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PINARA

Pinara1The archaeological site at Pınara near Fethiye is something of a mystery, one of those sites that is neither well known nor frequently visited despite the fact that it sits in perfectly unspoilt mountainous surroundings.

Backstory

Pınara is one of those many ruinous places along the south coast of Turkey that were founded by the Lycians but even less is known about Pınara than about some of the other sites, although it was apparently founded to house the excess population from nearby Xanthos.

Eventually it became important enough to mint its own coins but by the time Alexander the Great came galloping through in 334 BC it was happy to surrender its independence.

For a century or so it was governed from Pergamum (modern Bergama) but from 133 BC it fell under the control of the Roman Empire. Several earthquakes are known to have battered the city but it soldiered on until the ninth century after which we hear no more about it.

Around the site

The road to Pınara is signposted six km off the main road from Fethiye to Eşen.

Up until that point the scenery is nothing much to write home about, but as the road passes through Minare, a scattered hamlet with a couple of seasonal restaurants, it starts to buck up considerably.

Then just after Minare the road takes a sharp turn left, sheds its tarmac and starts to zigzag up the hillside to the site with Crağus Dagı (Mt Crağus) looming straight ahead. If they can bring themselves to look up from the bends in the road, the more eagle-eyed will start to glimpse shelf-like openings in the soaring rockface that hint at what lies in wait.

The site at Pınara is not enclosed  although a ticket-selling custodian greets visitors during daylight hours.  Otherwise, there is almost no development here, a boon for those who prefer their ruins remote and romantically silent.

Just inside the gate a rusty arrow points to the left where a rough path winds round to a group of rock-cut tombs very like those at mobbed Myra.Pinara2

The tombs lurk within a grove of giant plane trees which shed their leaves in deep banks, making it hard to keep track of the path.  However, it’s worth persevering because one of the tombs (the so-called “Royal Tomb”) has faded carvings on its facade. Scholars interpret these as showing four walled cities and, perhaps, a religious procession.

With a bit of backtracking it’s possible to follow the path all the way round to the main part of the site. However,  this is a route best attempted only when wearing sturdy walking boots. 

Otherwise, the road continues straight on from the ticket office and, eventually, on the right you will see the neat semicircle of a small, grey-stone theatre, its tered seats virtually intact. Sitting on them, the residents of Pınara would have had a fine view of their city thrown in as a free backdrop to every performance.

On the left-hand side of the road a very overgrown path winds up through pine trees to the main part of the site. This is just a jumble of fallen masonry with the odd wall or column sticking up; the fact that very little of it has ever been conclusively identified is made obvious by the signboards which say only that one pile of fallen stones is the Roman agora and another the Roman odeon.

It's also possible to make out the stepped base of a small temple even though pine trees are pushing up through the stonework.

A little further into the site a huge oblong indentation in the rockface on the left suggests that work was started on something else and never finished.  Otherwise, the only other things that are easy for the lay visitor to decipher are the few scattered sarcophagi, the few rock-cut tombs, and, in the sides of the plateau straight ahead, what were probably the shelf-like burial places of the city’s less important residents (although how anyone ever got up there to build them remains a mystery).

That the details are missing is only likely to bother real Lycian addicts. For everyone else, the main pleasure of a visit to Pınara will probably be the rare opportunity to wander alone in such a beautiful spot, sharing the paths with yellow and zebra-striped butterflies, watching the grey-blue nuthatches flit from rock to rock, and listening to the whoosh of the wind in the trees, the whistling of the eagles circling the rocks, and the industrious cackling of the cicadas hidden inside the bark.

Sleeping

There is no accommodation in Eşen or Minare. Fethiye has hotels and pensions to suit all budgets.

Transport info

Pınara remains off the beaten track because it is a chore to get to without your own car.

To visit it by public transport, you first need to take a dolmuş from Fethiye to Eşen, a grim little town with an outsize Legoland mosque. There you may or may not be able to find a taxi (or something masquerading as a taxi) to run you up to the site.

There is another, much better way to get to Pınara which is not to arrive by vehicle at all but instead to walk there from Faralya, above Ölüdeniz. It’s a tough trek, up and over the mountains, but the super-fit can apparently do it in a five splendid hours. 

 

 

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