the ancient city
There are a lot to say about the ancient city KIBYRA. But briefly said, with its well-preserved monumental buildings & pearl-like artwork, KIBYRA is a unique, glorious, impressive yet hidden gem not only in ancient Anatolia but also in the World. In KIBYRA, you will find:
• one of the largest U-shaped stadia in ancient Anatolia with its capacity of around 12000-13000 people, its monumental portico, and section reserved for protocol uncommon in other such stadia,
• tombs of the gladiators who used to fight in this U-shaped Stadion during Roman Imperial Era, making the city also famous as “the city of Gladiators”
• one of the colossal Theaters in ancient Anatolia with a capacity of around 9000 people, which overlooks Golhisar district & lake (like the rest of the buildings in KIBYRA do as they all have unobstructed views thanks to the terraced layout of the ancient city)
• the largest Odeion known in the World with a capacity of around 3600 people, and at the same time the biggest building that used to have a roof in Anatolia which served also as Bouleuterion, hence combining judicial court, concert hall, covered theater & city council under one roof,
• a worldwide unique Medusa mosaic* in terms of size, color, and technique (i.e. built of thin, colored marble plaques cut in various geometric shapes & sizes with the “Opus Sectile” technique), which covers the entire floor of the orchestra section of the Odeion (* in mythology, Medusa - snake-haired, sharp-toothed female monster figure - is believed to turn malicious people who look into her eyes to stone. Every year, the mosaic is covered for a certain period of time for protection - see useful tips section below for details).
• the largest & most intact mosaic pavement in ancient Anatolia with an area of around 540 square meters stretching in front of the Odeion,
• a late Eastern Roman bath, an ancient Agora rising with three terraces, a Basilica, Necropolis, Gymnasium & more…
All in all, an ancient city that made to the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list in 2016, and still partly under excavation & believed to be included in the main list soon like Ephesus (KIBYRA sometimes also referred to as “Ephesus in the Med / South”).
Convinced yet to visit KIBYRA? The above is just the beginning…
Quick info about the ancient city KIBYRA
In the past before archaeological excavations began to uncover the ancient city KIBYRA during the late 80s, local people (i.e. our parents & grandparents) used to call the region where KIBYRA is located as “harabeler” (ruins). Even though there were plenty of stones & ruins around, the main components of the city like the Stadion, Odeion or Theater were not revealed.
Thanks to the careful work done formerly by Burdur Museum, and then by Professor Sukru Ozudogru of Mehmet Akif Ersoy University - head of KIBYRA excavations - along with his great team, we are now able to see & visit this ancient beauty.
Located at a hillside separated by steep cliffs near the small rural town “Golhisar” (meaning Lakecastle) of “Burdur” province in the southwest Turkiye, KIBYRA is a Lycian ancient city & archaeological site at the geographical & cultural crossroads of Lydia, Caria, Phrygia, and Pisidia. For the info, the region where Lycia was located is what is called "Teke Yoresi / Yarimadasi" (Teke Region / Peninsula of Turkiye) today.
While the history of KIBYRA (Cibyra, Cibyra Magna, Caesarea Kibyra) goes back to Early Iron Age - 8th Century BC, all the remains we see today are from Roman period & they are spread over an area of more than 500 hectares. While the centrum of the city is almost completely visible today, we still do not see the civilian parts. The good news is, excavations will start to continue throughout the entire year now.
Prior to Roman Empire & Lycia period, KIBYRA is also known to be the chief city of the district named Cibyratis - a tetrapolis comprised of the four neighboring towns Boubon, Balboura, Oinoanda, and Kibyra.
When you visit KIBYRA, you will already have the chance to discover this ancient beauty yourself (maybe with also some help from your local tour guide), and learn the rest of the fine details there.
Since you are on this page now & looking for handy tips, let’s move on.
Please scroll down to reveal what you need to know for the best KIBYRA visit experience…
When to visit KIBYRA, and some useful tips in preparing for your visit…
While the best time to visit KIBYRA is summer (June-Aug) period, it is also nice to be there in spring (Apr-May) or fall (Sep-Oct). Golhisar has a desert-dry climate (not so Mediterranean indeed) & even in summer, please note that it will be sizzling-hot during daytime & cold at night. The bottom line is, please have appropriate clothing with you :)
If you want to see Medusa mosaic in particular, please also note that the mosaic is covered for a certain period of time for protection. And the exact time it is covered depends mostly on weather conditions. But to be more precise, Medusa mosaic is typically open to visitors from mid-May till the end of September or - sometimes - October. We still advise that you check again prior to your planned visit date directly by reaching out to the ancient city entrance.
