On the Fethiye-Kalkan road, just ten kilometres before Kalkan, you take the turn for Patara-Gelemiş, driving for another six kilometres to get to the ancient city of Patara, with the Patara beach another kilometre further along.
The ancient city is four kilometres from the entrance of the village of Gelemiş. However, the ruins of Patara begin long before you get to the village. Among the ruins, which are believed to be from the necropolis, there are Lycian type tombs and Roman tomb monuments. Gelemiş is now a popular tourism village. The villagers, who used to be interested in agriculture, are now mostly running pensions, restaurants and shops that sell souvenirs and so forth.
Patara was one of the six cities of the Lycian Union, possibly one of the most important of them, and had the right to three votes. In history books it is written that most of the meetings of the Lycian Union were held in Patara.
The ancient city was called Pttara in the Lycian language and was known to exist in the 5th century BC. It was among the cities that Alexander the Great laid siege to.
According to the legend, the city of Patara was founded by the water nymph Lycia and the God Apollon’s son Patarus. Under Roman rule Patara was also one of the region’s most significant cities. The port of Patara played a major role in the storing and transporting of wheat. The city continued to develop in the Byzantine era and became an important centre for Christianity. It is also believed that Saint Nicholas, modernised as Santa Claus or Father Christmas, was born in Patara.
With the silting up of the port, boats had difficulty in entering and Patara lost its importance. The sand that was shifted by the winds not only affected the port but also covered the city. Some of the ruins still peak out from the sand as you pass.
Two kilometres after Gelemiş you will come across the most impressive of the remains of the city, a Roman triumphal arch, built at the end of the 1st century AD. Among the other ruins you will see towards the hill are the baths, a Byzantine basilica and a Corinthian style temple. The theatre is on the side of the hill and most of it is covered by sand. On the hill top there is a Temple of Athena. The former port is now a wet land.
In order to prevent the sand shifting inland from Patara Beach barriers have been set up. Patara Beach is the longest and most impressive of the beaches in the area. It is 18 kilometres long and up to 300 metres wide. It has fine white sand, the sea is shallow for a long way out and the wind almost never stops, making it great for windsurfing.
Patara Beach has been listed as a natural protected area since sea turtles lay their eggs here.
There are two restaurants at the entrance area where the parking lot is located. As the sun burns down here and there is no shade around, do not forget to rent an umbrella at the entrance before lying on the beach.
Horse riding on the Patara Beach is also available. The tours include the channel area, the green valley, sand hills and the seaside. Throughout the trip you get to ride through ancient ruins, forests and valleys. Generally the early hours of the morning are the best time to go riding. Even if you might never have ridden a horse before do not worry, all necessary instructions are given at the horse farm before the tour starts. On the back of an educated and docile horse you become a master equestrian in a short time.