The hidden paradise Cirali

The hidden paradise Cirali

Çıralı is an agricultural village in the province of Antalya, Turkey. It is located in the Olimpos Beydağlari Milli Parkı - a conservation area of great natural beauty and historical importance - and lies wedged between the rugged mountainous inland and the Bay of Olimpos (Mediterranean Sea). Because of its distance to the centers of mass tourism - Antalya and Alanya to the east and Fethiye and Bodrum to the west - it is the ideal location for a tranquil holiday in truly impressive surroundings.

Çıralı Village Like so many villages in Turkey, Çıralı is a far cry from the traditional West European villages with their village squares and well defined districts and boundaries - rather, it is a collection of buildings and agricultural plots spread across a wide area. Nevertheless, a small village center of sorts has formed along what is known as 'the main street', a stretch of road leading from the bridge across the Ulupınar river all the way along the famous beach to the cliffs that mark the northern end of the village.

Along this main street one finds a series of small-scale hotels and guest houses, one or two small shops known as markets or bakkals, a number of small, quaint restaurants and one or two small travel agencies and rent-a-car businesses. All of these are run by local families and most take pride to be able to assist you in a variety of ways. Do not be surprised to find one of the family running a recommended gözleme restaurant weaving traditional carpets and mats (kilims) on a small wooden loom right next to where the grandmother is preparing your meal.

Çıralı Beach Perhaps one of the best attractions of Çıralı is its beautiful beach. Çıralı beach is a clean, unspoilt, wide, 4-km long strip of sand between the blue waters of the Bay of Olimpos and the orchards and copses of pine trees that lead back to the village. It offers a spectacular view of two great mountains - Mount Musa (Musa Daği) to the south and Mount Tahtalı (Tahtali Daği, also known as Mount Olympus; 2,366 m) to the northwest. At the southern tip of the beach, at the mouth of a (mostly dry) river emerging from the rugged hinterland are the ruins of the ancient port of Olympos, which was first mentioned in the Hellenistic period and rose to infamy as a pirate's sanctuary in the 1st century BC.>>>

In addition, Çıralı beach is the favorite place of a variety of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta caretta or Mediterranean loggerhead), specimens of which return here every summer to lay their eggs in the sand. The inhabitants of Çıralı are very proud of their 'caretta carettas' and, if asked kindly, may well invite you to be witness to the unique spectacle of watching the young turtles emerge from their eggs and scuttle towards the sea during the early morning hours in September.

Finally, Çıralı beach features a number of small, attractive restaurants which offer fresh food prepared according to traditional Turkish recipes. Because of its algae-free waters, its natural beauty and its historical importance, Çıralı beach is regarded by most as the last true hidden paradise of the Turkish Riviera.

Mount Chimera Çıralı's next claim to fame is Mount Chimera, known locally as Yanartaş - which roughly translates as 'burning stone' - and lies but a stone's throw away from the village. The walk to the top takes about an hour and leads past flaming gas vents to a ruined temple to Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire. Mount Chimera is the very spot where, according to Homer's Iliad, the hero Bellerophon did battle with the mythical chimera, an immortal monstrosity usually depicted as a fire-breathing hybrid of snake, goat and lion that laid waste to large parts of the region. Some claim that the flames that erupt from the flanks of the mountain today are proof that the creature still lives within.

Other Attractions Hiking - As many as 12 marked trails and tracks, usually part of the famous Lycian Way lead from the village to take you for walks along forested mountain slopes, past stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean and to more ruins from ancient times.

Other Villages - Very close by and within up to three hours' walking distance are the the villages of Ulupınar (with its rivers, lush mixed forests and open-air restaurants). Beycik (on the slopes of Mount Tahtalı at an altitude of 500-800 m and base camp for expeditions to the unexplored ruins of a city possibly once known as Laodikeia) and Olympos Town (a traveler's paradise with hostels and bars).

Boat Trips - Various travel agencies offer boat trips (day and night) to nearby bays boasting secluded beaches and crystal clear waters (Porto Ceneviz Koyu, Sazak Koyu, Çoban Limanı), to more distant locations such as the Three Islands (Üç Adalar), the ruins of an ancient port where Alexander the Great once spent the winter (Phaselis) and even further away to Myra (with its famous church of Saint Nicholas and rather out-of-place statue of Santa Claus in front of it) and to the submergd city at Kekova.

Hotels and Guest Houses Most hotels consist of either separate chalets or small, single-storey blocks of rooms located in lush, park-like gardens. Some have direct access to the beach, usually by way of a charming terrace in the shade of large pine trees. Those located at or near the beach offer comfortable beach chairs and parasols free of charge. All have their own restaurant where you can order meals made to your specifications. Most have a collection of bicycles and mountain bikes which guests may use without charge.