Alara Castle is just a few miles along the coast road from Alanya on the Pamphylian coast of Mediterranean Turkey, then inland a bit. The roads become dirst tracks pretty quickly, but just mention the castle and the locals will point the way. There’s a medieval Arabic han or caravanserai just before you get to the castle itself, where you can have a refreshing glass of black tea before heading for the fortress.
Alara Castle hasn’t even begun to be excavated, though when I was there recently I came across three teenage archaeology students having lunch there. They had one pickaxe between them and seemed more interested in swimming than digging, and who could blame them with the shade over thirty degrees?
There’s a family living at the base of the castle in a group of sheds who’ll lend you a guide for the day, or just a torch. If you wonder why you need a torch the answer becomes obvious on reaching the great conical rock the castle’s built on. The only way up is through a dark tunnel full of litter and home to a bat colony. It’s like something out of an Indiana Jones movie, and you’ll be knackered by the time you reach the top.
There are no signs or fenced off areas and you take your life in your hands scrambling over the string of defensive walls that winds up the hill like the thread of a monstrous screw, culminating with a Turkish flag at the apex.
There are loads of practically untouched ruins like this scattered across the landscape of this fabulous land. This one is Seljuk, one of the many civilisations that came and went here. They fought the Crusaders of the twelfth century for a while and were finally replaced by the Ottomans a few centuries later.