Hanging in a Hammock: Olympos and a Gulet Cruise

Originally posted July 17, 2013 by Svetopolis

Sitting and relaxing in a hammock is what life is about in Olympos, Turkey. The place is a sort of backpackers’ paradise with an off-the-beaten path feel–though it seems like that had been more the case 3 or 4 years ago. (From what I’ve been told, the area has been developed a lot in the last few years.) Olympos (also spelled Olimpos) sits in a rustic, forested canyon an hours drive south of Antalya. Lined along a dry river bed/road are a bunch of cafes, “treehouse” pensions, bungalows and campgrounds built in old fruit orchards. Each is packed with backpackers from all over the world. Further down the river bed and along the beach are the ruins of Olympos, a Roman and Byzantine port city. We are staying at the Saban Pansion Treehouses which are nice and comfy and we are served a tasty breakfast and dinner everyday. Tonight we were going to head to the Chimaera (not the fire-breathing monster of mythology but a natural gas-fed fire spewing from the mountain side), though it’s probably a tourist trap. Instead we will just hang out playing backgammon, and tomorrow we are off to Cappadocia in central Turkey.

Beach/ruins entrance fee = 5 tl (one visit), 7.50 tl (10 visits)
Chimaera tour/bus = 25 tl
Saban Pansion Treehouses = 30 tl (dorm), 40 tl (treehouse)
Before we arrived to Olympos we had been on a 3-night gulet (Turkish yacht) cruise from Fethiye to Olympos (really Demre, a town claiming the original Santa Clause fame, and then an hour shuttle ride to Olympos). So far the cruise has been my favorite thing I’ve done in Turkey. We almost didn’t even do it, but while in Istanbul one of our hostel roommates had convinced us to do it. The price didn’t seem so bad when we factored in cost of hotel, travel and food that would have been spent anyways, so we booked it through our hostel. (Our guide book said not to do this, since hostels charge booking fees, but it seemed like we paid about the same as everyone else on the boat–even those who booked online directly.) We arrived to Fethiye, a port city with a “Monterey, CA” feel–but instead of an aquarium they had well-preserved Lycian ruins. The hostel where we stayed (Fethiye Guesthouse Traveler’s Inn) was connected somehow to the cruise company, so it was fairly easy to get all the last minute details sorted out with the mostly Australian staff when we arrived.
turkey 1783
Fethiye – Lycian ruins

From Fethiye we took off Saturday morning with 16 other passengers on the 40 or 50 foot-long boat, the AlaTurka 2. The other passengers were great and quite diverse. There were several Australians (mostly backpackers in their 20s and 30s, but there was also an older couple on a Turkey trip). We also had a guy from S. Africa and another from S. Korea, and a Turkish family (with a 10 year old girl) from Istanbul. And then there were 2 American girls traveling together too. The 2 crew hands were funny Turkish boys, maybe about 18 or 19, and the cook made the best food. He was also really friendly. The captain, as I think most of the passengers agreed, was far from the best. He was a little bit of a grump and he seemed to drink a lot while navigating the boat. On the last night the captain got into a small argument with the passengers that made it awkward until we got off the next morning.

Overall, though, the trip was great and I recommend it to anyone and everyone traveling through Turkey. Accommodations were comfy. Everyone was put into a 2 bed cabin (some just had one larger bed) with a private bath (toilet and a sink faucet that turned into a shower). But the cabins were mostly used as storage for our bags. Every night we slept on cushions on the deck. During the day there were plenty of places to hang out by yourself or have a good conversation. Food was delicious and always served family style, with all 18 passengers eating at one giant table. Breakfast was the ubiquitous kahvalti (Turkish breakfast). Lunch and dinner were so filling and tasty. Drinks were the only items we had to pay for on the boat, but prices didn’t gouge our wallets. The gulet cruise was a great way to see the Turkish coast and get to less accessible beaches, towns and ruins.

Day one took us to a number of spots near Fethiye/Olundeniz. The Butterfly Valley was our first stop. It’s a nature preserve with a rare butterfly and a waterfall. Also seemed to be a backpackers’ destination with a lot of camping. The Blue Lagoon was next. It was a popular beach with tons of Russian tourists crowding it. We spent the night at St. Nicholas Island. According to legend the island takes it name from St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) who supposedly spent time here. The island was so fascinating. It was fairly small but it was covered in ruins from a medieval city that existed there.

On day two the boat started up at 5 am. I woke up a bit sea sick from the rocking and waving as we moved but it subsided as we got to calmer waters and I found my sea legs. We eventually made our way to Kas (Kash), where we went swimming (we swam 4 or 5 + times a day to cool off) and checked out the small town. After, we anchored in a small cove all to ourselves, or so we thought. We had to move in the evening when our boat was overrun with wasps.

Our final day took us past the sunken city of Kekova. (An earthquake sank part of the city, but the ruins were not as neat as I thought they would.) Then we docked at a small village called Kaleköy (Simena). It had a well intact Crusader castle and many Lycian tombs. We docked in a small inlet later and saw loggerhead sea turtles. That night we went past the Blue Cave, which like the sunken city was underwhelming. That night we anchored off a cove with a pirate-themed bar called Smugglers Inn. I think all the gulet companies have some deal made with the owner to take their passengers to the remote and over-priced bar. We hung out there for a bit, but the dance party there, even with more passengers from other gulets anchored nearby, was no where close to as much fun as the one we had on board our boat the night before. (By the way, our boat was nowhere near being a “party” boat, but one night we did crank up the music for some dancing and late night swimming.)

 

When we finally came into port at Demre, it was a bit sad to see everyone go their separate ways–even though most of us are in Olympos and then going on to Cappadocia.
– 3 night cruise from Fethiye to Olympos = 205€ (price is dependent on time of year and place where booking)
www.alaturkacruises.com
Entrance fees: Butterfly Valley (5 tl), St. Nicholas Island (8 tl), and Simena Castle (8 tl)

Svetopolis comment July 31, 2013 at 09:15

Fethiye Guesthouse Traveller’s Inn: Upon arriving at the Fethiye bus station, we were shuttled for free to our hostel by Pamukkale Bus Co. (The guesthouse was a couple of kilometers from the station, old town and the impressive Lycian tombs.) The place was decent with AC and wifi, though the room was cramped and we were put up in the staff dorm (which was a bit awkward since their stuff was there and the room was a little more “lived in”). The shower took some finagling to get hot water to come on. Breakfast was included and they had a nice patio to sit on. From here, the friendly mostly Australian staff took us to the starting point to catch our gullet cruise.
– 12 € (dorm)
– Tele: 252-612-2711
www.fethiyeguesthouse.com

Svetopolis comment July 31, 2013 at 09:16

Saban Pansion Treehouses: Olympos is filled with similar treehouse/bungalow accommodations like Saban, so it’s hard to say which one is the best, since they all seem so similar with the same amenities with outside showers and restrooms and internet (though the wifi was hit or miss at Saban). I was recommended Saban by a friend, and the place was relaxing with hammocks and shaded bungalows with cushions to lie, drink and eat on. A tasty breakfast and dinner was included in the price. Saban was located only 400 meters from the entrance to the Olympos ruins/beach. Saban seemed a little more low-key than the other treehouses (with loud music that played all night from the others). It was a little awkward, though, to have the owner’s whole family hanging around with small babies and kids crying and yelling.
– 30 tl (dorm), 40 tl (treehouse)
www.sabanpansion.com

 

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