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