The Magic of Olympos (Olimpos)

I haven’t done a travel post in a while, since I am focusing on the college admissions ones these days. So, I noticed I have a huge backlog of travel posts that just need to be put out there. Plus, I noticed my home page looks a little boring without some new photos on there. So, I am going to break the rhythm a little bit and write about Olympos (Olimpos).

The South-western coast of Turkey is jam-packed with ancient cities that will satisfy any history-buffs idea of a dream vacation. And for regular tourists, it adds to the charm to a Mediterranean vacation.  Just a 2-hr drive from Antalya, Olympos is a very comfortable day trip. It was a part at one point or the other of the Lycian, Hellenistic and Roman empires, and features all their influences. I was first drawn to it when I was researching day trips from Antalya and came across some ethereal photos of Olympos.  Since then, I have been dying to go, but we did not manage to fit it in the last trip to Antalya. We finally managed this time.

The drive from Antalya was beautiful, as we drove along the coastline, and through the surrounding mountains.  About half an hour after passing the entry for Mount Olympos, we finally reached the turn-off down to Olympos, the city. Be careful when driving, since the road down is very steep, hilly and with dozens of twists and turns. And it is in quite bad shape, with many potholes. But it is all worth it, when you finally reach the bottom and have to cross two streams before reaching the ruins. Somehow that just adds to the adventure of these ruins.

In the rainy season, or when the snow from the mountains melts, I am sure these two streams become rivers. But we went to Olympos in the winter, and we crossed the first stream without a thought. The second stream was a little more of a challenge. The locals usually recommend parking the car just before the second stream, and then walking the rest of the way, since the stream can increase in size during the time you are walking around the ruins. We ignored the warnings (since it meant walking through the stream) and drove directly to the entrance of the ruins. I don’t know how smart that was, since, on the way back, the car in front of us stalled halfway out of the stream. My husband managed to drive around the stalled car and get out, with some smart driving, but we had a few tense minutes there.

When you park the car to buy the tickets (3 Lira each, when we were there), take a minute to look around. You will notice that the ruins have already started around you. We were famished from our drive, so after entering the ruins, we stopped at a small farm-like restaurant for some spinach and cheese Goezleme. They were fresh and delicious with a glass of hot Turkish tea. When leaving, the owner allowed us to pick some complimentary oranges from his trees, so we could snack on them later on.

We then started walking along the stream we had crossed multiple times before, to see it turn into the main pier of the ancient city of Olympos. On the way, we passed many turn-offs into the ruins, most of which were hidden inside the forest.

The Olympos Pier heading away from the beach

And then we came to the point where the stream, which is more of a channel by now, flows into the Mediterranean Sea. It took my breath away. It was even more ethereal than I had seen in the photos, and I have not been able to capture even a fraction of what it looks like in the one below. The green of the river mixing with the blue of the ocean, created a mix of colours that was stunning to behold, especially in the beautiful setting of the forested hills and ruins around us.

The Channel waters running into the sea

I could have stayed there for days. What more could a person ask for? Even if you are not an artist, the Muses would inspire you here. There was a vast stunning beach in front of us, with white sands and aquamarine waters, an ancient city hidden in a forest behind us, and Mount Olympos looming far above us. I wish we had decided to come here for a few days rather than just for day trip. I couldn’t imagine a better place to write my book.

The Beach with ruins in the background

The vast Olympos Beach, with Mount Olympos in the background hidden behind the clouds

Unfortunately, we still had to drive back to Antalya to return the borrowed car, so my husband had to peel me away so we could go explore the ruins. I definitely plan to return to this hidden city in the next couple of years so I can enjoy it at my leisure.

Just a point to note, based on the photos I have seen on Tripadvisor, spring to autumn months are quite crowded on this beach. If you are heading to Olympos for inspiration, go in the winter, when you will have the beach all to yourself, as we did, barring one couple and a lone backpacker.

With barely a tourist around, we felt very adventurous wading through the forest to discover the ancient ruins of this Lycian city. If it were not for the occasional signposts, we could have imagined we were the first to stumble on to these ruins. I suggest having a good pair of trekking shoes on when visiting the ruins, so that you can wander off the beaten path and explore at your will.

Following the ancient water system to the hidden ruins of Olympos

One of many gates into the ancient city of Olympos

Wooden Bridge in the hidden city

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This entry was published on August 9, 2012 at 4:32 am. It’s filed under Europe, History, travel, Turkey, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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