This ancient site on the Med is being transformed for tourists – and locals aren’t happy

The Turkish government is planning to build toilets, cafés and changing rooms on the beaches of the ancient site of Phaselis

Liv Kelly
Written by
Liv Kelly
Contributing Writer
Phaselis, Turkey
Photograph: Shutterstock

The ancient city of Phaselis on Türkiye’s southern coast is widely considered a site of great archaeological importance and natural beauty. However, much to the dismay of locals, the Turkish government has decided to transform the area so it’s better suited to tourists. 

The construction of toilets, cafés and changing rooms is part of a plan to make Phaselis a holiday destination, but there has been extensive criticism of this idea, partly because the untouched archaeological heritage of the area is where its appeal lies in the first place. 

Türkiye is relying on tourism more than ever due to a precarious currency and growing inflation. The government reportedly spent only 60,000 Turkish lira (£1,700) on researching the archaeology of Phaselis last year, concluding the area was of little cultural value. 

The beaches, Alacasu and Bostanlık, are nestled on Türkiye’s southern stretch of coast on the Mediterranean and were part of a Greek and Roman settlement. A road that meanders through Alacasu is thought to have been trodden by the army of Alexander the Great, and Bostanlık Cove is a well-established haven for sea turtles. Who wouldn't want to protect that?!

There is a concern among archaeologists and others keen to protect Phaselis that the building of these tourist facilities sets a dangerous precedent for other culturally significant sites. The Unesco World Heritage site of Cappadocia recently had a road built through it, which was only approved by the culture ministry, and not Unesco itself. 

The ‘Don’t Touch Phaselis’ campaign, which is supported by World Wildlife Fund Türkiye, as well as many locals, successfully temporarily halted construction in June 2023. However, there are concerns that equipment has already damaged artefacts and the chronological layers of rock beneath the land. 

As a signatory of the Barcelona Convention, Türkiye is legally obliged to ensure the protection of its portion of the Mediterranean. Lots of other places in Europe are making an effort to protect their significant locations, so let’s hope that no unnecessary damage is done to the integrity of this valuable spot. 

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