Pinara – Turkey - Atlas Obscura

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At this ancient settlement at the foot of Mount Babadağ, honeycomb tombs are carved into a round cliff. 


A veil of mystery surrounds the ancient settlement of Pinara. There are rare mentions of this location in recorded history.  One of the most reliable ones is that of Manecrates, a Lycian historian from the 4th century B.C., who reported that the town of Xanthos was experiencing overpopulation, and three settlements were under construction to help alleviate the problem. Another documented mention of Pinara relates that it fell to Alexander the Great in in 334 B.C.

What is special about Pinara is its remoteness. Climbing up the hill and following a dirt road, Pinara presents itself as a set of tombs carved into a round rocky cliff. The image of a honeycomb would not be out of place as a description of the site. At the base of the cliff is a grove with a number of tombs, including the so-called Royal Tomb, with carvings showing four urban settlements. The path through the grove leads to an amphitheater and an acropolis. Climbing up closer to the cliff is another level of ruins, including another acropolis, an agora some temples, and the public baths.

Some tombs exhibit scripts in Lycian and others are in Greek, testifying to the passing of civilizations.  Among the unusual features of Pinara are a heart-shaped pillar, and phalluses carved into blocks of rock used for construction, suggesting that perhaps phallic worship was practiced here. Throughout the acropolis are several sarcophagi in various degrees of neglect.

Know Before You Go

Public transport does not serve Pinara well.  It is possible to take a bus to the turn-off point at Minare, but it’s still a few kilometres to get to Pinara.  Taxis are available.  There is neither accommodation nor other facilities anywhere near Pinara, but it would make for a great camping trip.

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July 16, 2021

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