Çıralı (cher-ah-luh) is a relaxed, family-friendly hamlet of upscale pensions and hotels leading down to and along a beach lined with a dozen restaurants. It's a quieter alternative to the backpackers' haunt down the beach at Olympos. And it's close to the magical and mystical Chimaera.
Known in Turkish as Yanartaş or 'Burning Rock', the Chimaera is a cluster of flames that blaze spontaneously from crevices on the rocky slopes of Mt Olympos. At night it looks like hell itself has come to pay a visit, and it's not difficult to see why ancient peoples attributed these extraordinary flames to the breath of a monster – part lion, part goat and part snake – which had terrorised Lycia. The mythical hero Bellerophon supposedly killed the Chimaera by mounting the winged horse Pegasus and pouring molten lead into the monster's mouth.
Today gas still seeps from the earth and bursts into flame upon contact with the air. The exact composition of the gas is unknown, though it is thought to contain methane. Although a flame can be extinguished by covering it, it will reignite close by into a new and separate flame. At night the 20 or 30 flames in the main area are clearly visible at sea.
The best time to visit is after dinner. From Çıralı, follow the road along the hillside marked for the Chimaera until you reach a valley and walk up to a car park. From there it's another 20- to 30-minute climb up a stepped path to the site; bring or rent a torch. It's a 7km walk from Olympos, but most camps also organise transport every night after dinner.
Unlike Priene and Miletus, Didyma wasn't a city, but its astonishing Temple of Apollo was the ancient world's second-largest, its 122 original columns only five fewer than Ephesus' Temple of Artemis. Since the latter has only one lonesome column today, visiting Didyma really helps travellers visualise the lost grandeur of Artemis' temple, too.
In Greek, Didyma means 'twin' (here, referring to the twin siblings Apollo and Artemis). Didyma's oracle of Apollo had an importance second only to the Oracle of Delphi. Although destroyed by Persians in the early 5th-century BC, Alexander the Great revitalised it in 334 BC and, about 30 years later, Seleucid rulers planned to make it the world's largest temple. However, it was never completely finished and Ephesus' Temple of Artemis took the record instead.
In 303 AD, the oracle allegedly supported Emperor Diocletian's harsh persecution of Christians – the last such crackdown, since Constantine the Great soon thereafter made the empire a Christian polity. The now unpopular oracle was silenced by Emperor Theodosius I (r 379–395), who closed other pagan temples such as the Delphic Oracle.
The impressive temple site is surrounded by souvenir shops, tourist restaurants and a few small pensions (being an archaeological site, building modifications aren't allowed). Entering from the ticket booth, clamber up the wide steps to marvel at the massively thick and towering columns.
Behind the temple porch, oracular poems were inscribed on a great doorway and presented to petitioners. Covered ramps by the porch lead down to the cella (inner room), where the oracle prophesied after drinking from the sacred spring. A sacred path lined with ornate statues (relocated to the British Museum in 1858) once led to a bygone harbour.
After Didyma, the sandy Altınkum Beach is a popular package-tour destination, and you can buy snacks here.
Türkbükü's reputation as Turkey's poshest beach getaway is kept alive by the Turkish celebrities, politicians and business moguls who flock here each summer. Thus considering that better beaches exist elsewhere on the peninsula, visiting this privileged cove might be best understood as a sociocultural experience – not to mention an opportunity for an excellent meal and a cocktail in style.
Even in a place where women go to the beach in high-heels, sporting diamond-encrusted sunglasses, tongue-in-cheek reminders of social divisions remain; the tiny wooden bridge between the two halves of Türkbükü's beach is jokingly said to divide the 'European side' from the 'Asian side' – a reference to İstanbul, and an insinuation of the wealth gap between the ultra-posh homes and hotels on the western shores, and the ever-so-slightly less-expensive ones to the east. These days, in the words of one local hotelier, with the chichi resort town's increasing beautification, it's more a case of 'Europe' and 'eastern Europe'.