Since the ancient city is quite big & located at a hillside, you will be walking & climbing a lot, so make sure you wear appropriate walking shoes. Also, once you get to the ancient city, you will find no cafe / store around, so you might wish to carry a bottle of water (especially if you are visiting in the summer period).
If you come to the ancient city with a car, we recommend parking at the second (upper level) car park, and start your tour by seeing the Theater, Odeion, and Medusa Mosaic first, and then walk down to see Agora, Basilica, Stadion and other monuments of the city. If you take the opposite route, then you will get much more tired while discovering the city. In any case, though, you will need to walk back to your car (of course if it is not a self-driving one that can pick you up from the other car park ;))
Till June 2021, entrance to KIBYRA ancient city was free. As of June 2021, you need to pay 12.5 Turkish Lira for the ticket or you may enjoy a free entrance with your Museum Pass (link at the bottom of the site). However, none of the facilities like museum store, cafe, souvenir & local handicraft shops are open for the moment. When these facilities & maybe features like audio / video guides etc. get up-and-running in the near future (which we expect them to be there starting summer 2022), the entrance fee might change & we will update you on this page (or you might check here).
Credit card is accepted in most of the local stores, restaurants, cafes etc.; however, we suggest you still have some cash (either as exchange or in Turkish Lira) as there are also places in & around Golhisar where you will need to pay in cash.
220V / 50Hz sockets are used all across Turkiye, so if you are using a different type in your home country, you might need to bring a converter / adapter.
Last but not the least, Turkish people are famous with their hospitality, and locals in Golhisar are no exception. However, most of those local people (except people working in the ancient city museum) do not speak English (or any other foreign language), so you might wish to learn some essential Turkish words or consult an official tour guide (you may also contact us & we would be pleased to help, but do not forget, we are not official tour guides :)).
Welcome to discover KIBYRA & hope you enjoy your visit :)
Pack your bag & come discover
How to get to KIBYRA:
Antalya (AYT) & Dalaman (DLM) airports are the best options to get to KIBYRA. You will probably find a direct flight from your lovely home country / city to one of these two airports, or a connection through one of the two airports in Istanbul (IST or SAW).
You may search those options via Google Flights, Skyscanner or the flight booking site of your preference, but if you still ask for an airline advice, we would suggest Turkish Airlines for one of the best flying experiences up in the sky :)
If you are not traveling with an official KIBYRA tour, you may rent a car upon your arrival to drive to Golhisar (around 2-2.5 hrs of ride from both airports). Just to note, you will not be looking for a car in Golhisar, since it is a relatively small town such that you will be able to walk to most of the places (you can walk the city from end-to-end in 30 minutes). But if you will visit, say, nearby villages or extend your travel to cover other attractions in Lycian world as mentioned below, then it is better to have a car.
The other option - again if you are not traveling with a tour group where the transfers are prearranged - is public transport. From Antalya & Fethiye bus stations (Fethiye is the closest point to Dalaman airport for Golhisar transfer), there are midibuses coming directly to Golhisar (3-4 departures per day from / to Golhisar, you may find the exact schedule here), and the journey lasts for nearly 3 hours from both locations (meanwhile, you also have Denizli Cardak & Burdur - Isparta Suleyman Demirel airport options, and midibuses coming from Denizli, Isparta & Burdur to Golhisar; however, we think you will possibly arrive at Dalaman or Antalya via an international flight). But just to note, you may find these journeys not super comfortable. If you take the public transport option, you will also need to travel between the airport & bus station, again with a city coach, or more probably (and also comfortably yet costly) with a cab.
Long story short; cost, time & comfort-wise, we still recommend renting a car or to register to an official KIBYRA tour for local transport needs during your visit.
What to see / do around KIBYRA
Obviously, visiting the ancient city would be your primary objective. Yet, there are many more to see / do around KIBYRA.
When you finish your ancient city tour, you can climb up more to proceed to "Bogrudelik Yaylasi" (Bogrudelik Plateau) instead of coming down to Golhisar centrum. "Bogrudelik Yaylasi" is where we have family picnics, drink the cold spring water coming out of "Toroslar" (Taurus Mountains), fill our lungs with enough oxygen, and enjoy the spectacular view of Golhisar town, Golhisar lake & its surroundings. Why don't you do the same & enjoy? And if you are confident enough in your hiking skills, you may even continue to climb till you reach "Koca Yayla" (Grand Plateau) where you will find a beautiful lake (lake sometimes not there though due to the lack of sufficient rain & snow) & some livestock breeders around. The snow part of "Kar Serbeti" (you will see below in "eating & drinking" section) is produced here in snow wells at "Koca Yayla". During your climb, you will also come across some direction signs pointing a longer trekking track.
