Patara, Kalkan – Antalya – Turkey

GPS : 36°15’08.6″N 29°18’43.5″E / 36.252383, 29.312078

Patara Beach (Gelemiş Koyu), 17 km west of Kalkan by road on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, is known as the birthplace of Santa Claus, and also because of its l-o-n-g and uncrowded sand beach. St. Nicholas, was born in Patara in the 3rd century, and moved to Demre (Myra) where he became a bishop and did his many good works.

Patara beach is 18 km long, 50 meters wide, and never crowded, because the small village inland from the beach has only a few hundred tourist beds. The ruins of ancient Patara are just inland from the beach, and no big hotels can be built in an archeological zone, so the beach should be protected from heavy development. If the beach has one drawback, it’s that there are few trees and thus little shade, so be prepared for a day of sun.

Patara Ruins

GPS : 36°15’37.5″N 29°18’52.5″E / 36.260421, 29.314580

The Patara ruins are interesting: a sand-swept theater, a triple-arched triumphal gate, a necropolis (cemetery) with Lycian tombs, a ruined basilica and a public bath, among others. The ruins of ancient Patara are a further 1.5 km south of the village, and the beach yet another kilometer through the ruins.

Patara, on the coast 8 km south of Xanthos, can claim Turkey’s longest uninterrupted beach as well as a swag of atmospheric Lycian ruins. Just inland, 1.5 km from the beach and ruins, is the laid-back little village of Gelemiş. This is the perfect spot to mix ruin-rambling with some dedicated sun worship. Once very much on the hippy trail, Gelemiş is almost never filled with travellers these days – a miracle given its obvious charms – and traditional village life still goes on.

Backed by large sand dunes, this splendid, 18 km-long sandy beach is one of Turkey’s best. Due to its length, even in the height of summer you can find a quiet spot. Sun-shades and loungers can be rented and there’s a cafe for when you get peckish. Depending on the season, parts of the beach are off limits as it is an important nesting ground for sea turtles. It always closes at dusk and camping is prohibited.

Patara’s grand monuments lay scattered along the road to Patara Beach. The main section of ruins is dominated by the dilapidated 5000-seat theatre. Next door is the bouleuterion, ancient Patara’s parliament where it is believed members of the Lycian League met. It has been thoroughly restored, following a two-year reconstruction. The colonnaded street , with re-erected columns, runs north from here. This would have been Patara’s grandest boulevard, lined by shops and with the agora at its southern end.

Away from the main ruins there are plenty more remnants of Patara’s long history to fossick through. From the ticket booth, along the Gelemiş–Patara Beach road, you first pass by the 2nd-century triple-arched triumphal Arch of Modestus with a necropolis containing a number of Lycian tombs nearby. As you head along the road, next is a Harbour Baths complex and the remains of a Byzantine basilica before you arrive at the central section of ruins.

From the colonnaded street a dirt track leads to a lighthouse built by Emperor Nero that lays claim to being one of the three oldest lighthouses in the world. This is the area of the ancient harbour (now a reedy wetland) and is home to the enormous Granary of Hadrian , used to store cereals and olive oil, and a Corinthian-style temple-tomb .

Patara’s place in history is well documented. It was the birthplace of St Nicholas, the 4th-century Byzantine bishop of Myra who later passed into legend as Santa Claus. Before that, Patara was celebrated for its temple and oracle of Apollo, of which little remains. It was Lycia’s major port – which explains the large storage granary still standing. And according to Acts 21:1-2, Saints Paul and Luke changed boats here while on their third mission from Rhodes to Phoenicia.

Places of interest

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