ancient theatre at Phaselis in TurkeyOne of the many beautiful archaeological sites we visit on our 2-week gulet voyage around Lycia is Phaselis.

We set off from Finike in the morning and cruise east, around Cape Gelidonya (archaeology buffs may recognise the name: it's the site of a famous prehistoric shipwreck, the very first underwater archaeological excavation ever), and then turn northwards into the Gulf of Antalya. Here, we follow a coastline of steep cliffs interrupted here and there by sheltered inlets, on of which we stop to swim in, a perfect cove with a small beach and miraculously clear water surrounded by high cliffs and pine forest.

Further north there is a small headland that was once the ancient city of Phaselis, a Rhodian and Samian colony founded in 690 BC. The site's distinguishing feature then was a perfect seaside setting with three good harbours, a major asset at a time when maritime travel was as risky as it was important. We go ashore in our zodiac to explore the ruins.

Today, the location is still striking, as are the well-preserved remains (mostly of Roman and Byzantine dates) of grand boulevards, markets and public buildings, including several Roman baths and a theatre. Phaselis must have been a very wealthy place at times. Most of it is shaded by a dense and fragrant forest of pine trees, and in summer the site is an attraction to many tourists, lured more by the sandy beaches flanking it than by the ruins themselves. The result is a joyful but laid-back atmosphere and a constant bustling of happy crowds among the ruins. We love it.

There are a multitude of stories to tell. The most important of those is probably the connection with Alexander the Great, who spent the first winter of his campaign against the Persian Empire at Phaselis.

Our picture shows the well-preserved Hellenistic theatre, typically set in a convenient hollow of the hillside. The key feature - arguably - is the stage structure, with its faux facade still standing to a grand height. It has a fabulous backdrop of the Lycian mountains behind.

To explore Phaselis and find out more about this wonderful site, please join our Cruising the Lycian Shore.

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