The Turquoise Coast : Places to Explore


Olympos and Çiralı

Olympos and its "sister" towns, Çiralı and Adrasan are places unique on the Turquoise Riviera for their natural beauty, ancient ruins, low-rise development, and easygoing culture that mixes international backpackers, ecologically sensitive Turks, and European intellectuals. All three towns are also next to some of the best day walks on the Lycian Way, though the Olympos ruins are the main event in the area. All three are accessed via a secondary road, parallel to the highway.

The ancient city of Olympos is named after a nearby peak that towers above the mountain range behind the beach.

A lovely 500-yard walk through the overgrown site gives access to one end of the long sand-and-pebble beach, still unspoiled and backed by an amazing amphitheater of pine-clad mountains. The sights can be seen in a day, but the natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere can prove addictive. One of the hotels has a slogan: "Come for a day, stay for a week," and it's surprising how often that happens. Olympos is, perhaps, a little too beautiful for its own good: it's popular with backpackers and younger Turks, and in summer it can get crowded and noisy, with loud discos at night. Out of season, it returns to bucolic tranquillity. There is a no-concrete rule for development in the region, so accommodation is mostly in wooden cabins, as well as Olympos's famous "tree houses," best described as basic cabins on stilts. A few miles inland, out of the gorge, is a collection of other pansiyons, which can be quieter and more upmarket. The nearby town of Çıralı shares the long gorgeous beach and caters more to families and those looking for something quieter; the pansiyons here are mostly wooden cabins among the fruit trees. There are few restaurants, and most lodgings include one meal.

The long Olympos beach extends to Çiralı and is one of the wonders of Turkey—not least for how it has managed to escape the ravages of industrial tourism. The beach is mostly smooth white and multicolored marble pebbles mixed with some light gray sand. Float out on your back and marvel at the 5-km (3-mi) sweep of beach, the line of fir trees behind it, and the surrounding amphitheater of mountains that includes the 8,000-foot peak of Mt. Olympos. Several restaurants along the beach front make great places to eat and while away an evening. Olympos and Çiralı are only separated by a short walk along the beach, but it's a long drive around the mountain.

About 10 mi from Olympos, between Kumluca and Olympos, Adrasan is a relaxed little town on a long beach, that's a world away from the flashy resort towns. Don't expect five-star hotels, gourmet restaurants, tour buses or touts, just a great stretch of rarely crowded beach and some decent family pansiyons. Boat tours that take you to swim in local coves set off from the beach each morning at about 10 and cost about $25 including lunch. A long, wonderful, and mostly forest-shaded day's walk along the Lycian Way will take you through forests over Mt. Musa to Olympos; another walk will take you to the lighthouse at the point of the Tekke Peninsula; another more difficult route takes seven or eight hours and goes around the peninsula to the wonderful lighthouse at Cape Gelidonya and to the small beach town of Karaöz. Take the official Lycian Way guide book (it comes with a map), adequate water, and preferably a guide for the often lonely pathways. Note that there is very limited public transport to Adrasan, so you're best off if you have a car.