When you come back to Golhisar centrum, you can take a walk & maybe some photos especially in the old neighborshoods of Golhisar; e.g. Konak & Horzum neighborhoods where more of a rural lifestyle is still dominant. A similar neighborhood you might visit is Yusufca, but its location is separated from the main town & you will need to drive 5 min (the road is not so suitable for walking).
You are lucky if you come across a traditional "Teke Yoresi" wedding. Indeed, during summer period, you can encounter three of them every single day, and you will notice them for sure when you hear the sound of "davul & "sipsi" accompanying the rhythmic folk dance ("Teke Zortlatmasi", "Teke Zeybegi / Tungume"). A traditional wedding lasts three days in Golhisar, and you may simply come & join anytime. All you need is to salute & congratulate. You don't need to know those people or buy a gift, and they will still offer you the traditional wedding meal (let the content of it be a surprise for you now :)).
If you will be there on a Saturday, you are even more lucky because you may then visit "Golhisar Pazari" (Golhisar Bazaar). Farmers from villages surrounding Golhisar bring their fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy & livestock products to sell in this bazaar, in addition to a variety of other commodities. The prices are almost always low as there is plenty of everything (supply-demand curve, you know!). Until recent years before the spread of supermarkets, this bazaar was the primary source for food, apparel & other basic needs (it is still very active by the way). And shopping in this bazaar is not just a commercial activity but also a means of socializing for local people (e.g. chatting with your relatives or neighbors while wandering around, drinking "Kar Serbeti" as a group after shopping, see "eating & drinking" section below).
Close to Golhisar (15km away), you might also see Golhisar Lake (which gave the town its name) & beautiful small villages surrounding the lake – Yamadi, Uylupinar, Hisarardi, Kargali, and Karapinar. You can also visit Camkoy (5 more minutes after you pass Yusufca) or Ibecik villages (30km to Golhisar). In Ibecik, you may also see Boubon ancient city ruins - part of the Cibyratis tetrapolis.
Another one of your options is to drive to Burdur province 100 km away from Golhisar & visit Burdur Archaelogical Museum where findings from KIBYRA excavations including gladiator friezes are exhibited among some 60000 historical pieces. And close to Burdur (40km away) lies another ancient beauty that you might also visit - "Sagalassos", one of the best preserved cities in ancient Anatolia...
You can also drive north to Yesilova town of Burdur to see the tremendous "Salda Lake", part of "Goller Yoresi" (Turkish Lakes Region) that also includes Burdur, Acigol, Beysehir & Egirdir lakes. Being one of the deepest lakes in Turkiye, Lake Salda is also referred to as the "Maldives of Turkiye" with its clean, clear & turquoise water. Recently, NASA has also announced that there are geological similarities between Lake Salda & the surface of planet Mars.
Finally, we think what brings you to KIBYRA might also take you to the rest of the ancient cities lying along the famous "Lycian Way" - the 540km long trekking track stretching from Antalya on the east to the Gulf of Fethiye on the west. Phaselis, Olympos, Myra, Xanthos-Letoon, Patara, Kaunos are only some of those ancient cities. And if you can make to them, you might enjoy the beaches & Mediterranean sunshine at the nearby towns including Kemer (Antalya), Cirali, Finike, Demre, Kas, Kalkan, Fethiye, Gocek, Dalaman, Sarigerme, and Dalyan, as well.
Should you stay in KIBYRA
Well, actually no need to stay overnight in Golhisar if you just plan to visit KIBYRA ancient city & move on. But if you want to add a couple of more venues as mentioned above to your KIBYRA visit, then you may consider staying. There aren't plenty of accommodation options, though.
You would need one day (including walking, meals etc.) for an in-depth visit to discover KIBYRA ancient city, and another one or maximum two would be enough for sightseeing in & around Golhisar (e.g. Golhisar lake & surrounding villages, Golhisar Bazaar etc., please refer to the above section).
What to eat & drink around KIBYRA
Now we are talking ;) We believe eating & drinking is a big part of the joy in life. And here is some gastro info covering the must-tastes during your Kibyra visit:
During your tour at the ancient city, it is very likely that you will be thirsty (especially if you are visiting in summer). Eating "Kar Serbeti" (Snow Sherbet / Sorbet) after your tour would be the perfect recipe for your thirst. You will notice a number of peddlers selling "Kar Serbeti" around the city (e.g. in Saturday Bazaar, around city square - the Republic Square, and also in Bogrudelik Plateau during summer).
