The painted ceramics found in the acropolis prove that the city existed in the 5th century BC. Patara opened its doors to Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, thereby earning the status of an important harbor city and naval base of Lycia in Anatolia until it was silted up. The city flourished during the Roman period as well, and had a huge population. Being an important city, several Roman emperors visited the city, such as Vespasian and Hadrian together with his wife Sabina.
Patara is also the birthplace of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, but many people know him as Santa Claus. And Saint Paul stopped here during his third missionary journey. Therefore Patara became an important Christian center and a Titular see during the Byzantine period. The city lost its importance after 7th century AD with the continuous pirate attacks, the silting up of its harbor with sand, and diseasies.
When you arrive to the site, the triple gateway through which one enters Patara is thought to have been built in 100 AD. One of its most important buildings is the theater which was half buried in the sand before the rescue work done recently. The lighthouse is unearthed lately by Turkish archaeologists and is considered to be one of the world's oldest that have been discovered so far and that remained intact. The 12 meter (39 feet) high lighthouse was built in the 1st century AD under the reign of Roman emperor Nero.
There is also an interesting half-circle bouleterion (old parliament) that is excavated in the past years. Some other remains include the baths, necropolis, road sign, main avenue, temple, church and basilica. Many other buildings of the ancient city, including the temple of Apollo, are buried under the sand dunes and waiting to be discovered in future excavations.
Today, there is the longest sandy beach of Turkey in Patara, which is 12 km-long (7,5 miles).