We had heard from our friend Hannah, back in Istanbul, that Olympos was a nice place to spend a couple of days. Actually what she said was “you can stay in a tree house”. Feeling tenacious, we looked at each other and we each said “Okay!”
We booked two nights at the Saban Pension and what an excellent choice we made. The road in from Antalya takes you through the mountains and then drops you down to the coast via 7km of spaghetti road. We enjoyed the drive there as much as anything else!
As we got closer we could feel Turkey’s modesty peeling away one piece of clothing at a time. Burkinis shrank back to bikinis and religious headgear gave way to dreadlocks. I think the fact that Olympos is so isolated helped but it was welcome all the same
At the end of the road is a tiny patch of heaven that has been growing and evolving steadily over the last 30 years. Olympos has a ban on the use of concrete – which in my opinion is an excellent idea. This means that everything looks a bit more rustic, the buildings are all wooden and seating is usually on the floor on big comfy cushions with intricate Ottoman designs.
When we pulled up at Saban we were greeted with an excellent welcome and shown directly to our ‘tree-house’ on stilts.
Underneath there was parking for two Triumph Bonnevilles (how lucky) and inside was an exceptionally adequate double mattress, TWO light switches and a working plug socket. Literally everything we needed.
No sooner than we had unpacked and headed in the direction of the bar did we get our first Olympos bonus. It came in the form of Harry from Aberdeen, who pulled up on his ageing ‘rat-boy’ Yamaha. Harry had been on (and off) the road for three and a half months and had most recently been blasting around Georgia. (That’s Caucasus Georgia, not Georgia next to Alabama)! It’s always nice to see another young adventure rider and a pleasure to speak to someone who is passionate about what they are doing. Harry had bought his bike for £350 and built it from the ground up so he was a bit of far cry from our tribe of Oz-funded Bonnevillians with next to no mechanical experience but we found we had a lot in common all the same.
Day two in Olympos saw a motley crew of us, Harry and a young German couple hitting the beach. A mile or so of shingle leading into crystal clear bath water didn’t disappoint. There were even some rocks at one end of the bay that provided some excellent cliff diving opportunities.
If you’ve read our post from Koh Tao you will know we are big (and not so big) fans! This time the rocks offered about 6m of free fall but a quick swim past the cave revealed a ledge that was around 10 meters and a bit more fun!
Between the guest houses and the beach are some excellently preserved Lycian ruins. These guys worshipped Egyptian gods, had Greek lifestyles and lived on a secluded Turkish beach with 300 guaranteed days of sunshine each year. If you ask me we have been evolving in the wrong direction since then! The Lycians impressed us all over southern Turkey as they loved to carve tombs out of the rock. Olympos has some great examples that you can really get up close and personal with. We weren’t sure that clambering over them like Indiana Jones was strictly responsible but its nice to feel like Harrison Ford every now and then and see things without a barrier in the way.
As our two nights in Olympos were drawing to a close we hastily rebooked the room for ‘one more night’. It was so good, in fact, that the next day three nights became four which we spent with some amazing people. The staff at Saban were excellent about our lack of organisation and were even more relaxed than we were. We spent the extra hours kayaking, socialising and eating the excellent free meals but the best thing about Olympos was… the price!
Our time there, including: accommodation, food, activities, beer, gin and tonics and raki came to less than €25 per person per day! We had a tab running at the guest house and didn’t really compromise on anything that we wanted so we were a bit worried about the bill. In the end though, we were very pleasantly surprised.
Olympos by Night
Amongst all the day time fun, Olympos boasts at least 3 high quality night time experiences!
- Swimming with phosphorescent bio-luminessance: An eery night swim in the ever warm med introduces you to some solar powered, glow-int-the-dark, algae. Simply disturb the water and it starts to shine or dive down to the sea bed and slap a rock to watch the whole thing ignite! Amazing!
- The Yanartas or eternal flames: Perhaps the inspiration for Homer’s Chimera these fires have been burning constantly for thousands of years as natural gas rises up through rocky vents. We can’t claim to have seen them as after all day on the beach and the tasty free dinners provided by Saban we couldn’t make it. It sounds terrible but we figured they will still be burning next time. Right? Anyway – the pictures looked excellent!
- Cactus Cafe. Or indeed any of the night spots along Olympos ‘high street’. Apparently Olympos is known to Turks as THE place to go and get high. We didn’t see too much of that but what we did see was at Cactus Cafe. An eclectic mix of ageing Turkish hippies, young Turkish hipsters and hip Turkish tunes made it an unforgettable night – despite the ‘double-double’ rakis…
So, beware of Olympos. It can easily disrupt your travel plans as once you arrive you don’t want to leave! Our two nights became four and could easily have become eight but we suddenly had a craving for sangria. We decided we had better get a move on if we wanted to sample some while it was still summer in Spain. As Harry said: ‘they’re a bit unpredictable these adventure bike riders’…