You hungry? Time for lunch or dinner then, and you should taste "Burdur Sis" (Burdur Shish) if you are not a vegetarian. You will notice a number of "Burdur Sis" restaurants spread around Golhisar town. Most "sis" restaurants serve six "sis" on one serving, but if you are so hungry, you may order one & a half servings to get nine "sis" & more pita on your plate (meanwhile, do not worry about the starters, most restaurants will offer you some without any need to order). For drinks, on the other hand, since "sis" restaurants do not serve any alcohol, you may order some soft drinks or Turkish "Ayran" - a blend of yoghurt, water & salt.
Done with the main course? How about a dessert then? After enjoying "Burdur Sis", you may also order "Kabak Tatlisi" (Pumpkin Dessert) in the same restaurant (most "sis" restaurants have them both). Depending on your preference, it is served either with "Tahin" (tahini) or "Kaymak" (cream) on top together with a sprinkle of "Rendelenmis Ceviz" (planed walnut).
In Turkiye, a delicious meal is almost always complete with a Turkish coffee or tea afterwards, and most restaurants will offer you one after meal for free. But in Golhisar, you have a third alternative which is "Corek Otu Kahvesi" (Black Cumin Coffee). You may find it in some local cafes or tearooms (typically you will not be able to find it in "Sis" restaurants).
We believe the above would be the perfect sequence & do not forget: this quadruple can only be found together in KIBYRA - Golhisar on the planet :)
If you have more time to taste local food other than the above, we may also suggest "Sac Kavurma" (Roasted Cubed Meat). You can find it at various "Kavurma" restaurants in Golhisar.
And if you travel to Dirmil (Altinyayla) - another small town 20km away from Golhisar - you may also try "Dirmil Kebabi" (Dirmil Kebab). By the way, Balboura ancient city ruins - part of the Cibyratis tetrapolis - is also close to Dirmil, so you may visit Balboura once you go to Dirmil, as well.
Apart from the above, "Keci Peyniri" (Goat Cheese) & "Koyun Yogurdu" (Sheep Yogurt) are two frequently consumed local tastes in Golhisar. You might wish to try them, as well; however, we should say that both have a very strong & characteristic taste.
Finally, "Etli As", "Katik" & "Yepinti" are other very traditional local tastes still being produced by some of the local people during certain periods of the year. However, you can't find them in restaurants. You may ask your guide or local people around whether there is a chance to taste them.
Snow Sherbet / Sorbet
frozen with grape juice / molasses
thin lamb meatballs (shish) served on delicious warm & soft pita
slices of pumpkin dessert served with "Tahin" (tahini) or "Kaymak" (cream) on top with a sprinkle of "rendelenmis ceviz" (paned walnut)
Black Cumin Coffee
Roasted Cubed Meat
Looking for a souvenir to remind you your visit, or maybe a gift?
What to buy before you leave KIBYRA
If you want to take away something local for your beloved ones or maybe for yourself, packaged "Ceviz Ezmesi" (walnut paste) & bottled "Zafer Gazoz" (Zafer soda) might be your alternatives. By the way, you might also wish to taste them during your visit as dessert & drink alternatives, and you may find them at local markets or groceries & gift shops.
Moreover, we assume there will be plenty of souvenirs available once the museum store at the entrance of KIBYRA ancient city opens.
in glass bottle
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About Us & What We Are Aiming to Achieve
We - owners of discover.KIBYRA portal - are originally from Golhisar. So being truly local, we know the city & the region from end-to-end.
In year 2012, while KIBYRA excavations were underway, we made a decision to open up a portal in order to contribute into the introduction of this ancient beauty together with local motives & tastes to the world: we registered discoverkibyra.com domain.
We wanted to use our local know-how to make people around the world interested in culture tourism & archaeology come & discover KIBYRA, and to help them enjoy the best KIBYRA visit experience.
Moreover, we thought that in the long-run, local craftspeople would also benefit from the increased global awareness about KIBYRA with the help of a possible boost in visitors traffic.
In short, we care about history, culture, and the ancient city KIBYRA, we care about people around the world who plan to visit KIBYRA, and we care about our local community currently living there at the land of our ancestors.
And if discover.KIBYRA portal helps all three, we would be more than happy :)