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Olympos Ruins, Antalya – A Guide To The Ancient City

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For many of our first few years of living in Fethiye, Olympos in the Antalya Province was a bit of a holy grail that we were in search of.

Two gülets in the sea in front of the steep cliffs of Olympos.
Approaching Olympos by gület – dramatic beauty concealing ancient ruins

It was that place where the travelling backpackers (many of them Aussies and Kiwis) hopped onto a gület in Fethiye harbour and took off to sail to Olympos over the course of 3 days.

An area of real natural beauty; the next stop on the established backpacker trail.

We wanted to sail to Olympos, too.

Arriving by sea to the ruins of a city that has been there since ancient times.

What else did we know about this destination we so much wanted to see?

No big plush hotels, here.

A bohemian vibe where those staying around for at least a night or two sleep in treehouse accommodations and relax in the local bars.

A place where people chill out on Olympos Beach and swim in the calm, crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

A portrait image of Olympos Beach. Mountains are in the background and a few people are standing in the calm sea.
Natural beauty of Olympos Beach

Where the eternal flameChimaera – entices hikers to clamber up the rocks of nearby Yanartaş to witness the phenomenon.

To piece together a bit of ancient history – and Greek myth – of this area, Chimaera was a fire-breathing monster with the head of a lion. The monster was tamed by Bellerophon and his winged horse, Pegasus.

And today, if you want to see the tomb of Bellerophon, just head along the road from Fethiye to another prominent site of ancient Lycia; the ancient site of Tlos.

As for the monster, Chimaera, legend has it that those flames are his breath.

Obviously, the flames are formed by the escaping of natural gases. But a good old Greek myth is much more enchanting.

And, of course, there’s also nearby Mount Olympos – modern day Tahtalı Dağı.

At 3,916 metres, the highest mountain of the Beydağları range.

Today, unless you’re hiking along the Lycian Way or taking part in the gruelling Turkish running event, Tahtalı Run To Sky, a cable car – the Olympos Teleferik – will take you to the top of this famous mountain, should you so wish.

We did eventually have our dream come true – arriving by gület to the magnificent Olympos coastline.

We’d just explored nearby ancient Phaselis. But here, just a few kilometres further along the Turquoise Coast, the scenery was more dramatic, brooding, beautiful.

A perfect place for nature lovers.

From the sea, we could see the long stretch of golden beach backed by rocky cliffs and dense forest.

If, like us, you arrive by gület or via one of the boat tours, you’ll soon realise that the golden sandy beach of Olympos is in fact a fine shingle and pebble beach.

Deep shingle!

You’ll need to negotiate this to get to the river mouth and the entrance to the archaeological site.

It’s only a short walk but progress is quite slow. We got there, eventually.

A stream runs down through trees and ruined walls.
Olympos ruins – Stone, brick fragments from the Byzantine era, gushing waters of the river valley

Olympos is always going to be a memorable one for us. And we’re far from finished with it yet.

We’ve never stayed overnight so there’s so much more to experience of this; one of the country’s most beautiful places.

When we were there, 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.

The ancient city of 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.

A damaged but almost complete Lycian rock tomb.
Where did that come from? We felt like apologising for the intrusion

Maybe because it was the first week in October and we were outside of high season, we had the Olympos ruins almost to ourselves.

We were on our own Lycian exploration and we were mesmerised with Olympos.

Almost a feeling of, “Should we really be here?”

Olympos was an important Lycian city within the Lycian League and minted its own coins.

Archaeologists have found Lycian League coins from the 2nd Century BC.

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, ancient 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 and dates from the Roman period; 3rd Century AD.

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.

And Olympos requires that you mooch!

Unlike a lot of other archaeological sites in Turkey, the ruins of Olympos are not all neatly laid out for its visitors.

As you clamber around, it’s really not clear what the layout of the settlement was.

The Olympos ruins are where they are.

Nature has done that.

It’s crept and concealed and there’s clearly still much to be uncovered around here.

