Turkey, perpetual fires of Yanartas at the Chimaera, near Cirali

Getty Images/Dorling Kindersley


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Known in Turkish as Yanartaş, or 'Burning Rock', the Chimaera is a cluster of small flames that naturally blaze 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 – that 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 visible at sea.

The best time to visit is after dinner. From Çıralı, follow the Chimaera signs 3.5km on the main road along the hillside 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 (flashlight). From Olympos, most camps organise transport every night after dinner.

Marshmallows can be purchased in Cirali and then roasted over the flames.

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