"If you live in Australia and all your friends have gone off somewhere, they're here." -- Some Drunk Guy
First of all, before I get the proverbial slipper thrown at me by all you dead-eye noders, let me just say that I am well aware of the Mount Olympus in Greece AND on Mars (and their respective spellings).
This, however, is a small region in Antalya, Turkey, which, although deriving its name from the mountain at the foot of which it lays, is nonetheless referring to the super-cool holiday spot. Yes, the mountain is reputed, once again, to have been the love shack of shamelessly extravagant gods. But who cares.
The Olympos that the Beat 'n' Bohemian youth have come to love and cherish and reminisce about when slaving away at their keyboards during their day jobs is a preserved valley just West of the Antalya city centre, cosily situated between the vastly popular regions of Kemer and Kas (Kash).
Olympos was apparently one of the major cities of the Lycia region and is thought to date back in its origins to 300 BC. Its initial appearance on the timeline of history is 78 BC, around which time it was occupied by a Roman Governor, Servilius Vatia, who wrestled it away from a malicious pirate by the name of Zenicetes. Vestiges of historical information tell us that Zenicetes and his pirate posse held some serious sacrificial shindigs in this valley. Their motivation as such was to pay their respects to the Persian god of pure spirit, Mithras.
Later centuries saw a diocese gaining control of the region before some more pirates came back, got kicked out by the Knights of Rhodes and, finally, Ottomans got full control around the 15th century.
Alas, it's ours...
I did quite a bit of research about the place, having picked it as my first holiday spot in 3 years. It was featured in Lonely Planet, which awarded some distinguished prize or other to the most famous hostel in the region, Kadir's Treehouses. This, I'm told, was the place to be a few years ago if you were considering a seamless stay in Olympos. Sadly, and as most regulars agree, Kadir has turned what is the shining example for all other hostels in the valley into a bit of a money-maker. But there'll be more about that later.
The easiest way to get to Olympos if you're from outside of Turkey is to aim your airliner
at Antalya, Turkey. Once off the plane
you'll want to head for the local bus terminal
where you can catch a minibus
to Olympos. You won't have much trouble getting hold of one as a few companies provide the service at different times within the hour
A slightly long drive
lasting about an hour and a half will take you through the road winding up and down the hem of the Taurus mountains
. I suggest you tell the driver where you want to get off. But for the sake of being factual, you'll arrive in Cirali
, the general area where Olympos is, about 40 minutes after passing Kemer. You'll pull up in front of a quaint café
just overlooking the mind-boggling precipice of the valley. Get refreshed and wait for what I like to call the dropship
to take you down into the valley. Ok, it's basically another minibus.
A 10 to 15 minute ride down a winding road gives way to some beautiful scenery. As the valley unfurls you nod to yourself thinking "awright!".
When the incline fades away you will catch your first glimpse of Kadir's Treehouses. It gives you that wonderful familiar feeling you get when you go somewhere for real after you've seen the place countless times in photographs. The treehouses look more like a themepark attraction rather than, well, structures built out of necessity.
It's worth noting at this point that Olympos is both a historic and natural reservation, the element of the former being the Old City and the latter being those cute Caretta's who lay their eggs on the beach.
Once past Kadir's, the path stretches all the way to the beach for a couple of kilometers. This gravel path is lined on both sides by hostels and bars. Cars are allowed in, but I suggest you forget about seeing any concrete five-stars with air-conditioning and room service. The whole place is woodwork.
Where To Stay
The hostels don't differ much in price
, so don't worry about being ripped off. This place knows how to treat tourists
. The makeup of the hostels is quite similar, as well, with the open-air
, treehouses and dining areas at the forefront
, and the cabins and bungalow
s lined up all the way back toward the mountain.
Places you should look into are (breakfast and dinner included):
- Turkmen Pension
- Bayram's Pension
- Orange Pension
- Camlik Pension
I have no idea why they call them pensions when armies of blonde and blue-eyed backpackers would so much better identify with "hostel".
A bungalow is pretty hard to find and I doubt you will be bestowed the keys to one if you have not booked well in advance. Almost everyone stays in a cabin and they are pretty easy to come by, provided that you arrive around noon when people are checking out and vacancies become available. If, however, you come up empty, consider the adventurous option of laying down your load in a treehouse. Drawbacks? Chickens may lay eggs on your matress while you're working on that tan at the beach, plus the embarrassment of having to descend the wooden ladder or staircase amidst a hundred people having breakfast in the morning.
