Greece: Exploring the Ancient Olympos Valley
Often it is the quest for magic that draws us transients to the far ends of the earth. Search no more, weary traveler! Olympos will answer your call for the ethereal, the other worldly. And how could it not? By nature, a place named for the home of the Greek gods exudes a heavenly richness. Some may attribute the sensual atmosphere of Olympos to the jasmine and orange groves that line the winding unpaved road of the valley. But there exists something more, some indescribable feeling that overcomes you the moment you descend into the Olympos Valley. Although I arrived in the middle of the night with only the headlights of the jeep to illuminate the way, I didn’t need a visual to understand the sheer beauty that awaited me. Before my first glimpse of the sprawling landscape, before my first waft of the heavy floral aroma, I could feel the weight of the mountains looming over me. The Olympos Valley is one of those unique places in the world that appeals to senses beyond the standard five.
The Treehouse Pensions are attractions in themselves. The rooftops line the trees with the charm of an Ewok village, and the hosts at the Turkmen Treehouses are just as hospitable as one would imagine a cute and cuddly mythical tree dweller to be. These pensions offer the most delicious breakfast and dinner you will ever find included in the cost of a bed. Fresh eggs are cooked to order right in front of your eyes every morning, and the homemade dinners are sumptuous and filling. Lunch is not included but for those on a budget it is easy to get by on snacks until dinner time. The communal outdoor dining quarters create a quaint family dinner atmosphere, and as the pensions attract travelers of a certain mindset, most everyone is open to share a table and a story.
Guests can sip tea and smoke nargile in the cozy outdoor common areas decked in traditional Turkish upholstery. The hot showers are unlimited, and just when it can’t get any better, the front desk offers activity bookings ranging from a midnight Eternal Flame Hike to daytime Pirate Ship cruises and everything in between. The Pensions are a hub for low-budget travelers and backpackers, and are therefore savvy to your needs. It is not uncommon to exchange lodging for some hours of work at the pension’s cafe.
Follow the meandering stream down the road from the Pensions, and you will emerge onto a beachy cove reminiscent of Treasure Island or Neverland. You can bask in the sun mermaid-style all day long, but a warning to those with feet instead of fins-the beach is rocky and water shoes are recommended. There are also numerous caves along the beach that are worthy of exploration. The adventurer will find cliff sides suitable for diving platforms, a space most practically used by the local fisherman. If the fish aren’t biting then a stroll along the water will reveal a haven of sandy outdoor cafes that will satisfy your mid-day tummy grumbles. What lies beyond the string of cafes? Explore. I dare you. Maybe you will even catch sight of the elusive white peacock that only adds to the majestic surrealism of Olympos.
You may not make it to the beach on your first day. It is easy to get distracted by the endless hiking trails that lead up into the mountains. Here ancient Greek and Roman ruins are presented in a mise en scène similar to that of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Vine-swinging and perilous river-fording are highly encouraged.
Do not by any means miss the midnight Chimera Flames tour. This can be arranged by your pension host. The cost is something under 10 Turkish Lira and the experience itself is priceless. Eternally burning flames at the pinnacle of ancient rock formations? Yes please.
-Book your treehouse pension in advance (especially in the high season-May to September). The main stays are Turkmen Treehouses and Kabir’s Treehouses. They both offer comprehensive web pages and are timely in their reservation responses. I also suggest arranging a transport if arriving from the airport in Antalya. The cost is a little steep, about 40 lira, but it is the highest cost you will incur while in Olympos, and well worth it, as the destination is more than 2 hours from Antalya and the busses require multiple transfers (this can be difficult without the Turkish language on your side).
-There is a convenience store amongst the pension settlement that sells toiletries, alcohol, snacks and other tourist tchotchkes.
-Most pensions have phone and internet access.
Written by Ali Newlon