With its spotless appearance, clean streets, and full fronted harbour with its gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea, Fethiye is one of Turkey’s holiday hotspots. Built over the ruins of Telmessus ancient city, it joins other coastal towns as a prominent landmark of ancient Lycia, one of many kingdoms from past civilisations that left their mark in the region.
Part of its popularity is also because there is plenty to see and do, from relaxing to water sports to historical sites or simply a gentle step into the cultural and heritage of the region. For Brits, it is a favoured family destination, while budget backpackers flock for cheap cabin charter Blue cruises.
Ideally, to see and do everything at a leisurely pace takes about a week, but if time is short, we’ve separated activities into different genres, that can be done in 24 hours, depending on what interests you the most.
Historical Treasures in Fethiye
Overlooking Fethiye town centre like a king surveying his kingdom, the Lycian tombs project a majestic view and insight into beliefs of ancient Lycians who buried their dead in high up places so it was easier for them to enter the afterlife. Amyntas, the most famous tomb of them all dates from 350 BC, and is quite unique since the large interior is a typical size of a Lycian temple. Although reaching the tomb on foot is strenuous and not for those who have walking difficulties, the impressive view of Fethiye city is a worthy reward.
Following the Lycian’s story, Fethiye town centre museum is an over-brimming treasure chest of artefacts including coins, jewellery, vases, and other everyday items used in history. Objects include those discovered at other nearby Lycian cities such Letoon and Xanthos, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Statues and busts of famous historical figures stand in the gardens, and a collection of artefacts from the nearby ancient city ruins of Tlos also includes tell-tale signs of its other citizens who were the Romans and Ottomans.
Walking along the harbour district, an impressive 6000 seater Hellenistic / Roman theatre of Telmessus comes into view. Dating from the 2nd century BC, for many years, it sat neglected, missing much-needed care and attention but that changed in May 2014 when the biggest restoration project of the town took place.
Lastly, a short bus drive takes tourists to the eery hillside ghost village of Kayakoy. Occupied at the beginning of the 20th century by Greeks and Turks, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne ordered Greeks and Turks to return to their respective homeland. Greeks dutifully left Kayakoy, but returning Turks were unable to settle and deserted their new home. Numerous small earthquakes that followed prompted total desertion and Turkey’s most famous ghost village was born. Cobbled streets, ruined houses and empty churches eventually leading back to the main road, tell a sad story about war and the aftermath of destruction.
Reach the theatre, ghost village, museum, and tombs on foot or by bus because they are all within close distance but for more refreshing and cooling activities, head to the waterside!
Water, Beaches, Gorges, and Boats
Naturally as a prime waterfront location, Fethiye boasts of outdoor activities including sailing, swimming, water sports, and boats. The Blue Lagoon, the most photographed beach and cove in Turkey and a short bus ride away from Fethiye town centre suits mostly families. While intrepid explorers instead catch a water taxi across to Butterfly Valley (Kelebek Vadesi), a rustic and natural beach backed by a towering, green valley encouraging visitors to be at one with nature.
Plenty of beaches outside of Fethiye main town make a roaring trade of which Calis is also popular, but Fethiye is a centre of excellence on the Turkish Riviera, and worth exploring by boat. Hosted daily boat trips sail around the coastline for swimming and snorkelling breaks as well as a visit to nearby Gemiler Island and its ancient churches.
Alternatively, traditional Turkish gulet boats set sail for a longer trip of 3 nights and four days to head east along the coast, before finally arriving in the cosmopolitan district of Antalya. Life on board a Turkish gulet boat is a blend of relaxation, excitement and a journey into Turkey’s Blue Voyage Cruises on the Turkish Riviera.
18 miles away from Fethiye is Saklikent Gorge, one of the Mediterranean's most stunning natural landmarks. A rushing stream of pure limewater gushes through the gorge between two hills separated thousands of years ago by an earthquake. Walk the designated path with a guide or stay in the visitors scenic area for photo opportunities and end your day in a traditional restaurant at the bottom of the gorge that serves fresh trout.
Lastly, Fethiye itself is a delight to explore and stroll around without a set agenda but the last recommended activity to do while in Fethiye for 24 hours is to jump off Babadag Mountain, with a qualified paragliding pilot in a tandem ride. Aimed at novices who have never flown before, after landing on Olu Deniz beach, passengers receive a video and photos to take home as souvenirs.
You may also be interested in reading about…
About Fethiye: Regional information and reasons to visit
Visiting Fethiye with Children: The best kid’s activities
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