Tombs of Fethiye

The Turkish town of Fethiye is known for its relaxing coastal vibe. But it also has a long history… one that’s under threat from a modern world.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Fethiye, Turkey

“Its not the same as it used to be,” the woman tells me as she sucks on a cigarette.

She takes a sip of her raki, the traditional Turkish spirit, and continues.

“I’ve been here for 25 years now and Fethiye has changed,” she pauses, “…a lot”.

A middle-aged Brit, she’d invited me to join her and her friend after spotting me eating alone. It turns out she knows a lot about this town.

Fethiye Tombs, Lycian Tombs, Turkey

It’s always been popular with tourists – no great surprise when you consider its position on the water in southern Turkey.

Daily boat tours take visitors cruising around the nearby islands, a ferry provides a direct connection to some of the Greek islands, and it’s an easy base for day trips to some of the natural and cultural beauties of the region.

“But the all-inclusive resorts are killing the town,” I’m told.

“There are less people coming in and spending their money and the community is suffering.”

Fethiye Tombs, Lycian Tombs, Turkey

I’m not sure what to make of the woman’s statement. She’s got a tough exterior and I imagine it’s more than just an act.

The way she looks at me shows she doesn’t suffer fools – harsh but fair might be the best description if she was a headmistress.

But she runs a local bar so I think she’s more used to disciplining unruly drunks than misbehaving schoolgirls.

Any claims that the town is suffering from a lack of business is hard to believe. Perhaps numbers are down – I’m not really in a position to judge – but there certainly seem to be plenty of people around the harbour area of Fethiye.

Still, it’s always hard to escape the sense of death here. I’ll explain why…

The Lycian tombs in Fethiye

It’s the tombs – the enormous resting places of the Lycians. Carved into the side of the cliff overlooking the city, they never let you forget about the history of Fethiye.

During the day, the sun burns down on them and they glow orange above your head. In the evenings, floodlights give them a bright luminosity that draws your eye whenever in sight.

Fethiye Tombs, Lycian Tombs, Turkey

The tombs were built in about 350 BC by the Lycians, a group of people who lived in this region of Turkey thousands of years ago.

We don’t know much about them because there aren’t extensive records of their era. What is clear, though, is that they liked to give their dead a lovely view in the afterlife.

Climbing to the top of the cliffs to see the tombs is worthwhile, not just to get up close to the ancient crypts, but because of the opportunity to see across Fethiye and the water.

The city would be obviously be unrecognisable to the Lycians who once buried their dead here. And even for the woman at the restaurant, the vista would’ve changed in the 25 years since she first arrived from across the waters.

Fethiye Tombs, Lycian Tombs, Turkey

But the beauty of this location on the Turkish coast is eternal. The same views and natural splendour the ancient people saw is still here today.

Yes, Fethiye may be changing in the eyes of some of the locals. But for someone who has no available comparison, it’s a wonderful place to spend a few days.


You’ll find a lot of accommodation along the coast and in the blocks back towards the centre of town.


For a fun hostel that’s welcoming of all types of travellers, I would recommend Chillsteps.


You’ll often get great deals for the rooms at the lovely Infinity Exclusive City Hotel.


For something a bit special, have a look at Ece Hotel Sovalye Island just off the coast of Fethiye.


And there are some beautiful luxury hotels but I think one of the best is Yacht Classic Hotel.

34 thoughts on “Tombs of Fethiye”

  1. I never made it up to the tombs. I was about a month into my tour when I went to Fethiye and think I was burnt out. The conversation that you had with the expat woman is being repeated all over the coastal resorts of Turkey. The Turkish government is trying to increase tourism and they think the way to do it is by building all inclusive hotels.

    • The inclusive hotel idea is an interesting (and probably controversial) one. It may bring people to Turkey and get some money coming into the national economy – but it means people don’t spend money in the local communities and it’s the small businesses that suffer.

  2. We love going up to the rock tombs in the close season when the air is cooler and you see everything so clearly. Great photos.

    Fethiye is definitely changing – it’s growing into a large town/small city. I’m not too sure about the all-inclusive reasoning, however. Fethiye itself only has two all-inclusive hotels, both of which have been around for a long time. One of them is really close to town and ferries many of its hotel guests into the centre by boat. There is an all-inclusive problem in Turkey but it’s yet to reach Fethiye, itself – and let’s hope it won’t.
    Tourism is changing in the town because foreign tourists are choosing to stay in surrounding resorts like Ölü Deniz. There aren’t many hotels to choose from actually in the town. That’s the problem.
    There are now a lot more Turkish tourists coming to Fethiye, so yes, it’s not the same as it used to be but that’s also no bad thing.
    I could go on and on here because there are so many issues around tourism in our town, but I’ll not hog your site and bore you with the details. 😉

    • Thanks for the insight from someone who lives in Fethiye! The comments from the woman I met obviously only represent one business-owner’s view so I’m sure there are many other theories on what is happening (and whether it’s good or bad). I guess the tourism industry is always going to change in towns and cities all across the world. The key is probably to just make sure the community is getting its fair share.
      And you’re right about there not being many hotels. I stayed at a nice small family run place, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of options.

  3. I was in Fethiye this June Michael. Covered a lot from there in my videos but not this! Always used to turn back from my boat cruises and watch the Tombs (didn’t know they were actual Tombs!) from the distance. Good work mate!

    • The tombs are hard to miss but not necessarily particularly inviting unless you make the effort to wander up and check them out. Glad you made it to Fethiye and enjoyed it – it’s a great place to do some exploring of Turkey.

  4. Great read and some great photos. What an interesting place. Living in Canada, it’s hard to wrap my head around how old that part of the world is. Imagine, living beside well-preserved tombs that have been around for over 1000 years?!

  5. Great photos of the tombs, we were there earlier in the year and found them really impressive and also a bit creepy! It’s a shame the town is not as busy as it used to be as it is a great spot. Although I will admit we only went there as that was where our island cruise started from.

  6. Those tombs look a little like chapels of rich families in christian cemeteries, I’m sure they also belong to wealthy people. Interesting to know how their cult saw death, it reminds me of Egyptian cult, taking care of the tomb to make sure the dead had a proper afterlife.

  7. I honeymooned in Fethiye 23 years ago and haven’t been back, so have no idea if it’s changed. Where hasn’t? It was our second week having spent the first on a gulet cruise. Sailing along that shoreline and between those islands is one of the most memorable periods in my life. Fethiye suffered for me in that we did the gulet first, but I wish it well. Turkey’s a beautiful country.

    • You’re right – everywhere changes. It’s still a beautiful part of the country and there’s no denying that! I hope you manage to get back there someday and see it again for yourself. Happy 23rd anniversary? 🙂

  8. Fethiye is one of the best holiday destiantaion in Turkey, where I am from. You can see tons of story on this land, most are not famous, but actually they are almost unique wonders, just stay there in slience.

  9. Hi Michael
    I am writing an article about the Lycian tombs and the Dalyan river, and I really found your article inspiring and I wan’t to say that I think you are a amazing writer. I hope to be as good a writer as you are one day. You really inspired me with your articles.


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