Great for: Ancient History, City Ruins, Nature, Rock Climbing, Camping
Tucked into a narrow shelf in the rugged mountains of Isparta are the remains of an unknown city that has become the summer escape for rockclimbers looking to get away from the summer heat. The combination of stunning views, ancient history, beautiful rock faces, and cooler weather make it a climber’s retreat.
According to the climbers we spoke to there are nearly 150 routes on the different rock faces at Kapıkaya. In 2014 the local government funded the bolting of routes, the crown jewel of which is the 200-metre ascent up the main peak dubbed ‘El Kapıdan’ for its similarity to the world’s best known climbing mountain: Yosemite’s El Capitan.
While historians have guessed at the name of the city (Sandallion, Minassos, or Tityassos), its identity remains a mystery. The name Kapıkaya, meaning “Door Rock” likely comes from one of the mountain peaks with a large cave opening into it. In the mouth of the cave is a set of steps, though exactly what role the cave played in the ancient city also remains a mystery. It may also come from the narrow opening between two of the summits that opens onto the ancient city.
Kapıkaya was a city of the Pisidians, a pre-Hellenistic people who took on Greek culture after the arrival of Alexander the Great, though it’s likely that the city wasnt built until sometime after Alexander the Great conquered the region in 333 BC. Sadly there is little remaining of ancient Kapıkaya apart from some wall sections, a few doorways, some niche carvings, and scattered foundations. While nothing is known about when the city was abandoned there is a cross-shaped foundation remaining from a Byzantine era church.
If you’re coming here to camp and climb, there is a good spring in the climbing area with clean fresh water though you’re going to need to bring the rest of your provisions.
How To Get There
The peaceful atmosphere of Kapıkaya is due to its relative remoteness. That being said, if you have a car that you’re willing to drive up somewhat rough gravel roads, its actually quite easy to get to.
For more about car rental and driving in Turkey make sure to read our full drivers guide.
Leaving Antalya head east on the D400 highway (Mersin-Antalya Road). Take your first left after the airport junction towards Isparta on the D685 (Isparta – Antalya Road). Stay on this road for about 90 kms (after about 80 kilometers or so you’ll actually be able to see the Kapıkaya cave in the mountain to your right if you know where to look), then turn to the right following the brown signs marked for Kapıkaya. Signage is unusually good though the drive up the mountain road can feel like it drags on a bit, especially once you’re on the gravel. Take your car up the gravel as far as you can, the road runs up to the spring, through a narrow opening in the rocks, and then back down to the ruins of the city itself.
Leave the city of Isparta using the D685 highway (Adnan Menderes Boulevard, which a few kilometers outside of the city turns into Ataturk street). Follow this for 20 kms, then turn left following the brown signs marked for Kapıkaya. From the turn off its another 10-11 kilometer drive on paved and gravel roads. Signage is unusually good though the drive up the mountain road can feel like it drags on a bit, especially once you’re on the gravel. Take your car up the gravel as far as you can, the road runs up to the spring, through a narrow opening in the rocks, and then back down to the ruins of the city itself.
Where To Stay
The local who is in charge of security lets climbers and hikers camp in the ruins of the city, apparently, they help keep treasure hunters and looters away.
There are pensions in the town of Ağlasun (34 kilometers away and home of the spectacular Sagalassos ruins), and plenty of hotel options in nearby Isparta (26 kms away).
Planning on visiting Kapıkaya? Make sure to check out what other sights are in the region!
Have any tips or info to add? Spot any mistakes? We’d love to hear about it.