Telmessos antique city was the most important site of Lycia geographical region in Turkey. The modern city Fethiye is located on the ruins of the antique city Telmessos with a history dating back to 5th century BC. The tiny islands scattered over the gulf, which in antiquity was known as the gulf of Glaukos after the famous Lycian general who fought in the Trojan wars, resemble pearls strung around the neck of a young bride. So we invite you to join us on a tour of this beautiful place.
Boarding a boat in Fethiye harbor, one can head out of the bay, across whose mouth lies Sovalye Island, leaving only two channels at the east and west extremities. The narrow eastern channel is too shallow for large boats and ships, which have to use the western channel. In many cases, the same advantages which attracted the people of antiquity to a particular spot are still valid today, which is why contemporary towns and cities in Turkey are so often built on or near ancient cities.
This is the case with Sovalye Island, whose many summer villas share the island with the ruins of late Roman walls, cisterns, and churches.
The name Sovalye, meaning cavalier or knight, derives from the fact that in the Middle Ages knights turned pirate made their base here at various times. Some early writers also refer to the island as Megri Island, after the ancient name for Fethiye.
Leaving the island behind, the route continues by heading out into the gulf to Kizil Ada or Red Island, with its steep shores. There is no trace of an ancient settlement on this island, where the only inhabitants today are the lighthouse keeper and his family. The group of rocky islets just to the north are collectively known as Tavsan Adasi or Rabbit Island. Next stop to the north to Katranci Adasi which lies close to the shore opposite the mouth of the Kargi river. Ancient geographers refer to this island as Telandria, and it is thought that there was a port of the same name on the mainland.
The tour boats also take visitors to the bay known as Cleopatra's Bath on the Kapidag Peninsula, where history and natural beauty are inseparably intertwined. Subsidence of the land over the centuries has resulted in buildings that were originally on the shore being submerged, and it is these 6th century AD ruins which have been given the romantic name of Cleopatra's Bath.
At the northern extremity of the gulf, facing the village of Gocek, is the eponymous island of Gocek, a group of islands known as Yassicalar Islands and Haci Halil Island. Apart from a handful of summer houses and a few stalls selling food to people touring the gulf by yacht, these are all uninhabited. Some Byzantine ruins can be seen on Gocek and Haci Halil islands, and in Sarisu Bay on the east side of the former are the ruins of a 7th-century church. The remains of numerous Byzantine churches on the islands and shores of the gulf, and along the coast to the east mark the places where pilgrims to the Holy Land halted on their voyage through the Mediterranean in medieval times.
The largest island in the gulf is Tersane Adasi, where on the shores of the northwest bay are ruins including a watchtower and a mausoleum in a better state of preservation. Other more recent buildings belong to the former Greek settlement.
To the south is Domuz Adasi or Pig Island, which from a distance appears to be joined to the Kapidag Peninsula at the south-west extremity of the gulf, but is in fact divided from the mainland by a narrow channel. On the eastern shore of the island is a ruined building dating from the late Roman period which has been badly damaged by winter seas over the centuries. Around 200 meters to the south of this is a church thought to date from the 12th century. Its position on the slightly higher ground means that it has been protected from waves and its walls are still standing intact.
Outside the Gulf of Fethiye is Gemiler Adasi (Island of Ships), which is within easy reach and well worth visiting. Ruins indicate that this island had a large population in ancient times. It was formerly known as Keklik or Partridge Island.
The ruins include four large churches, many cisterns, mausoleums, and storage buildings on the shore, showing that it was both a religious and commercial center.
This spectacularly lovely gulf with its fascinating traces of ancient and medieval history is a favorite yachting destination, and can equally be enjoyed as a day trip when staying in this area.
If you wish to enjoy a special route around Fethiye and the islands; please have a glance at our private gulet cruises list.