Day 6: Pydmai to Xanthos (including Letoon)

One of the compound dogs settled up next to our tent and “guarded” us all night, for which we treated him in the morning with a bit of leftover sausage. We enjoyed some homemade bread from one of the greenhouse workers who came with a small group to the restaurant for breakfast. Delicious…and why can’t we buy this honey-flavored heaven in stores?

We broke camp and walked up the 400 meters to the ruins at Pydmai. The fortress is an overgrown area that is confusing and we got lost. There are boulders and rocks everywhere and it is difficult to even see a path, much less follow it. After exploring for about an hour we followed the guidebook directions to go toward the sea and picked up the trail again.

The ruins are not well preserved, but we think that mostly because of the better-preserved ruins we saw later that day. Maybe not much work has been done on Pydmai? The fortress is big and overgrown and scattered with big stones, so you have to watch your footing in here.

Entry to Pydmai

We began following the train down and were disappointed to see trash. The trail from Pydmai toward Letoon is littered on both sides and flat. There isn’t much to see along the trail, though thankfully it is flat. We finally reached a junction with a road made entirely of red paving stones, and we lost the trail. The road looked new, and we wondered if it somehow obliterated the trail. After about 30 minutes of looking beyond the path and walking a bit up and down the road, we finally heard the faint sound of a call to prayer coming from the left. Since our next destination was a town with a mosque, we headed in that direction down the red road.

It’s frustrating to lose the path when you have no other option to find it without GPS. This is when it would be great to have an actual map to follow instead of relying on instructions and waymarks which are sometimes missing.

We soon arrived at the village of Kumluova, which is full of greenhouses. It was a Sunday when we arrived, and we saw several tractors go by with old men driving and old women holding sacks of groceries on the back. Sunday shopping day? Letoon is not a beautiful town by any stretch, but it has some of the friendliest people we’ve met so far. It also has a mosque where we filled up with water.

We stopped at a shop to buy some supplies and met a friendly clerk who took his vegetable scale down from the counter and set it on the ground. He motioned for Betsy to get on it, and she thought he was wondering how big her pack weighed. He shook his head and motioned for her to get on it again, and she finally did it. His eyes bugged out at the number, and he motioned for her to take off the pack. She did, and his eyes still bugged out at the number! Apparently we’re bigger than the average people here!

One of the drinks Turkish people like is called ayran. It’s a salted yogurt drink that is surprisingly refreshing on a hot day. We downed two of those and had some cookies at the table outside the shop before strapping our packs back on and heading to Letoon. We were not really expecting much after the morning’s disappointing walk, so when we rounded the corner and saw the ruins of Letoon we were blown away.

The ruins at Letoon are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it deserves that designation. The ruins are spectacular, and even more so because they are simply part of the village, just a few meters from the road.

LaToon theater

There is a temple to Leto and her son Artemis dating from the 6th century BCE, which was later turned into a Christian church. The amphitheater is reconstructed well enough that you can imagine enjoying a performance there today. The columns, boulders, and other building materials on display are incredible to see, and the French team leading the excavation has done an incredible amount of work here. It is well worth the small admission price to see it up close, and the ticket taker kindly offered to watch our packs for us so we could enjoy it more.

We left Letoon to make it to Xanthos for the night, really feeling wowed after seeing those ruins. The walk was slightly better, but still not great. The greenhouses are not beautiful and invite a certain amount of trash. But soon we arrived at Kinik, where we enjoyed a meal of döner with a Coca-Cola. It was really hot and the day was fading, so we decided to buy 2 cans of Efes beer and head up to Xanthos to find a camping spot for the night.

We climbed the hill for just 1 km before we saw the ruins of Xanthos. Just like Letoon, we were blown away. These are even more extensive ruins and better preserved. We climbed up to the top level of the amphitheater and sat drinking our cold beers as the afternoon call to prayer came wafting up from Kinik below. It was an incredible experience, the kind that gives you goosebumps and reminds you of how damn lucky you are.

Sitting in Xanthos theater

There was no hope of camping inside these magnificent ruins (confirmed by the friendly guard we asked on the way out…he told us we’d soon be woken by soldiers if we decided to pitch a tent), so we took the road around the hill and found camping in the pine trees just 30 minutes or so away. Our camp site allowed us a great view of the sun setting over the ruins of Xanthos and kept us on the Lycian Way path for the next day’s walk.

All in all, we’d rate today as a fairly boring walk interrupted by 3 magnificent sets of ruins. We’re so glad we got to see these, but if we had to do it again we’d probably skip the walk and spend more time at each site.

Sunset over Xanthos

Daily Stats

Where We Stayed

Camped about 30 minutes’ walk from Xanthos on the right side of the road in the pine trees.

Hours Walked

4:15 (not including time spent viewing the ruins)

Perks

All 3 ruins are great to see, though we’d pick Xanthos as the best preserved.

Problems

The walk was boring, which is not really a problem, but we did lose the marks on the red paved road just outside Kumluova. We’re beginning to realize GPS is probably more of a necessity than a luxury for this trail if you are camping, mainly because of the risk of running out of daylight as you waste time trying to find the trail. Also, Betsy’s air mattress has sprung a leak. We’re waking to air it up a couple of times in the night and wondering how we’ll find the leak to repair it.