Hike to Chimera /Yanartas
Although this hardly qualifies as a hike, being only a 2k gentle climb along a trail, the destination was so unique that it had to be on Sacred Steps. We were in Antalya province for just under 2 weeks in the middle of the Turkish winter, but this coastal region is so mild that the day temperature often gets up to 20 degrees and even the evenings are no worse than cool. I’d heard Chimera was best seen at dusk, or in darkness, so we arrived in Cirali village at around 4.30. Most of the tea shops were closed as it’s the quiet season in this laid-back seaside place, but we did find one place open with a roaring fire and a choice of Turkish cay (tea) or lemonade steeped with fresh mint and ginger. Nice. Thirst quenched, we drove down a winding lane for about 3k then a broken, dirt road (could be a handful in wet weather) as far as the tea/gift shack and toilet block on the edge of the forest that are the only signs of development here – a guy hurriedly walked to the fee booth as we approached to take our 5L tax, then went back to his cup of cay.
Unlike some of the goat tracks I hiked on in Turkey, the Chimera trail is wide and well made with plenty of steps – you can’t get lost. It heads upwards on the flank of a forested hillside, with views out over the Mediterranean. The only sound was faint birdsong – in summer I imagined there are quite a few backpackers around but we had the whole hillside to ourselves. Dusk was approaching fast as we rounded a bend after about twenty minutes of steady climbing and saw lights through the trees – I wondered at first if the upper section of the trail was lit but as we came closer I realised this was the first of the actual flames of Chimera.
It’s quite an amazing sight – we wondered around a sloping platform of limestone in the dusk, looking at the flames which issue from a number of holes in the rock with a faint sound not unlike a primus stove. The flames are very pure and bright – blue where they come out of the stone and rich orange as they mix with the air. Some are a couple of feet high. There is no smoke or soot of any kind, it’s a very clean-burning, natural flame. You can totally see how the ancients came to see this as a place of legend – they say Bellerophon slew the Chimera here and the flames have been here ever since – originally much higher so that you could see them from out at sea. It’s very atmospheric – the silent forest with the occasional hooting of owls and the faint murmur of the flames. We had time to meditate on the flames too – an advantage of being there in the off season with no-one else around. There is a ruined building below the flames and various columns and benches of stone lying broken around the larger flames, but it’s hard to make out if this was a shrine or temple of any kind – you’d assume it is, as what else would get built by these natural, millennia-old flames? We made use of the stone seats. Slowly dusk turned to night, we finished our wandering among the flames and it was time to break out the head torches and head back down. Even in darkness the trail is easy so long as you have some kind of light to find your way. Friends of ours had made it down with the flashlight apps from mobile phones, but that is probably a bit inadequate – if you’re going, at least take a cheap hand torch.
Apologies that my phone wouldn't take a decent shot of the flames - google it and you'll see some good ones!
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