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Cirali Homestay: A Rustic Getaway on Turkey's Mediterranean Coast

At 48, I started traveling the world with everything I own in a backpack. That was in 2013, and I'm still going!

Cirali Homestay is a cozy retreat in the forest and an easy walk to the beach or to ancient ruins.

Cirali Homestay is a cozy retreat in the forest and an easy walk to the beach or to ancient ruins.

Do you dream of relaxing in an unspoiled woodland paradise? Does riding bikes to a Mediterranean beach sound like a perfect afternoon? Are you intrigued by the mysteries of the ancient world? Cirali Homestay offers all this and more in a forest location on Turkey's Turquoise Coast.

Cirali Homestay

In the forest just outside the charming seaside town of Cirali, Turkey, you'll find Cirali Homestay. This is a rustic property where you can sleep in comfort on a real mattress inside a cabin, treehouse, or tepee. All the structures share an outdoor kitchen cozy seating areas, and a gathering space for evening activities that features a fire pit, bar, and a projector screen for movies or karaoke.

There's no air conditioning in these summer-camp style units, but hot showers, sparkling flush toilets, and even a washing machine are available for your use and there is wifi throughout the compound.

The treehouse can comfortably house a family of four and has its own ensuite bathroom. The tepee is in a secluded corner, with a private outdoor seating area.

What will you do at Cirali Homestay? After you enjoy a leisurely breakfast, you might grab a book and curl up in a hammock or kosk (Turkish outdoor seating area), or you might grab a bicycle and head out to explore the mysteries of ancient Olympos or the Eternal Flames of the Chimera.

In the evenings, you can retreat to your own lodging or sit with your hostess Diana and other guests to share a drink, compare travel notes, or even sing karaoke or watch a movie on the outdoor projection screen.

Diana is a remarkable woman who created this place herself. If she's not in town during your visit, you'll be cared for by one of the friends who helps her.

Prices are reasonable, ranging from $23/night for the cabin (sleeps 2) to $43 a night for the tepee or treehouse (sleeps 4).

Cirali's Beaches

Cirali's beaches are some of the most unspoiled on the Mediterranean coast. At the north end is an undeveloped beach area that is very quiet in the shoulder season and very crowded in the high season. The edge of town has a stretch of beach with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and many restaurants to choose from.

If you keep moving to the south, you'll find more secluded beaches. Snorkeling, boating, and scuba diving can all be arranged at the many tourism offices in town. The town and the beach are just a 20-minute walk from Cirali Homestay—or an even shorter bike ride.

Dining in Cirali with a view of the beach.

Dining in Cirali with a view of the beach.

Cirali Town

The town of Cirali (pronounced chu-rah-luh) is only a few streets wide, and it has a friendly, festive vibe. It's a seaside town where Turkish families like to vacation in July and August. It also attracts a lot of German and Russian tourists, but there are no signs of chain hotels or restaurants here. Family-owned restaurants, pensions, and small shops make up the town, and the beach offers a row of restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood while you watch the waves lap the shore.

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Restaurants to try include Karakus on the beach, Oleandro nearby, and Lemon Restaurant in town. Merhaba restaurant at the north end of the beach deserves a mention as well. English is widely spoken and English-language menus are common. Food prices are very reasonable—you can enjoy a fresh fish dinner with salads and wine for under $12.

When you enter a restaurant, you'll often see a refrigerated case where you can select salads and appetizers (mostly vegetable or yogurt-based) before you order your main course. Fresh-grilled fish, kebabs, and Turkish pizza (built on fresh pide bread) are the most common dishes. You'll usually be offered fresh bread and some kind of salad, but beware—the breads are dangerously delicious.

The ruins of the ancient city of Olympos are waiting for you in the woods.

The ruins of the ancient city of Olympos are waiting for you in the woods.

The Ancient City of Olympos

Just beyond the beach, to the north, lie the ruins of the ancient city of Olympos. This area was the base for Lycian pirates until it was defeated by the Roman empire and later passed through the hands of the Sicilians, Genoese, and Venetians.

A ticket to enter this incredible outdoor museum costs under $3. Once you enter, you'll stroll wooded paths and encounter unexpected remnants of ancient cultures around every corner, including tombs, a massive Roman gate built by Marcus Aurelius, bridges, buildings, and eventually an entire necropolis. Follow the signs upward toward the Acropol to be rewarded with a spectacular view.

A Nesting Ground for Loggerhead Turtles

In summer, Cirali's beaches are a nesting ground for a breed of endangered loggerhead turtles known as Caretta caretta. Every evening, volunteers come to clear the beach and make sure the turtles are safe when they come ashore to lay their eggs. Then the volunteers protect the eggs with structures and keep them safe from the beach crowds until they hatch.

The flames of the chimera.

The flames of the chimera.

The Eternal Flames of the Chimera

If you want to see something truly unique, grab a bike and ride about 3 Km out of town toward Yanartas. There you can climb a well-maintained path up the side of a mountain, where you will find campfire-sized flames burning from the earth itself. There's no firewood here—no visible fuel at all. The flames come out of the earth itself, and they've been burning for thousands of years.

In fact, this site was mentioned in Homer's The Odyssey, and one explanation for the flames is that a fire-breathing creature was buried alive here, after being defeated by a Lycian hero riding a winged horse.

The modern explanation is that there are pockets of methane gas beneath the earth, but knowing that doesn't reduce the wonder. Bring marshmallows or sausages with you to roast over the flames—you'll need the sustenance before you begin the hike back down.

Getting to Cirali and Getting Around

The nearest airport to Cirali is at Antalya (AYT). From the Antalya bus station, catch a bus toward Kas and ask to be let out at the Cirali Junction (which is no more than a bus shelter by the side of the road). If you wait at the Cirali Junction, you'll be able to catch a collective minivan called a "dolmus" toward town.

It's best to contact Diana, your hostess at Cirali Homestay, for exact directions to her place or to arrange for a driver to pick you up in Cirali or in Antalya. The ride from Antalya is about 2 hours and the cost for a private taxi might be around 65 Euros.

Note: If you decide to stay in Antalya for a day or two, Nensie's Boutique Hotel is a delightful choice right inside the historic district with rooms for around $35/night.

Getting around town is very easy. You can walk or ride a bike anywhere you want to go (Cirali Homestay has free bikes for your use, or you can rent a newer one in town). If you want a taxi, you'll usually find them at the entrance to the beach area, or ask Diana for a number to call one.

If you like to get off the beaten path, meet friendly locals, and find relaxation in nature, Cirali Homestay might be the perfect destination for you. For many travelers, it's the perfect blend of wild yet comfortable, secluded yet social, easy yet adventurous. It's a place that has won the hearts of most of its guests in a way that most lodging options cannot match.

© 2019 Lauren Haas

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