If you are traveling around Turkey and looking for a charming seaside town with history, personality and natural beauty, look no further than Cirali. Cirali, Turkey is an agricultural village in the southwest part of the country.
It is located in the ancient Lycia region of Anatolia and sits right on the Mediterranean Sea. Cirali has not yet succumbed to mass tourism so it is a wonderful place to enjoy the comfort of a family-run guest house and relax on a quiet beach.
That said, it’s a bit off the beaten path. I guess hence why it’s missed the tourism boom, so people tend to skip it altogether when they’re traveling in Turkey. Truth is, you shouldn’t and this is why.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Turkey (Travel Guide)
5 Reasons to Visit Cirali, Turkey
1. The Cirali Beach is Amazing
The great thing about Cirali is that it is a little piece of paradise that hasn’t been touched by mass tourism. Nestled among the lush mountainous landscapes is a pristine 2 mile stretch of pebbled beach.
The waters are crystal clear and it is a perfect place to kick back and relax for the day. There are a variety of restaurants and cafes close by and even some sun loungers to rent for the day.
What makes Cirali Beach even more special is that it is a nesting ground for the endangered Caretta Caretta sea turtles (also known as Loggerhead Turtles). These massive turtles come to the beach at night between May and August to lay their eggs.
The eggs hatch between 45 to 70 days after they have been laid, so starting the middle of July you might be able to catch a glimpse of baby turtles making their way back to the sea in the early morning.
Members of the Ulupinar Nature Conservation are usually roaming the beach and checking on the nests so they are a great resource to answer any questions if you happen to see them.
2. The History at Olympos in Extensive
There are not many places in the world where you can literally stumble upon ancient ruins, but if you take a walk along Cirali Beach it is here that you will find the ancient city of Olympos.
Access to Olympos can be reached either by the beach or from the road which is about a 7-mile drive from Cirali to the north entrance.
Olympos was one of the six leading Lycian League cities and although the exact date is unclear, it is known to be founded during the Hellenistic period. It had a tumultuous past as its position on the coastline left the city vulnerable to attacks from pirates.
It is said that pirates disrupted coastal shipping and kidnapped residents for ransom or to sell into slavery. In 78 BC the Roman governor of Cilicia along with the young Julius Caesar attacked the pirates and besieged Olympos.
Eventually, the Lycian League was absorbed into the Roman Empire and Olympos fell under their jurisdiction before being abandoned during the 15th century.
Because of the dense forest and overgrowth, exploring Olympos is like walking through a set of a fantasy movie. Although there are boards explaining the ruins, finding the ruins among the brush truly is an exciting adventure.
A few of the highlights of Olympos are the necropolis that contains chamber tombs cut into the rock, the sarcophagus of Captain Eudoemos and the Roman theater with its elaborate entrance.
Olympos is open during the summer months from 8 am to 7 pm and during the winter until 5 pm. The entrance fee is a mere 20 TL which is less than $4 US, so it is definitely worth every penny. Because of the uneven grounds I definitely suggested to wear proper footwear.
3. Phaselis is Positioned by the Sea
Just a 20-minute drive north of Cirali, Turkey is another ancient city called Phaselis. It is a little bit bigger and perhaps a little more well-preserved than Olympus. It is situated on a peninsula surrounded by three bays and protected within the grounds of a lush National Park.
This ancient city was founded by the Rhodians around 700 BC. Because of its location separating two harbors, it became the most important city in Western Lycia but did not belong to the Lycian League.
The city was captured by the Persians after they conquered Asia Minor and was later captured by Alexander the Great. After the death of Alexander the Great, the city belonged to Egypt but after 160 BC it was absorbed into the Lycian confederacy under Roman rule.
The ruins have been mostly cleared of brush and trees so you can walk along the harbor and marvel at the Roman baths, the beautiful theater and the aqueducts to name a few.
You will be able to see how the canals were carefully planned and built around the Grand Harbor Street and from there you will be struck with the stunning views of the turquoise sea.
Just like Olympos, the ruins are surrounded by the sea which means that you should definitely bring your swimming gear and take a dip in the ocean and relax on one of the beaches.
Perhaps if you are feeling adventurous you might even attempt jumping off one of the ancient harbor walls. There are no changing facilities at the beach and food and water is not sold there either.
