The Mediterranean coast of Turkey has a marvelous collection of ancient ruins dotted along its jagged coastline. Most belonged to the Lycian empire including the ruins of Olympos, situated next to a hippy village of the same name, which is popular with back packers.
I wanted to visit the ruins, so considered an overnight stay in the rustic village boasting of unusual tree house hotels, basic and shared facilities, and low prices. I was however, travelling as a solo female who wanted privacy and modern hotel features, so instead, opted for the neighbouring village of Cirali, which shares a long beach with Olympos.
From there, it was a 3-kilometer walk, through the village, along the pebbly and sandy beach, then up to the ruins of Olympos, set a short distance back from the coastline.
With little knowledge of the Lycian empire, I was not expecting to see much because travel guides generally, overlook Olympos in favour of the UNESCO sites of Xanthos and Letoon, further up the coastline. I was pleasantly surprised though because Olympos appears more mystical and strangely supernatural, because of its setting in a dense forest.
Unfortunately, the forest also makes it hard to navigate around all excavated and randomly scattered landmarks and I now realize that I did not see them all. If you decide to visit, it is worth looking at the official map beforehand.
Historians are unsure of the exact date, when the city was founded; but they can verify, it dates from the Hellenistic period. As one of the six cities with voting power in the Lycian league, it had huge importance and status, but the position on the coastline, also left it vulnerable to attacks from pirates. A river running beside the ruins and into the sea is now filled with reeds, but during history, it was possible for large ships to sail inland on this waterway route.
Eventually the Lycian league was absorbed into the Roman Empire, and Olympos fell under their domain before being abandoned during the 15th century.
Tip : Keep an eye out for traces of Christian activity and architecture.
Sarcophagus of Captain Eudemos
Near the entrance, is an impressive sarcophagus that belonged to a sea faring man called Captain Eudemos. Little is known about him but he achieved a status of importance in this region. A ship symbol on the front represents the goddess Aphrodite whose main purpose was to protect sailors. The inscription above it reads…
“The ship sailed into harbor and anchored to leave no more,
As there was no longer any hope from the wind or daylight,
After the light carried by the dawn had left Captain Eudemos,
There buried the ship with a life as short as a day, like a broken wave.”
Further Exploration in the Antalya Region
I extended my stay in Cirali so I could visit other recommended ruins and attractions including the ancient city of Phaselis and the burning flames of Chimaera. All these are situated with the National Protected Park of Beydaglari that provides many opportunities for nature lovers in the theme of hiking, bird watching and the impressive view from Mount Tahtali. The Antalya museum in the city centre also displays ancient artefacts from Olympus.
How To Get There
The surrounding villages of Cirali and Olympos provide good accommodation but the ruins are still within close distance of all resorts in the Antalya region including Kemer and Demre.
If you are not an independent traveller, look at Antalya holidays with Thomas Cook but if you are, a coastal road trip of this region, is the best way to see the copious amounts of Lycian ruins, sandy beaches and scenic views.
Entrance Fee to Olympos: Three Turkish lira, rising to five Turkish lira if you enter via the coastal highway and also want access to the beach.