2020 was declared the Year of Patara in Turkey by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Every year, the Ministry picks a different ancient city to highlight. Previously, the ancient cities of Troy and Göbeklitepe were selected respectively with the goal of drawing attention to Turkey’s cultural and historical values worldwide. Patara is unique for many reasons. Many people know it as the birthplace of Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas. But there is much more to this ancient city to explore. Let’s take a closer look together.

The first capital of the Lycian League in 168 BC and then the Lycian State in 43 AD, the ancient city of Patara is the only place in the Xanthos Valley that opens up to the Mediterranian Sea. This gave it a geographical advantage in ancient times that made it an important city in the region. Wheat from Anatolia would be shipped to Rome from this port. The Granarium (or Hadrian’s Granary) is one of the most popular remaining structures in Patara today. This is where the wheat was stored. The city was also a naval base for many years due to it’s unique location.

There are many more structures worth visiting in Patara, such as: the oldest surviving lighthouse in the world, the oldest democratic parliament building in the world, a large amphitheater that seats 5 thousand spectators, Turkish baths, the triumphal arch, the basilica, and various other temples.

As a final note on this fascinating location: Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, was actually born and raised in Patara. His grave and church are located in Demre where he was the bishop. Demre is around an hour or two away from Patara by car. But his childhood was spent walking the very streets you can visit in Patara, Antalya, Turkey today.

Here is an exclusive video of Patara’s Excavation Director Prof. Dr. Havva Işık talking about the ancient city as part of our Excavation Sites in 5 Questions series. Stay tuned for more!