An Ancient Port City Emerging from the Sand after 1500 Years
With no major tourist development nearby, the beach at Patara, 50 mins drive from Uzumlu, is justly famous. Although not quite so spectacular as Olu Deniz, it has a number of attractions which many people find more appealing. It has over 10 miles of fine golden sand, completely protected from development as one of the few remaining nesting sites in the Mediterranean of the loggerhead turtle.
The whole area, including the extensive ruins of the ancient city of Patara behind the beach are protected as a National Park, so you will rarely have a problem in finding your very own private stretch of beach. The name Patara is derived from the ancient city which once stood here, in Classical times the most important and prosperous port city in Lycia.
In ancient times, Patara was one of the leading cities of the Lycian League, a confederation of the major cities of the region. Following conquest by the Romans, it continued to be the major port city of the region. Situated at the mouth of the Xanthos river, the port gradually lost its trade as the river silted up and eventually the sands were all that were left, covering the site of this once great "Metropolis of the Lycian nation".
Until excavations were started in recent years, the city was almost completely lost in the sands. For this reason, some of the building are marvelously preserved. The ongoing archaeological work has been revealing some of Patara's past glories - the monuments, buildings and streets where St. Paul once preached, and where St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) was born in 290AD. However, much of the ancient city still remains to be discovered.
The site above is one of the oldest legislative assemblies in the world. The representatives of the Lycian League met here, and Patara was the designated repository for the records of the League. It seems probable that a large windowless vault which is accessed via the archway (seen here middle right) was the Treasury and Archive for the city's records, and probably that of the League too. It is also quite likely that some of the most famous names from history, including the Roman emperors Julius Caesar, Nero, Vespasian and Hadrian stood here to address the assembly. Go here for additional information.
One of the most exciting finds in the last couple of years was the discovery of what is believed to be the oldest lighthouse in the world. Standing at the entrance to the channel leading to the inner harbour of Patara, it still has many features left intact, including the entrance and sprial staircase, with a complete monumental inscription (originally set in bronze lettering) circling the structure. One of the more sombre discoveries was the skeleton - perhaps of the last keeper? - lying at the base of the stairs. One theory is that the lighthouse was overwhelmed by a tidal wave.