Mt Olympos (Tahatli Dagi) hike (Lycia, Turkey)

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We stand in Beycik village at about 950m (3,100 feet) above sea level. The rocky exposed slopes of Mt Olympos loom high over us. It’s daunting to think that we will be climbing 1,400m (4,500 feet) in altitude over the space of the five or so hours. But that’s what we’re going to do. The walk starts as all our hikes in Turkey have started so far: with a steep climb up the village road. We’ve parked outside the village mosque because it looks like the safest and flattest place to leave the camper van. As we hike higher towards the end of the village road it becomes clear that we made the right choice.
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For the first hour we climb sharply from the village straight up the valley wall to a high ridge. The climb is relentless, as it will be all day. But we chip away slowly, smelling the sweet scent of pine trees wafting around us. It’s hard going but I’m enjoying the challenge. There’s a tea house about forty minutes into the climb. It’s just an old shepherd’s hut where a young man sells tea and maps to visitors. It looks gorgeous and you can take water from the spring here for free. It’s too early for a stop so we say “merhaba” and continue our climb.
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Like the other hikes we’ve done in Lycia, this is not an easy doddle on a graded path. It is not only challenging due to the constant climbing but also because the trail is rocky under foot. But I like this kind of hiking. It’s different to what I do at home in the sub tropical rain forests.

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It looks like Mum is enjoying the adventure too. After the boulder field we reach a section where the pine trees are fatter and lower than they were before. They look almost cartoon like and I think that at any moment they might start talking.
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Mum tells me that when she was hiking in China earlier this year she learned that the Chinese call these “whispering pines”. I can see why. I rather think they resemble gnomes (though I do prefer the Dutch word kabouter).

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We stop for a rest at the top of the ridge. We are at about 1,700m altitude now, so have climbed halfway. It’s peaceful up here in the mountains. The air is a little cooler than the coast and the only sounds are our voices, the wind in the pines and the twittering birds.

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Naturally, there is also time to stop to smell (well admire) the flowers too.

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The ascent above the tree line comes into view shortly after our rest stop. It’s daunting to see the trail cut into the rocks. It looks like it will be tough but we are determined and in good spirits. We see a pair of Russian hikers stashing their heavy through packs in some trees near here. They must have camped overnight in the pretty glade just by the trail and are now heading up to the summit with day packs like we are. We will see them disappearing into the distance a good few times as we climb.

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Red flags mark the climb up to the summit. They are not usually here; they have been placed here for tomorrow’s Red Bull Sea to Sky motorbike race. That’s right; they ride motorbikes up here on this narrow rocky trail. Usually, you would follow red and white painted rocks (the Lycian Way markers) until the summit turn off then red and yellow painted rocks from there to the summit (you cannot miss the turn off; it is very clear).

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The climb up the summit track is as tough as we expected. The rocky path is loose under foot and there’s no messing around with twisting around the mountain. This is calf burning stuff. We take a rest about half way up the first section (being the section that takes you to the summit plateau). The views are amazing and it’s fantastic to be sharing this experience with my mum.

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We look down on where we’ve come from and watch some other hikers following us. They are so tiny in the distance but that’s where we were not that long ago.

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Once up the first section of the climb we can see the gondola station on the summit in the distance (oh yes, we could definitely have come up here an easier way). We thought we were so close but now we see how much farther we still have to walk. That’s okay though because this alpine landscape is stunning.
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It makes for brilliant hiking. It’s kind of like walking in another world. Somewhere that is at once welcoming and dangerous. If the weather turned I think this place could become a death trap with nowhere for shelter and the potential to be very cold. But we are prepared and now only have another half hour or so left to trek.

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And then we are there. Four and a half hours after leaving the village we arrive at the summit where we have organised to take the gondola back to sea level. The clouds have started to drift in and the air is now cold (we will both change into warm coats once we stop). It’s a fantastic feeling to have hiked here and experienced the changing landscape. The gondola journey down the mountain is magical too with stunning views out to see (none of which came out on my camera due to reflections on the glass).

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There’s only one thing left to do when we arrive at a camping in Beldibi and that is to take a cooling swim in the sea. This hike was wonderful in its own right but to take it with my mum made it so much more special.


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