The ancient site of Letoon lies 4 km south of Xanthos and was the leading Lycian religious center. The principal deities of ancient Lycia were Leto and her twin offspring, Artemis and Apollo. Letoon was a sacred cult center and venue for Lycian national festivals, administered by Xanthos rather than a city in its own right. It was also the assembly place for the Lycian League.
Archaeological finds date back to the 7th century BCE. Alexander the Great received a prophecy here according to which he was destined to destroy the Persian Empire. In 88 BCE Mithridates VI of Pontus rebelled against Rome, besieged nearby Patara and started to cut down a grove of sacred trees at Letoon to use as siege engines.
Letoon remained a religious center well into the 5th century AD when a church was built at the site, doubtless to hasten the Christianization of the local population. The area by the sacred spring was lain out during the Classical Period and three temples were built in the names of Apollo, Artemis and Leto.
Lycians came to the Letoon religious complex along a sacred way to worship Apollo, Leto and Artemis in temples erected on podiums. To the west the largest and best preserved is the 3rd century BCE temple of Leto (30 x 16 m) surrounded by Ionic columns. The temple of Leto was built of fine, clear colored limestone. An Ionic portico surrounded the cella, which was decorated with a Corinthian colonnade. The Artemis temple in the middle was the oldest (early 4th century BCE) and smallest (18 x 9 m) with the north part of the structure incorporated into a large rock and rough stone blocks.
The Doric 4th century BCE temple of Apollo to the east was almost the same size (28 x 15 m) as the temple of Leto and decorated with half-columns. During excavations a remarkable mosaic was unearthed depicting a bow and quiver, a rosette and a lyre, attributes of Apollo. To the south-west of the temples was a large 3rd century BCE nymphaeum with a semi-circular pool. A sacred spring supplied water to the nymphaeum and the pool was used for religious ceremonies.
Further to the north of the complex is the 2nd century BCE Hellenistic theatre built into the hillside. This theatre was used to hold religious performances for pilgrims from the entire region. The entrance is decorated with a row of sixteen carved theatrical masks, including Dionysus and Silenus.
The archaeological site is open to visitors daily, in summer season (April-October) from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, and in winter (November-March) from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. The ticket costs 5 TL.
By car: The site of Letoon is easy to reach via a good and well-signposted road via the main road 400 from Kinik to Kalkan. One can park the car at the entrance of the site where you have to buy a ticket. Cafés and restaurants are in Kalkan or in Kinik.