Ancient City of Kaunos

Photo by Can Sarica.

Ancient City of Kaunos is part of the Tentative list of Turkiye in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Kaunos was a sea port with remains from the Greek, Persian and Roman periods. The city has wide, dry stone city walls. In the wider area 167 rock-cut tombs with facades similar to Hellenistic temples have been discovered.

Map of Ancient City of Kaunos

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Germany - 13-Jan-22 -

Ancient City of Kaunos (T) by Nan

When we were looking at our Meetup for 2020, the idea had been to go to Rhodes and take a day trip to Turkey. As such, I had been researching the sites in and around Fethiye, the Turkish ferry port for Rhodes. In the process, I stumbled across Kaunos and felt intrigued.

The default picture for Kaunos is the one shown at the top of the page: the Royal Tombs. The cliffs also hold more simple tombs than the fancy royal ones, just holes drilled into the rock. It's interesting to compare the designs and track their differences. It will be interesting to see what if any additional locations will be included.

Apart from the tombs, the site also contains a Persian/Greco/Roman archaeological site. It consists of an acropolis, an amphitheatre, a well preserved temple, ruins of a early Christian basilica .. Things you come to expect. In addition, it's a harbour that you can still make out to this day. From the "pier" you can look out onto the sea and the former harbour basin is still filled with water.

The historic town was eventually abandoned when the port silted. The river swamps were also a malaria nest and one idea is that the locals left the ruins mostly intact due to the malaria. 

Currently, excavations and restorations are still ongoing, but there is plenty to see as is.


I think Kaunos has two things going again, that warrant the inscription of yet another Greco/Roman ruin:

  • The Rock Tombs. Stunning. It will be interesting to see how many components are included. I can see a point in including e.g. the tombs in Fethiye, too.
  • The Harbour. Unique to have an archaeological site giving off a harbour vibe.

Getting There

The area itself is very touristy and there are minibuses (dolmus) running along the coastal road from Fethiye to Mugla.

You have to get off at the Ortaca otogar. From there, you can take a local bus to Dalyan. In Dalyan, you can walk along the river and you will find a rower taking you across the river during daytime and even on New Years Day.

The rock tombs are already visible from across the river in Dalyan. For the archaeological site, it's a 30min walk after you made your way across the river.

I came from Fethiye in the morning. The minibus stop is near the otogar in Fethiye, somewhat on the edge of town.

On my way back, I took the bus back to Ortaca, then connected to another bus to Dalaman. In Dalaman, I got a cab to take me to Dalaman airport from where I flew out to Konya via Istanbul. I had been warned that cab fares are really high in this area, so going from Dalyan to Dalaman airport directly was not an option. The short ride from Dalaman town to Dalaman airport was the most expensive taxi ride I took in Turkey (for the distance).

While You Are There

Fethiye has rock tombs that you can enter. They reminded me a bit of the Treasury in Petra and are a nice addition to Kaunos if you are passing through.

If you head to Bodrum, you can visit another world wonder, the ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

On the coast between Fethiye and Antalya are the Lycians WHS of Xanthos and Letoon. I found them underwhelming and am happy that we didn't go there as meetup.

Personally, I wanted to go to Myre to see the Church of St Nicolaus (T), but did not manage due to getting up too late.

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4 Votes

Full Name
Ancient City of Kaunos
Archaeological site - Classical (other)
2014 Added to Tentative List

The site has 1 locations

Ancient City of Kaunos (T)
WHS 1997-2024