Olimpos - Olympos

A Guide to Olympos 4: the Ancient City of Olympos

an Amazing Stop in the Lycian Way

Author: Said Dağlı

In fact, this is the most important element that makes Olympos Olympos: The Ancient City. Since this is a very important cultural and historical point of Anatolia and a popular historical site, I will give very little information about its history and physical features. (More information is already available on the internet). In this article, I will briefly mention the significance and history of this place and then I will talk about our tour and experience in the Ancient City and show a few photos we took.

The History of Olympos and the Lycian Way in a Nutshell

The Ancient City of Olympos, located within the borders of Olympos Beydağları National Park, is 85 km from Antalya, between Kemer and Kumluca districts of Antalya. It is protected as a SIT Area since it is the breeding area of Caretta Caretta turtles. Olympos, one of the most important cities of the Lycian civilization, is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.

Olimpos Antik Kenti
the Ancient City of Olympos Archeological Site. Photo: Said Dağlı

Lycians and the Establishment of Olympos City

Lycians, a community of Indo-European origin and thought to be the continuation of the Luwians, whose existence in Anatolia dates back to 2000 BC, struggled with the Greeks, Persians and Romans throughout their history, was captured in the Eastern Campaign of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and over time, they were under the influence of Greek culture. In the 2nd century BC, the Lycian League was established to resist Rhodes, and again in those years, the Roman Empire declared the independence of Lycia.

The exact date of establishment of Olympos City is unknown. Archaeological studies suggest that the history of the city dates back to 300 BC. The name of this city is mentioned on the coins of the Lycian League between 168-167 BC, this is the oldest record ever found. The fact that it is one of only six cities with three voting rights in this league also shows that this place has a dense population and a political significance. The name Olympos means the Great Mountain in Greek, and since there are dozens of mountains called by this name, it can cause confusion from time to time. It is thought that the name Olympos comes from Tahtalı Mountain, which is about 10 km away from the city.

Lycian Way

The Lycian Way is an artificial road based on some historical facts, created by clearing, marking and mapping some paths in the Teke Peninsula in the west of Antalya, considering the ruins of the ancient Lycian Civilization and the natural beauties of this region. So, when you hear Lycian Way, you should not think of such an asphalt or stone road, it consists of a bunch of paths. The opening of this road is made in 1999 thanks to the work of Kate Clow (here, let’s give a link to the booklet).

This hiking and trekking trail starts all the way from Fethiye and goes to the central Antalya. One of the most beautiful stops on this route is the Ancient City of Olympos. Those who are a little more adventurous and those who say that they are willing to take their backpacks and walk for hours can choose one of the suitable tracks for them in this walking route and experience them. (The tracks around Olympos are the tracks that can be completed in 5 to 7 hours.) We preferred to stay in Olympos for the most part during this holiday and to digest Olympos. Therefore we saved the Lycian Way trips for our next visit.

Entering the Ancient City of Olympos

On our way to Olympos, we decided not to learn much about the ancient city in advance and to explore it ourselves from scratch.

As soon as we entered the ancient city through the toll booths, we found ourselves in a crowd of people going to the sea. People passing by the ruins of thousands of years old buildings with their ragged slippers, life buoys and armbands, picnic baskets and beach towels created an oxymoronic image. On the one hand, we were strange, but on the other hand, we liked this image. Unfortunately, there were also people who did not hesitate to pollute the environment, but apart from these exceptions, it was very pleasant for people to pass through the ancient city on their way to the sea for swimming.

Ancient city of Olympos Antik Kenti
Photo: Said Dağlı

After proceeding a little on a straight path, we found ourselves in the center (the busiest street) of the ancient city. The ruins of old buildings were really interesting. Right next to us, we saw the foot of a collapsed bridge in the middle of the gentle flowing stream, and the ruins of a building with beautiful windows across the stream. Since the majority of people were hesitant to even go across the river, the side of the ancient city, where we were, was hosting a larger number of visitors. A few people passing by that stream were taking pictures there and returning.

Olympos - Olimpos
Photo: Said Dağlı

Create Your Own Route

It is possible to find plans of this region on the internet. However, instead of looking at those plans and maps, Ayşenur and I preferred to wander as if we were the first people discovering this place. We turned to each and every path we found, without knowing where they would lead us. We discovered temples, mausoleums, a structure with mosaics and necropolises on this side of the stream. The opposite side of the stream is a less well-kept and less visited area. Finding our way there was more difficult. But what made this place particularly enjoyable was the carelessness and drudgery. (When I say less well-kept, I don’t mean anything negative. I mean more natural, but less easy for tourists.)

