Patara (17 km, or 11 miles west of Kalkan by road on Turkey's Mediterranean coast (map), was a province in the Lycian kingdom dedicated to Apollo and eventually became part of the Roman province in 43 by merging with Pamphylia. While Patara always struggled with dunes and other natural forces, such as earthquakes, it was a rich port city with one of the first lighthouses in the world at the time. So, people from other civilizations would first travel to Patara to trade and recognize the city for its guidance in the sea.
However, throughout the years, Patara lost its importance, and there was only a small village left, called "Gelemiş," until a team of archaeologists excavated and discovered the ruins of the ancient Patara and Lycian League in 1988. Today, Patara's rich history is recognized by people, and the Patara beach, ruins of Patara, and most of the "Gelemiş" village are under protection. Also, some part of the beach is declared a protection zone for loggerhead sea turtles.
Also, did you know Patara is known as the birthplace of Santa Claus? You might be thinking, Santa Claus? Are you kidding? Not at all! Santa Claus, otherwise known as St. Nicholas, was born in Patara in the 3rd century and moved to Demre (Myra), where St. Nicholas became a bishop and did his many good works that shaped the legend and personality behind Santa Claus. (See the Demre page for more.)
What to Do in Patara
Patara Beach is 20 km (12 miles) long, 50 meters (yards) 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 is protected from heavy development. As a result, working on other projects is not so easy in Patara, preserving its timeless beauty.
Patara's small village (Gelemiş), 3.5 km (2.2 miles) south of the D400 coastal highway and west of Kalkan, is well-suited to low-budget travelers with numerous little pensions and simple hotels charging very reasonable rates for double rooms. If the beach has one drawback, it's that there are few trees and thus little shade, so be prepared to rent a sunbed and umbrella to avoid a day under the sun. The beach is not crowded, and the water is warm. You can also go to the northern part of the beach for an even quieter day. After a long day on the beach, you can visit the ruins of the Patara.
The Patara ruins are also very interesting on their own and attract people with great antiquity. Here, you can spot the ruins of city walls, an Agora, a sand-swept theater, a triple-arched triumphal gate (believed to be the entrance of the city), a necropolis (cemetery) with Lycian tombs, a ruined basilica, a public bath, and the base of a lighthouse, among others. Who knows if there are hidden categories of ruins left under the dunes of Patara and if the list might expand in the future?
Transportation to Patara Beach
Getting to Patara Beach is very simple. Any bus will drop you off on the Kaş highway at Ovaköy, whence it's a 3.5-km (2-mile) taxi ride (or hitch) to the village that's officially named Gelemiş, but which everyone calls Patara. After getting off the bus, using a car or a taxi is the best way to get to Patara Beach.
If you want to access the ruins of the Patara, it is also very straightforward. The ruins of ancient Patara are a further 1.5 km (1 mile) south of the village, and the beach is yet another kilometer (about half a mile) through the ruins. So, after you get to Gelemiş village, you can reach the ruins first and the beach after, just by walking.
Distances & Travel Times
Antalya: 376 km (234 miles via coast) NE, 8.75 hours
Dalaman Airport: 120 km (75 miles) NW, 2 hours
Demre (Myra): 90 km (56 miles) E, 2 hours
Fethiye: 81 km (50 miles) NW, 1.75 hours
Kalkan: 15 km (9 miles) E, 25 minutes
Kaş: 45 km (28 miles) E, 1 hour
Marmaris: 251 km (156 miles) NW, 4.75 hours
Travel to Patara Beach
Patara Beach is a great destination if you want to enjoy the hot Mediterranean Sea and ruins left from ancient times on a one-day trip, except for the winter months, which are the low season for Patara and most coastal cities in Turkey.
However, if you ever get a chance to visit the Mediterranean region in the summer, don't miss out on the beauty and simplicity of Patara Beach.