Nestled amongst undisturbed white beaches and plush, tropical forest terrain, the trek to discover the ruins of ancient Olympos is an adventure in itself. Vibrant with wildlife and greenery the site, originally attracting exclusively backpackers, is now popular with couples and families alike.
History of Olympos
Dating back far into antiquity, Olympos had risen to prominence by at least the 2nd century BC, when it formed part of the important Lycian league. Later used as a base by powerful groups of pirates, Rome was forced to take the city in order to counter this threat. Olympos remained an active settlement throughout the Roman period but gradually declined thereafter and was abandoned entirely by the 15th century AD.
The ruins themselves are quite large and much of the original Lycian city remains. However, most of the ruins are Roman and there are remnants of a theatre, harbour, temple and roman baths. A particular highlight is the huge stone entrance gate dedicated to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius c172 AD during his campaigns in Germania and the Danube. Accents of Byzantine artwork also complete the visual journey through the site’s history.
One of the most important attractions of a trip to Olympos is to observe the natural gas-fuelled dancing flames that burn eternally on the nearby mountainside – Çakaltepe. Tales have attributed the phenomena to the myth of the Chimera and Homer’s Iliad depicts the creature as a fearsome beast of ‘race divine, made up of lion, dragon and of goat, her jaws emitting dreadful flames.’ Whether you believe the myth or not, the flames are a spectacular sight and well worth the visit.
Olympos was also the famed home of the renowned pirate Zeniketos who controlled much of the Lycian coastline. Its location meant the town became an important hub for piracy during the Graeco-Roman period and visitors can experience this through a visit into the caves to see Captain Eudomus’ sarcophagus.
Whilst travel guides generally overlook Olympos in favour of the UNESCO sites of Xanthos and Letoon further up the coast, Olympos’ setting in a dense forest makes it very atmospheric.
Getting to Olympos
Olympos shares a long beach with the neighbouring village of Cirali. From Cirali it’s a 1.8 mile walk through the village, along the beach and up to the ruins of Olympos – a short distance back from the coastline.
Many visitors arrive from Kaleici in Antalya, the historic Old Town quarter of the nearest large town. From here, Olympos is a 54 mile drive south (approximately 1 hour 20 minutes) along the D400 road. Alternatively, you can take a bus from Antalya to Kemer (42 minutes) and then a local taxi from there to Olympos, or a bus from Antalya to Kumluca (1 hour 22 minutes) and then a local taxi.