This article has been previously published as a part of book Antalya, Side and Alanya: TAN Travel Guide by Izabela Miszczak
It is difficult to suppress an ironic smile when, in answer to the question of the biggest tourist attractions near Alanya, you hear "Pamukkale and Cappadocia". While these two places are undeniably attractive, they are located hundreds of kilometres away from Alanya. Meanwhile, near the famous holiday resorts on the Mediterranean coast, there are many interesting places with a long history. Probably almost everyone has heard of Aspendos, some - about Selge or Perge, but who has ever heard of Iotape?
Almost nothing is known about the history of Iotape. The most important information concerning this city is connected with its establishment by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the last king of Commagene from the Armenian Orontid Dynasty. This ruler reigned from 38 to 72 CE, so Iotape developed in the first century CE. The name Iotape comes from the name of the wife of Antiochus IV, Iotapa (gr. Ἰωτάπη), who was also the sister of the ruler. This situation was completely normal in those days, as the parents of Antiochus and Iotapa were also siblings.
It is also known that the city Iotape was mentioned by several writers of the ancient period, including by Claudius Ptolemy - a geographer and astronomer, active in the 2nd century CE, and by Hierocles - a Byzantine geographer, who in the 6th century CE drew up a list of all the cities of the empire. In the Roman period - from the reign of Emperor Trajan to Valerian I (i.e. from the beginning of the 2nd century CE to the middle of the 3rd century CE) - the city minted its coins. Currently, Iotape is known to locals as Aitape or Aidap. Both of these terms are distorted versions of the original name of the city.
Iotape area is now cut into two parts by the road that runs across the ancient ruins. The most prominent monuments are located just off the coast, on a small promontory, on which the acropolis hill was located. Nowadays this is the place where most traces of ancient structures are still visible, including walls and roads that led to the harbour, located in the bay east of the promontory.
Next to the harbour road, there are some bases of the statues which once adorned it. The surviving inscriptions inform that these monuments were made for famous sportsmen and notable citizens.
On the other side of the cove, also just off the coast, stand the remains of an administrative building and a bath, with a preserved sewerage system. There are also the ruins of a Byzantine church, in the form of a three-aisled basilica. On its walls traces of frescoes decorating the interior are visible. Right next to the road today there are the ruins of a temple dedicated to Emperor Trajan.
Opposite the promontory, across the modern road, among the hills and modern buildings, you can find ruined houses and a church from the Byzantine period. Iotape necropolis is located a little further to the south-east, on the landward side of the road. In the area of the ancient cemetery, there are several monumental tombs and many smaller tombs covered with barreled vaults.
The ruins of Iotape are not fenced or guarded, and the access is free of charge. They are situated on both sides of the road, and in order to see some structures more closely, it is necessary to descend towards the sea or climb uphill. We recommend extreme caution during the exploration - the area is not prepared for visitors, lies next to a cliff, and the paths are overgrown with bushes and shrubbery.
By car: Iotape is located between Alanya (36 km to the west) and Gazipaşa (10 km to the east). The main road linking these cities (D400 route) in this area runs to some distance from the coast, so in order to get to Iotape it is necessary to take the old coastal road. The eastern turn-off is located 4 km west of Gazipaşa, and the coastal road connects with D400 route 25 km east of Alanya. Both crossroads are signposted, but it is easy to miss the right turn-off.