Phaselis is open during the summer months from 8 am to 7 pm and during the winter until 5 pm. The entrance fee is 20 TL which will also cover your entrance into the National Park.
4. The Rare Phenom of Yanartas (Eternal Flames of Chimera)
One of the most memorable and surprising experiences that I had during my trip through Turkey was discovering the Eternal Flames of Chimera. The flames of Chimera have been burning for literally thousands of years and are a rare and natural phenomenon in the mountains of Cirali.
Known in Turkish as Yanartas, natural gas emerges from cracks from the earth and when it comes in contact with the air it catches fire immediately.
The site itself inspired the Greek myth of Chimera, where a creature that breathed fire had a body of a lion, a goat, and a snake. It is believed that throughout history the flames were so vibrant that they served as a guide for those at sea.
To get up to the eternal flames you must climb up a rocky mountain. Steps and handrails have been erected in some places but don’t be fooled as the surface can become slippery with loose rocks.
To get the most out of the experience it is best to see the flames when the sun goes down. I would suggest hiking up the mountain at dusk, bring some marshmallows and sticks once you are up there to roast and carefully come down after the sun has set.
Definitely bring proper footwear and most importantly a flashlight if you are heading up at night.
5. The Incredible Views from Mount Olympus
About 40 minutes (15 miles) away from Cirali, Turkey is the towering Tahtali Dagi Mountain (also known as Mount Olympus). Located in the middle of Beydaglari Coastal National Park, this enormous mountain is a place where you can literally go from the sea to the sky.
The iconic mountain stands at nearly 8000 feet and can be ascended by either foot or cable car all year round. The aerial tramway is located in the center of the National Park and is the biggest cable car in Europe. While you are on the cable car you will see sweeping panoramic views of the mountain ranges surrounding you as well as the crystal water at the bottom.
At the summit, there is a restaurant as well as plenty of places to sit and relish in the phenomenal 360-degree views. A return adult ticket is about $36 US and a child is $18 US. There is the opportunity to purchase one-way tickets if you would prefer so that you can hike half the way.
If you are interested in hiking up Mount Olympus the starting point is the small town of Beycik. This 4 to 6-hour hike is said to be rather challenging as it is rocky and remote.
The elevation will go up to about 4500 feet and depending on the climate you could come across snowy patches. The hiking trail itself is well-marked but there are no places to stop and get water or food along the way.
It is a gorgeous hike and those who are physically fit will not regret the stunning views from this incredible hike.
Cirali, Turkey Travel Tips
How to Get to Cirali, Turkey
The nearest airport is the Antalya International Airport, which is about 50 miles away and about an hour and a half drive from Cirali. There are several flights that leave from Istanbul daily so finding a cheap flight can be relatively easy.
Flights from Istanbul take less than an hour and a half and the distance is 287 miles. There are also buses that run all across the country and have taken one myself I can safely say that they are comfortable and clean. To find the best fare and most up to date schedule try using Busbud.
Once in Antalya you can either take a bus, rent a car or hire a taxi to Cirali. If you are renting a car, the drive is simple as it is right along the coast on Highway D400. It should take about 1 and a half hours to get to Cirali.
Taking a bus is definitely the cheaper option but a little bit more convoluted. At the Antalya Bus Terminal catch the bus that goes to either Kumluca, Finike, Demre or Kas and tell the driver that you would like to get off at the Cirali intersection.
Once you get there, you will find minibusses and taxis available to take you down to the seaside town which is about a 10-minute drive.
Where to Stay in Cirali
Now that you’ve made the decision to visit this secret paradise, you’ll need a place to rest your head for a few days. Or at least one night depending on your schedule.
The most popular place to stay in Cirali is the Canada Hotel & Bungalows. It has a stellar rating of 9.1/10 and features comfortable rooms, free wifi, free shuttle service and an in-house restaurant.
Featuring 72 apartment type rooms, the Cirali Hotel Odile offers a beautiful setting and a massive pool area. It also offers a private beach, a fitness center and free wifi.
Cirali, Turkey truly is a fantastic destination that is a little off the beaten track for tourists. It will dazzle you with its simple pleasures but give you enough to do so that you won’t get bored.
I highly recommend spending a couple of days in this little oasis town, as it adds to the perfect Turkish itinerary.
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