Cabins are slightly more comfortable in that the breakfast people are gone. And that's it. A couple of beds, an electricity outlet and a light bulb is all you get in a space of two square meters. Don't even think about sleeping late as you will wake up with all your bodily fluids on the outside. The sun in Antalya is a scorcher and the cabins can get very hot during mid-day.
Please keep in mind that, with the exception of bungalows, locks are not very common. You can entrust any valuables you may have to the staff at reception. Our only comfort with regard to a possible trespass was that no one in their right mind would travel all the way down to a place time forgot to snitch my Calvin Klein's. And they didn't.
Once you get settled in you will find that the keyword is relaxation
. You can sit at the bar or huddle around a picnic
table, stretch out on a platform
among the cushions
and just doze.
The beach is a couple of kilometers down the main path. Fret not, though, because the lengthy walk is quite exhilirating. People all around are either making their way to or from the beach. Here and there you will see a henna-tattoo artist, someone selling handmade jewellery, and the hallmark of all holiday spots, some parents smacking their kid around.
The ruins of the old city poke out from under the ground so take some sturdy footwear along. As you approach the end of the line of shops and hostels you will have to pay a small fee to get to the old city and the beach. Keep the receipt and you can get in free the next time.
Further on you'll come across a pleasant surprise. A fresh water stream which makes its way down the side of the mountain and flows all the way to the beach where it spills into the sea. I overheard some German guy say he had been drinking the water from that stream for 8 days, so you might want to consider refilling your plastic bottles, especially since there are no other shops between you and the beach from then on. Beware the water's temperature, though. It'll have your balls receding all the way back to your cabin. My travel companion sustained a tail slap from some trout-like fish while snorkeling down there, so it's not devoid of life either. The stream crosses your path to the beach at a couple of points so prepare for a balancing act on the stepping stones if you don't want to get your sandals wet.
Speaking personally, the old city really didn't tickle my fancy. It's hardly the Parthenon and looks like it's been put together recently by the locals. There's also a couple of tombs as you near the beach if you're into that sort of thing. I apologize for my ignorance.
Finally, the beach. "Where dirt meets water", said Bill Hicks. I am rather less contemptuous of the lovely Mediterranean, however, and felt my heart quicken at the sight of the big blue.
The beach is a long gulf spanning the area between Olympos and Cirali, where begins the luxurious hotels and whatnot. Don't go that way if you want to remain my friend. It downright interferes with the sweet getting-to-know-you phase between yourself and this beautiful locale. Stay hippie, stay loose, and don't read any newspapers while you're there.
The hostels serve dinner between 20:00-20:30. You may choke on your Margarita when you see just how many people line up to be served. Not knowing this, I can now sweetly reminisce about when we had to eat our meal on the ping-pong table. Mark your table early with a book or something.
Creatures of the Night! Over here!
Funnily enough, the nightlife
is quite a humdinger
. What the valley has to offer during the night more than makes up for the lack of activity during the day. There's live music
at a couple of the hostels; the Orange Disco, the lit path to which you traverse around a mountain and don't believe exists till you've reached it, and, of course, The Bull Bar
When I first set foot into the Bull Bar I thought I'd finally found the elusive city of Eldorado. An open-air dance club made of wood with a huge fire going in the middle. Half-nude vixens and barmaids in Bikinis. Some people said that I threw myself face first on the floor to express my gratitude to the Great One. But people will say anything.
As an alternative to these nightspots, people usually trot off to the mountains and smoke weed in the caverns. We had trouble finding any benevolent junkies who would let us help ourselves to their stash, but who'd want to play Spot-Former-Presidents-In-The-Sky when there's just the two of you anyway.
If you're pissed enough on booze and chronically dissatisfied with your life back home, you'll invariably have a desperate desire to see the Mediterranean at 3 o'clock in the morning. Take the above-mentioned path to the beach once more. If you don't have a flashlight handy, you're probably not coming back. So get one. Watch the sun rise over the Mediterranean and return to your hostel and nod off.
Then get up and do it all over again!