Cirali, Eternal Flame, and Turkish Public Transportation

Thanks to a recommendation from one of the friends we met hiking in Switzerland, we just spent a magical three nights in a small coastal village on the southern coast of Turkey.  Cirali is about an hour and a half west of Antalya, and on the Lycian Way – a 500 km plus (25 days or so) hike through coastal Turkey that is said to be one of the ten best hikes in the world.  Luckily for us, you can also get to Cirali by road – even by public transportation, even though it really is a small rural village.

Turkey has an extensive network of buses, mini buses, and dolmus (shared taxis) that link the small villages to larger centers, and provide easy connections between the larger cities.  Getting from Pumukkale (small village) to Cirali (even smaller village) was a piece of cake – we even got door to door service.  We grabbed a dolmus from right outside our small hotel in Pumukkale.  That dropped us off at the Denizli bus station – a two story building with buses up top and the mini buses and dolmus downstairs.  The bus from Denizli to Antalya operates like an airplane, in that it has both a driver and a steward.  The steward 1) settles you into your reserved seat; 2) checks your destination; 3) offers you a cup of water; 4) brings around a cart with meal service; 4) offers a newpaper; 5) bring around more water; and 6) makes sure you get off at the correct stop.  The bus stopped once along the way at a rest stop (25 minutes) where we were encouraged to disembark and they washed the bus.

Antayla’s bus station was as large as some of the airports we’ve seen on our trip.  It was located on the edge of town and consisted of two large ‘terminals.’  I’m not really sure what the difference was between the terminals – but that didn’t really matter because there are always officials watching out for people that look bewildered to tell them where to go.  That’s important, because there seems to be dozens of bus and mini bus companies selling tickets in the terminals, and to figure out which company goes where by yourself would be overwhelming.

We then jumped on a mini-bus to Cirali (highway stop) – a bus route that ran right down the coastal highway.  We got off the bus, crossed the highway, and within minutes the Cirali dolmus (shared taxi) to whisk us into town.  Sort of.  We waited in a nice outdoor shelter while the driver spent a lot of time on the phone – turns out we were waiting for three more people to be dropped off down the highway.  Once they arrived, we gathered them up, and then the driver dropped us all of at our hotels/hostels.

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Back to Cirali.  It’s situated on a relatively undeveloped part of the coastline because the beach is a nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead turtles.

Cage put up on beach to protect the turtle nest
Cage put up on beach to protect the turtle nest
Olympos Beach
Olympos Beach

The places to stay are set back in the trees – pomegranates, orange and lemon trees for the most part.  There are tons of juice stands!

Downtown Cirali
Downtown Cirali

Most of the accommodations are spread out along a loop road.  We stayed in a small guest house – just four cabins and the family home.  They were so kind and friendly – and the breakfast was absolutely amazing.  That photo below was breakfast for just the two of us.

Turkish breakfast
Turkish breakfast

It was a short walk to the Olympos beach and then up a trail through ancient Olympos to the small laid back Olympos village.  This village is famous for their tree house – hostel style accommodations.

Olympos treehouse
Olympos treehouse

About an hour’s walk the other direction from Cirali is the Chimera (Chimaera) eternal flames, source of the Chimera myth.  The thing to do is hike up to the flames at dusk or after dark and enjoy them.  I’ve seen a lot of interesting things on our travels, but I’ve never seen rocks that were on fire like this.  There is natural gas seeping out of the rocks from various pits/holes.  It’s been going on for thousands of year!  Here’s a link to the Chimera mythology – a monstrous fire-breathing creature.

Chimera (Chimaera) Turkey
Chimera (Chimaera) Turkey

The Lycian way splits into two routes in Cirali – the first goes up through Chimera, and the second follows the coast.  We hiked about an hour along the coastal route and were rewarded with this private black sand beach!

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Beach north of Cirali
Beach north of Cirali

So that was a recap of our three days in paradise.

When it was time to leave, we were stuffed in a taxi with all our luggage and 8 other passengers and driven to highway to catch the mini-bus.  Every time we thought taxi was full the driver would stop and pick up a few more people, telling us to fill all the nooks and crannies of the ancient taxi bus – with luggage shoved in the strangest places.  It was so tight, a German hiker who somehow ended up in the back corner started saying in a mildly panicked voice “problem, problem, we have a problem,” as he tried to scramble out.  I think he was claustrophobic, and being caught behind everyone was too much for him.  The whole situation (not the claustrophobic man in particular) was pretty funny – we were all joking that the driver was going to stop again and start putting passengers on our laps.

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