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The Lycian Rock Tombs
- the Turtle Beach
rent a Gullet to come here
The ancient city of Caunos stands midway along the channel facing Dalyan. Settlement
here is believed to date from 3000 BC by Caunos, the son of Miletos and it later grew into a major port on the
border between Lycia and Caria. Sprawling over a broad sloping site overlooking the sea and
the delta, the principal monuments to be seen in Caunos are the Acropolis surrounded by city walls, a theatre,
four temples, an agora, stoa, nymphain, baths, palestra, churches and a cistern.
The imposing Lycian rock tombs with their facades curved into the form of temples
were the last resting place of the kings of Caunos. The city had two harbours, one for military use and the other
for merchants. Inscriptions discovered on the nymphain have been found to cite customs regulations and have thrown
valuable light on the economic life of the city. The Lycians developed this form of art to perfection, no doubt
facilitated by the soft limestone of the region.
The quality of stonemasonry of the Lycian people is noteworthy and is especially significant in the construction
of tombs. Today the entire landscape of Lycia is still dotted with their fascinating funerary monuments.
The most recent count has revealed one thousand and eighty-five examples still intact, rock-cut tombs being the
most common form. Lycia is famous for the sheer number of tombs and their quality.
One thing that sets Lycian tombs apart from Hellenistic tradition is that whereas in Hellenistic culture the dead
were placed outside of liveable areas (often flanking main roads into the cities), Lycian tombs are integrated
often integrated right into cities, displaying Lycia's ties with eastern traditions.
The Lycians seem to have held a belief that the souls of their dead would be transported from the tombs to the
afterworld by a sort of winged siren-like creature, and so often placed their tombs along the coast or at the top
of cliffs when they were not integrated into the liveable areas of the cities.
Kaunos (Caunus) is perhaps one of the most spellbinding of ancient
cities for its landscape as well as its history with roots in the remote past. Situated in a mysterious landscape
formed by the Dalyan river (Calbis), which connects Lake Koycegiz with the Mediterranean, the Dalyan delta and
Mt. Olemez (Imbros). And the astonishing findings that are being recovered almost every year in the archaeological
excavations that have been under way here since 1966 are generating increasingly more unknowns out of the city's
The story of Kaunos's eponymous founder as related by the Roman poet Ovid is helpful in acquainting us with this
mysterious city like a quiet stranger with a secret. Kaunos, the son of Apollo's son Miletos and the water nymph
Kyanee, was in love with his twin sister Byblis. Running away from home in an attempt to flee this extraordinary
yet illicit passion, he founds a city in a faraway place.
Byblis meanwhile sets out in search of her twin brother and is transformed into a spring by water nymphs while
she lies stretched out prone on the earth in tears of desperation and exhaustion. Another source of detailed information
about the natives of Kaunos is the ancient historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century B.C. We can conclude
from his account that Kaunos was the capital of the region between Caria and Lycia, which was home to several cities.
According to Herodotus, the natives of Kaunos, who believed they came from Crete like the Lycians and Carians,
were actually an Anatolian people. Moreover, their language, which was entirely unique to them, had in all probability
influenced that of Caria.
A HARBOR THAT BECAME A LAKE
The man-made terrace, temple, circular structure and columned gallery that dominate the city's agora, which underwent
a series of reconstructions and restorations starting from the 5th century B.C., are believed to have been dedicated
to Basileos Kaunos, hero and eponymous founder of the city, with whom we are already familiar from Ovid's account.
At the center of the ruins lies the harbor which, although it has silted up completely forming the lake known today
as the Suluklu Gölü, was a vital port in antiquity when Kaunos was a thriving marketplace. It is thought
to have been a target of several military and commercial powers until it gradually fell out of use after silting
up due to its sheltered geographical position. The ten Talents of tax paid by Kaunos, a member of the Attic-Delian
League that ruled the western shores of Anatolia after the defeat of the Persians is an indication of the wealth
this busy port brought to the city. Believed to have been built in the mid-4th century B.C. when the city again
reverted to Persian rule, the magnificent defense walls that completely encircle it are further evidence of its
importance during this period. The 'temple-tombs' that have become a virtual symbol of Kaunos also date from this
period. Reminiscent of Hellenic temples of the Ionic order, these tombs are distinguished from their Lycian counterparts
by being independent, almost free-standing masses carved out of the bedrock.
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The buildings surviving from the period make it easy for us to appreciate the economic power of Kaunos, which fell
into the hands of Alexander the Great in 334 B.C. and, after his death, under the rule first of Rhodes and later
of the Ptolemies and then the Seleucids. One of them is the stoa, a roofed structure situated on the agora and
supported by a row of columns in front and a wall at the back. Finds recovered in a chamber opening onto the middle
of the rear and was dedicated to the cult of Aphrodite Euploia, patron goddess of sailors. Before setting out to
sea, sailors would make offerings here to the goddess and pray that their voyage might go well.
