Want to visit a site that has been inhabited by some of the earliest human communities? The site of Karain Cave has been occupied for thousands of years before the pyramids were even a thought! Recent archaeological excavations have revealed a plethora of stone and bone tools dating from the Middle Paleolithic Period (a section of the Stone Age).
You can visit Karain cave on a day excursion from Antalya in combination with the trek to the nearby ancient city of Termessos (map). Termessos is only a 30-minute drive away (~19 km/12 miles). If you fancy a little more hiking you can visit the Roman Road at Maximianupolis near the modern village of Kovanlık which is only a 30-minute drive away (~19 km/ 12 miles).
You can take a bus from the Antalya city center which will get you near the modern village of Yağcı (YAH-juh). Bus DC15 will take you to stop Karain Cd-1. From there it is quite a long walk so you can easily grab a cheap taxi to take you the rest of the way. You could also opt to hire a taxi for the whole adventure. You can also rent a car for an excursion and be able to visit other sites in the area as well.
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. The 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 and Karain Cave.
The road dead-ends at the archeological site, so you’ll know when you’ve arrived.
You can check the museum’s official website for more updated information or changes. From the archeological site, you will hike up a long path of stairs to reach the cave. The stairs are long, but easily climbable and have several benches to rest along the way.
The cavern entrance bears evidence of the archeologists’ excavation, still underway. (Artifacts found at Karain are in the Antalya Museum.) Recent excavations in 2019 uncovered a stone ax-head as well as multiple bones and stone tools. The niches in the walls also indicate that the site was still in use during the Classical Period.
Beyond the entrance are several large rooms with weirdly-shaped walls and ceilings, luridly lit by high-powered electric lights. Karain Cave is spooky, but fascinating.
While the cave contains a rich history and legacy, it is only a few rooms and you do not penetrate very deep into the mountain. Even more unfortunate are the markings which cover the walls from previous tourists who were not as respectful of the critical history of this important archaeological site.
As you explore the cavern, 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 a 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 a 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 parking lot 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.