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CHİMAERA (YANARTAŞ)

The eternal flame

Chimaera

 

Ancient mariners sailing past the south coast of Anatolia used to report that they could see the Chimaera, a burning flame that never went out, high on the mountainside.

Today that Chimaera ("Yanartas" or "burning stone" in Turkish) continues to burn high in the hills above Olympos and Çıralı, and can be visited by holidaymakers who place their hands over the flames in an attempt to extinguish them. Of course they always spring to light again, leaving the visitor with nothing but singed hair and clothing to show for their efforts. The Turks meanwhile will be grilling a kebab over the flames.

So what is the Chimaera? Prosaically, the flames are caused by air coming into contact with what is at least partially methane gas but of course the ancients had a much prettier story to explain it. 

According to Homer, Chimaera was a monster, part lion, part goat and part snake, that was the offspring of Titan. To avenge the supposed rape of his daughter, the Lycian king Iobates ordered the hero Bellerophon to kill the Chimaera which he did by riding over it on his winged horse Pegasus and pouring lead into her mouth to subdue it. 

When is the best time to visit? The flames are at their most dramatic after dark but even if you come in daylight you are unlikely to be disappointed. On a moonlit night with owls hooting across the valley you can be sure of an unforgettable experience.

Transport info

The Chimaera is slightly closer - within walking distance if you're fit - to Çıralı than to Olympos but you can arrange transport from either resort to get you to the base of the steep mountain path. Wear sensible shoes since parts of the path are made of slippery stone while other parts are covered in scree. If you visit after dark remember to bring a torch to light your way. 

 

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