Thursday, 12 July 2012

Cirali - a Turkish gem

The unfortunate truth about a coastline of turquoise waters, beautiful beaches, historical sites and great dining is that you're more than likely going to be scrumming for space with hoards of others.  Especially in a country like Turkey, with a great tourist network and friendly locals.  That said, Turkey's southern coast is still worth a look.  It's a bit more affordable than the rest of 'The Med' and there are a few places that have managed to weather the tourism storm and hold onto a bit of real character.

The pebble beach looking towards the ruins of Olympos
One such spot is Cirali, around and hour and a half west of Antalya.  If you've got a car it's easy enough to reach.  Using public transport, like I did, makes it a bit more challenging.  My wife and I had caught one of the many, very comfortable, overnight buses from Cappadocia, arriving in Antalya early in the morning.  We hopped straight onto a knee-bruising Dolmus (local minibus) and headed west for a while, before being dropped off roadside, at the Cirali sign.  The village, and all the accommodation, is about 8km down the mountain side.  Taxi's wait in anticipation like circling vultures but the fare for the short trip down is ridiculous, and not something I was going to endorse.  We started walking and the first car to get to us, a construction vehicle, responded and gave us a lift.  So, easy if you're driving, a bit trickier otherwise, but the good thing is that places that are a bit more difficult to get to are often something special.  Cirali is just that.  There are a huge variety of accommodation options, from down to earth wooden huts to well polished lodges.  There is a picturesque pebble beach peered down upon by a towering mountain landscape.  The ruins of Olympos are a short walk away and if you're more serious about your hiking there are plenty of options along the Lycian Way.  We spent a great day exploring the mountains, making our way up to the village of Ulupinar with it's waterfall trout restaurants - you really have to see them to appreciate what I mean.  After lunch we headed back along a different route that took us down passed the eternal flames of Chimera, a hillside of natural gas and flame.  There are full-day boat trips that are without doubt the best and most leisurely way to take in the coast.  Food options are largely focused around the fresh seafood but I had the best Gozleme (Turkish pancake) at a little place here as well.  The savoury options are super but the banana and chocolate pancake is heavenly.  One of our favourite things to do was to walk the 1 hour loop around town that takes you through the real heart of the village. Kids playing in gardens, fruit and vegetable plantations and fisherman along the water.         
The ruins of Olympos

The outskirts of Ulupinar
One of the many beautiful coves of the coast
The local mosque

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