It is possible to walk from the Turkish town of Olympos to the burning hillside of the Chimera (Yanartaş in Turkish).
Situation and history
The Chimera is located near the Turkish coast about 60km south of the city of Antalya. It is an area where methane naturally vents up through the rock and burns on the hillside. The Chimaera has been burning since ancient times and was the original source of the Olympic flame.
The route can be broken into three sections: the walk from Olympos and along the beach to Çirali, the road from Çirali to the entrance of the Chimaera and the ascent to the Chimaera itself.
Olympos to Çirali (1.5km): Walk down the gravel road in Olympos to the Lycan ruins. Pass through the ruins and continue to the beach. Turn left on the beach and walk 500m until you reach a dry riverbed. Walk up the concealed road in the bushes on the left bank of the river. Turn right and enter the village of Çirali where the road bridge crosses the stream. At the junction of the path and the road is a rudimentary map on a signpost, indicating the location of the Chimaera.
Çirali to the Chimaera entrance (3.5km): Walk on the road through Çirali, keeping close to the steep hillside to your left. This road winds along the flat of the valley, always with the hill on your left. Proceed to the head of the valley along gravel roads.
Ascent to the Chimaera (1km): Pass the ticket booth and continue on the well marked trail to the hillside flame of the Chimaera.
Planning your trip
The walk takes about 2 hours each way. The Chimaera itself is most impressive in darkness or at least when the sun is not directly streaming into the valley. Walking in the peak of day can be uncomfortably hot in summer so consider an early start if visiting in July or August. You must pass through the Lycan ruins en route and the access from Olympos to the beach is closed at night. It is however open in the early morning.
Starting elevation: Sea level
Summit elevation: 180m
Total ascent: 180m
Trail distance: 12km return
Average gradient: Very gentle
Beach, road and well maintained track.
Take sunscreen during the day and a torch at night. Water is a necessity.
Access to and from the hike
The walk starts from anywhere in Olympos; it would be even easier to start in the neighbouring town of Çirali.
Navigation & Facilities
There is little in the way of proper signage since most tourists visit the Chimaera as part of a group. Tourist vans travel en mass to the Chimaera each evening from Olympos. The park entrance has a nominal fee and is apparently open 24hrs. It is possible to buy snacks at the park entrance.
The occasional drunk tourist or enthusiastic local dog are about the only hazards encountered.
Flora and fauna
The hillsides near the Chimaera are bedecked with scrub and pine trees.
We arrived in Olympos at 10pm, well after the last shuttle to the Chimaera. Our boat ride departed at 10am the next morning and we were determined to see the burning hillside before departing. We headed off to walk the route at night and, after convincing security to turn a blind eye, we proceeded through the ruins towards the beach. It was totally dark and we only had one headlight so common sense got the better of us and we returned to bed.
Up at 5am we tried again. Night was just fading and we were joined by handful of partygoer who had been up all night and were now heading to sunrise on the beach. The gates to the ruins were open but the toll both was unattended so we wandered through. The ruins were stunning in the early morning. We found our way through the still sleeping village of Çirali and were enthusiastically greeted by the attendant at the Chimaera who was glad to see us and our money.
We arrived at the burning hillside before the sun hit the valley. Endless fun was had blowing out the eternal flames and then relighting them with sticks. They make a satisfying woomph when relit.
Çirali was just coming to life as we passed back through, with breakfast stands starting to ply their wares. We made it back to Olympos by 9am with plenty of time to catch out 10am shuttle.