Letoon UNESCO world heritage site

Updated: 18 November 2013 Created: 12 November 2013
Letoon UNESCOLetoon is situated less than 10km south of Xanthos, with Xanthos and Letoon often being referred to as one and the same. Xanthos – Letoon is one of the most prominent archaeological sites of the Lycian coast and registered with the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

Excavation has been underway in Letoon since the 1950’s and in 1962 The French Archaeological Mission began excavating here as well as other sites located around Xanthos.
The excavations are still on-going and they have done some remarkable work recently including the initial restoration of the Temple of Leto. 

Unfortunately the high water table in Letoon does hinder the excavation work however this is a very romantic site with many of the monuments seemingly arising from the waters. 

Letoon was a quiet place and not an actual city and there are no signs to suggest that it was even inhabited. The archaeological finds date back as far as 6th century BC, and everything found suggests that Letoon was a worshipping ground to cults.  Emperor Hadrian founded a worship cult at the site and inscriptions have been found which refer to Letoon being established as a cult and place where monthly sacrifices took place.

Remains of three temples can be seen at Letoon each in memory of the three gods and they are located next to each other at the centre. All were built around existing temples. Artemis and Apollo’s temples were burnt but the temple of Leto has most of the blocks still on show.

The temple of Leto is the best-kept, built from very fine limescale. Due to the dimensions and quality of the work this is one of the best examples of architecture in Turkey. 

East of Leto’s temple is the temple of Apollo which dates to the 4th century BC. There is a stunning floor mosaic that can be seen here. Between these lies the temple of Artemis also 4th century BC and this is smaller but has some superb examples of masonry of the time.

Built during the Hellenistic period to the southwest of the temples is Nymphaeum which is connected to a spring and is home to frogs and terrapins. Myth has it that these are the unfortunates that were transformed by Leto’s vengeance!

Letoon UNESCOYou can see the remains of the Byzantine church called Basilica with a nearby mosaic. Constructed in the 6th century AD and believed to have been destroyed around mid 7th century.

The Amphitheatre has been very well preserved and there are vaulted passages that lead to entrances on either side.

Porticoes are now completely submerged and underwater so is no longer seen.

Some tombs can be seen from the south side of the theatre including a sarcophagus.

Steeped in history and a place where history is constantly evolving though the discoveries of the excavationists. When visiting here you will immediately see why this is registered with the UNESCO World Heritage Sites List and this makes for a really interesting day. 

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