Though there are other places in Turkey combining an ancient site and a beach, Olympos, and Cirali (or Çıralı in Turkish) are unique because of their incredibly romantic atmosphere and unrivaled natural setting. Visiting Cirali is the perfect escape from hectic schedules and noisy cities. Welcome to the ultimate cocktail of sea, sand, mountains, laid-back vibe and culture! Not to forget the adjacent eternal flames at Yanartaş, a natural phenomenon where dozens of flames burn from vents in the rocky surface of the mountain.
Olympos: almost a magical mystery tour
Olympos is located at the far end of Cirali beach. You can access the site on foot from the beach or by car at the other end of the Northern Necropolis street that follows the Olympos river to the beach. We love going against the grain, so since all tour buses use the road access, we decided to walk to Olympos along the beach, and work our way up to the other entrance. The whole visit felt like one long-stretched wow-effect. Though you will find explanatory boards near ruins and buildings, the site requires a bit of an effort to discover. You rarely have a general overview, trust your instincts, if something looks inviting or accessible, go and explore it! This impressive temple wall, for example, is hidden behind a small path, away from the main track. There are signs towards it, but they could easily be missed.
Water is present almost throughout the entire site. It adds softness and a wonderfully relaxing touch to it all; as if it makes the antique artifacts easier to absorb. In any case, the combination of sun-rays playing through the trees, their reflection in the water, and the omnipresence of the sea breeze make the whole experience utterly pleasant.
The setting of Olympos is so pretty that you almost forget that you are walking on ancient lands. And not just any classical soil; Olympos was a significant city and one of the six largest cities of the Lycian League along with Xanthos, Patara, Pınara, Tlos, and Myra. And if you take the time to wander around, you will not only see but also feel what this means. Indeed, Olympos has a bit of a mystical feel to it. The lack of a structured approach probably helps to enhance that feeling, but surely it is a combination of location, a variety of ruins and antiquities and the untouched natural surroundings. In short, Olympos is a deliciously enchanting site to discover! If you see a sign towards the building with the mosaics, follow it. The mosaics have been covered up to protect them, but you don’t want to miss out on the Alice in Wonderland scenery that awaits you.
Yanartaş, the eternal flames of the Chimaera
One thing that is on most tourists’ list when visiting Cirali is a hike up Olympos mountain towards Yanartaş. These flames inspired the Greek myth of Bellerophon and the Chimaera. We know that going to see the flames is a bucket-list experience for many people, but is it worth it? Well, the flames that escape from vents in the mountains’ surface issue from natural gas jets and differ in size. At night, people go and use them as campfires. Unfortunately, for some, that experience isn’t complete without playing loud music or any other action that deviates from the phenomenon itself.
Still, despite all that, paying the entrance fee and conquering the challenging number of hazardous steps up the mountain is worth it, if only to witness a natural marvel that has been happening for thousands of years. If you forget about other people, the flames are fascinating. They may not be worth a detour, but they are interesting enough if you are spending the night in Cirali. Or even better, go before dark to enjoy the area with far fewer people.
Things you need to know before visiting Çıralı, Olympos & Yanartaş
Cirali has only quite recently been added to the list of places to visit in Turkey. The access to the village is now a newly asphalted road. Olympos is accessible both from the road, which is approximately a 12km drive from Cirali or via a short walk on the beach. The site itself is on a relatively rough terrain so make sure to wear appropriate shoes instead of flipflops.
Olympos opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm in winter time, and 7 pm during summer time. There is an entrance fee to be paid.
The nearest airport is Antalya with regular connections to Istanbul airports and plenty of European cities. You’ll find cheap flight options here. We have a dedicated page with all you need to know about visa applications, transport, and more on a single page to help you prepare your trip to Turkey.
Where to stay
There are plenty of options in the many pensions in and around Cirali. Most pensions in Cirali have their sleeping accommodations and rooms in wooden bungalows or even tree-houses. We stayed at Lukkies Lodge and loved it so much we’ve decided to go back. It has all we look for in an accommodation: budget-friendly, quirky, and a natural setting. Oh yes, we almost forgot, they also serve some damn good coffee!
More things to do near Cirali, Olympos
If you are looking for an organized tour in the area, check out these ones: