A few weeks ago, we drove about an hour outside of Fethiye to an open air museum at the ancient settlement of Letoon. Although the site is relatively small, archaeologists have determined that Letoon was one of the most important political and religious sites in the Lycian League. Except for the attendant at the entrance, we were the only people on site. A friendly kangal-type dog acted as our tour guide, accompanying us around all of the ruins – which took about an hour.

An overview of the ruins at Letoon open air museum

Click to expand.

Ancient Letoon

Letoon was a place where the ruling powers shared major political and religious decisions to the Lycian citizens, rather than a regular city where people lived. Important announcements were carved into rocks and tablets and displayed for all to see. A trilingual (Lycian, Aramaic, and ancient Greek) monument dating to 337 BC explaining the basic rules within the region has given researchers insight into the Lycian language. The monument is now located in the archaeology museum in Fethiye.

Ancient Greek characters carved on a stone column

Click to expand.

The cities of nearby Xanthos (which we'll write about soon) and Letoon were closely linked, and Xanthos is probably where people went about their daily lives. The two sites were connected by a road (referred to as the Sacred Way) and, combined, were included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in 1988.

Letoon was abandoned in the 7th century. It was left to ruin until it was "re-discovered" in 1840 by British archaeologist Charles Fellowes - who fortunately, didn't plunder the site and steal the best artifacts as he did in so many other historic places in Turkey. Many of the Letoon finds are now housed in the Fethiye Archaeology Museum to protect them from the elements and looters.

The Letoon site is surrounded by citrus orchards and green houses, indicative of the exceptionally fertile alluvial soil deposited over time by the nearby Eşen River. It is still an active archaeological site, but excavation is often hampered by the high water table in the area. Flooding is not uncommon.

The Letoon Ruins

Features on site include:

Stone theatre at Letoon

Click to expand.

Partially restored Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Leto

Click to expand.

Mosaic triptych of lyre, bow and arrow, and sun rosette representing the god Apollo on the floor of a temple at Letoon, Turkey

Click to expand.

Ruins of the stoa and portico at the archaeological site Letoon

Click to expand.

Remains of a ruined Byzantine era stone church

Click to expand.

One of the unusual things we noticed while visiting Letoon was the scarcity of tombs. (Most historic sites we visit are filled with them!) We spotted a few, including one featuring lions' heads carved on the top of the sarcophagus, but Xanthos is home to significantly more.

Head of a roaring lion carved on the lid of a stone sarcophagus

Click to expand.

Visiting Letoon

Entrance Fees

Entrance to the site is 15tl (2021 prices) or, because Letoon is part of the Turkish government's network of museums, presentation of a Muze Kart.

Entrance kiosk and parking lot at Letoon open air museum

Click to expand.

Getting to Letoon

Letoon is easily accessible as a day trip from Fethiye, Kalkan, or Kaş. There is plenty of free, on-site parking.


A cobble-stoned walk runs from one end of the site to the other, making it fairly easy to navigate by all.

Cobble-stoned sidewalk winding through the historic site of ancient Letoon

Click to expand.

But the best viewing is possible by veering off the walkway onto narrow gravelled paths - which is allowed, because there are openings in the gates and signage amongst the ruined buildings throughout the site. (The only place that was marked as "off-limits" during our visit was the sacred fountain area, which was flooded due to recent rain.)

Sources Accessed for this Article