The 3rd Century AD tombs in the above photo were only discovered in the 1990s by Antalya Museum.

Olympos really is a fascinating and mysterious place to wander around.

Fragment of mosaic flooring have a lght covering of moss.
The building with mosaics – that’s its name!

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.

And in the photo below, we see what was a bishop’s residence of the Middle Ages.

A ruined Byzantine church.
Entry to this church is currently forbidden for safety reasons

And there is indeed a ruined Byzantine era church close by.

As with the Xanthos ruins, the layers and crossovers of history are there for all to see.

Hellenistic, Roman, Lycian, Byzantine.

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

A quite intact temple gate of Olympos.
The temple gate 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.

Wooden scaffolding sıpports an ancient stone archway.
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.

We continued to walk towards the far end of the ruins where the car park is to check out the practical facilities for visitors.

Knowing Olympos is famous for its treehouse accommodation, we thought there would be at least a little market.

At the car park entrance and ticket office, there was our market.

A market selling the basic essentials you would expect if you were setting off around the ruins or spending a night or few in the treehouses.

A calm lagoon with a stretch of beach in the distance and two gülets anchored along the shoreline.
Looking back to our gület from Olympos ancient city

We headed back along the path, past the wonderfully serene river mouth and onto the stretch of long beach to wait for the dinghy back to our gület.

It was hot and sunny…

Well, we just had to christen the calm seas of Olympos – our maiden voyage to this area of the Mediterranean coast of Turkey – and go for a swim.


Where is Olympos ancient city?

Olympos is in the Kumluca District of the Antalya Province (see map above).

The site lies just off the D400 main highway that follows the Mediterranean coast. Look for the brown signposts.

If you are driving, there is amazing scenery and archaeological sites galore along the coastal D400 road between Antalya and Fethiye.

Can I get to Olympos by public transport?

The nearest airport to Olympos is Antalya Airport. From here, you can get a tram to the otogar (Antalya bus station).

Pass the intercity buses area and go to the platforms from where the local public buses leave. The Olympos bus will drop you at the top of the road (Olympos Kavşağı) and then the shuttle bus will take you down into the valley.

There is also a dolmuş service from Kemer which goes along the same road.

What is the entrance fee to the Olympos ruins?

If you want to vitis the Olympos ruins, entrance fee to the archaeological site is 10 Euros (2024).

The site is open daily from 08:00-21:00 (check on the official müze website for any changes to closing times and prices before you visit).

Give yourself at least two hours to fully appreciate the ruins.

Is Olympos Beach sandy?

The beach is a mix of pebble, shingle and sand – and that makes for stunningly clear waters.

Note that the beach is a protected area and is a nesting zone for sea turtles (Caretta Caretta).

As such, there are no beach facilities such as sun loungers or parasols.

Is there accommodation at Olympos?

Olympos is famous for its treehouse bungalows and bohemian vibe – and lively bars.

It’s advisable to book ahead in high season; especially on summer weekends.

If you prefer more conventional hotel accommodation, check out neighbouring Çiralı which is one of the popular seaside resorts in the area and has access to the same beach.

Are there other things to do in Olympos?

As well as the Olympos ruins and beach, the area is famous for the Chimera flames.

This is Lycian Way territory and there are lots of hikes to do as well as rock climbing.

Take the cable car to the top of Tahtalı Dağı (Mount Olympos) or take a 20 minute drive to nearby beautiful Adrasan Beach.

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Sunday 16th of April 2017

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!

Turkey's For Life

Wednesday 3rd of May 2017

Thanks for your comment, scousemouse. :) We really loved Olympos and keep saying we'll get back there sometime. Hopefully, 2017... :)


Monday 9th of November 2015

Magical place - I still remember my first visit

Turkey's For Life

Tuesday 10th of November 2015

Definitely the Olympos ruins are magical, BacktoBodrum. Can't wait to go back to that area and spend some more time there to really soak up the atmosphere. :)

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