Ancient City of Kaunos

The ancient city of Kaunos Turkey was founded in the 9th century BC and has since become one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. Steeped in history and offering glimpses into a bygone era, a simple stroll around this historical city is enough to take your breath away.

Centuries ago, the city was the main trading port for Lycia and many artefacts and buildings still remain in pretty good condition. From the well-preserved theatre to the Roman baths and ancient churches, there's much to be explored when you visit Kaunos.

Kaunos is a unique ancient site because the area is largely untouched. You're free to roam around at your own pace and it's easy to imagine what life was like for the locals back in the 9th century. You can also book a private tour guide if you like, who will give you a detailed overview of the city and each of its ruins.

As you explore, you'll notice that wildlife often wanders through the site too. Don't be surprised if you spot a tortoise or goat minding their own business by the Roman baths or enjoying a mid-day nap in the shade of one of the crumbling stone walls.

History of Kaunos

Back in its prime, Kaunos was a Carian port on Lycia's border. Caunos was the founder of the city, who was fleeing from his family back in Crete because he fell in love with his twin sister, Byblis. So, the two ran off together. However, legend has it that only Caunos made it to Kaunos. His sister, feeling overwhelmed by it all, broke down in tears and is believed by many locals to have been transformed by water nymphs into a flowing spring.

Today, that spring is known as the Dalyan River. If we fast forward to around 540 BC, that's when the Persian general Harpagos conquered the land. However, he and the Persian rule was overthrown in 480 BC by the Greeks. Then, in the 4th century, Persian rule returned until Alexander the Great took over in 334 BC.

It soon became a port city until it was abandoned in 1500. It's believed that malaria was one of the main reasons why the locals left as well as the surrounding lands turning to marshland.

Exploring Kaunos

There's so much to see when you visit Kaunos that's it hard to know where to begin. It's best to just take your time so that you don't miss anything. The site sits 152 metres above sea level and once housed up to 5,000 people.

One of the first sites that people rush to see is the theatre, which has really done a good job of standing the test of time. You'll notice Roman characteristics to it with enough seating space for everyone in the city. The Roman baths are an interesting part of the city too and are thought to have been where locals would meet to socialise with each other.

When archaeologists first discovered the ancient baths, they also identified things like a sweating room, a cold pool, and even an exercise area.

Over on the western side of the harbour, you'll see the Lake of Leeches. Near that, is the ruins of the church which dates back to the 6th century. Further down the slope, you'll find the port agora, the nymphaeum, and the stoa. Again, it was another social meeting place and remains of bronze statues was also found here.

The temples are another popular attraction in Kaunos, featuring the remains of columns and obelisk symbols. Back when Kaunos was a vibrant city, the temples acted as the main place of worship. It's here that people came to worship Demeter, the fertility goddess. There were even annual festivals dedicated to her, where the local Kaunian women prayed for fruitful fertility. The other temple was built to honour Zeus and was made with a huge dome roof.

How to Get to Kaunos

You can visit Kaunos at any time of the year. The best way to visit the archaeological site is by boat from Dalyan. It takes around 15 minutes to travel down the channel towards Kaunos. Along the way, you'll see the mesmerising Kaunian rock-cut tombs, which includes carvings mimicking traditional Hellenistic temples.

Each one includes exquisite detail such as pillars, toothed friezes, and even palm trees. When you step off the boat, you'll need to follow the path to the site. Here, you'll have to buy an entrance ticket before you can enter

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