A former fishing and sponge-diving village, Yalıkavak has played up its relative remoteness from Bodrum to attract a more exclusive and Turkish clientele. However, it hasn't escaped the holiday-home-construction craze, and is known too for its upmarket private beaches – Xuma Beach Club and Dodo Beach Club are popular. Its marina keeps the village relatively lively out of season and day trippers will always find a few restaurants open.
Nearby abandoned Yakaköy (between Yalıkavak and Ortakent), the Dibek Sofrası complex contains a museum, art gallery, restaurant and vineyard. It exhibits Ottoman antiques such as jewelled daggers, antique fountain pens and ornate coffee cups collected by the owners.
Some 23km from Behramkale, the coastal road meets the 550 Hwy, which then runs east along the north shore of the Bay of Edremit.
Turn left here, towards Ayvacık, and head 4km northwest into the hills to reach the village of Yeşilyurt, set among pine forests and olive groves. The yellow stone walls of many restored houses have been beautifully enhanced by red brick and wood, and the picturesque village offers plenty of boutique hotels including the lovely Öngen Country Hotel with 30 rooms perched high above Yeşilyurt at the end of a steep, cobbled road.
Back on the coastal highway, pause in Küçükkuyu to inspect the excellent Adatepe Zeytinyağı Museum, housed in an old olive-oil factory and explaining the process of making olive oil. The neighbouring shop is excellent and very comprehensive, selling olive oil and every olive-oil product known to man (and woman).
From Küçükkuyu, head 4km northeast into the forested hills to visit the pretty village of Adatepe, a cluster of restored stone houses below a lizard-like rock formation said to be Zeus’ ancient altar. The area is great for walking, with waterfalls, plunge pools for swimming and, near the falls at Başdeğirmen, a Roman bridge. At the top of Adatepe you’ll find the blissfully tranquil Hünnap Han, a restored country pile with nine traditionally decorated rooms, a lovely garden and stone courtyard.
Buses stop in Küçükkuyu every hour en route to Çanakkale (₺20) and İzmir (₺23). A taxi from Küçükkuyu to Adatepe or Yeşilyurt costs ₺20. In summer, dolmuşes run to Behramkale (₺8, one hour); a taxi costs ₺50.
The road continues east, past hillside after hillside of holiday villages, hotels and second-home developments. From Güre, follow the brown signpost and head 2.5km north into the hills to find Alibey Kudar Etnografya Galerisi in Tahtakuşlar village. Jumbled exhibits such as a domed tent frame and ancient wagon provide an insight into the local villages
Despite being a short ride from Bodrum, Torba has stayed quieter and more family-oriented. It has a nice beach, but lacks the seclusion of places on the peninsula's more distant corners and has a more workaday feel.
Non-guests can use the village-centre resort Voyage's facilities for the day (₺120 including food and drinks, 9am to 9pm).
There are several notable attractions on or just north of the D400 as you travel east from Alanya, including the seldom-visited ancient sites of Laertes and Syedra. A turn-off near the 11km marker leads northward for 6km to Dim Cave, a subterranean fairyland of spectacular stalactite and stalagmite formations with a crystal clear pool at the deepest depth. A 360m-long walkway leads you through the entire length of the cave. Dolmuşes headed for Kestel from Alanya (hourly in season) will drop you off near the entrance to the cave. A return taxi will cost about ₺70. A turning at 27km and another road leading 18km northeast takes you to beautiful Sapadere Canyon. Access for walkers through the gorge is along a 750m-long path. A return taxi from Alanya is around ₺120, and tours from Alanya are €25 per person.
Around 30km west towards Antalya and just after Incekum beach is a turning for a road leading north for 9km to Alarahan, a 13th-century han (caravanserai), which can be explored with a torch. At the head of the valley nearby are the 13th-century ruins of Alara Castle (Alara Kalesi).
Southeast from Alanya, the twisting clifftop road occasionally descends to the ocean to pass through the