One of our most fascinating discoveries in Kaunos was to read, from the traces left behind on its walls by the
water that accumulated in the basin, about the transformations undergone up to the end of the Roman era by this
building, which was built at the end of the 3rd century B. C. and has been well-preserved up to the present. The
inscription, which covers most of the wall facing the port, is extremely interesting since it is one of only a
handful of examples of its kind. Apparently written during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, it enumerates the
customs regulations that were revised as an inducement to sailors and merchants in order to revive the trade that
had declined after the harbor silted up. It is thanks to this inscription that we now have important information
concerning the city's economy during this time of troubles. Some statue bases recovered on the agora and the inscriptions
on the monuments reflect efforts to liberate Kaunos from the domination of Rhodes throughout the 2nd century B.
C. But the city that was founded through an alliance with the Pontic King Mithridates against the Romans was penalized
when the Romans again granted Rhodes hegemony over it. Immediately afterwards it was incorporated into the Roman
province of Asia.
ONLY KNOWN EXAMPLE OF ITS KIND
Two other structures dating to the 2nd century B. C. are the theater, which is situated on the highest terrace
and, immediately adjacent to it, the so-called 'measuring platform' which is circular in shape. The theater, capable
of seating five thousand people, is well preserved with the exception of the stage building itself, which has been
largely destroyed. Just beyond the theater is the measuring platform, which made it possible for the city's streets
and avenues to be planned in line with the direction of the prevailing winds. Conspicuous on the podium, which
consists of two circular steps, are some fine incisions and, on faces of the two steps, the names of the tribes
and, in front of them, rings where sacrificial animals were tethered. All these features indicate that what we
have here is the only known example today of such a 'measuring platform', an important element in urban planning
which is specifically mentioned in the ancient sources. In a prominent position on the other side of the upper
terrace is a well-preserved Roman bath. By its plan it constitutes one of the best examples of the Imperial Age.
But the most important structure from the Byzantine period is the church on the upper terrace where the bath and
theater are located. This church thought to have been built towards the end of the 5th century when Kaunos, then
known as Haghia, was the seat of a bishopric, remains in quite sound condition.
Another important area connected with the city are the ruins of a small settlement at the Sultaniye thermal springs
on the shores of Lake Koycegiz not far away. Based on inscriptions both here and in the city, this settlement,
most of which is preserved underwater, was healing center and a sacred site dedicated to Leto, the mother of Apollo
and Artemis, both important divinities of Anatolia.
The intense interest that not only foreign tourists but also the local people take in the site is proof that it
preserves its original function even today. The underwater excavations that were launched in 2005 at this site,
where archaeological evidence can be preserved almost completely intact under the water, are on the way towards
becoming a leading school today with a mission to train a new generation of underwater archaeologists.
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When we arrive at the turtle
beach, we know one thing for
sure: we won't see any turtles. The turtles are here only a few days a year. And those few days, they'll be here
at times when there aren't any tourists: at night or very early in the morning.
Of course you can't blame the Turkish tourism office.
Something called "Turtle beach" does sound a lot better than "Beach where sometimes are turtles".
And it's a nice beach, lovely to walk, great weather, they serve drinks here, so who cares.
With its fine crystal sand, shallow turquoise sea and abundant sunshine, Iztuzu beach is the ideal seaside spot,
perfect for swimming for 7 months of the year. It is this beach to which the endangered Mediterranean turtle Caretta
Caretta has returned year after year to lay its eggs since time immemorial.
The Sultanye Thermal Baths: The Sultaniye Thermal Baths are to the Southwest
of Köycegiz lake. The water here at 40 Celsius is second to none. The water at these baths was first used
in Caunon times, then by the Byzantines, who rebuilt the accommodations.
The ruins of the buildings from the period are submerged beneath the waters of the lake. It is not unusual to see
the Turkish elderly make pilgrimages to the baths due to the water’s curative properties in case of neuralgia,
rheumatism and skin disorders of the liver, spleen and bowels.
The Mud Baths: "Beauty Mud" which not only cleanses and
tones the skin but is said to remedy rheumatism and has anti-ageing properties. After allowing the mud to dry,
it can be removed in a natural clear water sulphur pool, at temperatures of around 40 Celsius. This leaves you
refreshed and relaxed.
The Mud baths are also said to remedy rheumatism as well as cleanse and beautify the skin.Popular belief states
that a mud bath will take ten years off you. Once you have covered yourself in the mud you then wait for it to
dry in the sun. The sulphur pool in which you clean yourself after your Mudbath is also at a temperature of 40
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