I have slept curled up in a ball on an airport floor. In the backseat of a car. In a teepee. I have even slept under a canoe. But by far the most unique place I have ever laid my head down is in a tree house.
Yup, you can do just that in the beautiful country of Turkey, in a special place called Olympos (or Olimpos). It would be safe to describe it as a ‘hippie commune’ thanks to its laid-back vibe and the fact that few people ever bother showering. Located south of Antalya, the village is made up of a number of guest houses and hostels.
I travelled there with a group of girls in the dead heat of summer, and we stayed at a popular place called Bayrams. For about $60 (depending on the season) you can rent a treehouse which consists of a double mattress, pillows and sheets. Half board is also included which is a nice bonus, and the ‘resort’ will let you run a tab at the canteen all week, so you can charge the rest of your food without the hassle of handing over cash every day. Keep in mind though that some rooms don’t have air conditioning, and Turkey is sweltering hot in the summer time.
Still, the tree houses are absolutely charming, and are scattered throughout the bright orange groves which surround the centre of the compound.
What to do
Olympos is surrounded by ancient Lycian ruins which line a dusty dirt road leading up to an isolated beach. Before you get all excited about the prospect of getting your tan on, it’s worth noting that the beach is completely covered in pebbles, so you’ll need to bring something with thick padding if you plan to relax. Fortunately, you’ll almost forget about the pain in your backside as you take in the views of the Mediterranean, glittering water and looming Mt. Tahatali in the distance.
The area’s most popular day trip is a visit to the natural eternal flames in the mountainside.
Visitors make the three-kilometre hike up the mountain’s stone path to check out the self-igniting flames, which are sparked by gas coming out of the rock. This is definitely a hike worth doing at night, when the scene is much more dramatic.
One night during my visit there was a full moon party on the beach, which was quite the sight to take in. The bright, white moon lit up the entire site including Mt. Tahatali, and a DJ was brought in to play Euro dance hits all night as everyone danced under the stars. While nothing compared to Thailand’s epic full moon parties, it’s about the most action you’ll ever see in this backpackers haven.
Other than that, the vibe around Olympos is simply to chill, man. We spent entire days lounging on the huge pillows set up in the common area, playing backgammon, chatting and drinking beer. One day, we didn’t even get out of our pajamas. I probably shouldn’t admit that. Byrams also has hammocks to relax in, offers internet access and laundry services, and you can also enjoy a Turkish water pipe (try apple flavor!).
How to get there
I’m not going to sugar coat this one. It’s a long trip if you’re coming from Istanbul…we’re talking an overnight bus ride complete with stops in bus stations that only have a hole for toilets. I made the mistake of popping a couple of sleeping pills, which only work if you don’t get woken up for eight hours. Unfortunately, the barely-reclining seats, the loud Turkish movie playing and the constant starting and stopping did not make for a good rest, and I arrived totally out of it. Oh, and discovered Turkish Delight stuck in my hair.
After arriving in Antalya you will transfer to a minibus for the final couple of hours of travelling to Olympos. This was an experience in itself. I’m not totally clear on how these things typically work in Turkey, but found myself a bit on edge as our driver pulled over in the middle of nowhere on a remote highway, grabbed a bag with god-knows-what in it from some random guy standing on the edge of the road, then sped off. Hmm.
While pricing can vary depending on how you book your trip to Olympos, expect to pay about 10TRY ($6) for the mini bus ride and about 55TRY for the ride from Istanbul to Antalya. There are also flights between the two cities if you’re not feeling the whole bus thing, which cost as little as $30. However, many backpackers book the transportation and accommodation together through travel agents in Istanbul, which could save you some cash.
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