The one city Alexander the Great didn’t bother stopping to conquer, Termessos sits at the top of a mountain near the southern Turkish coast.
Old-growth forest now embrace the tumbled stone ruins of Termessos. Said to have been founded by the mythological hero Bellerophon, during its heyday, the city was known for its impenetrable defense thanks to its mountaintop location, rising over a thousand meters into the sky. In reality it was founded by a community known as the Solims. Little is known of the people or the culture of Termessos despite it being incredibly well preserved, with most of the information gleaned from stories and histories.
The towns remoteness served it well, providing it with some autonomy from Rome and sparing it from being sacked by Alexander the Great who referred to it as “the Eagle’s Nest.” However its remote mountaintop location would also be its downfall. Although little is known, it is believed that the town was abandoned sometime around 200 C.E. an earthquake destroyed the towns aqueduct, cutting off its supply of water. The Solims seemed to have simply walked away leaving a remarkably preserved town behind.
A large number of stone structures and exposed tombs remain on the site, although some of them have been plundered. Because the site is not under strict archeological control many reliefs and inscriptions have been relocated to the nearby Museum of Antalya.
Although it’s a short drive from Antalya, getting there involves a steep hike up the mountain from the top of the road, so it lacks the usual tourist crowds of the southern Turkish coast. Visitors can watch clouds pass by through the empty windows behind the stunning ancient amphitheater, and admire the ancient tombs lining the path up the mountain.
The combination of woodland, ruin, and spectacular mountain vistas makes it well worth the effort despite what Alexander the Great thought.