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Relaxing Olympos: Ruins and Eternal Flames

More Adventure travel tales in Turkey:
Sultanahmet in Istanbul
Gulet Cruise
Selçuk and Ephesus
Other East European Tales:
Vilnius, Lithuania
Cesky Krumlov, Bohemia
Budapest, Hungary
Brasov, Romania
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Ruins of the sea harbour of Olympos

Instead of ugly, big, expensive Antalya, we decide to choose quiet, relaxed Olympos to enjoy the beach in Southern Turkey. Here are also old ruins to be explored and… the eternal flames.

Tree huts

Although we booked a direct bus connection, we have to transfer at Antalya’s bus station. The little van is stacked full and then we wind through the mountains, to be dropped off at the exit of the road to Olympos. Yet another van will have to take us for the last part. Finally, we make the hairpin descends to the sea.

We arrive at Turkmen tree houses, where we are offered a good deal: a tree hut including breakfast and dinner for 9 million Lira (around 6 Euro) per person. The tree hut is very simple, but it has a good mattress, so what else do we want?

Lycian city

Ruins of the Lycian city OlymposPresent day Olympos is not much more than a single lane with pensions offering tree huts to backpackers. At the end of the lane is the entrance to the ruins. In the period around the year 1000 before Christ Olympos was one of the 6 major Lycian cities. Lycia was a mainly independent country in southern Turley. Although it had many Greek influences, it was never conquered by the Greek or Roman empire, as opposed to the rest of Turkey.

To get to the beach, we have to pass the ruins. An admission ticket is therefore valid for multiple days. The first time we pass, we just have a quick look at the piles of stones. It doesn’t seem like a big city to us. Only along the small river are some walls still erect. The river itself, once a waterway including a sea harbour, is not much more than a stream now.

Later, we take more time to explore the ruins. And wandering off in the forest, we find more and more remains. We identify a theatre, bathing house, a few temples, a house with a nice mosaic floor, an irrigation channel, an acropolis (town on a hill), necropolis (town for the dead), and a lot of unidentified houses. We like especially the fact that it is all surrounded by forests, which makes it nice to explore.

The Beach

Passing through the ruins, we finally reach the beach. It is located at a nice bay, and some sea yachts are anchored here. We make a stroll along the beach, which is not deserted, despite the low season. In summer, it is probably packed with tourists, most of them staying in nearby, more luxurious Çirali.

Returning to the tree huts, we take a beer at the relaxing pavilions. We meet other travellers and enjoy a good meal. Since there is also a camp fire, we stay up late and have a great, relaxing time with our new friends. This is the backpacking scene as it’s supposed to be.

Eternal Flame

Eternal flames at Mount OlymposOn nearby mount Olympos, there are supposed to be eternal flames issuing from the ground. Fed by natural gas boiling up from the mountain, the fire burns for over a 1000 years, serving as a early day lighthouse in the past. Olympos, with its harbour, was founded on this spot for that particular reason.

We join an organised trip to bring us in the evening to the mountain. A minivan brings us up via the hairpins, down again into another valley, and up again. We are probably only a few kilometres away from Olympos as the crow flies, but we have spent 45 minutes to come here. Only to have to climb the rest of the mountain ourselves. The first stretch is fairly easy, with manmade steps, but the last part is a bit tough.

After 20 minutes of climbing, we finally reach the fire. Or in fact, the fires. At different locations on the mountain fires rise up from the mountain. They look like camp fires, without having to feed them with wood. It’s an odd sight, which we are trying to enjoy quietly. Unfortunately, some of the participants on the tour are trying to have a party instead. They could have stayed at home for that. Nevertheless, the trip was very worthwhile.

Olympos has almost all that we desire. In the summer, it is probably too crowded, but the lovely mood at the tree huts will not be spoiled by that. The ruins and the eternal flames may suffer from it, as we already notices at mount Olympos. But if it wasn’t for the backpacker cruise leaving the next day, we would definitely have stayed longer.

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