During my road trip alongside the Lycian Way I stopped at several coastal towns including the beautiful Cirali. This peaceful seafront haven can be found at the bottom of steep winding roads off the D400.
The sleepy little village of Çıralı has turned into a tourist hub for visitors to the Antalya region thanks to its beautiful beach cove. But even though it’s loved by both locals and international visitors, what makes it so special is that it’s managed to retain a really chilled out vibe.
It’s an odd little place – it looks like all the homes here have been turned into pensions or B&Bs, as wonky old signs on street corners list off all the hotels down that particular road. Roads are small and tight, always fun in a hire car, but that’s easily forgiven as they’re just so pretty to drive or walk along.
We visited in May and the town was alive with colour, its dusty yellow roads bordered by a wide array of vividly bright flowers and lush green vines, palms and cacti. You’d be greeted by the smell of jasmine, and sound came from the birds flying overhead or the breeze rustling through the leaves, broken only by the call for prayers from the local mosque.
What to do in Cirali
With its sleepy vibe there’s not a huge amount to do in Cirali itself. There’s one main road through the town where there’s cute little cafes, restaurants, shops and bars, many with the relaxed hippy/surfer vibe that permeates the entire area.
The village centres around its beach, which is part of a protected area as it’s used by sea turtles to lay their eggs. I think this protection is part of the reason its hasn’t become a bigger resort and retained its village charm, as chain hotels haven’t been able to come along and develop.
If you time your visit right you may even be lucky enough to have the opportunity to watch the turtles hatch and make their journey down to the water. But even at other times of the year they still leave their mark, as you’ll see little stands protecting spots known to have eggs incubating in the sand below.
The beach is a great place to while away the day though and many of the pensions have small stretches of sunbeds on the beach, with tiny umbrellas, where you can relax when you’re not off having a swim or snorkel.
Once you’ve had your fill of R&R and are feeling ready to explore however, you’ve got two main options. At one of Cirali’s cove you’ll find the start of the climb up to Chimera and at the other there’s the ancient city of Olympos.
The eternal flames of Chimera
Visit this site to see flames coming out of the ground that burn all year round. Local mythology states that the Chimera tormented the ancient Lycians before being killed underground and these flames are spouting up from his dead mouth. The more scientific explanation is that combustible gases escape through cracks in the rocks and ignite on contact with the air. Either way, they’re still pretty cool to see!
It’s a very tough climb to see these natural phenomena, so come prepared with good walking shoes and a bottle of water. Give yourselves around 20-30 minutes to make the climb up to the lower chimera and be prepared for a steep climb with uneven steps and loose stone.
If you want to see the flames at their best, time your visit with dusk, but be sure to pack a torch. There are no lights on the mountain climb and you don’t want to try to make that trip down without a light to guide your way.
The ancient city of Olympos is definitely worth a visit, as there’s so much to see here. The ruins are expansive and the setting beautiful, straddling the mouth of the Akcay River in a deep gorge. As well as following one of the city’s old main roads by the river, you can head off to different areas including the warehouse, baths and necropolis, where you’ll see a number of tombs supposedly including that of Marcus Aurelius.
There are two entrances, and if you’re staying in Cirali I recommend using the one on the beach. The other end is only accessible by driving down from the next junction along the D400, which as we ended up finding out is an expensive taxi journey home!
Where to eat in Cirali
Restaurant prices were slightly higher in Cirali than Antalya, perhaps as there’s more of a focus on tourists, but we still thought most places weren’t too highly priced.
My recommendation would be to try out Yoruk. We ate here on two separate occasions – our meals totalled around £10 on each time and the staff were really friendly and welcoming.
At first we were worried we were going to get charged for extras as before we’d even ordered plates of salad and freshly cooked buttery bread were brought to our table. However, we were told these were on the house, as was the Turkish coffee we were invited to have after our meal.
The food here was really tasty – especially that bread! – although I can definitely recommend the Turkish pizza and kofte.
If you’re after a sweet treat, I’d also recommend Asma Alti Cafe & Patisserie. This place is just so pretty, with its white, wooden tables and chairs and Turkish evil eyes hanging from the trees and trellises. Even more impressive is the fact they serve some gluten free dishes, a rare treat, as from my experience the region isn’t set up to deal with dietary requirements very well.
Where to stay in Cirali
When it comes to choosing somewhere to stay in Cirali you’re spoilt for choice. There’s so many B&Bs and pensions to pick from it’s ridiculous!
It wasn’t the best of my trip, as I found the service a little ramshackle and it felt more like we were gate-crashing someone’s home rather than staying in a B&B. But, on the flipside, I absolutely adored our room and the grounds. Oh and you’re also just a three minute walk away from the beach!
There are rooms in the main building, but across the grounds there are little bungalows scattered about, and we had one of these. The main room was really large, as was the bathroom and it also came with a cute little patio area.
A plus was the fact it had a kettle (rare) and a fridge (even rarer!) so I was able to easily enjoy a cuppa as and when I wanted one. Even better was the fact that I could sit on my patio and enjoy the amazing grounds and their flowers, and would regularly bump into some of the hotel’s many animals, from chickens through to geese.
Final thoughts on Cirali
I really enjoyed my short stay in Cirali, as it was just so peaceful when we came, but still had enough to keep you occupied if you’re not one to just sit and suntan all day long.
However, I did wonder how all those hotels could afford to keep going as it wasn’t hugely busy while we were there. I then clicked that we’d actually come during the start of Ramadan, and left wondering if Cirali’s chilled vibe gets lost during the height of tourist season. Perhaps it’s all about timing your visit right…
Have you visited Cirali – how was the vibe for you? I’d love to hear when you visited and what your experience was like. Let me know in the comments below!