One of the things I couldn’t get over during my recent trip to the Antalya region of Turkey was the amount of ruins the area has. The region is awash with the remains of ancient Lycian towns and cities, to the point that you can actually visit many without seeing another soul! This was the case during our trip to Rhodiapolis, a city ruin that perches high on a hill outside the modern town of Kumluca.
Rhodiapolis, which was also known as Rhodia and Rhodiopolis, is quite a unique site in the area – although it was discovered back in the 1840s excavation of the city only began in 2006 after a forest fire cleared the area. It’s unusual in that some different approaches are being taken to preserving the site – this piqued our interest and so we decided to head a little out of our way to check it out.
How to get to Rhodiapolis
Rhodiapolis can be a bit of an adventure to find. From Kumluca it starts off very well signposted, but one junction with no sign caused us to end up detouring through several of the countryside’s farming villages. After doubling back several times we picked up the trail when we suddenly spotted a new sign and began to head up into the hills.
As Rhodiapolis looks down over Kumluca you end up taking some precarious, steep turns on your way to the entrance, which at first instance may feel like a dead end as the road suddenly comes to an end, with a chained metal gate barring your way. I sat in the passenger seat rather white-knuckled while Justin turned the car around on the edge of the steep drop and parked up by the side of the hill.
Unsure if we were in the right place, or were even allowed to go any further, I sent J off to investigate (yes I’m a brave soul!). A few minutes later he came back saying the only signs of life he’d seen were two pairs of shoes by the side of a deserted visitor centre and a small puppy. That was it – if nothing else I was going in to see the puppy!
It appeared that the site was just getting geared up for tourists as at the base of the hill was the shell of a newly built visitor centre. It felt like a literal ghost town though, as there was no one to be seen, so after using the facilities and giving the cute little pup some love, we set off to check out the ruins.
From this new build the pathway suddenly turns ‘rustic’, i.e. non-existent, as you make your way up a short but steep climb through long grass and over crumbled stones to the main site. With every step I took tens of crickets would leap into the air, disturbed by the rare arrival of human feet.
What to see at Rhodiapolis
On our way up we passed ruins that were sadly fenced off, but there were more than enough other things to see. The majority of the site is fully open for you to explore, and like Phaselis, there’s nothing stopping you walk through, or on, the ruins.
This felt both exciting and wrong, as I didn’t want to harm the ruins in any way, so I did explore, but kept off the stones as much as possible.
Sadly, unlike Phaselis, the site has absolutely no signs, so although there was some amazing looking ruins, we could only guess at what the majority were once used as. We did manage to make out several tombs, with large stone inscriptions, but aside from the amphitheatre we weren’t able to make out what the other buildings definitely were. However, looking online we were able to find out that the site includes an aqueduct, temple, bathhouses, agora and several churches.
The complex is large though, and we could tell there was still much to be uncovered – possibly underground. At one point we were able to look down to a level below, and we also came across either a cistern or well.
Rebuilding Rhodiapolis – Right or Wrong?
At the pinnacle though, was something quite spectacular and unique. Unlike the other ruins I visited during my Turkey trip, Rhodiapolis has begun to get ‘overhaul’, with work to actually rebuild some of the buildings. The first piece of work was to rebuild the amphitheatre – a theatre which had to have had one of the most impressive views in the world as the seats looked over the valley below, all the way down to the bright blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
Feelings on this work are understandably quite mixed and the work has been marred by controversy. However, I found it really interesting to get a chance to see the ancient amphitheatre as it once would have looked, with the millennia old stone interspersed with bright white stone that had been used replace the areas which had fallen to the elements.
Next up is work to renovate the statue of millionaire roman philanthropist Opramoas. Although colonists from Rhodes originally built the city, this rich Roman essentially paid to rebuild the city after a massive earthquake around 140AD and a statue was build to commemorate him outside the amphitheatre. This is currently hidden away behind a hoarding until the renovation work is complete, but I’d love to see how it looks once revealed.
As well as the renovation work, high tech has also been installed to protect Rhodiapolis. Cameras and wireless sensors now let the site be remotely monitored 24/7, helping to detect any future wildfires quickly, and also deterring theft.
A hidden Lycian gem
After a little more exploring we began to make our way back down to the entrance, still in shock that we’d had the chance to explore an amazing site like this without seeing any other visitors. An easy drive from the big popular sites like Myra and Demre, I felt blessed that I got to see Rhodiapolis when it was still a hidden gem as I’m sure it’ll join the tourist track soon enough.
We did however finally get to see the owners of those forgotten shoes – as we turned on our engine a local man and his son appeared at the gate, waving us off as we headed back down to modern day Turkey…
Tips for visiting Rhodiapolis
- The entrance looks closed off but don’t give up. The site may look abandoned but visitors are still welcome to explore.
- Take some cash in case they do get round to opening the ticket office. When we visited there were no entrance fees, but if Rhodiapolis comes into line with the other main sites then in the future expect to pay an entrance fee of around 20L.
- Be prepared for a short, steep climb, so wear sturdy walking shoes.
- Make sure your legs are covered. Not only can the long grass scratch you up, in the countryside you also have to look out for snakes and scorpions.
- Enjoy the ruins but respect them – don’t take anything from the site.