Karain Cave, Antalya, Turkey

Imagine a place that has been inhabited for more than 25,000 years. That would be Karain Cave, north of Antalya on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

Not impressed? Well, most of the happenings in the Biblewere no more than 3000 years ago. The Egyptian pyramids on the Nile were built a mere 5000 years ago.

Very few places on this planet have been inhabited for more than a few millennia. Karain has been continuously inhabited for twenty-five of them!

You can visit Karain cave on a day-excursion from Antalya in combination with the trek to nearby Termessos (map), and if you move right along, you can be back in the city for a late lunch and an afternoon swim.

On the Burdur-Korkuteli highway north of Antalya, the road to Karain is a right turn opposite the left turn to Termessos (map). Watch for the signs.

The narrow road wanders through farming villages and the town of Çığlık (CHUH-luhk, where you can buy drinks and snacks), narrowing in some places to one lane. Signage is barely adequate, but you should make it the 12 km (7.5 miles) from the Burdur-Korkuteli highway to the village of Yağcı (YAH-juh) and Karain Cave.

The road dead-ends at the archeological site, so you’ll know when you’ve arrived.

The cave is open every day, April through October from 09:00 am to 19:00 (7 pm), and November through Marchfrom 08:30 am to 17:00 (5 pm). Pay your smalladmission fee, then begin the steep, hot climb up the rough rock path and many steps to the cave, high on the mountainside. (At the age of 66, it took me 15 minutes to make the climb.)

The cavern entrance bears evidence of the archeologists’ excavation, still under way. (Artifacts found at Karain are in the Antalya Museum.)

Beyond the entrance are several large rooms with weirdly-shaped walls and ceilings, luridly lit by high-powered electric lights. High on one pillar, someone has carved a face that looks somewhat like a tribute to Atatürk.

Karain Cave is spooky, but fascinating.

You don’t really penetrate very far into the cave. It’s only a few large rooms.

Feeling the coolness inside the cave, it begins to dawn on you how people could have lived here for millennia, all the way up to the 1700s AD:

Temperatures in the cave remained moderate in the heat of summer and the chill of winter (as the Antalya region has a moderate climate); and winters here are mild.

—Much of the time they would have lived outdoors, using the cave for storage, protection from rain, and sanctuary in time of attack.

—The well-watered plain below must have furnished plentiful nuts, berries and game to early hunter-gatherers and, later, crops to primitive farmers. Indeed, the plain is still rich farming country tilled by Turkish farmers.

—The cave’s location high on the steep mountainside is excellent for defense: some enemies would simply not have noticed it, and others could be sent rolling down the jagged limestone face fairly easily.

It doesn’t take long to visit the cave interior, after which the trek back to the museum takes less time than the ascent, for sure.

If you have not yet visited nearby Termessos, that should be your next stop. In any case, backtrack to the Burdur-Korkuteli-Antalya highway, no matter where you’re headed next.

Karain Mağarası
Yağca Köyü, Antalya
c/o Antalya Müzesi
[email protected]
Tel: +90 (242) 238 5688
Fax: +90 (242) 238 5687

—by Tom Brosnahan


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