We turned right at the entrance of the ancient city to cross the stream, and since we could not find a path, we made our way through meadow grass and trees and reached a narrow path. (Here we discovered the thin water flowing through the rocks, which I shared in the photos above.)

Here, too, we encountered mausoleums and structures that we are not sure what they were. As we proceeded while taking photos, we suddenly noticed an arc-shaped door. When we entered through it, we found ourselves inside an ancient theater. While we were admiring the beauty of this place, a dark and narrow path leading into the forest at the back of the theater caught our eyes. We entered the path not knowing where it would lead. There was neither a proper light that could surpass the branches and leaves of the trees, nor oxygen…

After a while, the road split into two. We saw people coming from the left side and we decided to go where they were coming from. When we moved a little further, we realized that we were behind the beautiful windowed structure that we saw across the stream on the first day we came to the Ancient City. As we approached the closing time of the ancient city (8pm), we put the question of “where did the other path lead” to one side of our minds and ended the trip of the day by taking photoes of this structure.

Photos of Windowed Structure

For more photos, you can check our Photo Gallery.

We Wondered, Where did the other Path Lead to?

One day, just wondering where that other path leads to, whether there is a thin path that leads to the beach somehow, we went behind this windowed structure and entered that path that we did not enter previous day. At some points, the ground was not very suitable for walking. Yet we found our way by bouncing off the tops of the rocks and ripping off the leaves and branches. We came across buildings that we haven’t seen before. We learned that they were Roman baths.

The sounds coming from the sea started to increase as we walked. When we were walking through the trees and over the bushes, we suddenly saw a small pond and around 10-15 young people partying. It turns out that the human voices that we thought were coming from the sea were coming from these young people. (I will talk about the cool and clear puddles in the ancient city in the next sub-title.) We passed by them, saying that the young people should have fun.

We were just about to be disappointed. We lost our hope to reach the beach through the forest. Then I saw the blue of the sea through the trees. Where the forest ends and the coast begins, they have defined the borders of the ancient city with barriers with iron bars. Only that iron fence remained between us and the beach. But they couldn’t think of one thing when they put these iron bars there: people persevered, crushed the dense bushes on one side of the iron fence, and built a narrow path for themselves.

Some Ethical Concerns

This can be called vandalism… But what about those who block this magnificent excursion route with iron bars? Let the young people go there from the beach, discover their own way, and live to the fullest in Olympos!

So, we went to the beach. We were at ease: that path really leads to the beach.

We didn’t photograph the teenagers partying around the pond and the people on the beach. I find it very wrong to take photos and videos in places where people go half-naked and have fun, without proper permission. While I’m in the sea, I also get riled at people who come almost under my nose and take my photo/video while shooting around. I shouldn’t do to others what I’m uncomfortable with, right?

Ponds and Streams

The Ancient City of Olympos is a city built around a stream bed flowing into the sea. You can see that small puddles and ponds are formed on this stream and the side waters feeding this stream. There is such a small pond on the road that goes straight to the sea from the Ancient City. People who go to the sea in their swimsuits can easily hop in and enjoy this ice-cold water. However, when you follow these small stream beds, you can find dozens of small ponds. I mentioned above the young people partying. They too were partying around one of these little ponds they had found on a stream bed. It is a wonderful feeling to step into these icy and clear waters, even if it goes up only to your knees.

Olympos is more than these Paths

The Ancient City of Olympos is a port city built around the river I mentioned above and towards the sea. The ruins of the Ancient City have been largely unearthed. Meanwhile, archaeological excavations continue. But the Ancient City of Olympos is not limited to these paths and old buildings. As you climb to different hills with a little confidence in your feet and your youth (of course, paying attention to your safety), different landscapes appear before you. My advice, when you go to Olympos, do not limit yourself to the places where everyone goes and the crowd flows. Look for a way to get to the places you say, “How would it be if I went over there?” Maybe you can capture a composition that no one has before.

List of Posts in “A Guide to Olympos”

We wanted to describe our trip to Olympos with Ayşenur in a series of articles in diKraft, and to convey our experiences as a guide for those who wish to come here. You can find all the articles of this series from the list below.

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