Kaunos was another ancient town, but again special due to the famous temple tombs cut into the rock cliff and the delta of the river Kaunos below them. We had waited a day to have good weather, which certainly had paid off.

Temple tombs cut into the cliff

Kaunos was probably founded as early as the 9th or 8th century BC, most likely by local Carians. From the 5th century BC onwards, it gradually took on the characteristics of a Greek city, before becoming Romanised along with all of Asia Minor. Its existence as a settlement lasted at least until the 7th century AD.

The town of Dalyan provides numerous boats for all the tourists

From Dalyan we took a boat for a special winter price to take us through the delta to the turtle beach at the sea and to the ancient town of Kaunos on the other side of the river.

Our boat and captain
Cruising down the Kaunos river
First glimpse of the temple tombs

These stunning rock-cut temple tombs were built high into the cliff-side above the river. Clustered in two main groups, they are the most elaborate graves of the Kaunian necropolis, dating to the mid-4th century BC, supposedly the burial places of local royalty or aristocracy.

Unfinished temple tomb

Of special interest is the largest one, which was clearly never completed. What remains of it illustrates how they were hewn out of the cliff from the top down, first as a rough shape, with details to be finished later.


In antiquity, Kaunos was a port town set by the side of a large open bay. It had two harbours, one enclosed, the other more open. That setting is now unrecognisable: already in antiquity, the ongoing deposition of sediment by the Dalyan River led to a gradual silting-up of the bay and the formation of a delta, eventually making the harbours inaccessible to any but the most shallow-bottomed boats.

That same process led to Ephesus’ abandonment as it is now several kilometres inland separated from the sea by dry land. At Kaunos, the silting-up is still ongoing, and can thus be appreciated as a natural process. What used to be Kaunos Bay is a vast swamp, a sea of reeds, traversed by multiple branches of the Dalyan River and set off from the sea by a pristine sandy beach known to be a nesting place of the caretta caretta or loggerhead sea turtle which still lays their eggs at this beach.

Reaching Iztuzu beach
Where to go next?
Empty winter beach
White heron
Green dwarf

On our way back through the delta, we stopped at the ancient town of Kaunos, which has a couple of interesting remains rediscovered during the years.

Entrance to the theatre

The theatre of Kaunos, typically built into a natural hollow in the upper part of the city, is an especially fine and near-complete example, with a well-preserved auditorium that once fitted 5,000 people or more. The foundations of the stage structure can also be made out. Particularly impressive is the enormous, vaulted staircase that gives access to the theatre from the heart of the city.

Theatre row with backrest
Kaunos’ new inhabitants

The early Byzantine church from 500 AD is a remarkably complete remains of a typical tripe-aisled basilica, lacking little more than its roofs and dome, and including a transversal narthex and a side chapel with mosaics.

Such basilicas were a very typical element of religious architecture in the recently Christianised Roman/Byzantine Empire. There are other remains of churches of this time, but usually they are preserved to the height of your ankles, sometimes your knees, rarely your shoulders. Therefore, the Kaunos basilica is a true treasure.
Mosaic floor of the chapel
Flower of the Day

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