greece while making ethnic Turks who lived in Greece abandon their lives there.
The exchange created heartbreak and much trauma among those who were forced to leave, and the somber results of this are no better seen than in Kayaköy.
The dilapidated, eerie stone village that snakes across the hillside here has been left to slowly decay since its Greek population left. Among the ruins are the Katapongagia Church and Taxiarchis Church, which both still have some beautiful interior decoration.
4. Relax on the Beach of Butterfly Valley
This lovely beach, secreted between two sharp cliffs, is home to the Jersey Tiger Butterfly.
One of the joys of Butterfly Valley is that it is unreachable by road. You either have to trek here from Faralya village, high above on the cliff, or take a boat. During summer shuttle-boats depart for Butterfly Valley a couple of times daily from Ölüdeniz beach.
There are great hiking opportunities in the lush, forested gorge behind the beach, though most people are happy to just spend the day soaking up the sun on the sand.
The Butterfly Valley boat tour offers a full-day cruise from Ölüdeniz, visiting Butterfly Valley to relax or hike, as well as anchoring at other coves for swim stops. This is a great opportunity to take in the coastal views of the area. Lunch is included.
5. Hike through Saklikent Gorge
This ravine, 30 kilometers southeast from Fethiye, is cut deeply into the mountains of the Akdağlar mountain range. Most visitors come to admire the scenery of soaring cliffs on a hike inside the gorge.
The trail into the gorge follows a wooden boardwalk along the cliffside, set high above the river. The last section of the trail is reached by fording the swift-running river itself and then walking through the narrow fissure to the waterfall at the end.
Cushion-strewn teahouses are set beside the river, both at the entrance to the gorge and inside the gorge at the base where hikers ford the river.
There are also canyoning and rafting trips along the river for the more actively inclined visitor.
6. Explore the Ruins of Xanthos
Xanthos was the capital of ancient Lycia, sometimes called “the oldest republic in the world.”
This league of 20 cities was governed by a popular assembly and a president who ruled from Xanthos, and the ruins of this grand city are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Although many of Xanthos’ most beautiful monuments were taken to England in the 19th century, some fine mosaics are still in situ, and the theater, agora, and acropolis can still be seen.
Beyond the Roman theater, to the left of the road, is the plinth that once held the Nereid Monument, an ionic temple with rich sculptural decoration (now displayed in the British Museum).
To the right of the road is the Hellenistic city gage. The city walls, considerable stretches of which are still visible, probably date from the 3rd century BCE.
7. Day Trip to Turkey’s Longest Beach at Patara
Patara (70 kilometers south from Fethiye) is home to Turkey’s longest beach, so it’s the perfect spot for a sun and sand break.
This was also once an important city in the Lycian League, and the rambling ruins of Ancient Patara lay just behind the sand. Set off to explore them before cooling off in the sea.
Ancient Patara’s ruins are entered through a Roman-era triple-arched gate near a well-restored bouleuterion, a colonnaded street, theater, and baths complex, as well as plenty of tombs.
The city was used right up to the Byzantine period, and a basilica can also be seen.
Patara’s other claim to fame is it’s also the birthplace of Saint Nicholas of Myra (modern Demre, near Kaş), the 4th century bishop who became ‘Santa Claus’.
8. Admire the Rock Tombs of Tlos
Perched high up amid the surrounding hill country, Tlos (35 kilometers east from Fethiye) is one of the Turquoise Coast’s most interesting Lycian city ruins.
Mostly known for its glut of Lycian rock tombs chiseled into the rock face of the acropolis hill, Tlos also has an agora, necropolis, baths, restored theater, a Byzantine basilica, and the scattered ruins of houses and public buildings to explore.
The remnants of an Ottoman-era fortress also crown the acropolis hill showing that the Lycians weren’t the only ones to appreciate a good mountain stronghold position. This fortress was used by various local brigands during Ottoman rule.
9. Add Letoön to Your Xanthos Trip
Usually visited as part of a Xanthos day trip, Letoön was the religious sanctuary for Xanthos and shares its UNESCO World Heritage status with the Xanthos ruins.
The religious sanctuary here was dedicated to the Greek goddess Leto who, according to local mythology, was banished to Lycia by Zeus’ jealous wife Hera after an affair with the great Greek god.
There are three shrines here, one for Leto and one each for her twin children by Zeus, Apollo, and Artemis.
The site is incredibly atmospheric and a wonderful accompaniment to a visit to Xanthos, the ancient capital of Lycia. In particular, check out the well-preserved mosaic in the floor of the Temple of Apollo.
Letoön is 63 kilometers south of Fethiye and six kilometers south of Xanthos.
10. Discover Fethiye City’s Ancient Sites
The Lycians ruled over this stretch of Turkey’s coast from 200 BC, and Fethiye stands on the site of the important Lycian city of Telmessos. There are monuments scattered throughout the city, but the most famous is the rock-cut Tomb of Amyntas in the cliff face overlooking the city.
On Kaya Caddesi, as you walk up the hill towards the tomb, you can see Lycian sarcophagi along the way. More Lycian sarcophagi are also by the town hall in the city center.
When the Romans conquered Asia Minor, they allowed the independently minded Lycians self-rule, but that didn’t stop them making their own mark on the Lycian cities.
Fethiye’s small and only partially excavated theater, in the harbor area, was built in the 2nd century BCE, when Telmessos had become part of Rome’s Asia Minor dominion. It would have originally seated 6,000 spectators.
Climb up to the top tier of seating for great views across town and over the sea beyond. The park opposite the theater is a good place to relax and seek some shade on a summer’s day.
11. Visit Fethiye Museum
It may be small, but Fethiye Museum is an excellent place to get a grip on Lycian history, especially if you’re planning to head on to attractions such as Xanthos, Tlos, and Letoön.
Plenty of information panels clearly explain the history, culture, and importance of Ancient Lycia and the exhibits, ranging from ceramics and jewelry to inscribed stele and statuary, are beautifully displayed.
The museum’s most important artifact on display is the Trilingual Stele, which was unearthed during excavation work at Letoön. The stele holds inscriptions in Lycian, ancient Greek, and Aramaic and so (just as with Egypt’s Rosetta Stone) helped archaeologists finally solve the Lycian language.
Address: 505 Sokak, Fethiye
12. Get Off the Beaten Track at Pınara
In the hills south of Fethiye, the ruins of the Lycian city of Pınara are chiefly interesting for their honeycombed cliff of more than 900 rock tombs and monolithic house tombs. The site was so inaccessible that the tomb-builders had to be lowered on stages secured with ropes.
The mountain scenery that surrounds the ruins is lushly stunning, especially around the theater area, overlooked by snow-topped peaks and rimmed by verdant forest.
This is one of the quieter Lycian sites in the area and rarely gets busy with tourists.
Pınara is 33 kilometers southeast from Fethiye. If you hire a car, it would be easy to do a drive day trip to Pınara, Xanthos, and Letoön.