Olympos and Çirali

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  • 1. Olympos

    Shaded by tall firs and amid flowering oleander bushes, the ruins are next to a river in a mountain gorge, so they're delightfully cool in summer, the perfect time to explore. Many tombs are scattered about the ancient city. In the center of the northern half of the site is the large cathedral complex, once the main temple, which includes a much-photographed, 18-foot-high gate dedicated to Marcus Aurelius in AD 171 and mistakenly referred to by signs as a temple. Note how some walls around the site have clearly been rebuilt in later centuries with narrow arrow slits. At the beach entrance is a poetic inscription on a sarcophagus in memory of an ancient ship's captain, along with a carving of his beached boat—not that different from today's gulets. From here you can also climb to a small acropolis and some medieval fortifications where citizens in ancient times would keep a lookout for ships and pirates. The southern side of the ancient city is best reached by crossing the riverbed (sometimes dry in summer) by the land-side ticket office and heading east toward the beach along a well-beaten path that starts with a remarkable row of tombs. Farther along are shipping quays, warehouses, and a gorgeously overgrown theater, some of which lie half-buried in what feels like the floor of a jungle. Farther south along the beach are the walls of a medieval castle and church.

    Çirali, Antalya, 07350, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40
  • 2. Olympos Beach

    This 3-km (2-mile) swath, with a line of fir trees behind it and an amphitheater of mountains (including the 7,500-foot peak of Mt. Olympos/Tahtalı Dağı) surrounding it, is one of the wonders of Turkey. Although it has escaped the ravages of industrial tourism, there are several good beachfront restaurants where you can eat during the day or spend an evening. Keep an eye out for the nests of Caretta caretta turtles, who regularly lay their eggs on the beach. The surface here consists mostly of smooth white and multicolor pebbles mixed with some light gray sand, so prepare to recline on a lounger rather than a beach towel. Note that Olympos and Çıralı are separated by a 21-km (13-mile) drive around the mountain but only a short walk along the beach. If it's crowded near Olympos, stroll up toward Çıralı, where you're likely to find a patch of beach all to yourself, even in high season. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Çirali, Antalya, 07980, Turkey
  • 3. Chimaera

    At the far southern end of Çıralı, an evening scramble up a sometimes steep path will bring you to the Chimaera (Yanartaş in Turkish), named after the ferocious fire-breathing beast of legend. Flames can still be seen rising from cracks in the rock, apparently also burning the gas deep below, since they reignite even if covered. In times past, the flames were apparently even more vigorous, visible by sailors offshore, and the ruins of an ancient stone building can be seen near the flames. To reach the Chimaera, take either of the main roads to the end of Çıralı, and then head inland. If you're staying in Olympos it's a 7-km (4.5-mile), 90-minute walk, so you may want to drive or bike to the bottom of the hill, or take a tour, which most hotels in the area will arrange. You can see the flames in the day, but they're best at night. Bring a flashlight for all the stairs, since there's no lighting. In peak season, you'll need to choose between going as late as possible to avoid the crowds or in daylight so you can see the pretty mountainside.

    Yanartaş, Çirali, Antalya, 07980, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL10
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