Caunus visiting notes

Odysseus Cruising – Caunus visiting notes



Caunus can be visited as part of our itineraries as an optional excursion. One of the most interesting sites on the Turkish coast, with beautiful views, it was once famous as Mausolus’s easternmost stronghold and for its safe harbour in Greek, Roman and Early Christian times.

How to get there:

Caunus can only conveniently be reached via our gulet M/S ‘Odysseus’ as the site is set back from the coast and is accessible from the River Dalyan…

As the river is shallow and filled with banks of reeds, it is necessary to disembark from the gulet and travel up river on a shallow riverboat organised by our Captain. That will deposit you at a timber quayside after a pleasant sea and river-trip taking about 40 minutes.

On arrival you follow the path (5 minutes) to the ticket house and shop at the entrance to the site.  Just inside the entrance to the site on the left hand side are modern toilets.

Follow the wide rough path noting the acropolis on the hill (high city) to the right and the remains of the large harbour in the distance on the left.  At the division in the path, take the right fork and keep bearing right walking up hill towards the theatre which you can see ahead of you.


Take bottled water from the boat. You will see a small hut selling refreshments beyond the theatre with seats under a tree.

The main things to see at Caunus:

1.    The Romano-Greek Theatre. The original Greek Theatre follows the typical Hellenistic plan and is set against the hill at an angle of 27 degrees. The Roman additions were the stage buildings, the increased seating area above the circular walkway (diazoma) and the vaulted tunnels (vomitaria) by which you exit the theatre.  Very fine views from the seating area over the harbour to the south.

2.    The Circular Platform on the flat ground as you leave the theatre.  This is the base and foundation only of a building. What type of building it is is open for discussion, but architecturally is seems certainly to be the base of a circular columned temple from the Hellenistic period (4th Cent. BC). It is known as a ‘Tholos’, a rare type – the most famous one (which is half standing) is at Delphi and there is also the similar base of the Temple of Aphrodite at Cnidus. The base is finely made of dry joined white marble and the shadows of the round columns can be detected as well as the inscribed setting-out lines for the original columns.  It was located prominently so that it could be seen from all directions.

3.    The Early Christian Church which is unique on the coast, as it is a third generation design of an early church shorter in length and originally centred under a dome (long gone, but fragments of the pendentives remain so that we know it once had a dome).  This church is a prototype of the Eastern Christian Church’s excellent design. My estimate of the date is the 9th century BC.

4.    The Roman Bath. This bath is the best preserved example on the coast but sadly not all of it is open for visitors. You can visit the main space, the Caldarium, which was the hot room where perspiration was induced by steam, hot water or heated air.  The floor has collapsed into the large furnace room below. This large barrel-vaulted space, with a few signs of luxury, has three tall arched windows with splendid views of the harbour.  The plan of the baths is sophisticated and symmetrical and its several rooms include two tepidaria and one frigidarium with niches for statues (one was thought to be Mausolus) and a cold plunge bath; an important room.  The whole plan seems based on the Baths of Agrippa in Rome; sadly long gone but drawings by Palladio remain.

5.    The East-West paved road which crosses the terrace between the church and the bath which lead to the necropolis (the city of the dead).  This must be an earlier road than the church.

Time required

To explore these five major excavated ruins takes about 2½ hours.  If time is limited, leave the site from the point near the refreshments hut, taking the road down the valley, with the acropolis on your right, back to the river where you can arrange to rejoin your river-boat having previously arranged this with its captain, who will take you further up the river. Make sure you fork right as you approach the river.

If another 1½ hours can be afforded it is recommended to go down the hill from the old, very large terabinth (turpentine) tree close to the Roman Bath and walk to the harbour below. Further down the hill you can see:

6.     The Temple Terrace with round structure
7.     The Sacred Precinct of Apollo
8.     The Monument Area, bases with footprints
9.     The Harbour Agora, with a fine masonry Greek wall
10.   The Fountain Building, rather simple.

Afterwards return uphill to the hut and proceed downhill as noted above.

Note: it is possible to take a vehicle lift back down to the riverboat (payment required) which will then take you further up the river to view the six large rock-cut temple tombs near the town of Dalyan.  They are famous and remind people of Petra in Jordan.