The Letoon and Xanthos Turkey

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Published: 09th May 2011
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The Letoon (16km/10 miles south of Pinara; daily 7.30am-7pm in summer, 8.30am5pm in winter; charge), was a religious sanctuary, a shrine to the goddess Leto and an assembly ground at which Lycians celebrated festivals. The first of the three temples, dating to the 3rd century BC, is dedicated to Lero, and the other two to the twins she bore here in the Xanthos valley, Artemis and Apollo. The central temple is believed to have been dedicated to Artemis and the third to Apollo; a mosaic on the floor of the Apollo temple symbolically depicts both twins, with a bow and quiver for Artemis and a lyre for Apollo. In the nymphaeum, the large pool is surrounded by empty niches but well stocked with noisy frogs. There is also a well preserved the a tre.

Xanthos (directly across the valley from the Letoon; daily 8am7pm in summer, 8am6.30pm III winter; charge) is the most important of the Lycian cities and its ruins are extensive. The city was noted for its fierce pride and stubborn independence that led to tragedy as the residents of Xanthos twice set their city and themselves ablaze in a mass suicide, rather than surrender to the Persian general Harpagus in 540BC or the Roman general Brutus in 42BC.

Like the other Lycian cities, Xanthos is littered with rock tombs, including a 5thcentury BC pillar tomb with 250 lines describing the exploits of local soldiers in the Peloponnesian Wars; this is the most extensive known script in the Lycian language.

The so called Tomb of the Harpies is also richly carved with figures that are half man and half-bird and appear to be ushering the dead into the afterlife. These reliefs are not the originals they and many other artefacts were carried away from Xanthos in 1842 by archaeologist Charles Fellows. Some, including the Ionic temple known as the Nereid Monument, are now in the British Museum. Of the monuments that remain in Xanthos, the city gate and theatre are Roman, the monastery and mosaic decorated basilica are Byzantine. The principal port of Lycia, Patara is 18km (11 miles)south of Xanthos (daily, sum mer 7.30am7pm, winter 8.30amSpm; admission and parking charges). The oracle of Apollo resided here, in a temple still lost beneath the sands; Hannibal and St Paul were among the city's many noted visitors. St Nicholas (who later became identi fied with Santa Claus) was born in Patara in AD270, the son of a wealthy trader.

Today, the ruined ancient city is romantically half buried beneath constantly shifting sand dunes.
The Pa tara area's other great attraction is a magnificent 18km (llmile) long white sand beach. All development has been kept blessedly far inland at Gelernis, thanks to the ruins and the presence of loggerhead turtles. There is little shade on the beach so take umbrellas and drinks.
Kalkan is relatively free of important ruins, Kalkan and its near neigh bour Kas, both former Greek fishing villages, provide the sight weary traveler with such pleasures as bougainvillea shaded cafe terraces, breezy seaside promenades and plenty of retail therapy. Both are charming resorts and excellent bases from which to explore the coast.

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