Olympos Ruins – Mystery And Haunting Beauty

Unlike our arrival at the ruins of Phaselis, there was no mistaking our approach to Olympos. We were sat right at the front of the boat on our gulet cruise and had sailed by all manner of all-inclusive resorts lining the beaches of Tekirova. Now, after a stretch of green-cliffed coastline, a curve of golden sand suddenly appeared from around a protruding rock face.

From our previous drive along the D400 from Antalya to Fethiye, we knew this must be Çıralı and, further along still, Olympos. We also already knew that from the D400, the approach road to the Olympos ruins plunges through dense lush forest and steep cliffs for a good few kilometres before eventually emerging at sea level, so we were hoping for a bit of a dramatic entrance from the Mediterranean, too.

Approach To Olympos By Gulet

Approaching Olympos on our gulet – dramatic beauty concealing ancient ruins

And that’s what we got! If you’re looking for ‘wow,’ anchoring a few metres west of the river mouth that divides the Olympos ruins, that are in turn hidden amongst thick foliage at the feet of sheer cliff faces… Yeah, get us over to that beach and into that there canyon-like valley!

Exploring The Olympos Ruins

Unlike at Phaselis, this time, a couple of the other guests on our gulet hopped into the dinghy with us. We took off towards the shoreline, running up onto the fine shingle of Olympos beach. Yes, that ‘golden sand’ we could see from the gulet as we were sailing along is, in fact, fine shingle. Deep shingle! It was a slightly painful (and pathetic) clamber across the beach to the river mouth and the entrance to the ruins on my part. But we got there, eventually.

Olympos Ruins In Antalya, Turkey

Olympos ruins – Stone, brick fragments from the Byzantine era, gushing waters

Olympos is always going to be a memorable one for us…and we’re far from finished with it yet. We had two hours for exploration of the Olympos ruins. But it’s not so much what you see whilst you explore, as what you feel, too. Olympos has an ethereal feel to it; you feel a little bit like you’re intruding on times that have been left concealed for centuries by earthquakes and the natural landscape.

Even now, in the 21st century, it’s no gentle stroll as you stride across stepping stones along streams, tramp over rubble, lift overhanging branches before ducking below and under them. And then, almost from nowhere, a Lycian rock tomb will appear before you.

Lycian Tombs Of The Olympos Ruins

Where did that come from? We felt like apologising for the intrusion

Maybe because it was the first week in October and approaching the end of the season, we had the Olympos ruins almost to ourselves. We certainly had no idea where the others from our gulet had wandered off to; we were on our own Lycian exploration and we were mesmerised with Olympos. Almost a feeling of, “Should we really be here?”

Significant City

Olympos was a significant city within the Lycian League and minted its own coins, so these Lycian tombs are those of important people within the city. And here we were, stumbling around in flip flops and sandals viewing what has only relatively recently been uncovered. We felt like apologising to the fragments, tombs and other ruins for our intrusion.

Tomb of Lyciarch, Olympos

It’s easy to miss significant Lycian tombs such as the tomb of Lyciarch

Detailed findings where archaeologists have evidently felt the need to have them further protected can be viewed as exhibits at Antalya Archaeological Museum. The tomb of Lyciarch Archepolis above, for example, had a third sarcophagus in the centre. That’s the sarcophagus of the Lyciarch himself, once head of the Lycian League. Get yourself off to the museum to try and see this (exhibits are rotated). And, while we do love Antalya museum, you also can’t beat mooching around the original homes of these ancient ruins.

Natural

And Olympos requires that you mooch! It’s not all neatly laid out for its visitors. The Olympos ruins are where they are, nature has done that…nature does! It’s crept and concealed and there’s clearly still much to be uncovered around here. The tombs in the above photo date from the 3rd Century AD and were only discovered in the 1990s by Antalya Museum. Olympos really is a fascinating and mysterious place to wander around…

Mosaics At Olympos Ruins

The building with mosaics – that’s its name!

The Building With Mosaics. Yes, that’s its inventive name on the various signposts which point you in directions here and there. We’d followed a narrow, shaded path along a stream to get there. The remnants of a stone hearth and large fragments of what were once clearly impressive mosaics. Now, they were partly camouflaged by moss and autumn leaves. Apparently, this was once a bishop’s residence…

Byzantine Ruins, Olympos, Turkey

Entry to this church is currently forbidden for safety reasons

And there is indeed a ruined church close by. As with the Xanthos ruins, the layers and crossovers of history are there for all to see. Hellenistic, Roman, Lycian, Byzantine…

More Secrets

But Olympos holds many more secrets, still waiting to be discovered by archaeologists.

Temple Doorway At Olympos Ruins, Turkey

Entrance to the temple at Olympos

As we continued our higgledy-piggledy route around the ruins of Olympos, we came across this entrance to a temple. We’re back at Roman times now in the 2nd Century AD and this is the only surviving section. It’s not known to which god the temple was dedicated, but an inscription tells us it was built during the reign of Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, in his honour.

Olympos Ruins In Antalya

Back to the main easier-to-walk-along path connecting the road to the sea

We spent around an hour exploring this side of the Olympos ruins. Over on the other side of the river, there is still much more to see. We’ll save that for another time though. This was all part of our gulet cruise experience. And, despite losing ourselves in the mystery of the ruins around here, reality had to kick back in, too.

Olympos Treehouses

We continued to walk towards the far end of the ruins where the car park is because we also had an emergency mission whilst in Olympos. It was our first full day on the gulet and we’d woken up in the morning, showered, got hold of the toothbrush…and…we’d forgotten the toothpaste! Disaster!

Knowing Olympos is famous for its treehouse accommodation, we hoped there would be a little market somewhere to help us out in our time of desperate need. Ahh, thank you Turkish entrepreneurship and the 21st century. At the car park entrance, there was our market – and our market sold toothpaste. Disaster averted!

Olympos On The Gulet Cruise

Looking back to our gület from amazing Olympos

Toothpaste safely in bag, we headed back along the path, past the wonderfully serene river mouth and onto the beach to wait for the dinghy back to our gulet. None of the others were back yet…it was hot and sunny…well, we just had to christen the calm seas of Olympos and go for a swim. Fabulous!

After an overnight stop in the bay at Adrasan, the following day was an early start for the long sail towards Demre. Next stop: Andriake Harbour, the Myra ruins and the Church of St. Nicholas.

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Comments

  1. BacktoBodrum says:

    Magical place – I still remember my first visit

  2. scousemouse says:

    Olympos is a wonderful place, we have stayed there (in the wonderful Saban Pansiyon) and also visted from Cirali some 10+ years ago before the undergrowth was cleared, now that really was a walk of discovery!

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